In my earliest days of motherhood, I had no idea postpartum depression was even something I should be concerned about. I knew to be on the lookout for the “baby blues” within the first two weeks or so, like all the books and experts told me about, but there was nothing about the range of emotions I would soon go through.
So, when they came—along with tears and immense feelings of inadequacy—and then subsequently went away, I thought nothing of it. But apparently, I had only scratched the surface. There was so much darkness and uncertainty that I mentally committed to having no more children. I had enough to deal with and was struggling with articulating all that I felt, and how varied those emotions could be.
I had no seasoned mom friends to ask how I was doing because I was the first to get pregnant, and if I needed any help. After time , with a little bit of therapy and a whole lot of writing, I managed to dig my way out and could even imagine having a another child.
By the time I was well into my second pregnancy, I was trying not to worry about any lingering effects of PPD and how those would reappear, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t scared. Fortunately, I had a doctor who was well versed in postpartum depression and was quite proactive in making sure I didn’t spiral too far down the rabbit hole.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought, and I bounced back with such speed, I thought I had staved off those feelings and all my internal fretting was for nothing. But six weeks into being a mom of two, I hit a wall. Having a newborn while raising a fourth-grader and being a “good wife” was turning out to be a lot more complex than I had anticipated as the months went on. I knew I was spiraling and was afraid of where it would all end.
Late one night, I sat in front of the computer to write a blog post as the tears flowed, and then shortly thereafter, the words. That was the first of many breakthroughs. I hit publish and went on with my week, not realizing how liberating it was to have those thoughts out of my head as well as how other women were connecting with what I wrote. Later, I learned that my words resonated with so many new moms, both first-time and veterans.
As I began to tell my story more and more, I felt less shame and fear about what others would say or think of me. Four years later, I’ve come to realize my struggles with depression and anxiety have saved me in so many ways.
I learned to ask for help. After my first bout with PPD, I realized part of my issue was that I was taking on too much. In order to be able to parent effectively, I had to step back and let my husband take on more. By the time I had baby number two, I had safety nets in place for my husband to recognize the warning signs that I might be slipping. I also didn’t hesitate (as much) to ask for assistance when I needed it. Although this was absolutely the hardest thing for me to learn, it was the one thing that truly began to help me heal.
It taught me that I was important, too! I didn’t take self-care into account when I was a first-time mom and thought that I had to do it all (and only I could do it). I was also young and was trying to prove a point, exhausting myself in the long run. Because of my depression, I learned that time alone was not only rejuvenating, but absolutely necessary for my mental health.It also made me a better mother.
It gave me a voice. I found out I wasn’t alone and it made me seek out others whose struggles mirrored mine. In an effort to get out of my head, I started writing feverishly again. With my daughter, it was poetry reminiscent of my college years, scribbled into journals while she slept and I was filled with panic. With my son, a full decade later, it was late night raw blog entries as well as musings on mom style as a distraction from the sleep deprivation. A dichotomy for sure, but it re-awakened the writer in me and set me on my current path. It also helped me find and accept my true voice and feelings about parenting.
That it’s OK to feel. I often mimic the meme "you get 5 minutes in a day to be sad, then you gotta be a gangster.” PPD showed me it was OK to have my feelings (and fully be in them) and let myself process. Not just shove them down and keep pushing through, but when and where appropriate, cry it out if necessary. Even when it wasn’t convenient. Bottling up those sentiments had done me no good in the past and I learned that by actually letting my guard down and giving in to the emotion when I was overwhelmed was therapeutic.
It made me an advocate. Prior to my own experience, I never really gave PPD a second thought. And even after, I was still hesitant to speak about my struggles within my own family let alone in a public space. After a few cathartic and raw blog posts, I realized that I had a platform to be a voice for those who struggled like I had. I’ve found organizations to support that also assist mothers like me who have been, or are going, down a similar path as I traveled. I also make it a point to talk to new moms in my life about postpartum depression and let them know what may lie ahead, and how and where they can get help if they need it. Because I wish that’s what someone had done for me.
I still battle depression and wrangle with my anxiety sometimes, but I'm thankful for the many other warrior moms I've met who are fighting the same fight. I know PPD can be scary and it might seem weird to say it, but the lessons I learned from going through it is why I'm still here.