There was a time, in my early twenties, when I was so full of energy and pep that people often asked if I used to be a cheerleader in high school. I surely was not . . . not because I dislike cheerleaders—I’m just not what you would call graceful.
I was full of spunk and excited about life. I had two great jobs, had just finished my first Bachelor’s degree, started my second, and was preparing to marry the love of my life.
In 2012, I married that man, graduated a second time, and we started to plan our lives together. Everything seemed like it was as good as it would ever be.
Then came time for us to start a little family together. Even though it took a little longer than I would have liked, we welcomed a beautiful baby girl in 2014. The next year was a whirlwind of staying up all night, sleeping most of the day, and sludging my way through being a homemaker. At that time, I can honestly say the thought of postpartum depression never even crossed my mind. I had limited resources and just assumed every new mom felt like this. I was overwhelmed, under stimulated, and totally out of sorts. I figured things would settle at some point and I would get back to feeling normal (not that I knew or know now what being normal even means).
In 2016, a sweet, chunky baby boy joined our brood and I was sure it was what I needed to feel complete. This would make me feel full and I would finally be content with my life.
For a long time—too long—I let myself and everyone around me believe I was fine. I told friends I was just tired, and that my babies were hard work, but I was coping well.
Spoiler alert: I wasn’t.
One day, when my son was about five months old, my mom, who lives hours away, pointed out to me that I hadn’t sent her any pictures of the kids for almost a week. This didn’t seem right, as I always send her pictures, so I looked at my phone and realized I hadn’t even taken a picture of either of my kids in a week.
Talk about a slap in the face.
My two babies had been growing and changing and learning right in front of my face and I hadn’t even been noticing it.
That was when I realized maybe I wasn’t OK. That day, I made an appointment with my midwife, went to her office, and cried. I honestly couldn’t believe I had missed ALL the signs, after months of preparation and reading for this baby.
This has more than a year-long battle of trying to find a medication that works, dealing with the side effects, feeling terrible, and fighting debilitating migraines. I would love to say I am further along in my journey than I was when I started, but the truth is sometimes I feel like I get so caught up in worrying about my family that I move backward instead of forward.
During this year, I lost a friend to the terrible battle that depression creates. I realized so many things because of this loss, the most important being that suffering in silence is dangerous.
My depression, anxiety, and whatever else is happening in my brain is real. Even though I know it affects me the most, I have come to realize just how much it affects everyone invested in my life.
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that my brain just acts a little bit funny sometimes, but that mental illness is something that is happening TO me and not BECAUSE of me.
My brain betrayed me, but I will not let it define me.
So if you are somewhere in between struggling to get out of bed and giving up, please remember: you are not alone. There is always some who feels the way you do, or is at least willing to listen to you bare your soul.
I have found amazing people who have been willing to dive in headfirst and hold my hand as I walk through the jungle that is my mind; I hope you can too.