My Postpartum Journey - Part 2: Acceptance
“I am so unhappy.”
“How did my life get here?”
“I should be overjoyed.”
“I have lost all control and I’m drowning.”
This is where I last left off. This was how I felt. I remember saying these things to my family doctor when I made my appointment with her to discuss having postpartum depression. I had to make a change.
Which leads me to the next part of this journey. Acceptance.
When I was sitting in my doctor’s office, discussing my emotions with her, she assured me that what I was feeling was completely normal. That many women go through this after having their first child and even their second and third.
One of my biggest fears going into this appointment was that I didn’t want to go on antidepressants. I did not want to have to be dependent on medication. I thought that I just needed to grow up and learn to deal with it.
What I appreciated from her was giving me the information and ultimately allowing me to make the choice. I could either try to come out on the other side of this thing on my own and try to manage the anxiety myself, or I could go on a low dose of antidepressants.
At the end of the appointment, I chose to take the prescription for Zoloft. My reasoning was this: my mind was so clouded by my anxiety and negative self-talk that I could not determine what was the truth and what was the lie. I needed something to actually correct the chemical imbalance that my brain was experiencing and THEN I could go about reframing my thoughts and actions.
I had talked to Anton about finding a therapist near our apartment, but it was incredibly difficult to find one within our insurance network. Anton had dealt with anxiety a few years prior and had actually seen a therapist close by, but they ended up being costly and not very helpful. So I opted out of this.
If this option is available to you, I think some might find it extremely beneficial. I really wanted an outsider to talk things through with. Yes, I had my friends and family to support me, but I was still feeling that guilt and shame and I didn’t want to overload on them. I wanted to keep it hidden. Which if you know me, is so unlike me because I consider myself to be a very open person. In this case, not so much.
The person I did speak to a lot was Anton. One of the biggest reasons was because he knew what it was like to have anxiety and to take antidepressants. I had seen him transform his mindset and his life really in a little less than 2 years.
After I had started the medication, I thought it would instantly solve my problems. I thought in a week I’d feel 100% better. I wasn’t doing the internal work that I initially thought would be so easy to do.
I remember having several conversations with Anton and talking to him about how I felt and how absolutely frustrated I was with my situation. He would tell me, “Amy, that’s the anxiety talking to you. That’s not the truth.” I would get SO angry with him. I would say “This isn’t the anxiety! Why can’t you just be on my side!” I probably said a few other choice words to him too. This was an especially hard time on our marriage. Isn’t that typical though, when you bring a baby into the picture?
After probably a month or more of these conversations. I finally had the “aha” moment. I can’t just rely on the medication to pull me out of this. I have to change my behavior.
So I set out trying to find things that brought me joy. One of my favorite things? Taking long walks with Riggins, my dog. I’d walk all over the neighborhood just to get fresh air. If I was having a particularly rough time with Vera, my MIL, Anton, anything really, I’d get outside. I could listen to music or a podcast and just try to relax. Sometimes I’d take Vera too. She liked to sleep outside, so it was perfect.
I dug out those adult coloring books and would color while I pumped. And then I got out my watercolor paints and started to paint. It was therapeutic for me. It was a way to relax. I realize this isn’t really feasible for everyone all the time. But in my situation, it was a way to do something for myself and step away from the negative thoughts. I could create something beautiful in my darkness.
Something else I dove into? Cooking. With my MIL there, I was able to try new recipes and cook us dinner and experiment. I have always enjoyed cooking. I have always thought it was cathartic and it provided me with another creative outlet.
Looking back on all this searching, I think I needed to feel connected to something outside of my daughter. I had been working and loving to work for a long time, and to suddenly not work and not have a routine or schedule felt foreign to me.
Little by little as we came into spring, I felt the clouds lifting away. Another factor of my PPD could have been the winter blues as well, but either way, the sunshine warmed me up and I felt my mood shift.
I was making a better effort to wake up each day with the intent of having a good day. If any ugly thought tried to appear, I would tell myself: “This is the anxiety, Amy. You’re doing a great job. Keep going.” And slowly, the voice in my head quieted. I was starting to believe in myself and know that I knew what was best for Vera.
Another thing I did was I stopped reading. I stopped reading the articles that popped up on my Facebook feed about motherhood and being a new mom; about sleep training and how to introduce solids and how to set a routine and what her milestones were. I understand these articles are meant to help us and provide us with knowledge, but frankly, they were making me a freaking mess. I felt like if I didn’t do something a certain way, I was going to mess up my kid. So I stopped reading them. I just tried to listen to myself and to Vera. This felt completely liberating to me. And what’s more is that it worked for me and for her.
Today, I feel completely different than I did 16 months ago. I feel like an even better version of myself and stronger too. Do I still have moments of self-doubt? Of course! Do I still get frustrated and at times anxious with my daughter? You bet. The difference is that I recognize it.
When I feel self-doubt, I try to find the reason. If it’s just fear, I try to take action. One of the biggest examples of this is when I needed to make friends here in New Jersey. I was so nervous to go out and meet women that I had never met before. I had all these thoughts of “what if they don’t like me?” “what if we have nothing in common?” all this first-day-of-school nonsense. What was the worst that could happen? I wouldn’t get along with them and then I’d leave, the end. What is the best thing that could happen? I make some amazing connections with inspiring women who I click with instantly and I go on to build amazing friendships. Um, I’m going with that second option, sister! There is so much more to gain when you put yourself out there and silence the doubt. And I realize it’s uncomfortable and it’s hard, but oh my god, so worth it.
When I feel anxious during a meltdown or when I’m trying to get my fussy girl to bed, I take deep breaths. I speak calmly and softly. It sets a completely different tone and Vera picks up on it instantly. I feel more calm, she feels more relaxed, and we both win here. I know this is easier said than done. This is a work in progress.
The biggest thing I want you to take away from this series is that if you are feeling this way or if you have been diagnosed with PPD already, you are not alone and the way you feel is completely normal. When you accept it and learn how to manage your symptoms either through therapy, medication, a support group, a moms group, close friends, on your own — whatever way is best for YOU — that is when you will find your strength and come out on the other side. That is when you will be able to find your inner peace and become the mom you wanted to be all along.