Well before I even thought about becoming a mother, I heard the term ‘post-partum depression.’ In the 80s and 90s, post-partum depression was not too prevalent as it was rarely diagnosed and unfortunately not treated properly. Women were taught to simply just deal with all of the changes to their bodies and minds when they became a new mother.
I remember being in high school and hearing a horrific story of a mother who had been suffering from postpartum depression. Unfortunately, since she was not under the proper treatment, she took the lives of her three children. I remember thinking, “How could someone do that to their children? How did someone not notice that this mom was going through these issues?” As years have passed, these stories have become all too common in our society.
I never understood how a new mother could feel so depressed and so lost that she would make these decisions. I never understood it until I went through my own postpartum journey.
When I had my first daughter in 2016, life changed QUICKLY, as it usually does when you have your first baby. Sleepless nights, worrying about if you were doing everything right, if your baby was in the right weight percentile, etc. I felt all of these things.
At first, I chalked it up to carrying the weight of being a new mother. This was normal. At a certain point, about 3-4 months after my daughter was born, I started to realize that I was obsessing over the smallest things, and I was WORRIED about everything and anything.
I worried about things that I should not have been worried about. I was striving to be the best at everything; being the best mother and wife and getting back into my career. Even though my daughter was sleeping at night, I still wasn’t. I constantly made to-do lists in my head and worried about minor things. I realized I needed to see a therapist or psychiatrist to help me work through these issues.
I never once thought that this was anything postpartum-related. I thought that maybe I just needed a non-biased person to talk to and work out my issues. After a few sessions with a therapist, I was told that it was likely that I was dealing with postpartum anxiety.
I was put on a low dosage of an antidepressant, and my sleep and other issues seemed to resolve before my daughter was around six months old. When my daughter was about a year old, I decided (with the blessing of my therapist) to go off the medication on a trial basis, and I seemed to do perfectly fine without taking the antidepressant.
Fast-forward to 2020, when my twins were born. Obviously, a VERY different world at this point as we were fresh into the pandemic when my twins came into the world, and I was dealing with a whole new normal (on top of adding two more babies!).
We were getting into a grove with two newborns, and then my daughter, who was only eight weeks old, needed to have what was supposed to be a very routine surgery. To keep a very long story short, it was not routine, and I watched my small baby have to be intubated and spend several days in the pediatric intensive care unit. After that, something snapped. And then that crippling anxiety and sleepless nights started again.
I was so busy caring for two newborns and a three-year-old that I shrugged it off for a while. Even though I had been through this with my first, I honestly didn’t think I would go through it again. I kept pushing back a much-needed doctor’s visit as the anxiety kept building. I worried about anything and everything, sometimes the most minor things became a big deal to me.
Finally, I remember one afternoon in July when the twins were around four months old when I was home with all three kids by myself, and I just went into the bathroom, locked the door, and started crying. I couldn’t stop. I knew it was time to seek some help again.
This time was a bit different. Although I had been denying it, I knew that I probably needed to be put on medication again. I shared this with my new therapist, and she agreed. She recommended I see a therapist and a psychiatrist to deal with my postpartum anxiety, which I happily did. Also different this time was the fact that I wasn’t able to get off of the medication after some time of adjusting to having three children as I was formally diagnosed with a generalized anxiety disorder.
Being on anxiety medication has become a permanent fixture in my life. And even with the medication, there are still some days that I struggle with anxiety and keeping it together.
I have learned to prioritize my mental health. Just because I take medication to help with my anxiety disorder does not mean that I am a bad mom, bad friend, or bad person. I have also learned over the years that there are other things above and beyond the medication that assist with my anxiety. Working out, getting a good run, and listening to music all help calm my mind. It has taken years to realize that my mental health is not only important to me, but it is also important for my children.
Have you ever prioritized your children’s needs over your own mental health? I am sure many moms do it daily. Being the best you on the inside helps you be the best mom on the outside. I have learned to live by this.