A few months ago, I was berated on social media for sharing honestly about how tough motherhood has been on me. The offender took the time to write something to the effect of, “That’s it. Your posts make me never want to have children. Unfollowing. See ya.” Her words stung and still cause me to grow angry today. At the time of the affront, I was aware that I was sharing more “negative” posts than usual and I was self-conscious of the fact that I might come across as whiny. But I shared my experiences openly because relating to others was healing for me; sharing helped me to remember that I wasn’t alone. And fortunately I did.
Fortunately, most of the responses I received were not hateful, but were warm and heartening. Fortunately, there were others who saw through the “whining” in my writing and recognized that something in me wasn’t quite right. Fortunately, these friends encouraged me to seek help for potential postpartum depression. And, fortunately, with their words and the support of a friend who was honest about her experience with postpartum anxiety, I finally sought professional help.
And I was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
I have been lucky enough to have my PPD fall on the less severe end of the spectrum of perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. I haven’t wished to hurt myself or my children. But I have been consumed by rage. I have been crippled to the point of being nearly non-functioning. I have gone from being cheery and smiling one moment to wanting to sob the next as an almost tangible cloud of darkness surrounds me. I have wasted days, gloomily binge watching shows because I lacked motivation to accomplish anything else. I have been irritable for no good reason–the shrieks of my son coupled with the patting of my daughter cause my stomach to jump into my throat as I spiral into a sensory overload. I have been nit-picky for the most absurd of reasons–just ask my husband how frequently I complain about the length of his beard and how I can’t bear to touch him if it’s even slightly unkempt. I’ve been a monster mommy and a “rhymes with witch” of a wife.
But I am getting help. I am on the mend. And, for more and more days, I’m feeling like myself again: content, motivated, and capable.
I have an outpouring of gratitude to the folks who have reached out to me. To those who offered reassurance and those who gave words of encouragement. To my wonderful family that has supported me and sought to lessen the burden on my tough days. To my children who still demand kisses from me even after patience-less, tear-filled days. And to my husband who has endured great criticism, an unfair amount of bullying, and the loss of the woman with whom he had fallen in love.
I am thankful to you all for propping me up throughout my dark days and for supporting me as I heal.
For me, the most healing fact has been that I am not alone–which is why I’m sharing my experience with you. Perinatal and postpartum mood and anxiety disorders affect 1 in 7 women. They are the leading complication of pregnancy.* The range of severity is great. If you feel “off,” I encourage you to talk to a professional (this goes for you, even if you aren’t a mother). Worst case scenario, you are fine but you have someone caring to listen to you. Best case scenario, you receive a diagnosis and you’re able to be treated. Either way, by seeking help, you’re being incredibly strong. You may feel weak in the process–I get it; I felt worthless and pathetic. But asking for help is a testament to your strength. You are not alone.