Today is World Mental Health Day, which is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.
Depression is very common – it is estimated that at least one in five people in Ireland will develop depression during their lifetime. Depression is not to be confused with the normal ups and downs of everyday life. Everyone can feel a bit ‘down’ from time to time as a reaction to an upsetting event, but will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. It is a natural, short-lived response to stressful times in life.
However, some people are unable to escape this low mood, and find it difficult to carry on with life as usual. They may experience low/sad, irritable or indifferent mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life…
“Are you having a day?” and “Did you take your meds?” are probably the two most hated phrases that come out of my husband’s mouth. both seem to insinuate that A: something is wrong with me, and B: I am doing something…or many things…wrong. Wrong, bad, useless, lazy, stupid, worthless…when I am in fact “having a day” the smallest comment can send me into a spiral of self hatred or defeat. The hard thing about “having a day” is that I don’t get a warning. Alexa doesn’t tell me “Good morning Madison, it is currently 45 degrees in ——–, with a high of 50 and low of 40. Also, today is going to be rough and exhausting for no particular reason. Brace yourself! There are also no physical signs of “a day” coming on. No fever, no rash, etc. There is usually an overall feeling of being ridiculously tired, but as a teacher, chef wife, and mother of an almost 1 year old, exhaustion is a fairly constant state of being. That being said, there are some indicators and steps that can be taken so that “having a day” can be less intense and even potentially short lived.
As I said before, you don’t wake up with a definitive signal that your day will be more challenging. As the day goes on though, there is usually a checklist of physical and emotional indicators that happen on almost every occasion. For me, weekends are the days that hold potential for “having a day”. The feeling of unlimited time and isolation is triggering for me. Different people have different triggers. It could be criticism, arguing with someone, general stress, performance related, etc. Finding your trigger is a really important step in fighting this proccess.
constantly hungry/craving junk food OR no appetite at all
lack of motivation
lack of focus
low desire to do meet basic needs
(showering, getting dressed for the day etc.)
feeling of being unable to leave the house
scrolling through social media more often than usual
more sensitivity to loud sounds and voices
(not always, but when left unchecked or on a very severe day) spiraling feelings of depression, defeat, hopelessness, tired of day-to-day life, dwelling on all of my “failures”, focusing on negative things.
If left unchecked, or if a day turns into days, the bottom part of the list is more relevant. As someone who suffers with depression, that level of emotional unrest can be very dangerous. That way of thinking can also escalate very quickly. I have struggled with depression long enough to know that although difficult, there are some actions that can and need to be taken so that “having a day” can be just that…a day. Not a week, not a month, not a year.
Take your medication.
No matter what your day holds…start it with a shower.
Get dressed or at least plan your outfit just in case you want to get out of the house later.
Make a list of what you need to get done, and a separate list for what you would like to get done. (prioritize!)
REMEMBER: Your brain is dealing with an imbalance of chemicals. You are struggling because of an irregular chemical reaction in your brain. Equate your negative feelings to faulty wiring. Wiring that is not your fault, and with time, therapy, and medication, it can be fixed.
Pray. Study God’s word. Listen to religious based, or scientifically based podcasts on the neuroscience of depression. Seriously. Let someone else do the analysis for you.
Open the blinds or go sit outside.
Reach out to someone that will make you smile or understands the situation.
Make a code word or phrase with that person. (It could even be, “Hey! I am having a day.” or “Help please!”.
Talk to someone if you are in fear of hurting yourself.
Csomeone to come over.
Call 911 if you are feeling suicidal.
Call the suicide hotline.
Text the suicide hotline.
Don’t sleep in.
Don’t stay in your pajamas all day.
Don’t stay inside all day.
Don’t try to analyze your feelings past identifying that they are visiting for the day.
Don’t try to identify the “why”.
Don’t listen to purposefully depressing music. Sorry middle school/high school playlist.
Don’t drink alcohol.
Don’t talk to other depressed people on the internet.
