Parenthood comes with a lot of changes, very little sleep, and big hormone changes. It’s natural to feel a general sense of “WTF” the difference is when those feelings become overwhelming, more negative than neutral, override logic, and put barriers between you and your loved ones. A deep fog can settle, and it’s hard to know which way to go.
My introduction to parenthood was a rollercoaster. I was completely in love with my family, excited to teach a tiny person about the world, and hopeful I would do a great job. I was also exhausted, at a loss for the “right” answers, and generally overwhelmed by the life change. A lot of times, when I raised concerns about my emotional health, they were dismissed by family and friends as “just part of it” and something “everyone goes through” It was no one’s fault; I have very empathetic friends and supportive family members! It’s really hard for people to understand each other’s plight, and they want to help you by minimizing your pain. Also, I wasn’t sad and struggling all the time. I love our family so much, and we have such a great time with each other. It was really hard to put my finger on the missing pieces for a long time.
I stuggled after Zara was born. While in some ways I felt fully in my element, in other ways I worried constantly and doubted my decisions. Since I breastfed for almost a year, I believe it held me together longer. Also, Reinne (our dog) died tragically in the fall of that year, my mother in law had a terrible accident, and there was a lot of outside stress and tragedy affecting our lives. I chalked most of my feelings up to circumstance. We found some balance and routine when Zara was a year and a half, and I started to feel more myself. Then WHAM (pardon the expression) we found out we were having another baby! Pregnancy wasn’t super great, but I already knew it wouldn’t be, and I handled it as best I could.
After Lela was born, I cycled harder and faster into PPD, again without understanding the full picture. Different reasons; I was hormonally predisposed to PPD symptoms, and there was more “juggling” going on, making the thread that’s holding everything together quicker to fray. Lela was born with tongue tie. We fixed it early, but had no idea she was continuing to feed inefficiently. I ran low, and then out of milk around 4 months. The day I realized I wasn’t pumping out any, I had to go sit in the car and cry in the driveway. Heaving, mournful wailing; ugly and painful. That part can be pretty “normal” though, there is a huge drop in oxytocin when you stop breastfeeding. So, armed with knowledge of what’s “expected” we carried on.
Overtime our routines balanced out, we bought and moved into our home, and we made great memories here. People might think depression is “suicidal” or just sad all the time. It certainly can be- but for most people this isn’t what it looks like. It looks like high anxiety- worrying you aren’t good enough, about money, about what people would think, about your kids safety, anything. It looks like crying at commercials or FB videos (more than usual, lol) It looks like over reacting to accidents or arguments. It looks like staying up way too late too many nights in a row. It looks like feeling tired even after a full night of sleep. It looks like extreme versions of these things, combined with the spectrum of circumstance. A lot of the times, it just looks like life. You’re keeping it together, you’re functioning and even enjoying experiences. You love and feel loved. It’s a delicate balance.
What happened that turned my “normal” livable, relatively happy state into one in need of intervention was a series of things. When Covid-19 outbreak started, the gym closed right away. I lost my only outlet for kid-free exercise, which was more important to my mental stability than I realized. We were staying inside a lot more, cancelling trips, and declining invitations. I had overtime become a more emotionally reactive person, which began to peak between Amer and I after the kids went to sleep. One thing I prided myself on the past few years, is I always kept it together for the girls. They always got my best face, the most attention, a steady routine, and we did the most fun things together. Meanwhile, I’m barely remembering to brush my teeth, or my hair. We had a hard week, or maybe a couple in a row, and I lost my best face. Zara was asking me why I was sad, she would hug me and repeat the things I would say to soothe her. And it unsettled her when that pure sweetness would made me cry even harder. I was generally avoiding the mirror, except to glare and internally scream SNAP OUT OF IT. I had no idea where it was coming from, or how to turn it off. It was no longer manageable on any kind of timeline.
I spoke to Amer and my close friends about needing/getting some kind of help. I knew I was not feeling myself for some time, I knew it was getting worse, but leading up to the worst phase- I wasn’t sure what exactly about my life warranted examination. What was enough? Was I sad enough? Was I struggling enough to need medicine? Was I just a weak person? Finally realizing it wasn’t for me to decide, I went to my OBGYN office. I sat down, and poured everything out. We made a multi tiered plan, and I started a low dose SSRI.
Thankfully, for me, this was the right decision. I don’t think medication is for everyone. I don’t think it’s the enemy either. I don’t see it as a “bandaid” or like painting over a crack in the wall. Depression medication can be touted as typical western physicians treating the symptoms instead of the root cause, and overdoing it. Combined with the stigma of mental health issues, it’s a potent mix for under reporting mental struggles. What people need to understand is there is no “quick fix” to mental instability. Even when you decide to start treatment, it can take a while for things to change. I think it’s better to think of therapy, medicine, and treatment as a pair of crutches. They are helping me “walk” while I heal from being broken. Hopefully, I can gradually stop using them over the next year. If my hormones/mental journey follow the same pattern as the first time- hopefully I will level out in under a year. It’s ok if I don’t, I will keep trying.
So, that’s what I have experienced so far. Every day is different, with different variations of what my “best” is to give. I’m loving myself more, finding more ways to be creative, and enjoying easier access to gratitude. Ive hung more art in the house over the past month than the past year. I still go through a day or two of feeling “down” I lose motivation, focus, and perspective. Every day is another opportunity to try again, and that’s how I will keep looking at it.
This blog, among other things, has been a great way for me to stay accountable to self improvement. I also kinda like it- even though it can be a lot of work. I hope if anyone out there is hurting- that this helps in some way. I’ve added some links at the bottom for anyone who needs them 💕
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call 1-800-273-8255