The nurse handed me a piece of paper with questions I had been dreading to answer.
I put on my best I’m fine face while simultaneously sipping a Starbucks latte in one hand and pushing the stroller with my sleeping baby in the other. This 6-week postpartum visit was something I had been dreading. My knees bounced anxiously as I pressed the pen to the paper.
I knew how I should answer the questions, but I answered them differently.
I answered them the same way my outward appearance was . . . fake.
I guess I thought if I didn’t admit to what I was feeling then it wouldn’t be real.
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What I didn’t put on that paper was that I felt anxious.
Not your normal heart racing, blood pressure rises as you swipe your debit card at Target and hope your checking account clears anxious.
I mean full-fledged anxiety over every single little aspect of being a mother. Fear and anxiety that quite frankly I had never experienced so strongly in my life.
Anxiety about not producing breastmilk.
Fear my baby would die in his sleep if I didn’t obsessively check the monitor every 10 minutes.
Obsessive thoughts like if his paci hit the floor and it wasn’t sterilized that he would contract some deadly bacteria.
Anxiety over how many wet diapers he had in a day.
I became anxious about being anxious.
I Googled my symptoms, because that’s what anxious people do, and all that came up was postpartum depression.
I was frustrated because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel teary. I didn’t walk around crying. I didn’t feel disconnected from my baby. In fact, I felt quite on the polar opposite end of the spectrum. I felt in overdrive at all times. I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t concentrate, I couldn’t stop.
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You see there are many faces of postpartum depression and anxiety. It’s not a one size fits all situation.
If postpartum anxiety goes unaddressed, it can definitely cross over into postpartum depression. Those two worlds collide and intermingle. I didn’t want to believe I had either. But in reality, I most certainly did.
Those hormones took me over, and as they fluctuated, I continued to feel more anxious, uncomfortable, and unlike myself. I felt sad about feeling anything other than elation and appreciation which led me to a dark place.
I didn’t admit to the doctor I felt this way. I didn’t confide in the nurses I felt bad. Heck, I didn’t even confide in my husband.
I thought I could tough it out or ignore it. I thought I could be bigger than it or something. I was wrong.
To the world, I looked normal. Posting several smiley, happy Instagram pictures a day. But on the inside, I was drowning.
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A few days later, I sat in my baby’s nursery attempting yet another unsuccessful breastfeeding session. I started to feel emotion overtake me.
The tears started rolling silently as I felt the tension release from my body. My head became heavy and my cries became louder. I sat there physically intact but emotionally shattered into a million pieces.
My husband ran to the door in complete fear. I’m not usually a crier, so he naturally was concerned.
Three words. One freeing sentence left my mouth: “I need help.”
He looked at me in total bewilderment. He truly had no idea I was so low. That moment triggered a cascade of help for me.
I was prescribed antidepressants. I started reading books that addressed these issues. I prayed. I talked to people. I cut out caffeine. I got outside. I took a break from social media. All of this started with me finally admitting I was not OK.
You know what takes courage? Admitting you are in a bad place. Admitting you need help. Admitting you aren’t feeling your best. That takes real courage.
It’s easy to admit when you are on top of the world and excelling but to admit you are depressed, anxious, scared, alone . . . now that is hard.
That one sentence was the start. I started getting better every day. My village showed up. I made it through to the other side, and I can sit here and write this with one single hope: that this will help another mother in need.
Every mom who battles postpartum depression and anxiety is like a piece of a bridge.
Once one woman shares her experience, her challenges, her triumphs, her treatment plan, then she just empowers another woman. Then that woman helps the next mother and so on and so forth.
Slowly but surely as each woman supports the next, the pieces build a bridge. Each piece was vital to the woman before them and the woman after them and they all safely make it to the other side and the troubled waters of this condition are literally under them.
Your recovery matters and so does your story. It took me breaking to seek help—don’t make that same mistake. Don’t put yourself through the agony. Your story matters.
Previously published on the author’s blog