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You Know You're Recovering From Postpartum Depression When...

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Postpartum depression can come out of nowhere. It looks different for everyone, so it can be hard to recognize. I didn’t even realize my interests were fading, I just thought I was transitioning to new interests. Just as similarly, I didn’t really realize I was getting better until I really started paying closer attention. You see, recovery is a long road. You won’t get better overnight, but you will get better gradually. So gradually, you might not even notice until you look back on how far you’ve come. Keep your eye out for hopeful, easily-missed “symptoms” of recovery like these:

1. You can finally find the right words: It’s true what they say about lack of concentration and focus being a symptom of postpartum depression. It’s a miracle if you can even put toothpaste on your toothbrush, let alone pluck the right word out of your left hemisphere. But when you start feeling better, the words start coming back, like you’re becoming fluent in your own language again.

2. Core pieces of your personality come back: Since recovering, I’ve become closer to the core of who I truly am again. All the things you might call my own personal “brand” (artistic, creative, fitness lover, writer, etc) are flourishing again. I picked up a guitar and started writing poetry again! These two things are not core interests of mine, they cycle in and out, so the fact that these outlying hobbies are coming back is a true sign of recovery.

3. You gain prolific ambition: The hurdles to reaching your dreams don’t seem as monumental after surviving the excruciating hell that can be postpartum depression. Since recovering, I’ve become super productive and my goals aren’t just shruggable anymore. In the midst of depression, it hurts to think about the future because it seems like there’s nothing to look forward to, so goals seem unimportant and futile at best. But the appreciation you have for life during recovery gives you a new major push. I would never wish this disease upon anyone, but this is one good part that can come out of it.

4. Pleasure in the little things. I’ve been noticing rainbows in the clouds that I never noticed before and little paw prints in the snow make me giddy. When I was sick, nothing could revive me or my pleasure in anything. Things that once gave me glee, gave me nothing. And everything, absolutely everything reminded me of my fears and depression. The word “Schindler” engraved on an elevator gave me the chills due to its connection in my head to concentration camps. Neutral things like trees were terrifying. Therapists will say to try to find pleasure in things, to find things you’re grateful for, but in that depressive state, you just can’t find pleasure in anything, no matter how hard you try to will it. So, when I was finally able to laugh at a dumb thing my dog did or admire an intricate piece of pottery, I knew that my true “feelings” were coming back.

5. You pluck your eyebrows again! Seriously, even the most simple forms of self-care go out the window with depression. But when you start feeling better, you start wearing your nicer clothes and picking matching earrings. And it’s when those really peripheral types of self-care moments start to come back, like tweezing, that you know you’re really getting better.

6. People are nicer. OK, so people are just the same as they were before, but now they seem nicer again. One of those things about depression is everything starts seeming negative. The entire world actually seems to be getting worse. You might not even realize it’s the depression talking, because it actually seems like things just really are that bad. But the opposite is true when you’re getting better. Suddenly your faith in humanity is revived.

7. You can look people in the souls now. You can’t turn away from people’s hurts anymore once you’ve felt so much hurt yourself. You can’t just brush people’s sadness and news stories off anymore, because you feel them deep in your heart. Your struggles have mined the depths of you until all that’s left is compassion and empathy for the people around you and their struggles. 

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Originally published: June 10, 2016
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