These were the first words I uttered while looking at my therapist through eyes blurred by tears.
“Most people don’t. You are not alone.”
These were the words I needed to hear. The ones that gave me permission to do what I hadn’t done in a year: I exhaled.
For over a year, I had been battling postpartum depression. It took me nearly 14 months to realize that I was depressed because I didn’t think there was any way I would face PPD. That was something that happens to other people. Not me.
When I was pregnant with my daughter, we took a childbirth class, and the nurse teaching it said if you aren’t feeling back to your old self by the time your baby is 6 weeks old, you might have PPD. I took that 6 week mark as a deadline to get my you know what together. And I cheerfully reported to my husband when our daughter turned 6 weeks old that I was good! I was great! Everything was fine!
Everything was not fine.
The depression was settling in. It started with the emergency c-section and grew from there. And for me, it wasn’t just feeling sad. It was more than that. It was like bricks were being placed on my chest, one by one. The guilt of returning to work: Brick. A random criticism of my mothering: Brick. My daughter getting sick, then getting sick again, then again: Brick, brick, brick.
You know what happens after a year of bricks being piled on your chest? You can’t breathe. You can’t move. You can do just enough to get yourself from one day to the next, and sometimes you can’t even do that.
And then you feel guilty that you aren’t doing enough, which, you guessed it, leads to more bricks. It’s a vicious cycle this guilt-depression thing. Depression fuels guilt which fuels depression, and round and round we go.
It was time to get off the merry-go-round. It was time to start removing bricks. I finally looked at my husband a few months ago and said four words that set me on the right path:
“I am not okay.”
With his help and support, I did all the things – I am doing all the things. I’m in treatment with my doctor and a therapist. I am learning balance and – I am taking care of myself.
Here is what I want you to know if you find yourself at that 6 week mark (or at any point, really) and you don’t feel okay:
- You are not a burden – You do not have to put on a brave face for the sake of the people that love you. Let them carry some of those bricks for you. Let them help you so you can help yourself. They love you and they want to do this for you.
- You are not alone – As many as one in seven women gets PPD. ONE IN SEVEN. There are others that know what you are going through. They have been through it and come out the other side. There is another side – and you will get there, too.
- PPD does not define your motherhood – You’re a good momma. Your children love you. Yes, that love and being needed can be completely overwhelming, but know that they love you for exactly who you are right now in this moment. PPD is part of you right now, but it’s not all of you.
Most importantly, don’t feel ashamed that you couldn’t just snap out of this. It’s not that simple. You may need help and that is one thousand percent okay.
Brick by brick, I’m finding my way out of my PPD. It’s work and it means leaning on my people more than I ever have before – but oh, I can finally exhale.
And it feels so good to breathe in life again.