Yes, it could be helpful, but it could also get you sucked into a pity party and give you some bad ideas. Depression can get a bit contagious if you run into the wrong people on the wrong day in the wrong chat. I personally do not think it is worth the risk.
Don’t look up depression quotes. Seriously. Don’t. It will just get you scrolling on social media and obsessing on the feelings that you don’t want.
Don’t yourself. With thoughts, words, or physically.
If you are truly contemplating the “Dont’s” at the bottom of this list…visit the website. Call. This is your red flag, your sign from God, your light in the dark, your reality check, your STOP sign.
Depression and anxiety are chemical imbalances. They are diseases. Although invisible, and still somewhat taboo…they are being studied more and more. If you are experiencing these negative feelings you have to take charge. People have bad days just because life is hard! A chemical imbalance is not neccesarily your ticket to this show, so to speak. In order to make it through bad days, as individuals we have to know ourselves and stop being afraid of being open and vulnerable. Fear of communication is becoming somewhat of an epidemic and the results can truly be deadly. Have your days, because you can’t avoid them all together. But go forth into the next one with some new knowledge and skills!
You never truly realize how much you love your mom, and how important your mom is until you become a mom yourself. After having a daughter of my own I have so much more appreciation and understanding for my mother. Now I understand how there is no one else in this world that can love me like my mom does.
There is not perfect way to raise a child. There are books to help and advise but there is not “the book”. There are books with ideas and expectations but every child is so unique. A parent can’t possibly read a book that will help them raise a child perfectly. Mothers come into this world like anyone else. They have baggage that does not go away just because they are bringing a new life into this world. Moms have to navigate healing and learning from their past while creating the best life for their children. This is not an easy task.
When I think about all that my mom has been through in her life and all of the things that make up who she is, I really believe that she did the best that she could. At the end of the day I know that my mom loves me and that my mom is my biggest fan. I know that I can talk to her about anything. I know that things that others may view as flaws, she still finds beautiful. She accepts me and knows me fully.
Unfortunately, I did not always feel this way about my mom. When I was a teenager my mother and I were very damaging to each other. Maybe we were in the typical range, maybe not. Either way I resented her for many years. My mom brought plenty of baggage to the table. Some of this involved my father. By the time I was in high school they were working towards a divorce. I was a carbon copy of my father, so my mom had the luxury of fighting with my dad and then dealing with dad jr. I inherited my mother’s sharp tongue, my father’s sharp tongue, and the typical teenage hormones and attitude. It was just an absolutely perfect storm. We have talked in depth about this stage of our lives, and there has been closure for the damage done. I used to be so deeply hurt because I could not imagine how a mother could say certain things to her daughter. Even though both my mother and I agree that things could have been handled better…I get it now. I think about how deeply it will hurt one day when my sweet little Savannah decides to use her sharp tongue against me. It will feel like the ultimate betrayal. I hope and pray that I can keep my cool as she purposely tries to upset me when I tell her no as a teenager. I hope I can handle things perfectly when she has a terrible attitude with me. Realistically, I know that it will not be easy or possible at all times because of how much I love her and how much she will eventually hurt me. Teenagers have the words and power to hurt without the understanding and experience to control themselves. They don’t understand the depth of the pain they cause. It is just part of their development.
What I am realizing now more than ever is that my mom loves me in a special way that no one else can. She loved me as soon as she knew that I existed. She loved me and felt me grow and move inside of her body. She waited to meet me and once she did there was no turning back. Becoming pregnant, carrying Savannah, delivering her, and holding her for the first time really shows me just how profound the whole process of becoming a mother is.
After I became a mother, I started to see my mom in a completely different light. I enjoy her as a person more. I see her and know her on a deeper level. My mom is my champion. She is my soft place to land. My mom is flawed and human. My mom raised me to be strong and to be myself. My mom helped me to have high expectations for myself. My mom raised me despite her own personal hurdles. I see how hard that can be now. I see how strong and special a mother’s love is for her daughter. I feel it for my little girl, and now I know how my own mother feels about me. Mommas hug your mommas. Hug that woman tight!!!!!!!
