Quitando la Máscara: This Latina’s Fight Against Postpartum Anxiety

latina mom jessica escobarToday I’m honored to share my lovely friend (and fellow Texan!) Jessica Escobar’s story with you. Jess is a proud Latina and Texas girl who grew up on the border in El Paso, but currently lives in Austin with her husband and two beautiful girls. She’s a lawyer, avid runner, and the woman loves her some Starbucks, y’all. She’s also a PPA survivor and one of the fiercest Warrior Moms I know. She’s one of my favorite people and I’m honored she decided to put on her brave and share her experience with you. 

I’ve always been in charge of everything. I’m a typical Type A, first child. Growing up on the border, I’ve always served everyone around me before I think about myself.

I am literally incapable of relaxing or giving up control. It’s a coping mechanism, I think.

I didn’t know anything about postpartum depression when I had my first daughter in 2005. No one told me about it–not my doctor, not my family, no one.

In 2011, there was the internet. Blogs. That’s the only way I knew what PPD was and how women suffered. My doctor still didn’t warn me. I was my own advocate.

When I had my second daughter, I knew I could handle being a working mom of 2, a wife, and still be everything to everyone. I’m superwoman, and I’d get back into my normal life, no big.

When I told my doctor about a few incidents I’d had after she was born, he chocked them up to bad days. He literally called it the baby blues. For the record, “baby blues” is the stupidest name ever. Anyone who has ever been depressed knows that it is so much deeper than “feeling blue.”

But it wasn’t depression. I had felt depression before, and this wasn’t it. Looking back, the symptoms would soon add up.

I remember being desperate to find the perfect outfits for family pictures. I was literally obsessed and not finding them made me depressed. It was all I could think of. One lunch I went to Target for retail therapy to help me relax and I was standing in the food aisle thinking I would get my husband and daughter some goodies. I could make them happy. I froze, with no clue what to buy; I was freaked out and didn’t know why. I called my husband to have him talk me down. Why couldn’t I figure something out that should have been so easy?

I told my husband I wasn’t ok. I needed help but I didn’t know how.

Shortly after, I was reading this post by Katherine about postpartum anxiety and sat at my desk knowing I had an answer. I didn’t have PPD, I had postpartum anxiety. It was a thing.

  • I couldn’t stay still. I always had to be doing something. I’d clean into the night, even though I was exhausted after a long day.
  • I constantly had to be checking and rechecking things. I would turn back at least a couple times a week to be sure I’d turn off appliances and locked the door.
  • I panicked. I worried. If I was in a long line, I became like a trapped animal and wanted to escape.

I printed out the article and took it to my doctor so he would know PPA was a thing. He brushed it off and said I had PPD, which I’m not sure he fully believed, and only prescribed me some low dose pills because I told him I would see a counselor. Which I did.

That wasn’t the hard part about getting help. That was just a room with him, me and my husband. Thank God for my husband’s support.

No one knew. I didn’t have to announce to anyone that anything was wrong.

I was raised to work hard and do my best. Men have machismo, I had whatever is the Mexican woman’s opposite. I had to do everything for everyone and I wasn’t satisfied till it was. I would never abandon my work; I would never accept help. I’d just put on my face when I needed to deal with people and go into my hole when I didn’t.

Until I couldn’t anymore.

The face wasn’t working. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I knew it and so did my boss. Thank God for her, though. She knew, even before I did, I needed to a break.

I still remember the day I left my psychiatrist’s office and she told me it was time to take a break. From work. I cried because it meant I was officially broken since nothing else was working. I was that bad. I knew I was no longer in control and I couldn’t pretend I was.

I took the time off of work and was so embarrassed knowing that people would talk. But I was at the point where it was so bad, I couldn’t even care. I needed help. I needed the time for myself. I’m lucky I have insurance and a good job that enabled me to take the time off. The break was what I needed.

To this day, most of my family-and pretty much the world-doesn’t know what happened. Not my extended family anyway. I knew how some of them treated others with depression and infuriated me. A couple mocked them and wrote them off as pill poppers. How could I share such a deep battle as mine? They didn’t deserve to know.

I’m better. I’m not fixed and I never will be. It’s an ongoing battle. I don’t think I’ll ever be off meds. Which makes me sad to say. But I’ve mostly accepted it.

I am terrified and proud to write this.

I’m still scared to share my struggles with “my real world” because that would mean coming out from behind the mask, la máscara. Be judged by people who know me.

But I’m proud to share this if it might help someone in my shoes see herself and ask for help.

 

 

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Comments

  1. Oh, Jessica. So glad you wrote this. I know it was terrifying – but I know it will help mothers see themselves in you – see their brave because of yours.

  2. I’m so touched by your bravery. If it helps just one other woman come out and get help, then it is worth it, mama. I hope you feel empowered by telling your story, just writing down the words can change you in ways you never imagined. Thank you!

    • Becky, THANK YOU. I do feel great. Someday I’ll share this on my blog. And person by person, I’ll continue to share it as I get more brave.

  3. Coming out is so scary especially to your professional colleagues where you think you have maintained some semblance of the mask as you say…and then you will find love and support in the most amazing and surprising places. So glad you shared your story with us! Love, Deborah

    • That honestly was the most terrifying part. You feel like you’ll be discredited and the progress that you’ve made will be thrown aside. Thanks so much for the support!

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. So many women, so many, that don’t seek help because of shame and guilt, not being seen as able to handle and cope what everyone else seems to be doing with ease. It’s hard, and only when it becomes dire do we call out and search for help. Sharing our stories encourages others to come out of the wood work, they can then show something to their physicians, their spouse, their friends and family. It gives truth to what we’re feeling. Thank you so much.

    • Thanks, Alexandra. It’s amazing that me talking about my struggle served as an inspiration for my mom’s sister to talk to me. Even though she has to hide it from her siblings, she can feel free to talk to me. But that still is a sad thing. Small steps, I guess.

  5. Thank you so much for sharing!
    So much of this resonates with me. I am an oldest child as well and because of my family’s reaction, I still sometimes fear that I never had ppd, that I just made it up to cover up my “weakness.”
    The internet has been a great help to me as well. People sharing your story like you help me to realize that ppd is real, very real and that it is okay to talk about it.
    Do you know that I have never realized before reading this, that I had ppa after my last pregnancy? I already knew about the ppd. But the constant checking, the never sitting down, going on beyond exhaustion, that was me. I remember a conversation I had at that time with a few mothers from church. They talked about how hard it was to finish the work around the house after you took a brake to have a cop of coffee. And I said, but I never sit down…I never have a brake and everyone stared at me. *crickets*

    I am so proud of you!

    • Mirjam, thanks so much, love. Luckily my dad was awesome. He was right there along with me. It’s amazing how much love I’ve gotten from my internet family. Without them I wouldn’t even have really known where to even turn.

      Isn’t it crazy how few resources there are about PPA? Looking back, I had know clue that I had anxiety disorder in general. If I had seen little glimpses, maybe I would have had an idea that this is something it would have turned into.

      But here we are. FIGHTING. xo

      • Can u please help me I am having 27 days daughter and I am going through very difficult phase of depression and anxiety I am exhausted all the day and cry all day without any reason I have very loving and caring husband but still I don’t know what is happening with me,I want to sleep but can’t sleep bcz of my mind running all the time this is terrible I feel scared how will I handle my children’s,will I be normal as before?

        • Heather King says:

          Eru,

          You can get better and you are not alone, mama. Please see a doctor and/or therapist to get help. That’s the first step. You should not be feeling so overwhelmed and need to sleep. Reach out for help and you will be on the road to recovery. Peace to you…