Happy Tiny Tuesday! Today I will be taking a break from little girl fashion to get really personal with you guys and share my journey with postpartum depression. Today's post might come as a shock to some of you, actually, to most of you I'm sure because on social media our lives can easily look perfect and blissful. The ugly, sinful truth is that I take great pride in my life looking pretty and easy and being the mom that can do it all - work, be a mom, be a good wife, etc. So, on the outside things have probably seemed business as usual from a social media standpoint, but on the inside there was a lot more going on.
As a blogger I feel there is a fine line between sharing just enough of my personal life with the world and sharing too much. It's a line I've been trying to navigate correctly with the help of my husband and friends (thank God). It could probably be argued that sharing my journey with PPD is too personal for this space, but I would beg to differ. I believe that despite all of the social media outlets and how quickly information can travel, PPD is still something women feel ashamed of, it's still something that not everyone understands, and unfortunately, it's often frowned upon in our society.
When I was initially diagnosed with PPD, I went straight to the web to research it and looked for blogs from other women who might have gone through a similar journey. The truth is, I didn't find very much. So, I'm sharing today's post with you all because I want to be a part of a movement that changes the way we perceive PPD. I want to support other women. I want to create a culture where women can freely talk about PPD instead of living in isolation.
I wrote this post a while ago, but wanted to wait until I had a peace about sharing it publicly, and so today is the day! Below is my journey. I hope you will be encouraged by my story and I hope it helps you in some way! Please feel free to share any comments or questions you may have in the comments below or by emailing me. It's a long post, so get ready...
My Journey with PPD:
Okay, so let me back up a little bit before diving into the meat of this subject. I had Emma Grace in 2013 and had a normal recovery. I reached my pre-pregnancy weight before she was a year, was mentally and emotionally healthy, and was experiencing a lot of exciting new things in my life - new house, new friends, a good job, and a happy home. I remember attending a Square One class at Watermark when Emma Grace was about 4 months and hearing that there would be an upcoming class on PPD. I remember thinking "I don't have that and I won't ever have that, so no need to go. That's something that happens to other women. Those poor moms." Cringe.
So, fast forward to September 2015 - Abigail was born! Birth was not the best - I hemorrhaged quite a bit like I did with EG, but I knew once I got over those first few days in the hospital I would be on the fast road to recovery. My mom stayed with me the first two weeks to help with EG while Travis went back to work. When she left I remember crying and feeling so alone; not knowing how I would do this whole "mom of 2" thing without her help. This is the part of my story where I start making all kinds of excuses for feeling sad, overwhelmed, hopeless, alone, and like I was the only one feeling this way. For me, my "struggles" seemed to start small and then build over time, so I don't think I noticed right away and neither did my husband or friends.
At first, my excuse for feeling depressed (although I never used this word), was "oh, it's because my mom just left," which quickly changed to "I must feel this way because I just quit my job and started a new one the same month as having Abby." This excuse changed to "I bet I feel this way because my husband is looking for a new job and I can sense his stress." That changed to "maybe it's the pressure of having school debt for the first time in our lives" to "it has to be because I have to have laproscopic surgery for my endometriosis again" or "I'm just feeling the emotional weight of Abby getting tubes put in her ears." Of course all of those things can weigh heavy on one's soul, one's marriage, and one's mental health, but the sadness and isolation I felt was so much more.
I remember getting to a point where I felt helpless. I felt isolated and knew that wanting to go to bed at 8PM in order to not have to think or worry about my day was not healthy. I could feel my struggle affecting my relationship with Trav and my girls and I never wanted that to happen. I noticed myself pulling away from friends and family, too. So, I worked up the nerve to call one of my best friends who had experienced this same thing and asked her to describe how she felt when she had PPD. Sure, everyone's PPD will look different, but the general feelings were the same - isolated, helpless, overwhelmed, not sleeping. I think at this point I knew I had PPD, but needed the reassurance from a friend that I wasn't crazy and I wasn't a failure.
Shortly after speaking with my friend, the girls in my small group - some of my very closest friends, sat me down and asked me how I was really doing. I broke down and cried and let them in on how I felt. It was so freeing. They listened intently, loved me well, and encouraged me to be brutally honest about what I was going through - no sugar-coating. Not only did they encourage me to meet with my OB, but they held me accountable. They helped me set my appointment and each of them was willing to come see my OB with me although I didn't take them up on it. 😉
My OB is one of the greatest, in my opinion, and as soon as I told her how I was feeling I remember she just hugged me. We obviously talked in depth about how I was feeling and what PPD was, but the thing that stuck out the most was this phrase: "Anna, why are you embarrassed? PPD is a chemical imbalance. It's nothing you can control. You aren't failing as a woman, as a mother." Just hearing that sent me into tears. I hadn't wanted to let anyone in because I felt like I failed. I felt like I wasn't strong enough to handle it, like I was too weak to pull myself out of it. But just talking about it, putting my emotions out there and seeking help was the most freeing thing I could have done.
At this point, I made some pretty serious changes in my life. I started taking an antidepressant, started working out, and spent more time with the Lord. A wise friend told me that dealing with depression is a 3-part battle - physical, spiritual, and medical. She was so right!
Once the medication began to work it was like the dark cloud that was hovering over me dissipated. I could wake up and not feel overwhelmed about making breakfast, I could smile more, and I didn't feel alone. I remember walking along the beach with my husband last summer and just thinking "so this is what it feels like to be happy for no reason." It feels light and I had completely forgotten the feeling.
You guys, seeking help when you're feeling down is a game changer. Truly. I know from experience that it takes so much to set aside your pride and let others know you're not doing well, but PPD is nothing to be ashamed of. PPD is a chemical imbalance and although PPD may be out of your control, what is in your control is seeking help and working to get yourself healthy again for both you and for your family. This post is not about the science behind postpartum depression, but rather just creating a space for open discussion, for honesty, for vulnerability and hopefully for encouragement and comfort to any mommy that may have or may be experiencing the same thing. It's taken me a long time to work through the "shame" and confusion that our society still places on PPD. In a world where moms have immense pressure to "have your cake and eat it too" - career, mom, wife, friends, volunteer, etc., it's okay if we can't conquer it all on our own. It's okay if we need help and it's good to rely on others. It's also okay to give yourself a little grace.
If you're curious if you might have PPD, here's a quick quiz you can take before reaching out to your OB. I also listed the common symptoms of PPD below. I so encourage you to reach out to me too! If you don't feel comfortable commenting below, don't hesitate to email me!
photography: caroline jurgensen
Below I've included some of the most common symptoms of PPD as well as the Bible verses that I referred back to throughout this process.
Common Symptoms of PPD:
- mood swings
- panic attacks
- loss of interest in activities you used to be interested in
- weight gain or loss
- lack of concentration or unwanted thoughts
- Matthew 11: 28 - "come to me all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."
- 1 Peter 5:7 - "cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."
- Philippians 4:6-7 - "do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
xx - anna