I don’t know what all mothers go through after having their first child. The world is too complex and everyone has their own chain of events which lead to their own perspectives. I do know that as a mother who suffered with PPD, I have a perspective that will hopefully shed some light on the subject and help other moms to feel less alone or less guilty.
I have tried to think of a way to explain the process of dealing with PPD and I have been trying to find something to compare the process to. I have found that the four stages of grief can be correlated to the healing process during and after PPD. I have been hesitant to write this, because I don’t want people to confuse my message. I don’t want anyone to think that I equate having a child to loss. For any of the small things mothers lose, they gain so much. So many women face loss of pregnancies, infants, or the birth of a child with deadly diseases. Therefore, I am saying again that I do not grieve over being blessed with my amazing daughter. I am comparing PPD and grief so that those without it can find the concept more tangible and those with it can feel less guilty and alone about what they have been through.
Step 1: Denial
When I had my daughter I had moments of denial and paranoia. I was in denial of the fact that God would bless me with such a perfect little baby girl. I did not believe that I deserved to carry and have this child. Truly. I had seen several people have great difficulty conceiving, and people who had lost their children. My TA lost her granddaughter and it was so incredibly tragic. My neighbor’s son was born with a rare genetic disease that caused so much suffering for him and his family. He died from it. Two of my friends/coworkers went through difficulty conceiving. One was going through this while I was so quickly and easily pregnant. Seeing all of this made me feel truly guilty. I was scared to talk to these people about my daughter. I distanced my self subconciously until I grew truly distant from some of these people.
This denial turned into paranoia. Because I did not deserve to be so blessed, I feared that my child would be taken away from me from SIDS or some sort of illness. I truly felt like every decision I made, every ungrateful thought that I had, every element of my child’s environment that I was in control of would also be something that could take her away from me. I was in this constant state of paranoia for a large portion of the first few months of Savannah’s life.
Stage 2: Anger
Along with the denial and paranoia I started feeling a great deal of misplaced anger. Sleep deprivation brings out the worst in people anyway and as all new parents know a new baby does not lend to adequate amounts of sleep. Add in some acid reflux and parents who have no clue what they are doing…yikes. It was torture. I became so incredibly angry and resentful towards my husband. Deeply angry. I felt like I was doing so much more work than him. In my sleep deprived and manic state I failed to realize the following:
-He was just as clueless as I was…actually more clueless
-He did not have the mommy instinct or the ability to wake up at the slightest sound like me (lucky!)
-He was exhausted and working 12 hour days. Often.
-He was scared, overwhelmed, had a brand new HUGE responsibility he was trying to wrap his head around too!
-He did not have the ability to nurse an EBF child and I was not able to pump due to my emotional state and wanting to save it all for when I had to return to work.
-I was a TERRIBLE communicator. TERRIBLE. Did I mention TERRIBLE?????????
I also started feeling anger towards some of my friends. I have friends that know me well enough to know that lack of communication or invitations to go out and do things does not mean I actually want to be alone. I took that for granted in some cases and when I thought that people did not forcefully visit me or make me leave my house that they had given up on me to some extent. I saw my little group of local friends hang out with each other, and saw that they did not invite me. (side bar…don’t look at social media when you are home alone with a new baby. ) This made me feel so incredibly abandoned, jealous, and resentful. So much so that instead of ever communicating any of this to them, I just made assumptions. My lifelong friends and childhood friends all live hours away, so that magnified my loneliness. I was working so hard to seem okay, that I neglected to tell my friends what I needed. I know now how unfair my expectations truly were! Just like with my husband, I failed to realize the following:
-It was not and is never a friend’s responsibility to babysit me in any capacity.
-People have their own lives and their own struggles.
-If I say I am ok, most people do not have time to investigate further.
-If I had at any point said, “I am in trouble”, “I need help”, “I need you to make me get out of my house”, etc. so any people would have absolutely risen to the occasion.
-I am a TERRIBLE communicator….yes. There is absolutely a theme here.
