You feel like a wreck.
You are in the middle of something you don’t quite understand.
Some people make motherhood look so easy. How did you get hit by the struggle bus? At one point you felt strong, beautiful, productive, and confident. Now, all those feelings have washed away in the rip tide of post-partum depression.
You did not even want to admit it at first. It was something you thought you would never go through. Now it has you in its grip—and you feel like you are drowning.
I know, because I have been through it. After some time I eventually surfaced. I met many women along my journey through PPD, including myself, who thought it would never end. “This is the new me I guess.”
Now that my daughter is 16 months old and I can look back at my own journey though, here are five truths I can offer you to if you’re still in the thick of it:
1. If you are not okay, it’s okay.
Perfect parenthood is practically sold on shelves these days. In fact, it stares right at you while you are waiting exhausted in line at the grocery aisle. So-and-so and her new baby are dressed in all white (no formula or spit up stains) lying in a bed looking blissful, or the new It-girl has lost the baby weight in three days, or is on a date one day post-partum!
The unspoken competition among mothers is pervasive. It’s annoying and, unless you have people working and caring for you and your child around the clock, it is a lie. You just carried the weight of your world for nine months then, once your miracle arrives, you completely lose yourself.
You lose sleep, your body has changed, your hormones are acting like jerks, your mother-in-law is slipping her opinions into the mix, and somehow you are supposed to look and feel like the girl on the magazine cover?
No. You have every reason to not feel okay. Once you give yourself permission to feel and accept where you are at, the healing can and will begin.
2. You are not alone and you are not crazy.
After about four months of trying to manage and deny my PPD, I joined a few support groups. In those groups I met some of the strongest women I know—women who knew they needed support, reached out and shouldered one another’s pain.
Every now and then I hear from a new mom who has joined the group—riddled with anxiety, guilt, fear, and frustration. I promise that you are not alone. You are not losing your mind. You are tired and (I cannot stress this enough) your hormones are running wild though your body. You are using every ounce you have left to care for your child while suffering through some of the worst types of anxiety and feelings of sadness I believe exist. But you are not alone, and you will come through it.
Time will heal you, the hormones will settle, your baby will start sleeping—all that seems so heavy right now will one day be light. Hold on, and reach out. Find a group to connect with online or at a location and let the healing begin.
3. People will not understand you.
Post-partum depression and anxiety comes with a stigma. Until our culture decides to let go of perfectionism and the idea that every woman should be able to handle childbirth and raising children alone; that stigma is going to make you feel alienated.
See promise number two: you are not alone. Many women are going through this, but the people closest to you may just turn their noses up. I found out who my friends were the moment I started admitting where I was really at. The moment I exposed my weaker side was the same moment the floodgate of judgement opened up.
Find your tribe, find those who understand you and, if you can, set boundaries with the naysayers. They may be people in your innermost circle—your significant other, your parents, best friends. This is your time to heal and understand the changes occurring within you. Changes that will eventually make you stronger and more empathetic, and possibly—most likely—a better parent.
Be strong, and be firm and set solid boundaries with those who are harming rather than trying to help you heal.
4. The therapy, doctor, workout combo works.
It took me too long to get myself the help I needed and ended up in a place where I needed all the help I could get to pull me out. I started with my doctor. We discussed where I was at and how I was feeling and made weekly appointments to check in. This gave me a sense of security and safety through the most trying times.
I began seeing a therapist to work through all the emotions that came before, during, and after baby. Then I slowly started to get my body moving for a little bit of time each day. When you are in the thick of PPD, none of this sounds appealing. It all sounds like work and time you cannot afford, but I believe this combination of support was the catalyst to bring me through and out of the woods.
No matter how horrible I felt, I stuck to my appointments and I made myself move every day.
5. This will pass.
I promise it will, but you have to do the work.
You have to make a choice to get better, and hold on tight when the world feels like it is crashing down on you. You have to promise yourself and your child that you will work toward the light. It will not go away in a day, or a week, months even. And sometimes relapse will rear its ugly head, but you will come through it.
I think the women who work their way through post-partum are some of the strongest people I know. We are already compromised when we have a baby, and throw depression and anxiety on top and that is one deep well to climb out of. But you can climb out. If you get connected. And hold on.
I probably heard some of these promises here and there on my own journey but did not believe them. I thought I was the exception, the one who never gets better.
Now a little over a year through, I am thankful for my experience with PPD. I believe it has made me a stronger, wiser, more empathetic mother and human being. It has taken me to places I never knew I could go. I have learned more about myself perhaps in this one year than in my entire lifetime before.
I hope that—wherever you are on your path—these promises give you courage, strength, and inspiration to continue on, up and through.
Author: Quenby Schuyler
Image: TV series screengrab
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren