Life After Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
Recovering from PPD wasn't what I envisioned. You imagine the day the fog lifts, and suddenly you're no longer hormonal and angry and irritable and sensitive. Surely the tears and mommy tantrums subside, and the best version of you appears in its place - and ideally, the best version of your kids, too. Suddenly everything is easy. Finally. That’s how I envisioned it, at least.
But its not quite like that. Because it always feels like you're playing catch up on cleaning - and your still struggling to wash your hair. Because you cant remember the last time you served a meal that you ate during mealtime, rather than feeding multiple mouths at once. Because as one season of difficulty fades away, another bombards you - a season filled with whining, tantrums, defiance, additional babies moving…it never ends.
In the beginning, it felt like every day was a bad day. I spent my days in waves of shame, guilt, fear - fear of not being good enough, fear of never being “me” again, fear of letting my husband and kids down. I went in cycles of feeling like I couldn't get up off the couch to do anything, to feeling angry, to being in tears.
Then came the good days, days that made me excited to be “better”. But they were followed by a return of the bad days. I felt stuck, hopeless.
But slowly, the “bad” days started getting fewer and farther in between. And then it wasn't bad days so much as bad moments. I slowly opened my calendar and began setting up play dates again. Visiting family didn't feel like I was faking to be okay anymore. My house wasn't better, my kids weren't easier. But my acceptance of the season of life I’m in was what changed. Perfectionism had been my enemy. Fear was my downfall.
In my experience, Postpartum Depression breaks you - it takes you at your most vulnerable point and cracks you open. It’s like a wound with nerves exposed - except these are nerves you didn't know you had, or nerves you covered with smiling faces and social media pictures of life being great. Suddenly your deepest insecurities bubble to the surface. And as the postpartum hormones regulate and sleep deprivation (slightly) subsides…you still can’t forget those nerves. They're still there. You're suddenly aware in a way you weren't before. You see the broken pieces of yourself that make be a mom hard.
Postpartum depression - and motherhood in general! - breaks you into what feels like a million messy pieces…but the best part is, that when you pick everything up, you can choose what pieces to leave behind. I’m choosing to leave behind mommy shame. Fear of inadequacy. Perfectionism.
Christ came so that we may have life, and have it to the fullest - perfectionism and fear and shame are not part of having life to the fullest! We have been extended grace and so often forget to live in it.
It’s easy to let postpartum depression or other emotional heaviness weigh you down and take control of your emotions, and seemingly take control of your life. Postpartum depression made me see the stress I was putting on myself, made me see the parts of my past I needed to address still, and gave me an opportunity (ok, forced me) to reject what was holding me down.
And so now I sit, imperfectly - I haven/t written nearly as much as I’d like, I haven’t washed my hair in a few days, my house is so messy I wouldn't want you to visit, and the thought of having to catch up on cleaning still makes me pretty on edge. But I don’t let any of this tell me who I am or what I’m worth. I don’t let any of this define me. There isn't just postpartum depression or perfect peace - we live somewhere in between, somewhere where anxiety still exists but we learn to get past it. Somewhere where we miss the mark but don’t hold it against ourselves. Somewhere where we celebrate the wins and give grace to ourselves (and our kids) on the days we wish we could quit this mommy gig. We live in this in-between area, and its beautiful and messy and exhausting, and it keeps refining us a person, wife, mother and friend. And I’m okay with that - I’m ok with just being right where I’m at.