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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.

After the birth of my second child, I finally recognized the symptoms I had (and what I experienced with my first baby’s birth) as postpartum depression. I felt like no matter how hard I tried, I still felt exhausted every day and hated watching my husband leave for work. I felt abandoned. I prayed for strength as I cried through feelings of discouragement, and I remember tearfully apologizing to my babies that they “had a mother like me.” My self confidence was slipping away, and I felt like a terrible mother who could never get it right.

I remember the first time I had a suicidal thought, and it frightened me. I never imagined harming my children, but I began to plan out how I could get away from this loneliness I felt. I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, so the only option was to give up.

It took me five months after giving birth before I finally confessed how guilty I felt for being unhappy in motherhood. After meeting with a doctor as well, I was prescribed antidepressants and weekly therapy sessions. At first I felt weak for needing this kind of help, but these visits and medication helped my brain adjust to care for myself again. I found other things that helped as well–exercise, healthy eating habits, and time on my own out of the house. These all gave me more energy and happiness. Yes, I still had late nights nursing a baby and struggling to entertain my young toddler. Yes, I still felt lonely. But those changes in my routine gave me the tools I needed to cope with trials as they came up. As my physical fitness improved, I felt a boost in my confidence. My evenings spent at the library or a friend’s house helped me feel like an individual. I summoned energy to take my children to the library, the splash pad, and the park each week and loved being outside in the warm sunshine.

As I made it a priority to take care of my physical, mental, and emotional needs, eventually I had the physical, mental, and emotional reserves to care for my children, love my husband, and reach out to those in my neighborhood who needed a friend just as much as I did. I’m grateful to have a compassionate husband, watchful friends, an attentive doctor, and a loving God who helped me heal. Take charge of your health, both mental and physical. It’s all connected, and you are truly surrounded by people ready to help you. You CAN be happy again.