I have looked forward to having kids for as long as I can remember. My childhood ambition was to be the ‘world’s best mom’ and to have a dozen children. Naturally, as I matured, I formed more realistic goals regarding my future family and was beyond overjoyed when my daughter arrived. I had no problem conceiving and my pregnancy was a dream. Everything was perfect.
So imagine my confusion, a few nights after arriving home from the hospital, when my exhaustion and anxiety peaked as dawn broke, and I sat on the edge of the bed while sobbing and repeating, “I’m going crazy. I can’t do this any more.” Everything I thought I knew about caring for an infant was nowhere close to reality. And I was nowhere near prepared for the emotional, physical and mental trauma that would follow birth.
For the next two weeks, I spent my days crying and feeling guilty for crying. My heart & mind raced, I had cold sweats & hot flashes, my appetite completely disappeared and my chest felt tight. I lived in panic and despair. I felt distant from my baby and almost removed from all reality. This was supposed to be the greatest thing that had ever happened to me. And it was! But it was also the HARDest thing that had ever happened to me. And my sleep-deprived, hormone-imbalanced brain couldn’t conceive why I was so hopelessly and overwhelmingly sad. I worried that I would never feel normal again. I worried that I had ruined my (and my husband’s) life. I despaired that I was an unfit mother for thinking these things. And I lived in dread of what others would think of me if they knew.
Luckily, I had close family members who had experience dealing with anxiety and depression, and they encouraged me to ask for help. So at my daughter’s two-week appointment, I broke down and told my doctor everything. She prescribed me 50 mg sertraline (Zoloft), and I hesitantly started taking it daily. I am so glad I did! I slowly started to feel like myself again and by my daughter’s two-month appointment, I felt so good, I asked about getting off the medication. She recommended taking it for at least six months, which I did, and spent the next two years blissfully enjoying my little family.
But (as I’m sure you must know) life is unpredictable. Without any conscious reason as to why, my anxiety returned earlier this year. In a way, it was almost even more distressing this time around, having nothing to attribute it to. Slowly, (and accompanied with a lot of tears and self-awareness) I am beginning to come to terms with myself and the fact that I may or may not struggle with this for the rest of my life. I have started seeing a therapist, and I make sure to get enough sunlight, vitamins/supplements, exercise and rest. Basically, I am trying to approach this obstacle with a balanced perspective. There will be bad days, but the majority will be good. And if nothing else, this experience has taught me that EVERYONE has their struggles. Having my own is nothing to be ashamed of. I have gained so much more empathy for others and their personal trials. Especially new (and seasoned, for that matter) mothers.
So the moral? PLEASE ask for help if you aren’t feeling like yourself! There are many resources to help you function in the miserable middle of it and get you back to feeling good again. And remember even in your darkest moments that there are days ahead that you won’t want to miss. I’m counting on you to repay the favor someday when there will undoubtedly be another person like you who will be in desperate need of a listening ear and an understanding heart.