Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
Looking back on my experience with postpartum depression, I had no idea it was even occurring when I was in the midst of it. It was only when I came crawling out of the trenches of self doubt, anger, resentment, fear and sadness that I was able to understand what had happened.
I had experienced depression previously in life, and my struggles in my childhood left me feeling like I had absolutely no skills or right to even raise a child. Later, after an unexpected pregnancy, I lived with high levels of stress surrounding my job status and my first year of marriage. Additionally, I had a birth experience that was traumatic for me. My son spent the first week of his life in the NICU, I struggled with breastfeeding, my husband had to return to work soon after the birth of my son, and I was left to care for a baby on my own for 14 hours a day. Yet, I never once stopped to think about whether the rage, the crying, the sickening sadness, and the loneliness were abnormal. I thought every woman must go through this.
At my 6 week postpartum appointment, I was given a questionnaire. I wasn’t completely honest on it because I was afraid they would admit me to a psych ward if I shared that I had very intrusive thoughts of hurting my baby or myself. I remember crying after imagining drowning my son, leaving the state, never returning back to my family, or taking my own life. I felt like I couldn’t handle anything else besides caring for my baby’s basic needs. Leaving my house to do anything was a daunting task.
Though the depression slowly faded after the first year, the anxiety increased. I found it crippling me during the most inconvenient times – like driving. I would be overcome with intrusive thoughts. What if I wrecked my car and my son died? What if I passed out and accidentally wrecked?’ Then suddenly, I would experience pain in my chest, shortness of breath, blurry eyesight, and dizziness. After pulling over, I sometimes had to have someone come and get me.
My turning point was a decision that I made to become a Doula. I knew that I didn’t want women to go through pregnancy or birth the way I did. I knew that women’s voices needed to be heard so they could be empowered. Becoming a Doula not only educated me about pregnancy and birth, but about my own experience. I learned that far too many women out there aren’t being given options, or are dealing with abuse and a severe lack of support. I realized that it does “take a village” to raise children, and that it’s okay to receive and give help.
Becoming a Doula has been a road to healing for me. I get to help others and watch the sacredness of a beautiful birth unfold. I started appreciating the wonders of the female body, and I started looking at my body as a wonderful work of art. I started speaking more positively to myself and doing things outside of my comfort zone. I started loving me like my son loved me–unconditionally. I used alternative modalities like herbs, energy work, foot zones, chiropractic care, sunlight, vitamins, and journaling to help me. What has helped me most of all was deciding to no longer let my depression and anxiety define me.
Please know that you are never alone. You are not your illness. You are stronger than you think. Speak up, because someone else is going through this too. Don’t be afraid to reach out for professional help. Find local resources and take care of yourself because you deserve it.