My middle name is Joy.
I embodied Joy my entire life and everyone knew me as the loud comedian. I loved that about myself, it felt like no one or no thing could ever take away my joy.
Then I had postpartum depression. It was with my second born and it came out of nowhere. I had gotten my birth story I wanted and nothing wrong happened with me or my baby. Since the delivery was my biggest concern, I assumed I was in the clear of “baby blues”. My midwife would check up on me a couple of times and I just told her no, and that I was still in awe of my awesome delivery and my happy, healthy new baby girl… there were no signs of postpartum depression in my mind.
Four months went by and my mom was told she had stage four breast cancer. Our world changed and everything shifted. I knew I was sad, but I always justified my sadness as I was mourning the news of my mom’s cancer. But it was more than mourning or just a sadness. I was lonely. I was trapped.
Sleep deprived, baggy eyes, hurting breasts, crying baby, and jealous toddler adjusting to big sister life… it all came crashing down on me.
Before I knew it, I was hiding away from the girls and going into my closet to self-harm. It felt like the only thing I could do. This was a new feeling for me – I had thought about it before when I went through a hard childhood but this was different. I wasn’t doing it for attention or even an escape. I was doing it because I felt physically trapped inside my skin. It felt like my brain was going 180mph and my body was at a halt. I had to move, I had to run, I had to feel something other than despair. I did this for about a month before I told anyone. My husband had no idea and I worked very hard to keep it that way. I was ashamed, I had major mom guilt, and I was irate with myself for not enjoying my new perfect healthy baby girl. Telling someone meant I was showing them how awful of a mother I was.
Finally, in a moment of weakness that I can’t explain, I described the trapped feeling to my sister, who had yet to be a mother at the time. Of course she was immediately concerned for my well being… and I didn’t even tell her the whole truth. She told me I had postpartum depression and I needed to call my midwife immediately….
Postpartum depression…. me?? No way… I am always the happy one. Could it be depression? What else could it be?
I let that sit for a couple of days before I spoke to my husband or my midwife about it. I didn’t want to alarm anyone (… so irrational and I should have shouted it from the mountaintop). It wasn’t until my first panic attack that I had a glimpse of my reality.
I was trapped. Like I needed to escape my skin again. I couldn’t breath. My heart was beating out of my chest. I was in pain. I thought I was going to die and my biggest fear was that my dying would be an inconvenience to the strangers around me. Wow… there it is. The moment of clarity. I’m not okay. Something is wrong. This isn’t me.
It would be another six hours before my heart felt normal again. I should have gone to a facility that night but I didn’t want to burden anyone.
The next morning I finally made the phone call, made the appointment, got the meds. I was put on a low dose of Celexa to help with the depression and anxiety… it was a whole new world for me that I had so much to learn about. I did the research, spoke to the midwife and the doctors… it saved my life.
Once I was transparent and told everyone about the anguish I was in, no one was mad at me. Crazy, right? No one was angry that I had to spend the money on the doctor or the medication. No one took my children away from me. My husband didn’t leave me. My family still loved me… I only received amazing support from every person I told.
I stayed on my medication for two years before I was given the green light to ween myself off of them. It should also be noted that I could not have done this without the help and guidance of my therapist.
I still have anxiety and moments of slight panic… I still have a rare urgency to hide in my closest from time to time… but I am happy to report that I have found natural ways to pull myself out of those high anxiety moments. This is extremely difficult and something that took me years to learn with weekly therapy sessions… and not for everyone! But it worked (and still does) for me if I am consistent with it.
I am telling my story for you, momma. Don’t sit in this. Don’t assume you’re this huge burden on society… the stress of momming is SO REAL and lonely. Get out there and get some help. Talk to someone, anyone. Message me! I’ll understand!
I’m also telling my story for you, friend or family member. You just saw the strongest person you know give birth and own motherhood in a beautiful way… don’t assume she is okay. Check on her! Don’t just show up with a meal and leave. Talk, ask questions, get nosy! You could literally save her life and never know it.
You’re not alone, momma.