Part two will continue my story of my experience with anxiety and depression following my daughter’s birth. Part one focused on my pregnancy and the time spent in the hospital. This portion will focus on my time at home and finally seeking help. Thank you for reading my story:
Coming home with your baby is my favorite part of the postpartum process. I love the comfort of being in my own home, my own space, and being able to snuggle up with my baby in my own bed with no interruptions. I was so happy when we were able to bring Elena home. I couldn’t wait to be back home with my other kids and get back into our routine. I imagined that I would be tired for awhile and that there would be a period of transition, but that things would get better…that I would feel better.
Two days after we came home we took Elena in for an exam and weigh in and that is when I first got the sense that something was really wrong. Going back into our doctor’s office I had an enormous sense of dread. I literally wanted to get out of the building. I felt nauseous. I felt anxious. I felt like crying. Her appointment went great, the doctor said she was already gaining weight and I was proud that I was exclusively breastfeeding her after some struggle in the hospital. When the time came to see my doctor he noticed right away that I seemed ‘a little emotional’ and remarked that ‘at least I was able to have a vaginal birth’ like I wanted. I didn’t know what to say. I’m sure he meant well, but it is hard to put into words everything you are feeling when you are so fresh from a somewhat traumatic experience and you don’t understand yourself what you’re feeling.
We were fortunate to have my mother in law stay with us for a week during the hospital stay and for a few days after we came home. She took such good care of the kids and I don’t know to this day, what I would have done without her. When she left it was hard. And when the time came for Jason to go back to work it was even harder.
Before he went back to work Jason knew I was struggling. I had multiple bouts of crying every day and feeling overwhelmed and like I couldn’t cope with anything. He was as supportive as he could be, and I chalked it up to normal baby blues. There was one time when I left by myself to go pick up food (which first of all is totally out of character for me to leave my newborn) and the thought entered my head that I could just drive away if I wanted and leave everything behind. What a crazy thought to have right?
But as time went on I surely felt like I was going crazy. Literally crazy. It was summer and I had all three kids home and I felt the familiar isolation creeping in. Before the end of my pregnancy I would take my two kids somewhere almost every day. We always go to the park, the library, swimming, the zoo, to a play date, run errands, you name it, I had no problem taking my kids out and it was good for all of us. Suddenly I was in this place of feeling like I couldn’t go anywhere or do anything. I was afraid to leave the house with three kids. I didn’t feel like I could cope with ANYTHING. There were multiple times I was sitting in my bed just crying because I felt so miserable and overwhelmed. I experienced anxiety like you wouldn’t believe. I was terrified that something bad was going to happen to Elena. I experienced irritability and rage toward my older children. It was an in-explainable and terrible feeling. The only way I could describe it and texted to my husband MANY times…was that I felt as if I was going crazy.
Having a baby always has the potential to be a stressful situation. I know my situation was exasperated by my looming preeclampsia and anxiety, and on top of it I was dealing with a high maintenance toddler (whom I love dearly) and my son broke his arm and had eye surgery in one summer. Our family is not local, and while I have a wonderful supportive group of mom friends, it is hard to tell someone, ‘hey I am really struggling and think I’m literally going crazy. I need help’. It got to the point where I couldn’t stand feeling the way I was and that I knew I wasn’t being the best mom I could be for my kids and they deserved better. My husband encouraged me to call my doctor and get help and so three months later I finally did.
Those calls were not easy to make. Questions were not easy to answer. Meeting with my doctor I felt extreme shame and embarrassment. But I knew that if I did not get help it would not get better and that my kids deserved better. That was what motivated me all the way was my love for my children. Throughout the process I tried to shield them from what I was experiencing. I tried to hide my tears. I tried to hold my tongue. My husband always did, and still does to this day, check in with me on how I’m feeling. He has always been my greatest encouragement and support. I know without a doubt he is willing to walk through the dark with me until we both come out on the other side.
Looking back on that time, now not even a year ago, I can hardly imagine feeling that way again. I don’t want to. I am in such a better place mentally and emotionally than I was. With the help of my doctor, the support of my husband, and the passage of time I have come to the place where I feel more like myself again. I know I can handle my three kids by myself and I love taking them places. I no longer feel irritable and angry. I can’t remember the last time I cried. While I still have run ins with my anxiety and moments of feeling a general sense of being overwhelmed, they pass much more quickly now and I am able to say that I have joy in life again and I feel healthy. I can now confidently say I am the mom my kids deserve.
If you or someone you know is struggling with anxiety and depression, please seek help or encourage your loved one to get help. Do not wait thinking it will get better or go away. In my case it only grew worse with time and I wish I wouldn’t have waited so long to call my doctor. You deserve to be healthy, happy, and at your best. Others deserve you at your best. Asking for help is never easy, but it is the first step toward wellness.
Thank you for taking the time to read my story. I know I am not an extreme case, but I do believe every case matters and that everyone deserves to feel their best. My hope is that this shines a light on the stigma of mental health a little more and creates awareness and conversation.