Today, let’s get real about a struggle lots of women experience alone because of a ridiculous stigma: postpartum depression.
I love to talk about the joyful and beautiful moments of motherhood, but the truth is, it’s not always rainbows and butterflies. If you read this blog and think, “Oh, Jessica has it all figured out,” think again. I DO NOT have everything figured out, haha. The idea is kind of silly to me. I struggle. I fail. And I don’t want you to compare your weaknesses to my strengths. I’ve done that whole comparing thing, sometimes I still do, and I know how hurtful it can be. Niether of us are perfect moms, but we are doing our best.
It’s for this reason that I’ve decided to talk about the struggles I face as a mom. I don’t want to focus on the negative, but I do want to offer support and understanding to the moms who also struggle, because all of us do.
My Postpartum Depression Story
Before I start, you need to understand that during my darkest moments I never went to the doctor or a therapist. I know now that I should have, but I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression. It wasn’t until the cloud started to lift that I felt like I’d actually had minor postpartum depression. Every mom has a different experience, and I don’t pretend to understand the heartache felt by those who suffer more extreme depression than I did. I share my experience with you so that if you have one similar to mine you know that it’s okay for you to seek help. If I had, I might have felt better months earlier.
It all began with intense difficulty breastfeeding. I love nursing now, but at first it was extremely painful both physically and emotionally. I would sometimes bite my arm or hit my head on the wall because it hurt and I was so overwhelmed with anxiety surrounding nursing. As the weeks went on, I kind of sunk into a fog.
Happy Moments and Deep Dark Pits.
Although I had good days and fond memories, I also had dark days. When I was out and about having a good day, I’m sure no one would have noticed anything wrong. I smiled and talked like normal. But, it felt like when my day was dark I was in a pit too big to even see the top, or that I was drowning.
We lived with my parents for a few months while my husband was on vacation from school. I spent happy days with my family, but also long hours isolated in our bedroom. On bad days I would lay on the bed and look out the window. I’d get the urge to just jump out the window or I’d make a plan (one that I’d never carry out, of course) to run away. I wasn’t really suicidal, but sometimes I couldn’t stop thinking about my own death.
I was certain that my husband was avoiding me, or didn’t want to be with me. I agonized over this, obsessing over it. I melted down so often, paralyzed. Often simply because I couldn’t make a small decision.
I would randomly get overwhelming feelings of rage. Once, I smashed my glasses case on the side of the crib because I felt I had to outlet for these strong emotions or I would hurt Littles or myself.
At times, I thought about getting help. My dark thoughts often scared me, but the next day (if I felt good) I would feel like there was nothing wrong. I loved Littles, and I went and did fun things with Levi. I thought I must not have depression if I had happy days, so I didn’t need to see a doctor.
Then, the cloud started to lift.
A few weeks after we moved back to Hawaii when Littles was four months old, I had a feeling that I can only describe as a cloud lifting. I started feeling moments of deeper happiness than I did before. I started having more and more happy days that went uninterrupted by feelings of darkness.
I still fell into ruts and had meltdowns. I still struggled. I still fell into patterns of negative self-talk. But something was different, and I started to realize that maybe I HAD been struggling with postpartum depression.
I spoke with a therapist a few times. He helped me learn healthier ways to think and deal with the residue of emotions I had felt before, but gave me no diagnosis. It was hard to be honest about how I had felt before when I was smiling, and mostly normal now.
It took more months, but slowly I started to feel completely normal again.
This too, shall pass.
The scariest part of my whole journey was the hopelessness I felt. Even if the day before had been bright, sometimes it felt like I would never be my normal self again. If you remember only two things from reading this post, know that
- It’s okay (good, even!) to get help, even if you are unsure you “really” have postpartum depression. I wish I would have reached out for help earlier, because it might have helped me feel better and been easier on my husband.
- Things WILL get better. Please, seek out the help that you need and know that postpartum depression does fade.
Although it was a journey, the postpartum depression eventually left completely. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still imperfect, I still get overwhelmed, or have occasional mommy meltdowns. I also experience great joy, reach for my dreams, and I’m learning to forgive myself and let go of that critic in my head. That’s life.
If you are struggling with postpartum depression, I am sending love and hope your way. Please know that I support you.
I am not a doctor or phycologist, I am only sharing my story. Please don’t substitute my words for professional help.