Daredevil Tackles Postpartum Depression with Shocking Sensitivity
Social issues in comics are fairly hit-or-miss, but by all accounts Marvel absolutely killed it with their sensitive approach to postpartum depression in their most recent issue of Daredevil.
Daredevil, or Matt Murdock, was raised by his father after his mother left them when he was an infant. He found her many years later, when she had become a nun named Sister Maggie. They became close again, but she wouldn't admit her reasons for leaving them. In a recent issue, he became afraid that his father had abused her after having an ominous flashback from his childhood. But in Daredevil #7, Sister Maggie finally revealed to him that she left because she was experiencing postpartum depression, and needed to leave for fear of hurting him.
Lauren Hale, a blogger at My Postpartum Voice, shared her perspective on the comic as someone who is informed about the issue and who has experienced postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder. She asserted that there is significant cultural stigma against sufferers of postpartum depression, to the point that it is difficult for women to discuss their symptoms with their doctors. Popular culture often perpetuates stereotypes about the disease, often by portraying PPD as sensational and as a personal weakness. She stated in a piece for Psychology Today that, when she first heard about Daredevil's most recent storyline, "I grit[ted] my teeth and brace[d] for the worst possible scenario. A mother who abandons her child is thought of in a very negative light. A mother who struggles with a Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorder is also thought of in a negative light. It is quite a stigma to admit you are not happy when you have a child.
"[Writer] Waid and Co., however, got it right. In fact, they got it so right that I want to go buy a copy of this comic and give it to everyone I know."
She explained that the characterization of Maggie's experiences with postpartum depression were very well-written and relatable, including several benchmarks of the disease such as "how the monster of Perinatal Mood and Anxiety grows as it goes untreated" and "the voice echoing in her head that she was the worst mother ever."
"The most chilling panel for me in this comic, however, was the one where Maggie was looking in the mirror, staring back at herself with an awful look on her face. I have been there in my own brushes with Postpartum OCD. I would stare at myself in the mirror and not recognize the person staring back at me. It was my face, my eyes, my skin, but not me. Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders do that to you: they waste you away from the inside out until you are just a shell of a person. It is quite possibly the scariest thing to experience. To know that you are inside there somewhere but not able to access yourself."
The writers made certain that they did not perpetuate societal stigmas and shame; when Maggie tries to apologize to her son for "failing" him, Daredevil replies: "Oh. Failing. Right. You mean by pulling yourself up out of a suicidal depression by faith and sheer force of will to become a force of good on this planet? We should all fail so tragically."
And in case there was any doubt that they were making a real effort to do this difficult issue justice, they published Postpartum Support International's Get the Facts, complete and verbatim, as the last page of the comic. The page includes symptoms, varying types of post-partum disorders, and key information, such as the fact that "15 to 20% of women experience... significant symptoms of depression or anxiety [during and after pregnancy]." The writers also encouraged women experiencing symptoms of the disorder to get the necessary help.