When my daughter was five months old, I casually thought, “She deserves better than me.” While I rocked her to sleep, I quickly and quietly listed all the ways my children would be better off without me. Honestly, I felt nothing about these dark thoughts clawing themselves into my headspace. It felt like a completely logical solution for how terrible of a mother I had become.
I’d like to tell you that I called my husband immediately and found a professional to talk to and began treatment for postpartum depression.
I didn’t do any of these things, until months later, when I had finally hit the peak of my grace and word-vomited all my issues to my sister, via text, because I couldn’t actually say the words out loud. Even then, I never revealed thoughts of suicide. But I did tell her that I was in a bad place. I was pretty sure I was depressed. There was no way to ‘tough it out’.
Once the words were out there, I started to do a lot of late night google searches and I realized that most articles I read didn’t give me the details I needed. So in the interest of helping out another mother teetering on the edge, here is what I wished they had said.
Intrusive Thoughts Can Be Bad. No, really bad.
I kept reading about ‘Intrusive Thoughts’ and rationalized to myself that whatever vague reference they were making, my thoughts were definitely worse. And therefore I was worse and incapable of being helped.
Let me tell you, my thoughts were not worse. And neither are yours.
Is your brain suddenly filled with images of missing limbs and ‘what if’ scenarios so horrible they make your stomach turn? Been there, sister. I was convinced that I would accidentally bash my daughter’s head against a door frame when leaving a room, walking down the steps, leaving the house, giving her a bath. Car rides were anxiety filled trips where my mind raced through every possible scenario that could result in our deaths. What if I just drove off this bridge? Or into that large truck?
It’s protective instinct in overdrive
One morning while driving my toddler to school, I was listening to our local public radio station and Betty Shannon-Prevatt was being interviewed about why women lie about postpartum depression. She touched upon intrusive thoughts and said that women believe themselves to be monsters for having these thoughts when in reality it is the protective instinct in overdrive.
You are not beyond help. You deserve to get help.
2. You Can Feel Happy Sometimes
This is the single reason I waited to tell anyone about how I was feeling. It confused me that I was able to laugh at the silly things my children did or when my husband delivered the perfect one-liner. I was in awe of my kids’ perfect features, I relished their kisses and hugs and genuinely enjoyed their company.
But I also had long stretches of feeling irritable, sudden rage, intense guilt and daydreaming about leaving my family. And despite that scary list I just gave, I pointed to those happy moments as my evidence for why I did not have postpartum depression.
3. It’s not a one-size-fits-all type of condition
This was my second time going to battle with it and it was completely different for me this time versus the first time. It didn’t even appear until my daughter was four months old. So if what you feel doesn’t line up with Linda’s neighbor’s cousin’s postpartum depression battle, that’s normal. And to be expected, honestly.
You know yourself. If something feels off, something is probably off.
4. You need to tell someone. But who?
I read articles telling me to see a professional. But what type of professional?
Do I see my OB/GYN, a family doctor or a psychologist? The prospect of talking about something so deeply hidden inside me with someone else was scary.
The answer is that any of those professionals – and probably some I didn’t name – can help you.
I finally decided on my family doctor who I didn’t know that well, but she was kind and listened intently during our appointments. I walked out of there with a plan and a prescription and a sense that there was a way through this. My biggest fear was that I would seek help only to be told that there was nothing wrong with me. This was just who I was now, a grouchy, sad, easily overwhelmed mother-of-two who could barely keep it together long enough to drive to the grocery store. Spoiler: it wasn’t. It isn’t.
You deserve to feel better
My daughter’s first birthday is weeks away and my mental health is something I have to manage every day. It is SO MUCH BETTER, but I also actively manage it now. For me personally, I stepped away from social media (don’t miss ya Facebook!), found a relaxing outdoor walking trail that we visit a few times a week, have started to read more and have intentional playtime with the kids. I end the day with my toddler by talking about the good things we did that day.
This motherhood thing is hard. It can feel impossible. But you’re doing it. Please don’t suffer in silence. Please don’t feel like you are the only one who has ever felt this low. Talk to someone who loves you about your thoughts/feelings and seek help. You deserve it.