I am a day late on shedding some light on World Mental Health Day, but perhaps that’s fitting… and perhaps it deserves more attention than one day. Procrastinating? Cancelling plans? (Guilty!) Wheels in your mind spinning, but getting nowhere? Any of that sound familiar?
I, myself, have suffered from my fair share of depression and crippling anxiety. Words that I never imagined I would put out into the world on display. I have a wonderful family, a daughter I still can’t believe is really mine, and an over all pretty beautiful life… so why would I ever want to shed light on the darkness the world doesn’t see?
It’s a weakness. The stigma. ‘Snap out of it’. ‘You’re just having a bad day.’ ‘You have a great life, why are you so bummed? There’s starving kids in Africa’.
Scientifically, no one needs a reason to be depressed. It’s a flaw in chemistry, not in character.
Imagine if you got blamed for having cancer. Or if your pancreas isn’t able to make the right amounts of insulin. The stigma that we should be ashamed if our brains aren’t able to make correct levels of serotonin is just… silly.
Though I didn’t plan on sharing this tid bit & putting my ‘crazy’ on parade for you all… I realized that would be contradicting the exact point I’m trying to make.
Shortly after Milana was born, December of 2016… postpartum in full swing. I was a mess. I remember the day like it was yesterday. The day of my husband’s company Christmas party. The days & weeks leading up, the postpartum was full blown.
I had heard a few things here and there about postpartum depression, but no one TALKS about it! I was too busy reading, researching, and gaining a false sense of security like anyone knows what the hell they’re doing while preparing to push a human life out of YOU! What to Expect When You’re Expecting… yes, you were a nice resource & I read you front to back. BUT nothing can compare you for what’s to come! Many days, I still don’t know what to EXPECT! (Except for that glass of wine at the end of the day!)
I was so worried about the pregnancy, the birth process… that I suppose at the time, everything that followed took a backseat. Not knowing what the hell you’re doing being sent home with a tiny little delicate human assuming & TRUSTING that maybe you’ve done a little research on that as well. The overwhelming lack of sleep being the next.
I’M A NEW MOM! Easiest birth in the history of child bearing, perfectly healthy baby girl. YES, I was on cloud 9! I truly had it ALL & felt complete. Fast forward a couple days, weeks, and failed attempts at breastfeeding & the most excruciating pain I have ever experienced (yes, worse than childbirth!)… it was a different story.
….the big whammy, the worst whammy, the most unexpected of them all – Postpartum Depression.
You would think that would have entered my mind at some point considering if you are & have ever struggled with depression and/or anxiety – you clearly have a higher risk for getting a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like PPD. But, at first I shrugged it off as the ‘baby blues’. Let’s face it, you’ve got a lot of new challenges – and a lot less sleep. I assumed (and kept telling myself) that the emotional & crazy overwhelming feelings came with the package.
Ya know what’s worse than the downward spiral, the non stop river of tears? Not knowing WHY. Not having a reason WHY (at the time, and in my nativity thinking that I needed to supply or justify one). I remember how helpless it felt not being able to convey to my husband, my parents, friends, anyone… WHY.
Though I didn’t experience the extreme PPD that I had heard nightmares of, but… depression is depression. The stigma, the ‘hush hush’ & silence that surrounds it, and the feeling we have to validate how & why we’re feeling the way that we do… is well, BULLSHIT.
BUT, back to the day it all came to a head. As I was scavenging my closet for something to wear to my husband’s Christmas party… should be the jolliest time of the year, right? Don’t get me started on finding something to wear. That’s already a challenge to begin with – throw in a post baby body & the endless tears that I just COULDN’T. STOP. It seemed downright impossible.
Through the tears, I managed to half ass some makeup and put on a happy face. And, just like that… I DID! Danced the night away and put a happy face on! HA. KIDDING. That would be one helluva boring story…
I assured my husband I was fine and to go ahead, but followed it with the typical wife, new mom… ‘don’t linger, I need you!’
Fast forward 20 minutes. FULL. BLOWN. PANIC ATTACK. I’m no stranger to panic attacks & crippling anxiety. I experienced my first around the age of 16. But, this one… this was one for the books. I felt like I was drowning, like I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. The world was spinning, and I couldn’t find the damn ‘off switch’. Except, this time I felt like I was dying. Ya heard me right. Dying.
Yes, I had experienced all of the lovely tricks on the mind that anxiety can play on you. This time the physical symptoms kicked in – BAD. Heart racing, mind spinning, blood pressure feeling like it’s about 500/200.
Long story, short (kinda/sorta)... I ended up in the Emergency Room. Experiencing such a crippling state of anxiety, the kind where you think you might just die right then and there. I did slightly weave into conversation that I had had a history of anxiety & depression. They ran all kinds of blood tests, monitored my blood pressure, and vitals…
Enter Doogie Howser. Explains to me everything is normal, blood panel is fine… (as he looks at me like I am batshit out of my mind crazy) and then continues with the most condescending question I had ever gotten from a medical ‘professional’.
“So, you ready to get outta here? These beds are for sick people.”
I was in SHOCK at what had just come out of this dudes mouth, like he had legit just received his certification online that day and I was his first lucky patient!
As I sit here and think about the big picture and the stigma, the silence, & the shame that surrounds the mental health world – we as a WHOLE need to cut that crap out! If you don’t understand it, that’s OKAY. However, it doesn’t mean it isn’t so. I encourage you to do your research, to allow yourself a little brain checkup from time to time without the shame, and to check on your strong friends, too. Who knows? Maybe the ones who appear to be the most put together need it the MOST.
To anyone who is silently struggling: You are incredible. Nothing is more terrifying than battling with your own mind every single day. You make this world a little more wonderful, YOU got this, better things are coming your way, and you are NOT alone.