a new mama's struggle with postpartum depression

I’ve been wanting to write about my struggles and journey with postpartum depression for awhile, but sometimes, I still fall into this place where I’m completely in denial that I have struggled with this horrible, guilt-ridden, form of depression. For awhile, everyone around me was in denial too. Depending on who I talked to, it was “Adjustment Disorder with anxiety (thank you counselor),” “the baby blues (after 8 months???),” just “not spending enough time with God,” and my favorite, I was just “sleep deprived (when I was blessed with a sleep-through-the-nighter at 5 months?).” Whatever anyone called it, it took awhile to get a diagnosis and figure out the best form of treatment for me.

Postpartum depression was something that I never expected to have, nor does any mom. It’s the worst form of depression because everyone around you is congratulating you on this new life that you have just created and birthed and you feel like your whole world is crashing. You’re exhausted from sleep, you’re emotional, you’re fat (hello, remember that new life you just birthed?) and you’re giving 150% of yourself to this new little being that has come in and taken over your world.

I wish I could tell you how many times I asked to “put Baby J back.” A common misconception with PPD is that you have desires to harm your baby all the time. That’s not always the case. I never once had a desire to harm Baby J. I had desires to harm myself. If it was 2 am at our house and I was awake, I was saying something along the lines of “I wish I were dead.” That’s not something I’m proud of. It was something that people around me didn’t understand. Because of my intense feelings of distress and sadness 24/7, I completely isolated myself. I isolated myself from any friends that I may have had prior to having Baby J. I was desperate for people in my life though, so I tried, and tried, and tried. I also isolated myself from my husband. He was so frustrated by my feelings of sadness and his lack of understanding that we fought, constantly. I smothered him when I did see him because I was desperate for someone’s attention. He hated to be around me. We said hurtful things to one another, and for two people who don’t believe in divorce for our marriage, we thought about it an awful lot. It was a dagger of hurt that I used several times to cause him the same pain that I felt. It almost ruined my marriage. I couldn’t find the joy in my new, beautiful baby. I couldn’t find any joy in life. I was so far from God and couldn’t bring myself to call out to Him for help. I was anxious about everything and I hated being a mother. I WAS OVERWHELMED.

After talking to my midwife and trying to just “get enough sleep, eat well, and have a few hours of alone time each day,” I finally got help for it. At first, my midwife was convinced it was just the exhaustion of having a new baby. After 8 weeks and my feelings of sadness becoming substantially more intense, I began to see a counselor. I was very anti-medication due to the fact that I have several family members on medication for various emotional disorders and I didn’t want to go on something that I couldn’t come off of at a later time. It was going to be a last resort for me. So, I sought counseling multiple times a month. I began to work out. I began to eat healthy. I began to try harder to become involved in things. I sought a relationship with God. It wasn’t until April of this year that I realized that I needed to figure myself out again. This time, as a mother. I started to get back involved in things that I was passionate about. I was serving in my church, my community, and then (with some help from friends), eventually got a job.

My biggest issue with my postpartum depression was that I completely lost myself when I had Baby J. I was emotional, imbalanced, lonely, and miserable. I battled thoughts of harming myself because it would be easier than dealing with any of my other feelings. I’ve had to battle the destructive, harmful thoughts inside of my head. I thank God for the strength to do that.

I don’t know why I got it. I don’t know why I was unable to handle these new changes. I’m already a very anxious perfectionist by nature, so maybe that had something to do with it. Maybe it was an unplanned pregnancy, c-section, and struggles with breastfeeding. Maybe it was the fact that 6 weeks after having Baby J, my father-in-law ended up in the hospital for several weeks, leaving me with a new Baby J, day in and day out. I’m sure that didn’t help, but did that cause it? I honestly don’t know why it hit me and I don’t know if it’ll come back with my next child (whenever that may be).

I feel like I can finally say that I’ve gotten to a place where I can say that I am genuinely happy. I still have moments where those intense feelings of sadness come out of nowhere and where I am so down that I can’t leave the house, but those moments aren’t all day every day. I’m not isolated and lonely, and my marriage is blossoming and growing. Life isn’t bad, and even though it took awhile to get here, I can say that my postpartum depression is on its way out and I’m finally feeling like “myself”, 13 months later.