Rory burst into my world with all the vim and vigor you'd expect from a daughter of mine. We named her Aurora for the reference to the stunning Northern Lights - the aurora borealis. I got eight blessed weeks of maternity leave from my job - more than many, but not nearly enough for my mama heart. Although my anxiety was on a bit of an uptick, I was managing. Well, as much as you can manage with two under two.
Once I went back to work, I fell apart. Each night, I'd come home and cry while nursing my newborn. From the guilt, from the exhaustion. I knew I needed to seek help. And yet, I held out. Maybe I will find my equilibrium, I thought. I'm the strongest I've ever been - this will not defeat me. But my anxiety was slowly winning more and more battles, and I wasn't the only one losing. My family suffered, too.
A dark cloud of depression began to descend. I felt like I'd never get past this anxiety, like it would rule my emotions for the rest of my life. I felt hopeless. The intrusive thoughts snuck up on me multiple times a day at otherwise ordinary moments. They took a particularly gruesome bent. I envisioned the absolute worst imaginable scenarios in which I'd forget my child at a gas station, or improperly buckle them into their car seat. Or worse. So much worse.
Finally, after one particularly overwhelming four-hour crying jag, I made an appointment with my primary care doctor. She and her nurse listened well, offered comfort and lots of Kleenex, and reassured me that there was no shame in getting help. And while I knew that, it was such a relief to hear and to know I wouldn't be shouldering this burden alone. I felt like I was trying to hold my life together with dental floss and half-chewed gum, and I'm no MacGuyver.
Her words hit me - words I'm certain I've said before to my friends who have struggled with their own mental illness. "You don't need to do this alone." Just because you can do it on your own, doesn't mean you have to. And to be honest, I couldn't do it on my own anymore anyway.
In complete transparency, this is an ongoing struggle for me. That doctor's appointment? That was just over a week ago. I'm taking Zoloft, which is safe for breastfeeding and treats anxiety and depression. From this first impression, I'm hopeful it will take the edge off of this unmanageable mess. Over the last 30 years, I've developed an impressive set of coping mechanisms but the tide rose too quickly for me to stay afloat on my own. It seems like this medicine is going to be a lifeline to get my head above water again.
Being so open about my mental health is terrifying. I'm writing this knowing that my beautiful daughter might see it someday. This struggle is absolutely not her fault - sometimes brains just veer a bit off the rails and need a bit of support. Instead, I hope her takeaway - and yours - is that there is no shame in needing help. That it takes a lot of guts to ask for help and to follow through on your commitments to self-care. That the strongest women I know have fought this battle against their bodies and won. And that her mother loved her so much that she chose to love herself and ask for help.
When did you realize you might need to get help for your mood? Did you have a positive experience seeking help? Sometimes sharing our story can be a healing experience.