How Chrissy Teigen's Essay on Depression Encouraged Me to Get Support
I hadn’t slept in 11 days. To me, this was just a friendly schtick of being a brand-new parent to my Feb. 26 daughter.
As a teacher, I would tell my students I had “pregnancy brain” (before I went into labor) whenever I forgot anything or just felt that ultimate brain fog. Fellow teachers relayed that meaning into, “Oh, you’ll never get your brain back after you have a baby. You’ll be sleep deprived!”
So when my husband mentioned with high concern I’m showing signs of postpartum depression (PPD), mainly in the form of lacking sleep (equivalent to the mind racing), losing sense of time and building anxious habits, I was in denial.
This is just what parenting looks like on me.
Postpartum depression was for celebrities like Brooke Shields or Bryce Dallas Howard. You know: Someone who had stories to tell that were more (is the word dramatic?) than mine. I wasn’t crying nonstop. I felt connected to my daughter. Maybe I could take comfort in that?
I mean, I didn’t really relate to their stories and didn’t consider myself the poster child for PPD.
But me? No way. I didn’t fit the bill.
I’m the fourth of five children. I’m godmother of two to a niece and nephew. I’ve taught for a combined five years of early and secondary education. I have a graduate degree in education. I volunteer at a hospice and help at a bookstore that specializes in children’s literature.
I am not a fucking candidate for postpartum depression.
Defensive and in denial. Not a great start for my growing family.
I’ve always dealt with high-functioning anxiety and this was something that was very likely to happen to me after giving birth; or, so said my psychiatrist. A statistic he reiterated was burnt in my brain: up to 1 in 7 women will have postpartum depression after birth.
Please don’t let it be me. Please don’t let it be me.
Postpartum depression didn’t care. I should say that my brain didn’t care.
No, my brain didn’t hear voices to hurt myself or hurt my baby. A symptom of the depression just kept my brain to a point where I was reliving my childhood, describing how I would raise them through deep analysis of the situation and then offering word vomit without filters to anyone (hello, Walgreens clerk) and everyone I knew (including yelling at my mother-in-law for the very first time after knowing her since 2011).
It didn’t make sense to my family, my friends, my coworkers. And it made complete sense to me.
So naturally, I sounded mismatched, all-over-the-place and rightfully out of my mind.
My Facebook page, a place specifically tailored for extended family and someday friends (a.k.a. acquaintances), suddenly turned into the diary of an emo girl listening to Taking Back Sunday in 2000.
Hormones. Moods. No filter.
The day I ended up in an outpatient hospital for — and I just gave a big sigh because postpartum doesn’t discriminate — I thought I had to harm my baby in order for the world to go on. This was only 11 days after she was born.
That is a terrible thought. No, it doesn’t make sense. Yet it made sense to me at the time and was completely against the person whose morals I’ve built my life around.
I’ve been in a mental hospital twice for psychotic episodes like this. With a beautiful and perfect daughter in tow, something needed to change — at age 32 — right now.
Of course I didn’t want to hurt my baby. I started bawling and immediately called my husband, and described what was happening.
Adam, my husband, just wanted to see my well for the sake of my daughter’s well-being. Not even that: For the sake of our family? For the sake of us.
I stayed up that night thinking about how I was going to take care of my postpartum depression. Wait, what day was it? My baby was born on February 26. That, I knew.
I went online and somewhere on my Facebook wall was the big majestic message: Chrissy Teigan had come out with postpartum depression.
Proud, relatable, elated doesn’t even begin to describe reading articles about her “coming out.” It made so much sense to me and I ended up crying just thinking about how this isn’t an overnight fix, especially with my denial and defensiveness washing over.
How could this happen when Adam and I were over-the-moon excited for our daughter? Will Adam still love me? Does he love the baby more? What if my marriage is ruined? Will Adam divorce me?
The next day, I went into an inpatient rehab. Even though I was there for the second week of my daughter’s life (and I can’t help but feel guilty about that), I’m proud that I’m taking a step in the right direction…
It’s all for my family. It’s all for my daughter.
Yet, I also know that I have a long ways to go.
Instead of masking this issue like I do with my high-functioning anxiety, I’d much rather be vocal about it within my community: I’m still a teacher. I still volunteer. But most importantly, I am a healthy woman being a role model for my daughter, my husband, my siblings, my parents and my niece and nephews. I am a good person who needs to stop judging herself in order to be a great mom.
My psychiatrist put it this way: There was a grandfather playing with his children. He jumped the fence over them and broke his bones easily. Because of that, he found out that he had osteoporosis.
So what if I might have postpartum depression (if I choose to have another child). It was and is an unpredictable circumstance and the best thing I could do is treat it, and then share my unique story about it to maybe help others know that… you’re going to by OK.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. But, it takes a village to support one another as we live a life full of compassion in order to thrive.
Today my daughter is 1-mont-old, and she’s already taught me an incredible amount about life’s lessons. This lesson? It’s OK to ask for help.
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Lead image via the contributor