Letters of Light
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 I had my first two kids, I had postpartum depression for 6 months. I never sought treatment and it went away on its own. When my second child was two years old, she started getting sick, a lot. We moved to a new state, away from all of our support, family, and friends. My daughter was literally sick for the first two years we were here. I was sleep deprived, desperate for answers, and running on fumes, but still functioning okay. I was also supporting a husband pursuing a career in medicine, which required him to work 80 – 100 + hours a week. We were both exhausted and in ‘survival’ mode. There was never time to take care of ourselves. After a few years, our daughter gradually got a little better, and some of my sanity was returning, and then I was surprised with another pregnancy. A third child was on the way and I knew I was extremely overwhelmed, but felt like I was up for the challenge. However, the pregnancy was extremely painful (he was early and weighed almost 10 pounds), I could barely walk in the end without extreme pain. I went to bed crying almost every night. It was also extremely emotional, because they detected echogenic bowel in his 20 week ultrasound, which required extra genetic/blood testing along with extra ultrasounds and close observation. I was also facing my first c-section. My first two kids had shoulder dystocia during their deliveries and could have ended up paralyzed, or even died during their births. We were extremely lucky they were both okay. After meeting with and talking 6 different doctors, we decided a c-section was the best route for our baby. I was terrified and had regular nightmares of our baby dying. Even with all of this, I was still doing well (in hindsight, I was just surviving day to day).
Our baby was born last August and I was incredibly relieved when he was born healthy and safe. I was overwhelmed with gratitude and joy. And then the sleepless nights began, my husband returned to his demanding career, I was alone and in charge of taking care of three little humans, and slowly losing myself and my identity. I felt like my whole existence was as a Mom, the person I once was, the fun and outgoing person, was completely gone. The driving force behind each day, was the thought of getting to go to bed. By the end of each day, I was mentally and physically drained. I would often take a bath with my baby before bed, there were many baths where I would have thoughts like “If I were to die today, that would be okay.” I realized I was depressed and I knew these weren’t normal thoughts, but I didn’t know what to do. I was going outside daily, going for walks, doing all the things that should have made me happy, but they weren’t working. Don’t get me wrong, I deeply loved my baby and was so grateful to have him, but I knew things weren’t going well. I often felt like I was treading water and would sink at any given moment. I was hanging by a very thin string. I told my husband how I was feeling on a regular basis. He only had one whole day off a month and I would break down on those days and end up crying all day because I would suddenly realize how exhausted I was. As a trained medical professional, he knew I was depressed, but didn’t know how to get me the help I needed. I began opening up to my close friends about how I was feeling and they would give me suggestions and tell me I needed to get help, but no one knew exactly what that meant or what kind of help I actually needed. I knew I needed to see a therapist, but couldn’t motivate myself to even make an appointment. Then one day my friend called me and told me about Emily. She knew her well and I knew she was heartbroken. My heart was broken too. I cried and cried and thought about Emily all the time. I didn’t know her, but my heart was so heavy for her. I knew what she had gone through. I knew the hopelessness, I knew the loneliness, I knew the overwhelming thought of living my own groundhogs day over and over, and I was so sad that she felt the same way. I felt so much love and compassion for her, and I KNEW that I needed to get help. Even then, it took a friend literally forcing me to call a therapist and set up an appointment, and then making me go to the appointment, for me to actually get help. Just having the therapist verify that everything I was going through was difficult and that I had every right to be sad and to be struggling made me feel so much better. She also prescribed me Sertraline (the generic brand for Zoloft). I was so nervous to go on medicine. I’m the type of person who doesn’t even take medicine for headaches. I was desperate to feel better though and decided to take the medicine. Within a few weeks things started to feel much better. My anxiety about my daughters health was still there, but it was manageable. The constant overwhelming feeling was subsiding. I felt like I could once again take care of my three beautiful kids and ENJOY it. And that was all on a LOW dose of medicine. I quickly realized that there was a real chemical problem and that I NEEDED medicine to give me a mental reset. I began to feel hope again. Things that made me happy before, felt good again. I felt more like myself than I’d felt in years. It was miraculous and a true blessing for me. I don’t know how long I’ll be on Sertraline, but I’m okay with being on it right now.
Life feels good again and I am happy. I no longer feel like I’m being swallowed by a dark hole. Nothing about my situation has changed, but I’ve changed. I still need to work on taking time to take care of myself, but I’m getting there. I genuinely hope that this helps someone. It’s hard to be this vulnerable, but I needed other women to open up to me about their depression and being on medicine. If you’re reading this and you’re depressed, know that you are loved, know that your life has value, know that there IS hope AND help, take the steps to get help, CALL YOUR DOCTOR, talk to your friends, get out of the house, treat yourself to the things you enjoy, and know that things will get better. This is a time and a season. Depression does NOT define you, it’s just a small chapter in the book of your life. There are many women who understand what you are going through (1 in 7 to be precise). You can get through this. Even though I don’t know you, I love you.