Feeling can be terrifying. It is currently the scariest thing I can think of because of its unpredictable nature. It is no secret that postpartum depression is part of my story. In the spirit of transparency and essentially begging you to step in and help carry this burden, let me share the next part of my journey, years after giving birth. A few months ago I would have naively told you I struggl(ed) with depression. I had been on medication for close to a year. I could take a deep breath, make it through the day without worrying, meet all the needs of my children, and care really well for others that were going through the hardest times of their lives, but something changed drastically. And suddenly. I was taken off of that medication due to unwanted side effects and switched to a new medication. What happened to me in the days to follow were confusing and painful and downright scary. Because I was taken off of the medication abruptly instead of being weaned off over a period of months, I suffered from a horrific neurological withdrawal. With this was persistent dizziness, lethargy, electrical zaps in my head, tingling of my arms, confusion, and horrible pain.
But then the worst part came… I started to feel again. I wept a lot. Feelings and memories I was once able to allow into my mind were now piercing my heart. I don’t know if I was more afraid of feeling the depths of pain again or the fact that the medication was able to alter my mind enough to numb me to certain feelings. Or that it took the edge off just enough so I could be a different version of myself. Whatever the case, it was abundantly clear once the bandaid was ripped off, the wounds were as fresh as they were years ago. Healing had not taken place. I didn’t know I needed more healing once the medication took over and I began to feel well again. My therapist explained this to me and gave me space to accept the fact that I was essentially starting over with my process of healing. But the most important truth she helped me, a nurse, see was that if I had diabetes, I would take insulin, or cancer, would seek treatment. Mental illness is just that, an illness, a real biological disease that sometimes requires medication. There is no set timeline for healing.
I had heard about the documentary, “When the Bough Breaks,” directed by Brooke Shields, and have over the course of several months, told friends and family about it, but could not bring myself to push play. Again, terrified of what emotions or feelings it would stir up in me. I knew I needed to watch it. And I did, today. It was validating, enlightening, tragic and tremendously important. My journey, like many others, has been long and is not over yet. I am acutely aware of that fact and have found purpose in my struggle; to share. I feel overwhelmingly thankful my children and I are alive as the documentary pointed out the horrific truth that some aren’t. The stigma surrounding maternal mental illness must be shattered. I encourage you to share your story as you may hold the key to saving another woman’s life. Watch “When the Bough Breaks,” educate yourself, your friends, family, doctor, spouse and community.