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Kathleen on believing her scary thoughts were normal

Kathleen with baby- postpartum depression

Content warning: Discussion of postpartum depression, birth trauma, domestic abuse or other tough topics ahead. If you or someone you know is struggling with a postpartum mental health challenge, including postpartum depression or anxiety, call 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS (tel:18009435746)—The National Maternal Mental Health Hotline This free, confidential service provides access to trained counselors and resources 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in English, Spanish, and more than 60 other languages. They can offer support and information related to before, during, and after pregnancy.

I was hit hard by postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter in July 2018. Before, I was a woman on top of the world, working two jobs I loved, taking classes towards a Master’s Degree I’ve always dreamed of, married to a great guy and surrounded by a close knit group of friends. This all changed as I was suddenly thrust into this role that, despite preparing myself for, I was completely clueless as to what it really entailed.

A long labor made me feel like a failure, along with a baby who didn’t (and often still doesn’t) sleep through the night. I couldn’t handle it—the feeding, the burping, the changing, the crying (so much crying), the way she constantly needed me. All the while I was comparing myself to every mom out there who seemed to be everything I wasn’t—fit, productive, and most of all, happy to be a mom. I was not happy to be a mom.

I was weighed down by this great responsibility that took away my social life, my body and my ability to do any of the things I used to enjoy.

I fantasized about running away to a hotel and turning off my phone so no one could find me. I began to outline my suicide note and dreamt of overdosing on Tylenol while my husband was at work, but of course timing it so the overdose would kick in right before he got home so the baby wouldn’t be alone for very long.

These were real thoughts that I, charge nurse, sim lab teacher, Taylor Swift lover, aunt extraordinaire, was thinking! Me, who was never late for work, lived in a tidy apartment and dressed my baby in ridiculously cute outfits. I was having these very real, very scary thoughts. And I thought this was normal!

Motherhood is a huge adjustment,” I kept telling myself. “You’ll feel better soon. Just get over it! Snap out of it!”

Related: When I tell you I have postpartum depression, here’s what I want you to know

Finally, after nine months, I was able to figure out what I needed to feel better. It’s easy to just say to someone who is experiencing postpartum depression, “Reach out for help. Go to therapy.” But, I couldn’t just do those things. That would be admitting defeat and exposing the failure I was as a mother. So instead, I started to talk.

I talked to my husband, my sisters, my mom, my friends, my coworkers—I talked about how tired I was and discouraged I was that I hadn’t lost any baby weight, and how worried I was about every little thing my baby did. I talked about the lonlieness, the isolation, the comparison to Facebook and Instagram moms—everything.

In talking, I realized that not only was this level of despair not normal, but I also realized that maybe I didn’t have to feel this way.

With encouragement from my husband who quite possibly saved my life, I made an appointment with my PCP and started Celexa and going to therapy. Slowly, the good days outnumbered the bad, and I was able to do the things I’ve always wanted to do—go to the park without being sick with anxiety the whole time that she would cry, drive without fear she would spit up in the car seat and allow other people to watch her without fear she would get hurt. I was actually beginning to enjoy the moments with my mini-me.

And now here I am, writing about my story without crying and hanging out with my beautiful daughter, who I love more than anything there ever was, in hopes that maybe it will reach someone from my small corner of the Internet who is feeling as awful as I was.

Postpartum depression is a real diagnosis with real treatment. It is the single most common OB complication. I read an article a while back that said that 1 in 5 women experience PPD, but only 15% of those affected get help. So let’s get talking! Talking can lead to help which can lead to life-changing treatments. This is what led me to where I am and I am so, so happy to be here.