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January 22, 2019

Finding our Way through the Dark Cloud of Postpartum Depression.

“Sadness gives depth. Happiness gives height. Sadness gives roots. Happiness gives branches. Happiness is like a tree going into the sky, and sadness is like the roots going down into the womb of the earth. Both are needed, and the higher a tree goes, the deeper it goes, simultaneously. The bigger the tree, the bigger will be its roots. In fact, it is always in proportion. That’s its balance.” ~ Osho
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A week after giving birth to my second child—the precious daughter I had wanted so badly—I knew something was not right in my head.

I didn’t have an easy time getting pregnant with kid number two, and my first pregnancy was a nightmare.

So I should have been elated that I made it through this pregnancy without a hitch and gave birth to a healthy, pink-cheeked baby girl. And I was happy. So happy.

Only I also felt like I was walking around in a dark cloud.

The happiness I should have been feeling wasn’t there, the sunshine was gone, and I felt cold, dark, and tired. It didn’t help that my sweet baby was a crier. She didn’t sleep well at night, which means I didn’t sleep either. (Moms reading this story, I know what you are thinking—been there, done that. Welcome to the club.)

I honestly don’t remember much of the first two years of my daughter’s life. When she was about five or six years old, I was scrolling through a friend’s photo album one day and saw myself holding a baby—and I asked my friend (not kidding), “Whose baby is that?” She looked at me with a comical expression on her face and said, “Uh, yours.” Ha! I guess I thought I was holding someone else’s baby.

Again, I don’t remember much about those newborn years with my daughter. I was too cloudy.

I went to see my gynecologist when my baby was about two or three months old, and I asked her if I might have postpartum depression.

My doctor looked me over, asked me a few questions that I must have replied to in a normal, not depressed sort of way, and said, “Well, you seem fine to me!” She offered to prescribe some medication to help me if I really felt like I needed it, but I guess I had decided that I must be fine if my doctor was telling me I was fine. So I went home and did nothing.

And I wasn’t fine for about two years.

I don’t like to be Debbie downer. Even if I feel crappy, I don’t want to make other people uncomfortable by wearing my true feelings on my sleeve. So it’s very likely that I did look fine. I should have walked into her office and snot-cried about how tired I was and how I felt like a horrible mother for not enjoying my daughter’s infancy. I should have told her something was not right.

I had a lot of guilt that I wasn’t happy—ecstatic—about my baby, especially after how hard it was for me to get her in the first place. How could I be depressed when I had been so blessed?

Because it was chemical. Because it was in my head. Because I was so sleep-deprived—and that alone will make you depressed and crazy. Because postpartum depression is real, and no woman in her right mind would ever choose to have it. No mother should ever feel guilty about postpartum depression. The whole “fake it until you make it” bit does not apply here.

How many times do we try and conceal how we feel so that we don’t make other people uncomfortable? Is this healthy? If I had been true to my feelings—gone to my doctor snot-crying, red-eyed, and puffy-faced and told her I didn’t know if I could handle one more night with this crying baby—maybe I would have heard something different. Maybe I would have received the help I desperately needed at that time.

The next time I dealt with depression was about 10 years later. I was in the middle of a very toxic, no-win situation that knocked me to my knees. Everything I believed about myself was being ripped apart and thrown in my face. My self-esteem was at an all-time low.

This time I knew I needed to ask for help.

What I did:

I found a great therapist (I actually went through a couple of therapists before I found the right one for me).
I tried to eat a healthy diet, because our physical health affects our mental health.
I joined a yoga studio. Meditation has helped me greatly.
I diffused calming essential oils, especially at bedtime.
I tried to focus on my many blessings rather than on things that had gone wrong.
I asked a good friend to call and check up on me weekly.
I leaned heavily on my husband during that time, and I’m so thankful that he was able to be my rock. This was a year where the “in sickness and in health” part of our wedding vows was thoroughly tested. And my marriage became stronger because of it.

What I learned:

I can do hard things. Even if I think I can’t.

I am stronger than I think I am. And there is no reason to ever hide your true feelings if you are going through a rough patch or dealing with depression.

We will all have challenges in life, mountains that can feel insurmountable. Every single one of us.

There will be lots of rainy days. Sometimes we need a little help to bring back the sunshine.

We weren’t meant to travel the road alone.

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