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.
Postpartum depression is a thief of so many wonderful things about a new baby–the coos, snuggles, and that fresh baby smell. When I think back on the months after the birth of my second child, I feel a sting of pain. The memories that should have been so sweet and innocent are overshadowed by the darkness that consumed my mind. Postpartum depression flipped my world upside down and changed everything. A struggle so personal begs to be tucked away and kept my own, however, the story is not my own. It belongs to all women who ever have or will fight their way through postpartum depression or anxiety. Together, we can end a stigma that keeps the heartache of mental illness shameful and secret.
One afternoon, weeks after the birth of my daughter, I sat on my bed just staring at the wall. My newborn cooed peacefully in her bassinet, but I felt nothing. I felt that there could be no light or joy, and that all I had been and ever would be was nothing. My mind was so sick it was impossible to feel the love and light from those around me. It was a sickness that ran so deep I truly believed my family would be better off without me. I didn’t deserve them, and they didn’t deserve a “broken” wife and mother. As I imagined my children’s lives without me, I believed they would be grateful I wasn’t a part of it.
Shortly thereafter, I stood and stared at a bottle of pills in my shaking hands. All the pain and struggle in my life seemed insurmountable. Yet somewhere deep inside me there must have been some small glimmer of hope. It was as if God reached down to hold me in that moment and offer me an embrace of love. The bottle fell from my hand, and I fell to my knees. I didn’t know how and I didn’t know why, but I would live.
I decided in that moment that I would fight. I would fight for the woman I was, even though I barely remembered her. Slowly, over the weeks and months ahead, I found the courage to enlist the help of those around me. My husband took time off work, my mom flew in, and friends took turns cooking meals and tending my children. I ran, I prayed, I confided in loved ones, and wrote in my journal when the words were too hard to speak. It was humbling, and by far the most difficult experience of my life. There wasn’t a moment when things suddenly got easier, but one day I caught a glance of myself in the mirror and the light was back in my eyes. I wasn’t the woman I had been before, but instead a stronger, more compassionate version of my old self. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a warrior.