Looking back on the last year and a half, I can’t believe I survived the demon that is postpartum depression. There are no words to accurately depict what it did to every area of my life, but I will try to give you an idea of what happened as a result of riding the wave of darkness.
The month following my son’s birth was a blurry time. I had trouble bonding with him initially, which took my by surprise. By the time my six week appointment came around, I bonded with him more but was still convinced something was wrong.
The Demon and The Misconception
My doctor told me I had symptoms of postpartum depression and prescribed a shift in meds to even out my mood. I was hesitant but desperate. By that time, I had returned to work and struggled from day one to function normally. I couldn’t focus. I couldn’t complete tasks in a reasonable amount of time. The worst part was no one around me believed it was due to postpartum depression.
There is a common misconception that this debilitating illness is about being sad, not about losing the ability to function. It is actually a fiery combination of both that, for some women, makes them pray for death. At one point, that was me. I felt as if my husband and son deserved better than a mother who couldn’t manage daily life.
The Warning Signs
While I was pregnant, there were red flags that postpartum depression was in my future. I didn’t see them at the time because I assumed it was hormonal. If you see these signs or similar, please talk to your doctor. You don’t have to deal with this alone….and, more importantly, you shouldn’t.
In my second trimester, I swore shadows on the wall were talking to me late at night. I distinctly recall one evening when I saw a shadow on the wall, and hearing a dark voice urging me to consider killing myself so I wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable and upset. It was crazy….and I knew that – but I was scared and had no idea what to do. I told my doctor I was worried that I was getting worse. I sought treatment and finally stopped believing I could make it go away without help. Soon after, the voices went away for good.
I lost count of how many crying spells I experienced during pregnancy. I thought it was normal. I did not realize it was perinatal depression, an overwhelming acute depression that shakes the soul with misery. It is made worse by societal expectations placed on women to be happy about their pregnancy. There were times well-meaning friends would say I should be grateful.
If you know someone who is pregnant and struggling emotionally/physically, never tell them they should be grateful.
I knew I should have felt grateful for this miracle growing inside of me. I knew I should have been happy like all the celebrity moms and advertisements for maternity wear say I should be. But you know what? Pregnancy sucks. There, I said it. It sucks. So much of pregnancy is feeling tired, sick, uncomfortable, or a striking combination of all of it. Crying spells are derived from these symptoms in addition to hormones and emotions which are all over the place.
After emerging on the other side of postpartum depression, and still struggling with residual effects, I hope it provides comfort to know there is light on the other end. Truly. There is a level of resilience I only experienced after feeling certain I would not survive. Getting help was crucial to my recovery and continues to be what helps me function. I still attend therapy sessions and talk through mental and emotional obstacles.
In addition to therapy, I joined Facebook support groups for new moms. I didn’t always ask questions, but even if I scrolled through and read what others had to say, I felt better knowing I was not the only one.
I was not the only one who had a bad day.
I was not the only one struggling to smile.
I was not the only one with doubts.
I was not the only one who needed to know I wasn’t alone.
Bringing It All Together
My son is nearly 22 months old, and I am finally starting to believe I can (kinda) handle the craziness that is daily life as a career mom. I still have bad days, but I am better at managing them because I prioritize my emotional and physical health. My husband is very supportive and we work well as a team. In addition to continuing therapy, I just finished week one of Weight Watchers and already feel better knowing I am doing something good for me and my family. I am learning not to use food to battle stress and anxiety. I still have a long way to go, but feel proud of how far I have come.