When Postpartum Depression Makes You a Stranger to Yourself

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for p p dSeeing someone struggling through postpartum depression and anxiety cracks my heart wide open. I don’t care if I’m a stranger to them or not, I want to take their hands into mine and tell them to trust me.

I want them to believe me when I tell them I have been where they are, in that frightening place when you’re filled more with fear and pain than strength. When you look in the mirror and don’t recognize the person looking back.

I want them to listen when I say that I have lived in the skin they are in now, when you are not who you used to be.

I have walked through those days, those hard days, when you’re too frightened to look anyone in the eye because you don’t want them to see straight through to the dark despair and hopelessness that fill your head.

I have been there. The days of pulling clothes out of the closet and letting them fall over my body, wondering where the person is who used to wear them. I remember sitting in the driver’s seat of my car and it didn’t feel like it belonged to the person who now sat there.

These days are anything but easy. Living through postpartum depression is harder than we can ever explain. We struggle to give words to the choking jumble of our thoughts. We want to be heard, but when someone asks us to tell them how they can help, we can only break down in tears.

Postpartum depression is a wall that hides our strength from us. It won’t let light in so we are unable to see how tough we are. The dark clouds of this time block the real view, the one that would show our determination to get better.

We are still there, behind the empty sadness in our eyes, there is the fight and fire we need to recover. We are imperfect in this life, we are lost, confused and we are more scared than we have ever been. When our lives become survival for one moment at a time, our souls can’t rest to see the beautiful spirit of survival that lives within us.

I want those in the heartbreaking midst of postpartum depression to trust me, as hard as it is. We need to believe that inside we have what we need to make it through. It’s a leap of faith, a desperate grab at hope, but it’s necessary.

I want them to hear this message of hope, so that they fight, so that they keep fighting. Because it is the promise of hope that someone asked me to believe in during my own postpartum depression, that saved me.

You will see this through to the other side.
You’re not alone.
You will find yourself again.

Someone once promised me that I would be myself again. I was too scared to believe that who I once was, was still there. What if I wasn’t going to get better? What I would have told the frightened new mom that I was back then, would be this, You may feel like you’re in a thousand irretrievable pieces right now–too broken beyond anything that can be made whole again. But believe that you will heal.

You will find happiness again. The numbness will lift one day and you will hear yourself laugh. The sound of it will surprise you so much that you’ll laugh a second time from the joy of it. You will look in the mirror one morning, and this time the eyes you see back will dance and shine. And you will come back stronger than you ever thought you could be.

You are still there, inside.

Even if now you feel lost, scared and alone, you are there.

Please let my words here be the ones that take you by the hand and hold you until you are back home again. Reach out, ask for help, don’t stop until you feel you are getting the care you need. Believe that with time, professional care and treatment, and the support of your PPD community, that the help you need to find the way back to you again will be there.

The incredible you that you used to be is still there. You will find yourself again. And just as I did, you will smile again.

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It’s Okay To Say No

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mental illnessIf you’ve ever found yourself overwhelmed by commitment and struggling with anxiety as a result, this post is for you.

Dear Mamas everywhere,

 

It’s OKAY to say NO. 

I’m in a place right now where I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed with pretty much everything. Commitments are skyrocketing, even as the slower pace of summer creeps in. I’m stretched too thin. I feel I don’t have time for all the important people in my life, including myself.

I’m guessing you’ve probably been there. I think we all have at some point. Speaking strictly off the cuff and not as a person who actually has any science to back this up, but the inability to say no is probably a major contributing factor to anxiety for some of us.

We say yes when asked to do something, thinking the task a small one. No problem. We can totally handle it! But the small tasks add up, and suddenly we’re standing at the foot of a mountain looking toward the top and incapable of seeing the summit.

The trouble is we don’t want to let anyone down. A lot of women, moms especially, are people pleasers. We want to make people happy and keep them that way, so we sacrifice ourselves and our own mental health (and sometimes physical health too) in an effort to do that.

But that’s just not working, is it?

There comes a point where we feel our responsibilities slipping, taking bits of our peace along with them. Getting behind on a task, or worse, forgetting about it completely, just causes a ripple effect throughout the remainder of things we’ve promised leading to feelings of failure and negative self-talk.

