Y’all. I have had the hardest time writing this post. And not because I shy away from writing about big things- I blogged during my months of fertility drugs, miscarriage, healing, and more fertility drugs leading to a much anticipated healthy pregnancy. So I don’t know what is different this time…? Maybe because this is another one of those big things that lots of people experience but no one really talks about? Maybe I’m not really ready yet? Whatever the reason, here goes nothing!
I’ve battled some depression and lots of anxiety for years. Not constantly or as bad as I know it could be, but enough to have a healthy respect for the powerlessness you feel when dealing with mental illness. I distinctly remember falling apart in Walmart in the pool toys section after my mom said I couldn’t be homeschooled for high school. I had built high school up to be this terrible thing and was so anxious I had convinced myself I could just homeschool (without running any of this by my mom or knowing anything about homeschooling)! At that point my mom began to understand my anxiety and was incredibly supportive in getting me help through that transition. That’s the thing… Transitions. I sometimes love new things but even when I’m excited about a change I am an anxious mess. College and marriage threw me for a loop too. As did motherhood.
When my son was born I was very much in love with motherhood, until he was about 6 months old. Around that time he was sitting independently and crawling shortly after, and it felt like he didn’t need me anymore! He could get where he wanted and really didn’t care if I was playing with him or not. I was bored to tears. Everyday. And I started to feel very conflicted about staying at home and whether it was right for me and what was I going to do because working 60 hours a week as a teacher wasn’t going to be reasonable and I really just hated being alone with a baby and a dog all day long… and I got all sorts of anxious and stressed and depressed. Luckily a perfect job opportunity opened up that gave me the outlet I needed.
Things got messy again when we started trying to get pregnant with #2 and weren’t successful, when fertility drugs weren’t successful, when my doctor wasn’t what I needed her to be, when we switched doctors, got pregnant but then miscarried our daughter at 10 weeks due to Turner’s Syndrome… It was a very tumultuous 10 months or so. Luckily we were able to get pregnant again and now have the most wonderful 5 month old daughter. But after her birth came a different set of issues, that I came to recognize as postpartum depression and anxiety.
I think with my son I probably had some delayed postpartum depression, but it was more situational than hormonal – getting a job did incredible things for my mood and outlook. After the loss of my first daughter it was not really postpartum and was very situational- time plus a healthy baby sister pulled me out of that fog. This time though, I feel very confident in saying it was crazy hormones plus exhaustion (sister is still not sleeping through the night). I had a meltdown at Chick-fil-A one day and another at the mall a few days later, both times without warning or cause. I was anxious going on escalators while carrying the baby because I had this vision of the whole thing collapsing and dumping us at the bottom and I wouldn’t be able to keep my daughter safe. Every time I walked on tile or concrete I kept a tight grip on her for fear I would drop her. She usually screamed when we were in the car, so if she was quiet I was a mess inside, praying fervently that she was okay. The first night she slept through the night I woke up in a panic, immediately nauseated and physically ill because I knew something was wrong and made my husband go check on her, because I couldn’t bear the thought of finding her not breathing… I wasn’t imagining hurting her, but imagined everything that could possibly go wrong and I wouldn’t be able to protect her. (Could all this be related, on a deeper level, to my miscarriage that I had absolutely no control over, abso-freakin-lutely.)
A lot of things that didn’t make sense to worry about but even those that did I just took to a whole other (ridiculous) level. My OB reassured me though, that everything I said he had heard before, and these abnormal feelings were pretty normal. He went over our options, which were basically keep an eye on it, talk to a counselor (which I’ve been doing since last summer), or prescriptions. He ended up prescribing Zoloft and more sleep, with instructions to address it with my counselor and call him if need be.
It’s been a few months, and I feel much more like myself, though I do still have moments. I think I dealt with a pretty mild case. I don’t share because my story is special, or because I have any special advice, but because it isn’t special at all.
Did you know that studies show 12-20% moms suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety? So if you know 10 moms, one or two likely are dealing with this.
This website was so helpful to me, and reading the lists of symptoms put a label on my experiences. I kept thinking, “I’m not sad, so I can’t have postpartum depression.” But I learned there is so much more to it than that. I think too, we forget than anxiety can be much more than just being nervous or a worrywart. It can be debilitating and is a mental illness (as negative as those words sound) that deserves to be recognized and treated like any other.
If you’ve had a baby in the last 12 months and are experiencing some of the symptoms listed on that page for two weeks or longer, I encourage you to talk to someone about it. Heck, talk to me about it and I’ll help you navigate this as best I can! Being honest with myself, my husband, and my doctor were crucial in feeling better. I think this is another one of those things we keep to ourselves for a myriad of reasons, but really we just need to get it out there, because momma’s are at their best when they are taking care of and taken care of by each other.