I tried so desperately to hold it together, day after day, and to wish away the feelings of guilt, failure, and emptiness. I stared at the miracle I had and wished so badly that I could stop feeling so horribly sad in the midst of my little one. I didn’t feel that overwhelming love that many mothers do. I didn’t cry when my son was born. All I remember thinking was, “this is my life now.” As the days became months, I smiled and carefully maintained an appearance of stability as best I could until I was alone and able to collapse into myself.
I won’t say I was overly surprised I had postpartum depression. But now here I was, surrounded by love in its purest form–a very healthy, beautiful baby boy. I had a difficult pregnancy that I was trying to recover from, and breastfeeding was not going well. My constant companions were intense irritability, anxiety, sadness, and an unending feeling of being overwhelmed. I cried a lot–sometimes for hours on end. I didn’t feel like myself; I didn’t feel normal. People kept telling me that it would get better, but I cringed every single time because it wasn’t getting better.
My husband kept asking if I was ok, and I would make the excuse that I was just tired. But, I was
T.I.R.E.D: T-torn I-insecure R-ruined E-emotional D-depressed. I was ashamed, embarrassed, and worried about what others would think or say. I felt like I was a horrible mother and that my child and husband would be better off without me. I thought that if I tried harder, smiled more, exercised more, ate better, or got my hormones under control things would get better. I was certain I had to take care of this alone and that I could not tell anyone. I felt completely and utterly alone.
One day, my husband looked me and asked me what was going on. I told him everything I was feeling. Specifically, I didn’t want a kid right now, it wasn’t MY plan, there are so many women who want what I have, so why me? I felt lost, dark, and couldn’t shake it. We finally came to a conclusion that I needed to call my doctor and get extra help, and that it was ok to not be ok. Then the next day, after much hesitation, I picked up the phone to call. Soon after, I went into the office and saw a nurse practitioner. She saw me. She heard me. She mentioned medications that might help. After careful consideration and having fears about antidepressants and the side effects, I elected to take a low-dose prescription. It was an internal battle, and some days I hated myself for needing it. I thought I was weak. I even faced additional challenges as I waited for the medication to work. I asked myself why I wasn’t getting better with the snap of my fingers. That’s what the meds were for, right?
After a while, I came to see that nothing could be further from the truth. I had to seek countless hours of help, all different kinds of help. I was able to understand that even if I was struggling, I deserved to feel better. Postpartum depression is real, and it can feel devastating. Those who are struggling with it need and deserve to be recognized.
Even though I’m still battling depression, with the right treatment, we have found light. My hope is that telling my story will help someone who is also struggling. Postpartum depression and anxiety can be a very scary thing to deal with, and it’s ok to not be ok. It’s ok to get help–that does not make you a bad person, mom, or wife. You are not alone.