Yet another thing that made me angry was the fact that I would have to go back to work and leave my precious daughter. I was truly angry about it. I was angry that I could not afford to stay home with my child not realizing that I could never completely stop working. I would be alone, with my daughter to the point that it would not be healthy for either of us. She does not need to adopt my socialization patterns or lack thereof.
Stage 3: Bargaining
While dealing with my PPD and dealing with going back to work, I did a lot of “bargaining” with myself. More than bargaining, it was a lot of distorting reality and excuse making for myself, to myself. I struggled with fully committing to the idea of going back to work. I would do my best with my kiddos, I would be on, excited, and giving them my best. However, as soon as the clock said 3:30 I was gone. Although I have planning time, when combined with pumping, absent coworkers and other factors, I did not truly get everything done organizationally by the end of the day. I would justify not staying that extra 30 minute or hour by adding in the fact that I also had a 30 minute commute home. I would also justify my quick departure by telling myself I was a mom first. I would feel absolutely guilty about this because at the end of the day my students deserve the best and I knew eventually my lack of attention to little details would get in the way at some point. I also justified myself in regards to crumbling friendships. I would tell myself it was not my fault, and then justify as to why it was not my fault. Basically anything I felt self conscious about, I would agonize over it and talk myself in circles about it in my head.
Stage 4: Acceptance
Acceptance is a wonderful things, and a hard thing to come by. In my case, acceptance has appeared in the form of confidence, accepting my role in things, shifting priorities, better communication, new systems in my daily life/work life, and accepting that my best is good enough.
After reaching a breaking point in regards to dealing with all of this complex nonsense I realized that I was not able to rationalize myself out of such a deep pit of sad, anxious, and defeat. I adjusted medication, I started talking to God more, I read “Girl Wash Your Face” (seriously!), and I started trying to be nicer to myself. I also started trying to listen to God more and take steps he was leading me to. With each kind or courageous act towards myself and my life I gained more confidence.
After finding some equilibrium and ending my constant state of depression I was able to examine the past year without ruminating or a skewed perception. I took mental responsibility for my role in everything that had bothered me.
After realizing that my fears were not valid, my anger was misplaced, and my current systems used to function were not cutting it…I decided to train my brain on new ways of doing things. I am still in the “training” process, but on days that I struggle I lean on my sense of hope that I can find systems that will work for me. I will be able to train myself to be more organized. It is much easier to do so when my mental and physical energy is not spent on being in a constant state of survival mode! I can not explain to you how impossible the smallest things feel when you are trying to fight off a fit of tears and utter hopelessness. Daily.
As cliché and cheesy as it may sound, I am really working toward accepting that my best is good enough. If I am trying, refusing to give up, learning something new, handling something with more ease, and just truly doing all that I can do then I have nothing to be ashamed of. Savannah is loved, healthy, and supported. I am growing as a person so that she can be her best self. I did not give up. I did not end my life. I will never do those things. I am seeing progress within myself. I am satisfied with my self praise and actualization. I am not dependent on others to tell me who I am or what I can/can’t do. Not anymore. I accept myself for all of my struggles. I am proud of myself for all that I have overcome. No matter what stage you are in of PPD, you will get through it. It will absolutely get better.
It is absolutely insane to me that my sweet little girl will be one in less than two months. Time truly flies. It is also insane to me that in my previous post, I thought I was close to being fully back to myself. Fun fact…NOPE! I am on month 11 of my child’s life and NOW I finally feel back to myself. Between month 4 and month 11, I have done more growing, more reflecting, and more struggling.