It’s okay to make yourself a priority and to cut back on your commitments when you’re feeling lost in an ocean and barely treading water. I need you to hear me when I say that you’re not letting anyone down by refusing to take on more and more and more. (Hi. I’m speaking to myself here, too.)

Saying no is a skill we all need, and we only get better at saying no by practicing it. Reducing the number of commitments we make allows us to focus more intently on those we choose to accept.

Whether it’s refusing to join another committee at school, church, or work, or being honest and saying “no visitors” while in the hospital or after coming home with a new baby, the value in saying no is the same. Saying no is being honest with yourself and others about what you can handle and when.

Give it a shot in the coming weeks. Think about the commitments you’re accepting and remember that it’s okay to say no.

I promise. I’m learning to say no, too.

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The Connecting Threads Among Us

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Did you catch the Mother’s Day Rally last Sunday?

Since it’s Mother’s Day every day here, we wanted to be sure you were given the opportunity to read all the poignant and powerful essays that were published for this year’s Mother’s Day Rally. We are so grateful for the Warrior Moms who shared their stories with us and made the day an inspiring one for so many.

You don’t want to miss these stories, friends. They are an opportunity to behold the connecting threads that run through each individual experience with postpartum mood disorders. Each woman’s experience is unique and yet, we find a powerful “me too” when we talk about the struggle.

Enjoy…

The Return by Cristina Spencer

Rising from the Ashes by Jen Gaskell

That July Afternoon by Robin Neidorf

Fahrenheit by Kimberly Zapata

Batman to the Rescue by Joanell Serra

A Different Breed by Lauren Hale

Happy Mother’s Day to ALL Mothers by Esther Dale

Before Kids by Susan Petcher

Growing Roots Through Mud and Metal by Sarah Bregel

Mad at You by Joyce Munro

Mother’s Day–It’s MINE by Raivon Lee

Newton’s Second Law by Kaly Sullivan

 

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Paralyzed By Fear: I Think I Had Postpartum OCD

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221144_843371654546_2779282_oBefore I knew I had PPD and anxiety, I thought the obsession I had with making sure my son was still breathing was normal. I found out eventually that it wasn’t, but not until after I had spent months totally paralyzed by the thought of losing him to something I couldn’t control.

Instead of finding ways to calm my fears, I found myself diving deep into the blog of a family that had lost their first child to SIDS. I didn’t know the family at all. I can’t really remember how I found their blog-maybe it was a friend of a friend of a friend. Their real-life nightmare was my nightmare. I could not shake the fear that the same fate would fall upon us.

I barely slept for months. I researched every way to “prevent” it and I made that a policy. I put off crib naps as much as possible-I had to hold him so I could watch him breathe. He stayed in the Pack-n-Play in our room for over five months so he was within reach. I joked that that way I could poke him to make sure he was ok. Except it wasn’t a joke-I really did it, at least twice a night.

The thing about all of this was, I didn’t really tell anyone about it. I probably knew that I was torturing myself by obsessing over the blog, but I just couldn’t stop myself from typing that address in my browser. I knew what I was doing wasn’t all that healthy, but I didn’t really know how to stop. Once I got a therapist at seven months postpartum, we had passed the main window for SIDS loss, so I never really brought it up with her because I believed my fears were slowly subsiding. Yet, I still leaned over the crib rails every night before I went to bed and told him I loved him so it was the last thing I said to him….just in case. I still found myself holding my breath every morning until I heard him call for me. Hindsight is 20/20, so I suspect now that my therapist would’ve diagnosed me with Postpartum OCD if I had been open about it.

When the twins were born, I forked over money I didn’t really have for the portable SIDS monitors. They allowed me to sleep by quieting the voice of fear that was peeking from behind the medication I was on to keep the anxiety and depression at bay. The video monitor someone gifted us helped me, too. I wasn’t without concern, what mother is, but I was much calmer, more aware of my own actions that perpetuated my fears, and understood that I could not control everything.

Sometimes, in the quiet of the night, I wake up with that same feeling that used to keep me awake for hours. On the nights I can’t shake it, I tiptoe into their rooms and kiss their sweaty, sweet-smelling heads, and tell all three of them I love them…one more time. The fear never really left me, but I try my hardest not to let it rule me like I did for so long.

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