“I have been so unhappy that I have been crying”
A) No, never
B) Only occasionally
C) Yes, quite often
D) Yes, most of the time
Well, last night I was in bed crying, but that was only because I was exhausted. And there was the other day when I sat on the bathroom floor and shed a few tears, but the boys were really a handful that afternoon. I’m sure that’s not what this question means, anyway.
I circled A.
“Things have been getting on top of me”
I mean . . . I feel overwhelmed, sure, but what mom of three under four DOESN’T feel that way?
Again, I circled A: “No, I have been coping as well as ever.”
I sat in the waiting room of my OB, systematically talking myself out of every item on the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale I had been asked to fill out. My hand flew down the page, circling all the “right” answers—the ones that would hide how broken I was feeling inside, how anxious my days were becoming.
The ones that would help me convince the doctor—and myself—that I was fine.
I did the same at the baby’s first and second well-checks, and again at my own six-week check up. Each time that clipboard and form were handed to me, I internally made excuses for everything I was feeling.
I breezed through the check-ups. “Things are great!” I would exclaim, smiling big as I lied through my teeth.
Truthfully, things were a nightmare. I was a wreck.
My days were riddled with anxiety. I was irritable. Moody. Little things were causing big, emotional reactions in me. I was having heart palpitations. Anxiety attacks.
This isn’t normal, my subconscious whispered. You can’t go on like this.
I pushed that voice away for as long as I could, but as things got worse it grew impossible to ignore. Eventually, when I had no choice but to listen, I dialed my doctor’s number and scheduled an appointment.
Two days later, I sat in the waiting room once again, staring down at that familiar clipboard. I took a deep breath , and willed myself to answer the questions truthfully.
Let me tell you what didn’t happen that day.
The doctor didn’t gasp as she looked over my answers. Her eyes didn’t grow wide in surprise. She didn’t write “CRAZY” in big red letters at the top of my file.
That day, the pharmacist didn’t look at me funny when I picked up my prescription, and no one suspiciously eyed my white paper bag as I walked out of the store.
When I got home, my husband didn’t ask for a refund on our marriage or act ashamed to have a wife who was struggling with her mental health.
So many of the things I had been worried about deep down just never happened.
Let me tell you what did happen that day, and every day since.
As the doctor reviewed my survey, she did nod sympathetically and ask me to tell her more about what I was feeling. She opened up about her own postpartum struggles, and offered the hope that I didn’t have to feel that way; that things would get better. She asked if I would be open to taking medication, or if I wanted to try some other things first.
I did hesitate just a little bit before taking that first pill . . . but I swallowed it anyway.
I did catch myself by surprise when I lay in my sons’ bed three evenings later, belly laughing as I watched them dance in their underwear to Baby Shark.
I did start feeling less overwhelmed and more productive in my responsibilities around the house and in my work.
I did find more patience as I dealt with my kids’ tantrums and whining, rather than snapping at them.
I did sit on the couch and cuddle with my husband, instead of locking myself away in our bedroom as soon as the kids were asleep.
I did delight in being a mom and wife again—fully.
And above all . . .
I did wish I had accurately filled out that postpartum survey much, much sooner.
I don’t think I understood how badly I needed the help until after I had gotten it. I didn’t see how “off” I was feeling until I began to feel normal again. I didn’t realize the full weight of my anxiety until it was lifted from me and I could catch my breath.
All of this is to say . . . mama, if you find yourself staring at an empty survey on a clipboard, debating whether to answer “correctly” or answer honestly—do the latter.
Get real with yourself and those around you. Do yourself the favor of a lifetime and take back control of your happiness.
There’s a world of joy waiting for you on the other side of this, sweet friend. You don’t have to circle A.