Looking back, I wish I would have made my own self-care a priority as soon as my kids were born, rather than putting my needs on the back burner.
Postpartum depression first reared its ugly head after the birth of my first baby. I cried constantly—to the point where my husband told me I was scaring him. Everyone kept telling me it was "just the baby blues."
A year and a half later, I had my second baby. He was colicky and required constant attention. Throw in the fact that he did not sleep for longer than 45 minutes at a time and I slipped into a deep funk again. But it was right before the birth of my third child that my postpartum depression was at its worst.
We had moved to a new state six months before my youngest was born, and we didn't know anyone nearby. My husband worked 10-12 hours a day, so it was basically up to me to take care of all three kids and run the house. There was so much to do that I completely neglected myself.
The combination of loneliness, too much to do, sleep deprivation and no self-care proved too much to bear. I was angry. All. The. Time. In fact, the word angry does not really do justice to how I was feeling. It was more like violent rage. I would scream at my kids over the most minor infractions and lash out at my husband constantly.
I didn't like the way I was acting but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn't control my emotions. I felt like I was in a funk I could not pull out of, even though I desperately wanted to. It was a vicious cycle of rage outbursts followed by extreme guilt over my behavior.
Despite all of that, I never reached out for help or told anyone I had postpartum depression. And here's why:
I didn't know I had postpartum depression.
I thought that PPD meant you couldn't bring yourself to get out of bed—it was for moms who didn't want to participate in life or moms who feared harming their children. But that wasn't how I felt at all. I loved being a mom and I wanted more than anything to be there for my kids, but I could not, for the life of me, control my temper or actions.
Nothing stood out in my postpartum screening.
I don't really remember the questions on the form, but I do remember thinking to myself how easily someone with PPD could pass the test. I also remember the nurse looking right at me and straight up saying, "I can tell just by looking at you that you're not depressed."Just because I'm able to smile and have a normal conversation with you, it does not mean that I am not struggling deeply inside.
I was ashamed of my behavior.
It seemed like the only thing I did was yell at my kids. Any time they did something I didn't like, I would scream at them until they were terrified of me. When it was over, I would feel terrible about how I handled the situation, which pushed me even deeper into my funk. I didn't want to treat them this way, but I couldn't seem to stop either.
I was afraid of judgment.
I thought that if anyone saw or knew about how I was acting, I would be mom shamed and made to feel like a terrible person and parent. I was afraid of losing the small group of friends I had.
I was terrified of having my kids taken away.
Regardless of my behavior, I still loved my kids. I was so afraid that if anyone knew about my bursts of anger they would have them taken away.
I thought it was just the way I was.
To be honest, I have not always been the most even-tempered person. So when I was angry all the time, I thought it was just who I was. However, my rage was much more extreme than it had ever been and I felt like I was in a constant state of sadness and irritability. There was no happiness between my rage episodes.
Looking back, I wish I would have made my own self-care a priority as soon as my kids were born, rather than putting my needs on the back burner. I know it would have made a big difference in my mental well being.
It took a full year for the clouds to part and for my postpartum depression to subside, but these days I am living a life I truly love. I have come to realize the true importance of making my own health and wellness a priority which has resulted in greater well being for my whole family.
So mama, make sure you are finding ways to take care of yourself, no matter how small they may seem. Your family depends on you to show up for them, so if you can't do it for yourself, do it for them. And most of all, please know that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You will not feel this way forever. If you are struggling I encourage you to reach out to someone you trust so you can get the help you need. You've got this, mama.