This Woman's Project Will Make Any Mom With Mental Health Struggles Feel Less Alone

Desiree Fortin
Desiree Fortin

Desiree Fortin, a mom from Encinitas, CA, has had her fair share of mental health struggles since becoming a mom to her three triplets. But rather than keep her challenges to herself, Desiree opened up about her anxiety and battle with postpartum depression in the hopes of helping other moms feel less alone.

And apparently, the idea worked. She banded together with several other moms to launch an Instagram campaign dedicated to raising awareness about the mental health issues mothers deal with, but don't often talk about. She dubbed the campaign "Dear 1 in 5," honoring the fact that one out of five new mothers struggle with their mental health.

"Being on medication to help me does not make me a bad mom. It makes me a good mom."

"When my triplets were born I struggled deeply with postpartum depression and anxiety," Desiree told POPSUGAR. "I have never struggled with mental health until I became a mother. I was so ashamed of myself and because of my struggles. I felt unworthy, ashamed, not good enough, and incredibly lonely."

She added that: "However, I eventually got help and made the changes to be healthier version of myself, but it has been three years since my triplets were born and I still struggle with anxiety. Being on medication to help me does not make me a bad mom. It makes me a good mom because I am doing what I need to do to help me be the best mom I can be."

Desiree hopes that by sharing her own story, other parents who are afraid to address their mental health issues will finally have the confidence to make a doctor's appointment.

"I knew this project would be very impacting having these other brave mamas stand beside me and share there letters of to 1 in 5 as well," she explained. "We all shared such honest and hard truths in each of our letters and if just one person is encouraged to know they aren't alone, to get help and make the changes needed then that makes vulnerability absolutely worth it."

Scroll through to see each mom's heartfelt letter, and see exactly what they've overcome.

"#dear1in5,

Yes, your random outbursts of anger are a sign. Yes, your inability to feel emotion through songs is a sign. Yes, your inability to enjoy scents you used to enjoy is a sign. Yes, your inability to find joy in the things that brought you joy before is a sign.

No, you are not broken. No, you are not a bad mom at all! No, you are not a bad wife. You are simply lost right now. And you will be found again. Friend, it's time to make the call. All you have to do is make that call!

I know it's the hardest part next to recognizing the symptoms of postpartum depression and accepting that you may have it and acknowledging that.

For me, hearing "I think I have postpartum depression" coming out of my mouth to schedule my appointment immediately brought me to tears. Tears that I wasn't experiencing with this bout of PPD. Finally, the tears came streaming out because it FELT so good to know that I had overcome the first two biggest hurdles of getting help. I hate being vulnerable publicly, but I am sharing a video I took right after calling my Obgyn in my stories.

Friend, you got this. And so many other mommas are here to help, support and share their stories."

"#Dear1in5,

I was afraid to talk to someone. I was so afraid to let my emotions out and really dig deep to the root of my depression and pain. I thought Jesus wouldn't want this for me and that HE would bring me out of this misery. I thought my friends would think less of me. I thought I could PRAY THIS AWAY. No you guys. You see some of us moms NEED medication and that is OKAY!!!!! It's okay!! I honestly felt people would think I'm LESS THAN FOR TAKING PROZAC and really judge me.

You're not alone. I see you and I feel your pain and despair.
I know some days you feel like you just can't do it and you want to just give up and throw in the towel. Cry on your knees or in your car!

You're not failing anyone. Don't give up! I know you're one in five mama. It's okay because I am too. Love yourself a little more beautiful because you matter and pi are worth it! And you're not alone, Mama."

"Dear 1 in 5,⁣

I've been there. I'm still there. I know what it's like to be paralyzed with panic. I know what it's like to cry so hard and so long that your eyes will barely open. I know guilt. I know pain. I know despair.

I also know that when your brain is sick, these feelings and states of existence can strike for (literally) no reason. You see, that's what a chemical imbalance will do. It creates physiological and emotional responses to things that aren't actually happening. It's the symptoms of a medical disease, the same way diabetes can cause a hyperglycemic attack or high blood pressure can cause a stroke.⁣

There have been a couple of days over the years where I didn't want to stick around. I didn't want to stay in this life anymore. I was exhausted, I was depleted, and I wanted to give up. Fighting your own thoughts is tiring. I made small goals to just survive the next hour, and eventually; I climbed out of the hole.

I've been called dramatic. Crazy. Lazy. I've had my diagnoses used against me in arguments. The years I spent avoiding medication felt like riding a bicycle uphill, then I spent years tweaking medications to ensure the best outcome. I've been to 5+ therapists over the last decade and I've had one stint in inpatient treatment.

I've battled depression and anxiety for a long time and I know how dark and scary it gets. But, I have some messages for you. I'm not going to ask you to call a hotline, I'm just asking you to keep putting one foot in front of the other, because it can be better; it WILL be better."⁣

"#Dear1in5,

You have not failed as a mother. Or as a wife. You have no failed as a sister or a teacher or a woman on this earth. You have not failed because you asked for help. Or because you are now on medication. You have not failed because you just needed a few days away by yourself. You have not failed because you suffered from postpartum depression or anxiety or any mental illness that has surrounded you throughout your life. You have not failed because you got frustrated and raised your voice. Or because you hid in the closet crying as little hands banged on the door.

