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.
My story starts 6 years ago. My sweet little girl was 18 months old and things up to that point had been ideal. I handled the sleepless nights like a champ, as well as the seemingly inconsolable moments, with patience to spare. I didn’t mind the temper tantrums or crayon marks on my walls–I loved being a mom and everything that came with it.
Then one day it all changed. I was suddenly burdened with an overwhelming feeling, an indescribable feeling. I felt out of control. I felt like I was losing my mind; I was terrified. I felt like I had all these horrible things happening, but nothing had changed. Now, even simple tasks seemed daunting. I felt scared, inadequate, and volatile. How could someone that was thinking and feeling like this possibly be a good mother? I felt like at any moment anything could happen; my thoughts terrified me. I would think of things that I had never thought of before. This persisted for months.
I finally conceded that this was not going away, but I knew I couldn’t live like this forever. My irrational mind considered suicide, but I knew that suicide wasn’t the answer. I knew I loved my little girl, and I knew I needed to change this for her.
I began researching, and started by changing my diet to eliminate all stimulants so that anything that could mimic anxiety was gone. I meditated. I experimented with different breathing exercises. I did basic CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy); rather than resisting and questioning why I had anxiety, I tried to embrace it. All these different things helped, but I still struggled after 2 years. I still felt inadequate and scared.
Additionally, my husband was ready to have another baby, but I knew I couldn’t bring another baby into this mess. I felt terrible for my little girl. I would see other mothers with their children and felt like I didn’t measure up. I felt like my daughter got cheated because she got a broken mommy.
I finally concluded that I needed help. I was ashamed; I didn’t want to admit that I needed medical intervention. My husband would always say, “You wouldn’t be ashamed to take medication for a heart condition or for diabetes, why is this any different?” It was different because there wasn’t a test that could be done that came back positive for anxiety, and there is a stigma against mental illness in our society. I equated mental illness with being unfit, and I didn’t want that to be put in my medical history. Then it would be forever there, and I felt like it would be used against me somehow. I was afraid. I didn’t want people to think less of me, but I knew it was time. I wanted more for my family, and I wanted more for myself.
I went to the doctor and was surprised to hear that the diagnosis was postpartum anxiety. I had no idea you could experience postpartum anxiety a year and a half after pregnancy ended, but you can. I was started on an antidepressant and birth control (my doctor thought birth control would help to balance my hormones and reduce anxiety). My doctor also explained that it would take time for the medication to work, but it was imperative that I be committed and patient. After a few weeks, I felt a huge difference. For the first time in years, I didn’t feel anxious. It was such a blessing and a welcome relief. Finally!
Fast forward to today. My sweet little girl is 8, and I have a wonderful little boy who is 5. I still have moments of anxiety, but I can handle them. As I reflect back on how far I have come, it’s inspiring. Throughout my whole experience I felt inadequate, weak, and discouraged, but I realize I am just the opposite of those things. I am strong. I am more than adequate. I am a mom who despite a great trial came out triumphant.
To anyone that may be reading this–you are strong. You are enough, and you will be triumphant. Never give up!