It was around 10 pm on a random evening in late summer. I remember sitting in my bedroom as my babies slept, overcome with sadness. I had been swimming through waves of emotions for a while, making excuses for feeling so...off. I vacillated between feeling irritable, frustrated and numb. I was constantly surrounded by people, and still I felt so, so alone.
I struggled to accept what was actually happening. I found myself making excuses for my feelings, as if I needed to justify how I felt.
It had to be the sleep deprivation. Maybe it was juggling having babies 22 months apart? It had to be the stress of going back to work in the fall.
That summer night, I sat on our bed grasping for a reason to explain why I felt this way, my husband sat with me as tears uncontrollably rolled down my face. That’s when I finally accepted that something was really wrong.
I spent the majority of my pregnancy with Sam worrying about how James would adjust to life with a sibling. I felt a lot of sadness during my pregnancy about the impending change of introducing a new sibling for James. I worried a lot about how he would adjust and I felt sad that our one-on-one time was coming to an end. Looking back, those months feel like they were the precursor to something much bigger.
Postpartum depression (PPD) snuck up on me. It’s honestly hard to even write that. I’m a therapist. I’ve sat with others, professionally and personally, as they have gone through this. I should have known better, spotted it earlier.
I was numbly floating in it for months before I even realized what was happening. My emotions ran from feeling scared that I was going to forever feel this way, to feeling guilty that I wasn’t enjoying my babies in the way that I should. It was a secret that I carried with me, without even knowing t I was doing so.
I found myself going through the motions of our day-to-day, but I wasn’t there. As soon as my boys went to sleep, the sadness/anxiety/loneliness would flood all over me. It was overwhelming. But still, we attended birthday parties, got together with family, we even vacationed with friends. We did all the ‘normal’ things that make up our lives, but inside, I felt like I was dying. I felt like I was missing out on things that were happening right in front of me. I felt nervous that this was going to change me forever.
I was afraid to talk to anyone about how I was feeling because I was worried about how it would be perceived. Would I seem ‘less than’ because I was struggling? Would anyone be able to understand? Was I a bad mother?
When my husband approached me that night, he asked me a simple question: “Are you okay?”
Those three words in that moment gave me the courage to share what I had been holding to myself for so long.
Once I shared my secret, first with my husband, then with my sister—things started to feel more manageable. Instead of judging me, they embraced me. I felt more open, so I talked to a few of my close friends. I sought help from a holistic doctor. I talked. I shared my experience. And what I found was an outpouring of people that just wanted to be there, in whatever way they could.
All these people may not have shared my experience personally, but they stood with me as I worked through everything. They encouraged me, supported me, they held space for me when I wasn’t able to do it for myself. They pushed me to carve out time for self care. I began to feel the joy sneak back into my life, I felt myself laugh for the first time in months.
Postpartum depression is a lot of things for me. It is one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. It was all-consuming and really hard. It was scary and defeating. It was lonely. But it also brought so much beauty into my life.
More than anything, PPD changed who I am. I try to take my day-to-day a little slower. I try to approach myself with kindness and grace. I laugh more with my kids. I tell myself that it’s okay to ask for help, it’s okay to sometimes feel overwhelmed or sad, and it’s okay to take a break if I need it.
Now, instead of assuming someone is okay just because they outwardly seem okay, I ask. I hope that I can create space for those around me, in whatever way they may need, too.