The concept of sharing my mental health journey is pretty intimidating. I don't really know how to start, so I'll at least introduce myself.
I am Sarah, twenty-six, married, mother of two, employed full-time, small business owner, and have struggled with both postpartum anxiety and postpartum depression.
My journey with postpartum depression started when I was about 10 weeks postpartum with my second baby. It didn't happen all at once, but over the course of several weeks I began to feel increasingly more sad, stressed, confused, distracted and it became overwhelming... I remember feeling distinctly not like myself and feeling like something was wrong, but my many attempts to research 'postpartum depression' proved disappointing. What I was experiencing didn't seem to really fit to the most common definitions and expectations of what postpartum depression should look like. It might have been my own skewed perception of what I thought was happening vs what was really happening- as only now that I am finally finding my way out of it, do I feel like I can say with certainty that I was depressed- but I felt like my experience was just different. So, during those delicate months when I was struggling the most, there was an added burden of feeling like there were no answers for me and there was no where to turn for support. I was breaking down at the smallest of upsets, and I didn't know what to do. And I told myself a lot of the lies that I think other women that endure this challenge also tell themselves. Most often and most sincerely it was "I have no reason to be sad- my kids are beautiful and healthy; I have a great husband, home, and job; so many others have so much less than I do. I am being ungrateful if I am sad."
I experienced what I can only describe as waves of sadness. I would have anywhere from an hour to several days of sadness without a break, but would then have a day or a couple of days of my 'normal'. I would feel happy or at least happy-ish... but I would then begin to feel confused about why I wasn't always normal/happy. I would begin to really question myself and my abilities. I would try to 'logic' my way out of feeling sad, and then I would be even more overwhelmed when my 'sad days' inevitably returned because I was devastated that I couldn't talk/work myself out of it. And, like most, I felt a continuous burden for everything to be perfect. My house was a wreck and I felt horrible because I was sure it was all my fault. My kids got sick and I felt horrible because I was sure it was all my fault. My work performance wasn't what I thought it should be, and despite the reassuring support and positive feedback from my supervisor and peers, I felt horrible, and so on and so on.
I finally feel like the veil of sadness and depression that has held me hostage for about the last year is lifting, and I am so grateful to be feeling like myself again. I am trying not to draw this story to an end too abruptly, but I also don't know how to sum up a year+ of mental health struggles into a relate-able and reasonably sized post. I feel like I could go on and on about the challenges I faced and how daunting the whole experience was. I could exhaust you with the long list of things I told myself that started with "I'll be happy when...", and could share the number of measures I took to try to fix myself. But at the end of it all, all I really did was take it one day at time. I celebrated the small victories, tried to incorporate more self-care into my life, and soaked in as many of my kids' smiles as I could to heal my soul, bit by bit.
My goal was to share at least a small snip-it of my experience in an effort to validate others struggling with perinatal mental health and hopefully offer some encouragement. I hope to reassure you that you are not alone and that you are going to be okay.