I’m glad, there, I said it. I’m glad I had postpartum depression and anxiety. I said the thing I swore I never would. I’m grateful for the experience with postpartum mental illness that almost broke me.
I’m stronger than I was before. I’ve gained knowledge that is impossible to understand without first hand experience. I’ve clawed my way back. I’ve fought for my sanity. I’ve had a bed at rock bottom and found my way back to the top.
Postpartum depression wasn’t being a little sad.
It wasn’t just feeling slightly unprepared for parenthood. The anxiety I felt didn’t cause me to worry just a little. The fears I had were not small. The tears weren’t meaningless. It didn’t happen because of something I did and I didn’t conquer it by wishing it away.
Postpartum mental illness can happen to anyone. It can happen to men or women, of any age, race, or socioeconomic background. It doesn’t care if you’ve been trying to have a baby for years or if you’ve found yourself surprisingly pregnant.
It doesn’t care if you are a first time parent or if you are on your fourth child. It doesn’t care if you have a loving family with a large support system or if you are tackling parenthood alone. Postpartum mental illness doesn’t care.
The problem with postpartum mental illness is that it is misunderstood.
It feels overwhelming. It might not feel like sadness, it might feel like rage or anxiety. It might feel like paralyzing fear or focus on scary, obsessive thoughts. You may not be able to pinpoint what is wrong other than knowing something isn’t right- and that’s all okay.
When I first realized I had postpartum anxiety, I was scared. I feared that I was now irreparably broken. I had constant scary thoughts that were completely uncharacteristic to who I am as a person. My mind was spinning, my instincts were shot. The reality of feeling stuck in a mind that didn’t feel like my own was traumatizing. The shame of going through it all was overwhelming. My belief that I needed to fix everything myself wasn’t realistic.
When I say I was scared, I mean I was scared for my life because of my postpartum mental illness. I was plagued with fear.
The anxiety ate away at my mind, my soul, and my body. I was a robotic shell. When the depression crept in, it wasn’t just feeling bummed out or crying. I sobbed on my floor in the fetal position. I cried because I was scared I didn’t love my kids.
I cried because I convinced I wasn’t good enough for them. I cried when I thought I had ruined my chance at connecting with them, but I cried the most because I was convinced there was no way out.
There was a way out, and I figured out my path to recovery slowly. What having postpartum mental illness taught me was that help is out there, and it is out there for everyone. I was convinced that I was the most broken woman. What was going on with me had no solution.
The fear demanded my silence. I didn’t want to tell others about my struggle. I didn’t want to share my shame with my friends and family.
Once I began to open up, the hold the depression had on me began to loosen. Once I began to realize that I wasn’t in this thing alone, I was able to share the weight of the world with my support system.
Once I began to fight the disease instead of letting it control me, I discovered a strength I had never known.
Once I fully recovered, I realized my calling in life.
I went through this to help others. I suffered so that others won’t have to do this on their own. I want people to reach out sooner than I did. I want people to feel less alone that I did. I want to spark a belief in others who are at rock bottom that recovery is possible.
It doesn’t matter how scared or sad someone is, there is always hope. Postpartum mental illness is so much more than just being sad. It manifests in different shapes and sizes, but no matter what is going on, someone else has been in your shoes and made it out-that is what I want people to know.
I want people to know that I felt out of options.
I didn’t see a way out. I felt trapped in my mind. I swore I would never be grateful for this struggle. If I ever found my way out, I’d run fast as hell away from the experience. But now I know better. I see how it has strengthened me.
I understand that through this struggle I was able to find my true self. I now have more empathy than I could have ever imagined. I don’t need to fully understand other people’s struggles in order to listen to their story and support them through it. For all of these reasons and more, I’m eternally grateful for my postpartum depression.