By the time she reached 9 months, I realized that I was still not functioning to the best of my ability. I was very anxious, frustrated, and emotionally exhausted. I felt like I was not doing a great job at work. I am a teacher, and as far as instruction and being with my kids goes,I thought I was doing a good job. In the organization department however…not so much. Before I go any further, I have to admit that I have always had challenges in the organization department. Rushing home to be with my daughter and working so hard to fight the negative emotions I was dealing with on a daily basis really made my lack of organization skills even worse. I did not know this at the time, but I also believe I was struggling with what an author from themighty.com called “self-esteem attacks”. This means that for the last few months, any time someone joked about or critiqued my performance I felt like a failure. I would agonize and obsess about every little thing wrong with me, how horrible at life I was, why people would think so little of me (when they were not thinking horrible things about me at all!), and so on. These attacks also happened every time someone tried to help me or gave me any extra attention. I started feeling bullied and like I had a target on my back in some cases. I would hold onto these feelings of self doubt for DAYS. When I would start to feel better, something else would trigger the response in me all over again. I came home from work every day feeling broken and resentful. Resentful that I had to endure these negative feelings, fight so hard to push them away, and be away from my daughter just to suffer. Thankfully, after crying and reaching my breaking point in a PLC meeting…I knew something had to be done. I knew that I could not keep feeling so miserable and still function. If you could even call my survival mode functioning. I visited my AMAZING doctor, explained everything, got some fantastic advice and an adjustment to my medical routine.
At 11 months postpartum I can say that I am truly OK. I will always have to fight to stay organized. I will still have days where my brain chemistry sabotages me in some way. I will still have to work on my self confidence in myself and decisions. I will still have moments that make me feel frustrated, inadequate, etc. As a mother, I still have so much to figure out and understand. As a mother and working mom I have so much balance to create and maintain. The difference now, is that I am able to cope and I know my worth. I think that is something that women lose sight of easily. Especially after having a child for the first time. So many changes happen so quickly and so many adjustments need to be made. ALL mothers struggle. I think it is important as women to respect that and to be kind about it. Kind, supportive, understanding, and cognizant.
Mommas, our journey never stops. Forgive yourself each day and love your babies. Know your worth. Make sure you have your people to keep you balanced. It will all be ok.
Pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. All of them are life altering. No two stories are exactly the same. No one has to be on the same time frame. That being said, all women have some stretch of time where they struggle in this whole process.
Something that no one ever talked to me about was how long it takes to truly recover from pregnancy and the post partum time period. I knew that it would take 6-8 weeks to heal physically. I had no idea how long it would take to heal emotionally.
Having a child is absolutely a miracle. Modern medicine does not change the fact that growing, carrying, and birthing a child is a complicated and dangerous process. There are so many babies and mothers that don’t have a simple pregnancy or delivery. For every mother, no matter what their circumstances, there is a time where they need to heal emotionally.
I was very blessed, and neither my daughter or I had any complications during the entire process. It is something I thank God for every day. That being said, I had a very bad case of PPD. I also have struggled with chronic Depression/Anxiety/OCD since late childhood and severe Depression for my entire adult life so far. I thought I was prepared for PPD. I knew it was a possibility, therefore I felt prepared. I was not. It took me 4 months to truly heal and start getting back to myself again. I have felt guilt about this. I have had a hard time accepting that I struggled at all when absolutely nothing bad happened to my child or me.
Here is a basic breakdown of my healing process:
For my entire maternity leave (8 weeks), I struggled with having no clue what I was doing. I had constant anxiety and OCD about the safety of my child. I would think that my baby may not be breathing, I would worry about SIDS. I would spiral for hours thinking that my child might die and there was nothing I could do about it. I know several people who have lost infants in their lives in the last couple of years. I would spend hours obsessing over how people around me had so much tragedy and I would surely have something bad happen to me too. I felt like I didn’t deserve to be so blessed when others were feeling so much pain. I was exhausted in every way as all new mothers are. On top of that, I was dealing with depression which quickly turned into PPD. I isolated myself. I did not want help because I had anxiety about being around others. I did not leave my house without my husband because I could not handle going out with my daughter alone. I did not talk to friends. I did not answer my phone. I tricked myself into thinking social media was social interaction. From there, my PPD really took hold. I started feeling like I was not a good enough mother. Sometimes it was because I didn’t have enough patience and felt irritated. Sometimes it was because I fought with my husband. Sometimes depression just ripped me apart and my entire day was filled with going through the motions of providing for my baby, all the while bullying myself in my head. By the end of month two, I was in a truly dark place. I truly felt like my daughter would be better off without me. Permanently.
