So this is Postpartum Depression. It’s lonely and scary and embarrassing. But most of all, I realized that PPD is cloaked in lies and a shame that convinces people not to admit they’re struggling, not to talk about it.
PPD looks different for everyone. It's not always just crying and it doesn't mean someone is experiencing it all the time. For a great resource on a list of postpartum depression, anxiety and OCD, check out Postpartum Progress.
For me, PPD is smiles on the outside - everything feels mostly normal when my husband is home, when I’m not alone with three kids. I’m extra irritable with him, but can mostly function. When I see my newborn smile, I am reminded that this is all worth it. I am filled with love and joy. But I am also overwhelmed.
I am overwhelmed with the weight of responsibility I carry, and the seemingly innate need to do it all, and to do it all perfectly. I am overwhelmed with a sense of guilt, that I am not enough for my children. Overwhelmed with a sense of inadequacy, despite the fact that I am giving my everything to everyone. It is not enough. I am not enough. I am overwhelmed with irritation, with anger. I am overwhelmingly sleep deprived. I am overwhelmed with anxiety at the thought of leaving my house - so I don’t. Thinking of the days my husband will be at work fill my heart with anxiety and my eyes with tears. I am so overwhelmed with being overwhelmed, that I feel paralyzed from being able to accomplish anything. And then I look around at my house, my messy home and unhealthy meals, and I feel even more anger and inadequacy. And so the cycle begins again.
On Christmas Eve, I had a breakdown while getting all my kids ready to get to church on time. Since my husband is the worship pastor, I did this alone. This wasn't the first anxiety attack while leaving the house - it had happened to me every time for the past two weeks, to the point where I stopped leaving unless I absolutely needed to. Upon arrival at church, a good friend looked at me - really looked at me - and asked if I was okay. She didn't need to ask, and I didn’t need to answer. It was the first time I felt like someone was truly looking at me, the first time I was really being seen. And it made me look at myself.
I had been trying to push past the mess, trying to tell myself it’ll get better. I’ll get used to it. I’ll be better for my family. But I finally saw that I wasn’t ok, and that this wasn’t me. I talked to my OBGYN, who referred me to “talk to someone” (I don't like saying “mental health” because I’m still too embarrassed and that phrase makes me feel like something is wrong with me).
And then today was the day I received confirmation that I have Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I sat on my couch, with my toddler watching Frozen and my newborn nursing, and just cried. I cried and cried.
I should be better for my children. I should be stronger than this, I shouldn't have PPD. I don't have time for PPD. I don't have time for therapy and pumping sessions. The diagnosis itself brings with it more feelings of shame, inadequacy and guilt. But objectively, I know these are lies. And I know they're the echoes of lies and insecurities I've always struggled with. It's the enemy trying to bring me down. God is bringing me face to face with insecurities I've masked with productivity. In my insecurity grows perfectionism, and I've been able to ignore my lingering insecurities by being strong and capable. But God gave me Nico to slow me down. To heal me, to bring me back to the place where I need Him to have the strength to do anything.
2 Corinthians 12:9-10
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.
I’ve been thinking of this verse on repeat all day. I know God is working on me, bringing me closer to Him and helping me heal and overcome insecurities. I know I wouldn't get this healing without remembering just how much I need Him.
I started this post in the morning, but cried so much after the first sentence I couldn't go on. I am deeply ashamed to admit that I am struggling. But that is why I am admitting it, because the biggest lie about PPD is that we should be embarrassed and not talk about it. So I am committing to writing and sharing about this journey, about healing and choosing peace and joy, in hopes that other mamas won't feel alone, or so you might read about PPD and know how to help a friend.
Are you struggling with Postpartum Depression and/or Anxiety? Join me in shining a light on the darkness of PPD by sharing your story, or snippets of your story, by using the hashtag #ThisIsPPD on Instagram. And if you haven’t already, please talk to your doctor and confide in a friend who can keep checking in with you! We are not meant to be on this journey alone.