You. Have. Not. Failed.

The days and hours and minutes might feel hard. They might feel lonely. Your head might get clouded with endless thoughts filled with shame and sadness. But you have not failed. Your heart might feel heavy and the confusion about why you feel this way might be the scariest feeling you have ever felt. But you have not failed.

Mama, #iam1in5, too. But we have not failed because we are not defined by our diagnosis. We are not defined by our past. We are not defined by our most vulnerable moments or our difficult experiences through life. We have not failed because we are still here. Living and breathing and full of strength, worth and promise. Today might have been hard, mama, but you did not fail. Because you are stronger than you give yourself credit for. You are braver than you'd like to admit. You will get through this, mama. You were never a failure."

"Dear 1 in 5,

I see you. I know what it feels like to have those days that don't seem to be worth fighting for. I know the range of emotions, the peaks and valleys. I know them all too well. I know the overwhelm, the darkness and despair, the moments of questioning yourself wondering what is wrong with me. Believe me when I say, you are not alone.

You are more than this battle you are fighting. You are worthy, friend. You are worthy of LOVE. You are worthy of SELF-CARE. You are worthy of HAPPINESS. You are worthy of KNOWING. You are worthy of RECOVERY. You are worthy of GRACE. You are worthy of RESPECT. YOU ARE WORTHY and you are STRONGER than this struggle.

Don't believe the voice in your head that whispers lies to you. You may feel defeated during these trials but know your pain has a purpose and it's only temporary. You...we WILL make it out on the other side. We can't see it when we're in the valley but we never know how we can be used to be a blessing or an encouragement to others down the road.

I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. God did not create us to live in a spirit of fear or chaos. He uses every moment and circumstance for something greater. Better days are coming, friend."

"Dear 1 in 5,

I won't lie to you. This week has been one of those weeks where my smile stayed hidden. Those anxious ruminating thoughts of self loathing appeared, wrapping their hands around my throat. Disgust for myself seeped from my pores, puddling around me, daring anyone to come close and soak it up. You see, anxiety has a way of ripping my joy from my body, clouding my eyes and my heart from a whole world of things including gratefulness and humility.

When anxiety has me, I am not ME. I live in a panicked world of self pity, with no peripheral vision. But would you believe me if I told you that the darkness lifts? Our minds are powerful — we don't always have control, but we can always choose to fight that chemistry.

Maybe that means considering medication. Maybe it means exploring therapy. Maybe it means reading inspirational messages and leaning on our friends and family. We are more than our mental hurdles, and we CAN thrive."

"Dear 1 in 5,

You are not broken. It may seem that way at first, but I promise you aren't.

I felt broken, too. I felt like I didn't deserve to be a mother. I felt like a failure for needing medication to survive. I felt like my body and brain were failing me. Like they were broken. I felt ashamed. I felt alone. I still do sometimes.

But I've learned to take it day by day. I've started truly believing that I'm not broken — that I'm a work in progress. That I'm taking care of my body, mind and soul by taking medication.

You may be bruised, bent, bleeding, barely surviving. But you are not broken. You are not alone. We are 1 in 5."

"#Dear1in5,

You're not Alone. I know you're in the trenches just trying to make it one day, one hour, one minute at a time. You're not alone.
I know some days you feel like you just can't do it and you want to cry. You want to cry hard. It's okay, Mama. Cry. And Cry Hard.

I know you think you are failing your kids, your husband, even yourself. But, you're not failing anyone. I know public places can be overwhelming. What if you lose a child or one gets taken? What if your toddler throws a tantrum or rubs off? I have been there too. Fried, you're not alone.

I know sometimes you dislike you're kids. Some days, I dislike mine too. I know you are praying hard Mama. Keep praying. God hears you, and he hasn't forgotten you. I know that you are ashamed and feeling guilty, sometimes wondering if this is the life you were cut out for. It is okay Mama. I have those days too. You're not alone.

I know it is hard to get out of bed sometimes because sleep deprivation is pure torture and it has sucked out every ounce of energy you may have in you. I know this form of exhaustion all too well Mama, especially when my babies were first born. Sometimes it turns into a depression. I know you love being a Mama, but some days are just covered in clouds. It's okay Mama. You're not alone.

I know that you might be seeing a therapist, someone to talk to and help you through this season. Good for you Mama. You are not alone. I know you may need to see a Doctor, get some help, and get on some anxiety or depression meds. It's okay Mama. You need to care of yourself. Sometimes the hardest thing to do is just recognizing that you can't do it alone. Mama, sometimes you have to take the first steps to be the change you want to see.

I know most days you have not a single clue what you're doing Mama. You're not alone, that is truly what motherhood is. I know you are one in five mama. It's okay, I am too. Live yourself a little more mama and know you're not alone!"