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How Postpartum Depression Helped Me Find My ‘True Self’

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“I’d rather be hated for who I am, rather than loved for who I am not.” — Kurt Cobain

It has been 10 years since I finally realized I had severe postpartum depression and got some help. I finally realized I always had obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) that also caused anxiety. This got severe after having a baby, going through a layoff and a couple of deaths in the family while also dealing with the effect this all had on my marriage. It also caused me to get severely depressed. While going through this, of course, I did not act like my old self. My old self was so responsible; my old self was always trying to be perfect. My old self finished college in only three years and graduated with honors, had a 401k and her own insurance at 21, and her own house at 22. My old self did not drink until she was almost 22 because she did not want to become an alcoholic like her father. My old self had not tried a cigarette.

I started getting treated for my depression, OCD and anxiety at 28. I tried my first cigarette finally at 29 just because I never had. Just like with drinking and gambling, it did not become a common habit — just an occasional social thing. Turns out, I do not have that addictive nature. I hardly drink, gamble or smoke, I do not drink coffee and I used to hate shopping. I like it sometimes now, especially online in my pajamas, but I am still definitely not addicted. My husband might say differently based on all of the Amazon packages he sees on a regular basis at our door, but don’t listen to him.

We all have our vices, but a lot like Randall on “This Is Us” I eventually realized, in my late 20s, that my biggest vice was trying to be perfect, trying to take care of others and please others instead of myself. I eventually learned that taking better care of myself made me better at caring for others. It also made me happier and those around me happier. Who knew being a little selfish actually allows you to be more selfless? It did not make everyone around me happier, though. Some people do not like it now when I speak my mind, even though I have always had to hear them speak theirs. I have been asked what makes me think anyone cares about my opinion. I have been told that before I may have not given my opinion enough, but now I give it too much. I had to have new boundaries, but I found this was only in relationships that were not great to begin with. I have had to set boundaries in relationships with certain family or co-workers in order to maintain a civil relationship. It is a constant challenge, because you have to always weigh the effect of continuing or ending the relationship on your mental health. You can end relationships, even with family members, and you can change jobs, but neither is usually easy.

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I have also found though that when being my true self, I formed closer relationships with people I did not have close relationships with before. Turns out some people who did not like me when I was not my true self liked me now that I was my true self. Meanwhile, others liked me when I was being who I thought they wanted me to be, but no longer did once I was my true self, and luckily there were some that liked me before and after because they always saw my true self. The thing is I was not intentionally not being my true self. That is the thing about being lost — you do not even realize you are sometimes. I ignored the signs and red flags, they are always easier to see looking back. My daughter has got me into a show recently about two best friends called Alexa and Katie. When Katie, who has anxiety, decides to major in business instead of acting in college because how practical becoming an actor is, she starts to have panic attacks and does not realize it is because she is making a decision to be practical instead of doing what she really wants to do.

When I work on my book and blogs, I cannot explain the peace it gives me. I work my thoughts out through writing and I enjoy it so much. I also enjoy that some others enjoy it. I know many do not, and think I ramble even, but if I could do one thing regardless of how much money I ever made, this would be it. Obviously, this is new to me and I have not made my fortune doing it yet, so I still am a preschool teacher on the side, but lately I make sure even my side job is something I enjoy a lot. It needs to be enough to pay the bills and that is it. I may never make a lot of money doing this, but I will still do it because I do not do it for the money. Although, of course, I would not mind becoming a bestseller.

I share my story for many reasons. One is that maybe what I went through could have been prevented. Maybe, if I had done certain things earlier, realized certain things earlier, it would not have happened. Or maybe it had to happen for me to find myself. Even if it had to happen, I still want others to know they are not alone in this and it can not only get better. You cannot just get back to your old self; you can become a new, better you. I feel like some people never experience this. I know some people who seem to handle anything life throws at them. They never seem to stop and get majorly depressed or if they do, they “push through” and do not show it, but they also seem to just get through life. Maybe that is the only way they can survive, but for me personally, facing a lot of scary truths and questions and learning to live life to the fullest as my true self has been so hard, but was also needed for me to survive.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Originally published: August 6, 2020
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