Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sharing My Experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

One thing I have learned in therapy is that in order for me to be
the best mother I can be I have to make my mental health a priority.

This post has been very difficult for me to write.  I have so many topics swimming around in my head, but until I get this post out there I feel as if sharing anything else would be a misrepresentation of what's going on in my life.

It's always scary when you start a blog, you're putting your life out there for the whole world to see.  I've shared breastfeeding, relationship, and perineal stories but my mental health is by far the hardest thing to talk about.  I ask myself why it's so easy to share embarrassing personal facts but talking about postpartum depression/anxiety is so difficult, and it all goes back to the way our culture and society deals with mental health.  It's something that should be kept behind closed doors, that shouldn't be talked about, something that may even  be shameful.

I started my blog for many reasons but one was to talk about aspects of motherhood that people don't like to talk about.  To let other moms know that they're not weird or crazy, there are plenty of women going through the same thing they are.  Since having Alice I've had to deal with the difficulty of transitioning from a one child household to a 2 children one.  It's been filled with so much joy but also with hardships.  I've had my newborn baby crying and needing me to nurse her, while my toddler cries and wants me to hold him.  I've felt overwhelmed and guilty that there aren't two of me, so that I can give both of my children all of the attention that they need and want.  On top of all of that I started to notice that I was having recurring symptoms of postpartum depression/anxiety.

When I had Ethan I went through postpartum depression, unfortunately I didn't realize I was going through it and therefore didn't ask for help.  With all of the information that's out there you may wonder why I stayed quiet.  After having Ethan I had told myself that if I got depressed I would tell someone, and seek help right away.  Since I never felt depressed I figured that I was fine.  What I didn't know is that depression isn't the only way that postpartum depression presents itself.  After having Ethan I became very anxious and afraid.  Fears plagued my every move.  Fears that were so real it became difficult for me to convince myself that they weren't.  I'm not going to go into detail because that's one thing that is much too difficult for me to write about.  At 3 months postpartum my fears peaked and I'm very surprised that I didn't have a nervous breakdown.  At 6 months postpartum the haze started to clear and I began to feel like myself again.  I had a friend who had recently returned to work and was telling me about her postpartum depression when I realized that I had been suffering from it as well.  I was devastated that I hadn't asked for help.

After having Alice the fear, loneliness, and anxiety started to creep in.  This time I made sure to let Jeff know, and to call my OB.  He referred me to an amazing psychologist who has been helping me through this difficult time.  Having someone to talk to and learning of ways to cope with my anxiety has made all the difference.  What I still struggle with is the question that every new mom gets, how are you doing? I dread being asked that and I always hesitate because I think to myself, do they really want to know? Or are they just asking to be polite?  Sometimes I say I'm doing fine because I don't want to have to explain what's really going on.  On other occasions I find the strength to be honest and I say. "I'm not doing so great, I've been suffering from postpartum depression."  This has lead to awkward silences and sudden changes in the mood of the conversation.  I wish our society would be more O.K. with sharing our mental health struggles, I think it would help a lot of people.  I wish I could be more honest about what I'm going through.

If I had a cold and someone asked me how I was doing I would say, "Not so good I have a cold."  They'd nod and tell me how terrible that must be with 2 small children.  It would be nice if our society could get to a place where sharing that your emotional health isn't doing well could be met with the same normalcy as physical health.

If you read this post and know me in real life please don't feel sorry for me, or sad.  When you see me, if I'm happy, know that in that moment I am definitely happy.  My children bring so much light into my life that some days they are the only thing that keeps me going, and I am so thankful for that.

I found this list of symptoms very helpful after I realized I'd been suffering postpartum depression/anxiety with Ethan: http://www.postpartumprogress.com/the-symptoms-of-postpartum-depression-anxiety-in-plain-mama-english.  If you're going to have a baby or have just had a baby take the time to read it and be aware of the symptoms.  One thing I've learned from this experience is that there is no shame in asking for help, taking care of my mental health has made me a better mother and I'm so grateful for all the people that are supporting me on this journey.

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