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I remember the day that we all realized I needed help.  My daughter was almost three months old, and, after a day spent obsessing over every minute of her sleep and every ounce that she ate and both of us crying every second in between, I dared to ask aloud: “Will I ever be happy again?”

Thoughts like this weren’t new to me.  I had been having them since my baby girl was about six weeks old.  And even though my family and friends knew I was having a tough time, no one, not even me, really understood what a dark place I was in.

I was wracked with anxiety.  I became obsessed with reading every piece of research ever written on having a newborn, even though all it did was increase my anxiety.  I was afraid to be alone with my daughter. I was afraid to let anyone else even hold her.  I was afraid she wasn’t getting enough sleep, and that an hour lost here or there would cause her developmental delays for the rest of her life. I was afraid that her incessant crying was a sign that she knew I was unhappy, and that she would be emotionally scarred for the rest of her life as a result.

Everyone kept telling me that it was normal.  That the first few months are hard and, coupled with sleep deprivation, every new mom feels this way.  Totally normal.

Except it’s not.  I felt trapped.  I felt resentful.  I felt hopeless.  I felt like I had been robbed of any and all joy in my life.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I could barely get out of bed.  The smallest decisions, like what to have for dinner, felt like they had unforeseeable, life- altering ramifications, and I couldn’t make them.

Unintentionally, my friends and family tried to silence me. Told me to wait it out a couple more weeks. Told me it was just the baby blues and hormones.  Told me I just needed to get out of the house for a few hours.  I could have listened.  I could have just waited for it to get better. But I didn’t.  Which is a good thing, because post-partum depression/anxiety isn’t something that just goes away if you ignore it.  It gets worse.

We live in a society that tells us that women can do it all. Which is true.  To an extent.  Because this also translates into women thinking they have to do it all.  And they have to do it alone.  Getting help makes you weak.  Makes you less than.

They’re wrong.  Getting help makes you brave.  Getting help makes you smart.  Getting help makes you better.

People still try to silence me.  My truth makes people uncomfortable.  I have gotten e-mails from readers of my blog telling me that they feel bad for my daughter, that I should give her up for adoption, that I am not capable of being a good mom.

I could listen.  Sometimes I do.  Sometimes I let the depression and the anxiety take these words and make me believe them. Those are not good days.  But then I realize: what if I had never spoken up?  What if I had never gotten help?  It’s not just me that would have suffered.  Or my husband.  My daughter would have suffered.  And I’m her whole world.  I can’t change the fact that I have post-partum depression/anxiety anymore than someone can change the fact that they have the flu or shingles or cancer.  But I can do something about it.

I will not be silenced. When I say the things that make people uncomfortable, like the fact that I felt resentful, I am able to see those thoughts for what they really are: separate from myself. When I give voice to my anxious, negative, self-critical thoughts, I set them free.  I release myself from their hold. I get better.

And when my daughter is old enough to read my blog and to understand how I felt, she will not, as the people who try to silence me tell me, hate me and try to emancipate herself.  It is my hope that she will say, “Momma was in trouble, and she got help.  When I’m in trouble, I should ask for help.  And that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

I’ve been seeing a therapist for over two months now.  She has helped me to see that my depression/anxiety is not me.  It’s not even a part of me.  It is an illness, and I am getting better.  While I still experience anxiety and obsess over little details of my baby’s life, I am no longer bitter.  I am no longer resentful.  I am never crying when I hold my baby close.  I am able to see her, and me, for what we really are.  Now we laugh and play and generally adore one another. Don’t get me wrong, there are dark days.  It’s not all rainbows and sunshine and butterflies. But most of the time, I actually love being a mom. Which two months ago, I honestly thought would never be true. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like now if I had stayed silent.  Thankfully, that’s one less thing I have to worry about.  And when you worry about as many things as I do, one less thing is a big deal.

Don’t be silenced.  Don’t stay silent.  And you will get better.

Read more from Beth at her blog: Tales from the Trenches

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