There is a saying, “You do not have a soul. You are a soul. You have a body.” It doesn’t matter who said it. The words mean the same thing.
When we are diagnosed—PPD, PTSD, Bipolar, Anxiety, OCD, etc—it is so easy to wear that diagnosis as a mask. It is easy to look in the mirror and see a woman being defeated by a disease. We join forums, we go to support groups. We can obsess over what is wrong with us and how our body has failed us in this very basic way.
I remember when I was deep in the vortex of postpartum depression, I would stay awake all night with my screaming newborn, trolling the internet for anyone who would talk to me. I needed someone to tell me that I was going to be okay. I needed someone to tell me that this would pass and I would survive and feel joy. The feeling joy—or lack of it—was my biggest fear. I was given this amazing daughter and felt no joy. I wanted the joy I was promised. I wanted a timeline on when that would happen. When would this sickness leave me; when could I take off my mask?
I never found the answer because there is none. While postpartum mood and anxiety disorders are temporary and treatable, there’s no set timeline or recovery process. There is only acceptance and a desire to rise above.
You can take your medication. You can go to therapy. You can read every book and article ever written about your disorder. You can introduce yourself and explain what is wrong with you in the same breath. None of these things will do anything for you unless you realize that you are not your disorder. You are a woman entitled to joy and happiness. You have this thing on your back that is making it hard to do so, but you are still capable of achieving it.
You can steal your joy right back from the lying grips of depression and anxiety.
You can look in the mirror, rip off the mask of a diagnosis, and take a good, hard look at yourself.
You are a mother. You are not your disorder. You simply have a disorder.
Repeat this. Every day.
Once you come to this realization, magical things happen. Strength appears in the place of fear and helplessness. Where you were once obsessive, you can now critically understand what is wrong with you. You can champion your disorder, if you are brave enough. You can get past the fact that there might be something wrong with your physical body and relish in the fact that your soul is all that matters. Your soul is the center and the center will always hold.
You can be the woman on the other side of the Internet telling a lost soul that, “Yes, beautiful mother, you will find this joy. Let me show you where it has been hiding this whole time.”