My third pregnancy was definitely my hardest. I spent the last few weeks in early labor, and I was miserable throughout most of the nine-plus months. So it was no surprise that my postpartum mental health was fragile. Now, more than a year later, I’m able to look back and feel proud of how far I’ve come. But when you’re in the thick of postpartum depression, it hurts. And it can be hard to see the forest for the trees.
It took quite some time for me to admit that something wasn’t quite right. Some things did happen after having my son that shouldn’t have. There was hurt and words that couldn’t be taken back. I didn’t know how to accept the apologies, and I didn’t know how to let go and move on (something I pride myself on being good at in general). It affected my relationships, it affected my day-to-day life, and it affected me, as I didn’t really know who I was at a certain point. I was fixated on the hurt and pain. And I slowly hit a point where there was no denying that I was suffering from more than just baby blues. I had postpartum depression. And I needed to talk about it.
It wasn’t until I realized that I was actively avoiding things I love — working out, play dates, nights out with friends — to know that something wasn’t right. When I fought my husband to allow me to stay home from a dinner with friends “just in case one of the kids needed me,” it became clear that I wasn’t me. In struggling to find my identity as a mom of three, I lost myself. I lashed out at my husband, I yelled at my kids (then we cried together after), and I made excuses so I could sit on the couch and not feel like I had to do anything.
There are a whole slew of symptoms for postpartum depression, and no two women will experience PPD or anxiety the same way. For me, everything was too much. I became overwhelmed easily, and while I could do basic things, I just didn’t want to. I was sad — painfully sad — and would cry for no reason. And I didn’t feel like myself at all; though I still found joy in the things I love, I had a hard time feeling like I was me.
Once I admitted that I wasn’t quite right, my husband and my support team did everything they could to get me help. I got in touch with my OB, and we worked together to find a social worker who had experience with postpartum care and could help me. The dosage for my anti-anxiety medicine was increased to help me cope a bit better. I was able to get out of my own head and gain clarity. I forgave. I let go. I did my very best to move on.
Now, more than a year later, I can finally say I am on the other side. I experienced a moment recently where I stepped back from a big event that would have overwhelmed me a few months ago. I looked around at the family who had seen me through the last few months and, remarkably, stuck by my side, despite the anger that emanated from me for so long. Finally, I realized I was me again. Maybe not the me I had been before struggling with postpartum depression, as that helped me grow and change. But I was a me I recognized again — and a me I was proud to be.
Unfortunately, there is such a stigma attached to mental health, and it’s a shame. There are so many things we need help with that are apparent from the outside. Why is what is going on in our heads so taboo? Whether it’s your first or fifth child, you know when something isn’t quite right. Seek help, let the people around you lift you up, and don’t be afraid to take care of yourself. The future is bright, mama — keep your eyes toward it.