How Postpartum Depression Led Me to a Place of Gratitude
One doesn’t often use the word gratitude in the same sentence as a mental illness such as postpartum depression. But that’s the place where surviving postpartum depression has led me to. I never thought something like this could happen to me.
I never imagined that someone like me, a high-functioning, well-educated woman with a loving and supportive husband and family who had even already hired a baby nurse could get postpartum depression. In fact, I never really knew was postpartum depression was. They didn’t cover that in any of the birth classes at the hospital and no mom I knew ever brought up the subject.
I certainly never would have believed that overcoming this mental illness would lead me to a place of gratitude. Gratitude for realizing the true fighter and warrior mom that lives inside me. Gratitude for my own mother who held my hand the entire time I was sick. Gratitude for learning to accept the mom I am, not the mom I thought I should be because she is more than enough. Gratitude for creating a new identity defined by authenticity.
And most importantly, gratitude for being able to pay it forward — to find the courage to speak and write about my postpartum depression journey in the most raw and real way to help other moms with postpartum depression understand they are not alone, have nothing to feel ashamed of, and will get better.
Let me start at the beginning, which for me was the second day being at home with my new baby and realizing something was very wrong, because all I could think about was getting injured or sick so I could go back to the hospital where I didn’t have to take care of a baby and everyone else could take care of me. What was I thinking having a baby? I waited nine months to meet my son and all of a sudden I wanted nothing to do with being his mom. I had made a terrible mistake. Throw in some anxiety, endless tears, and the desire to never get out of bed ever again, and I knew that I needed help.
I wasn’t sure what kind of help I needed. I wasn’t even sure what was wrong with me. And of course, on top of feeling how I did, I felt even worse because I wasn’t living the picture perfect motherhood I had envisioned for myself when I was pregnant. The one I thought came so easily to every other new mom. When I was pregnant, I knew exactly what kind of mom I would be — the queen of breastfeeding, domestic goddess and maker of all the adorable baby-related Pinterest crafts. The mom who carted her son everywhere, made his baby food and spent hours playing on the floor and having baby conversations with him that would result in him always smiling back at me.
Obviously, none of this happened. I clearly missed the memo the reality of motherhood wasn’t anything like these dreams. What I was left with instead was an illness that swept in and stripped me of my identity, convinced me I didn’t want to be a mom and left me feeling like a failure for not being able to smoothly transition into that fantasy of motherhood I had believed was every other mother’s reality.
After finding the right antidepressant, a therapist who specialized in postpartum depression and my village (because it really does take one), I slowly began to get better. A bit of relief flooded in at that first appointment when I sat on her red couch (a cozy, safe place I would look forward to sitting each week) and she educated me about the risk factors of postpartum depression. I had lots of them. She told me I was not alone and that so many moms experience some type of postpartum mood disorder. She promised me I would get better. I didn’t believe her then but I slowly came around.
It was hell and I had to fight and do the work. It didn’t happen overnight and it wasn’t easy. Actually, it happened over 12 months, but I did get better. And that has led me to this place. A mom who is grateful to be healthy, happy and in love with her son and being his mom. A mom of an almost-4-year-old who is grateful to be able to honestly say to you, “Ask me any questions about postpartum depression or motherhood, and I will tell you the truth”.
I don’t believe in pretending.
I wish someone did that for me, but I’m grateful that I can do it for you — be a mom and postpartum depression survivor who can look you in the eye, touch your arm, even give you a hug and tell you, “I know what you’re going through. I’ve been there. You will get through it. I got through it. We will get through this together. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow. But eventually, it will get better. I know it will get better because I got better. I’ll support you down there in the trenches. I fight next to you, with you, and for you. And you are strong and incredible and enough.
This post originally appeared on Mummyitsok.
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Thinkstock photo via Astakhova