Of coarse, I knew that all of my feelings were not healthy. I was in close contact with my doctor during all of this, and she made sure I was medicated, supported, and I had several follow up appointments until she knew I was OK. If you are going through anything like this PLEASE be open and honest with your doctor, your partner, or someone who will keep you accountable. Towards the middle of month 3, my chemicals started to regulate appropriately. I started making schedules and taking better care of myself. Things got easier with the baby. I became more confident in my abilities. I had more good days than bad, but bad days were still pretty dark. With my job, I have summers off. My husband is a chef so he works long hours. This means I was spending a large amount of time alone with my baby. It messed with me, but due to my preexisting chronic depression, I fell right back into the pattern of being a recluse. I felt better, but I still did not feel like being social. I was obsessed with the fact that I would have to leave my daughter to go to work and I did not want to spend any time away from her because of it. Towards the middle of month 3 I stopped having my major depressive episodes.
I am currently at the end of month 3. I am FINALLY getting back to me. I am correctly medicated. I am confident in my abilities as a mother. I am not overwhelmed. My PPD is gone. I am wanting to be social again. I am wanting to take care of myself physically. I am wanting to eat healthier. All of this took 4 months! It took 4 months for me to feel like a functioning and happy person. It took me 4 months to do this even though I gave birth to the most important person in my life and I love her with every fiber of my being. I am better, but I actually can’t commit to the statement that I am fully healed. I still have trouble leaving my home. I still have trouble giving my time to anyone or anything other than my child because I don’t want to leave her to go to work. At this point, I am able to be logical and I understand that I love my profession and that I need to work. I need to work to provide for my child and to stay healthy. I would not have been able to do this at month 1 or 2. I consider myself healed in that I can calm myself down when I get anxious. I consider myself healed because I am starting to reach out to people again. I also am aware that I will struggle again. But now I will struggle with a new strength and confidence that I did not have before.
I am nervous about sharing this, because I don’t want to seem ungrateful or self pitying. I don’t want to seem like I think my problems are bigger than the problems of others. They are not. I am sharing my story despite my hesitation, because I know I am not the only one who has gone through this. I hope that my story finds someone going through this so that they know they are not alone. I want people to know that chronic depression and PPD are not insermountable.
If you are dealing with PPD, make sure that you talk to your doctor and your support system. Don’t feel guilty for struggling emotionally. Don’t feel guilty about being sad, irritated, or depressed when you have a perfectly healthy child. PPD and Depression are chemical imbalances. They don’t happen based on circumstances. Reach out to people. This is something I did not do, and it made my situation much worse. Get out of the house. No matter how hard it is, get out. Call someone to help you get out! If you feel like harming yourself or ending your life TELL SOMEONE IMMEDIATELY. Do not hide those thoughts. Do not sit on those thoughts. Depression and PPD are DISEASES. You can’t control them, therefore you should not feel ashamed of the feelings they stir up inside of you. Did I mention be honest with your doctor, spouse, partner, best friend, mom, dad, sister, brother…whoever?
If you feel like you do not have anyone PLEASE consider the suicide prevention hotline.
There are many “mom” blogs floating out there. Honestly, most of them are somewhat intimidating to me. I see these mothers looking absolutely flawless (go them!) and being more knowledgeable than I will probably ever be. I admire these women. They have it all together and they know how to market themselves! That being said, I will never be one of these superwomen.
This blog is going to be real, raw, and a bit of a hot mess. Just like me. I am going to be sharing stories and tips from the perspective of someone who does not have it all together, but someone who is figuring it all out anyway!
This blog is going to give support and perspective for mommas dealing with mental health issues.
This blog is going to give some hacks for dealing with this crazy journey called motherhood.
This blog is going to give other mommas something to laugh about!
This blog is going to be a record of the magical journey I am on with my sweet little girl! The good, the bad, and the messy.