Becoming a mom was something I had always desired—but I didn’t know how much my mental health would suffer, especially with still being fresh into my marriage and having a newborn on our hands. Childhood traumas and many of my other shadows were brought to the forefront. Things I thought I had healed from resurfaced. I knew that therapy was an option and that therapy for moms (especially new moms) could offer the support I so desperately needed, but I wasn’t ready to take that step yet—or rather I was scared that it would speak to an inability for me to be a good mother and wife.

So I went about my then-current state of motherhood and marriage, feeling pulled in many directions and feeling as though I had to answer to everyone but me.

I remember my mother once telling me, “Sometimes I don’t know what to do with all this woman that I am. I don’t know what to do with all these names that I carry.” I slowly felt myself creeping into that same reality of failing to balance who I was as a woman amidst who I was as a mother, wife, daughter, sister, friend, employee and so much more. 

I learned to suppress my feelings and emotions—which, in turn, filled me with an unmanageable amount of resentment.

I remember existing from my bed for a large portion of my postpartum stage, the baby in his bassinet right next to me. I ate in that bed, changed diapers in that bed, watched tv in that bed, worked in that bed and slept and cried in that bed. Because I couldn’t find the energy to move beyond that bed. And I was surrounded by a cloud that was always ready to let loose a vicious storm.

I didn’t feel like myself. I didn’t feel like my needs were being met. I remember constantly arguing with my husband and still feeling misunderstood. Don’t get me wrong, he was and certainly still is a huge help in this motherhood thing. But in the newness of it all, I couldn’t see past an achy body, a messy house and the funk of a woman who hadn’t showered in days. My needs felt like a low priority in comparison to the needs of my baby and the needs of our household and my former job. I learned to suppress my feelings and emotions—which, in turn, filled me with an unmanageable amount of resentment.

Related: How to find the best therapist for you

I was exhaustingly overwhelmed, irritable, on edge, and not a version of myself that I recognized or loved. I wanted to be better—not only for my son and my husband, but for myself. I wanted to appreciate who I was when I looked in the mirror. I wanted to smile and laugh more often, not isolate myself from everyone around me. And so, I decided to give therapy a try. I was hesitant (because of an unfavorable experience in college), but in the midst of losing my footing, I made the decision to take a leap of faith. And it was one of the best leaps I have ever taken.

Because of therapy and because of how I apply my sessions to my life, I feel fuller. It has helped so much being able to process my emotions out loud and hear my thoughts outside of my own head.

And maybe I’m not alone. According to Motherly’s 2023 State of Motherhood survey, nearly half (46%) of mothers sought therapy, a quarter of their partners and more than 1 in 10 children did in the last year.

For me, therapy has helped me identify my emotional triggers and shifts. It has helped me become more patient and loving. It has slowed my reactions and given me the tools to find understanding outside of my own perspective.

In one of my first sessions, my therapist talked about refreshing my oil. She mentioned how when oil gets old, it doesn’t produce to the same extent as what new oil can. “Are you refreshing your oil, or are you trying to give from dirty oil?” Which I translated as, “Are you tending to yourself and your needs, or are you giving even when you have nothing left to give?”

I am breaking the cycles of trauma that have traveled through our family generation after generation.

I realized that I was so used to giving even when I was on an empty tank. I would always push my needs aside just to make sure everyone else was taken care of. But in the end, I was doing myself (and everyone around me) a disservice. Therapy taught me to cherish my oil. It taught me that it’s OK to pour into my cup first before I pour into others. 

And giving from a full cup has done so much for me as a mom and as a wife, which has allowed the joy to return to motherhood and marriage for me. No longer am I living on edge or in between eruptions. No longer am I giving in to my constant anxiety. Now, I am practicing rooting myself in the moments and enjoying them rather than fretting the what-ifs of tomorrow.

Related: Dealing with shame after mom rage

My communication with my husband has improved, and we have learned to love each other so much better as well. My patience and ability to bond with my son have increased. I feel reassured that as I am learning and unlearning, I am breaking the cycles of trauma that have traveled through our family generation after generation.

Now I’m not giving my child my traumas. And I’m not repeating the same mistakes that negatively affected me throughout my childhood and teenage years. I’m learning to be a better parent, a better wife and a better person all around. I’m communicating openly and honestly. I’m being vulnerable—and not constantly apologizing for it anymore. Now, I’m journeying through the beautiful and unnerving parts of motherhood and marriage with grace and ease.

Therapy may not work the same for everyone, and it may be hard to look beyond the negative connotation that is often associated with it, but I can say that it has made a difference in my life. It may take a while to find someone who is a good match (as was my experience), but don’t let that discourage you. Someone is out there who is willing (and ready) to help you.

If at all you are feeling overwhelmed or stretched thin, I encourage you to find something positive that works for you. Maybe it’s therapy or an alternative (like text therapy). Maybe it’s journaling or simply talking to a friend who pours wisdom into you. Whatever it may be, make sure that it allows you to refresh your oil and give from a full cup—not an empty one. You’ll thank yourself in the end.

A version of this post was published June 7, 2022. It has been updated.