I want to share this with you, because I’d like to help destigmatize mental health issues and especially postpartum mood disorders. More people suffer from postpartum depression than you think - it’s actually more common than having a stroke. While this is only my experience, there are so many others with their own story.
I feel most fulfilled when I am pouring into others. While I can be abrasive and sometimes blunt, I have a pretty soft heart. I’m also an incredibly stubborn person, and I don’t like to ask for help. Well no - more than that, I don’t like the vulnerability of asking for help.
I’ve walked alongside friends who have struggled with postpartum depression. It’s been one of the hardest things to watch someone fight against their own mind and stand by helpless to ease their frustration. I just wanted to fight that battle with them, for them.
Well, now I am fighting alongside them. It’s the sisterhood I never wanted to join.
I have lived with anxiety since I can remember. Of course, I didn’t realize it was anxiety at the time. Not until I was in college did I start to piece together the threads of my fragile mental state.
At 10, I developed an unhealthy fear of germs. This led to an obsessive handwashing routine - if I touched anything but myself, I had to stop and wash my hands - with Dial soap, in hot water. It made it difficult to bake, which I enjoyed. Scoop flour, wash hands. Crack egg, wash hands. Put the pan in the oven, wash hands.
Frightened, I watched as the skin cracked and split from the harsh soap and scalding water. Each night I scratched my hands furiously in my sleep, waking up to dried blood on my sheets, my face, under my nails. My mother began to cover my hands in vaseline, plastic bags, and then socks at bedtime. Eventually, my anxiety subsided and I stopped washing my hands so frequently. Obsessive-compulsive behaviors also have a link to anxiety, and kids can show their anxiety in unique ways.
After college, I got my first job in the big city. My walk to the office led me over a river, and every crossing left me queasy. Against my will, I envisioned myself jumping off the bridge into the cold water 20 feet below. I didn’t want to die - I was repulsed by these thoughts, not seduced by them. I was horrified and told no one that my mind was committing self-sabotage.
Years later, I learned its name: intrusive thoughts syndrome. It has a correlation with OCD and anxiety and the thoughts are often gruesome in nature. Luckily, these thoughts became less and less commonplace, and I found a new “normal” that actually resembled an ordinary experience of mental health.
I got married to my best friend. We moved up in our careers and into a tiny one-bedroom apartment with fantastic exposed brick. I was diagnosed with PCOS, a hormone condition that also has a correlation to depression. Eventually I gave birth to my son. I girded my loins for a wave of depression to overtake me - but it never came. Instead I experienced a joy so profound that it shone into every corner of my mind.
Days after Shep’s first birthday, I found out I was pregnant again. I started to worry - how was I going to manage and juggle all these parts of my life? How would I balance having two under two with work? In December, I gave birth to my daughter, Rory.
Have you struggled with postpartum depression or anxiety? Maybe your friend? What helped you heal?