Originally posted May 17, 2013.
Guest Post Today! Megan Daley!
Today I have the honor of hosting Megan Daley’s deeply felt and informative story about her experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. Megan discusses the circumstances surrounding her children’s births and how her postpartum depression expressed itself as sadness and rage. She talks about how she was proactive enough to seek professional help. She is an inspiration to us all and a shining light in our world!
Please join me in welcoming Megan’s contribution to the Postpartum Support International’s 2013 Blog Hop! Speak Up When You’re Down!
Struggling Through the Darkness & My Journey to Recovery
I used to have a vision in my mind of what it would be like to be a mother. I longed
to experience the joy of having children. I wanted it more than anything. I read every book. I went to prenatal classes. I googled my little heart out. I thought I was prepared. But what I wasn’t prepared for was Postpartum Depression. I didn’t expect the intense emotions that rear their ugly head in every 1 out of 5 mothers who experience a Postpartum Mood Disorder. My vision of motherhood was about to be shattered.
The natural birth I had hoped for ended up as the exact opposite. After a long labour I ended up with an emergency c-section. Physically, my incision healed with time but the emotional shock from the traumatic birth experience and feelings of inadequacy that I was unable to have a “normal” birth lingered.
I had some tearful nights during the first few weeks but it seemed normal for someone who just had a baby. I loved him so much it was incredible and I was cherishing the joy of having such an amazing son.
It wasn’t until he was almost a year that I started to feel that something wasn’t right with me. He still wasn’t sleeping through the night and I was always on edge. But it was way more than that. It took me a long time to realize I had Postpartum Depression. I didn’t realize it could sneak up on you months after giving birth. And its not like I was sitting around crying all day. It manifested in other ways that no one warned me about. I experienced intense rage. I would suddenly just fly off the handle without warning and it was terrifying to feel so out of control.
I finally built up the courage to ask for help and my doctor prescribed me an antidepressant. Medication was one part of helping me stay well but there were a lot of other factors that played a big role.
When we decided to try for another baby, I was weaned off my medication and did well during pregnancy without it.
My second birth experience was completely different. I had no complications and delivered a healthy baby girl. I was in that state of bliss, completely in love with my baby and feeling blessed.
But I soon found myself struggling to meet both children’s needs as well as my own. I could feel myself slipping. I was up often during the night and had little energy or patience for my active toddler who was constantly on the go and testing limits. The rage was coming back along with its old friend, the guilt.
I began to dread my husband leaving. I couldn’t explain why but I would get anxiety about being left home alone with the kids throughout the day. Even though we were fine and everything appeared normal, internally, it was a constant struggle. I had intrusive thoughts about bad things happening when my husband was at work. I would count down the hours until he returned. Nights were the worst. I felt incredibly lonely and exhausted.
This time I knew I was struggling and I needed help before it got worse. I was able to access counseling and that was a turning point for me. The most important piece was that I was able to be completely honest. I started to try to cut myself some slack and lower my expectations for myself. No one was expecting me to be perfect but myself.
My counselor helped me put some coping strategies in place. I also made a commitment to do something fun for myself once a week. I felt like I was starting to get things under control.
Then my daughter had an accident and had to get stitches in her forehead. I was traumatized and couldn’t get it out of my mind. I felt responsible for what happened and experienced a lot of anxiety about keeping my children safe. I started having intrusive thoughts about my baby falling down the stairs and was paranoid that someone would leave the door to the basement open.
I decided to go back on the medication and had to rely a lot on my supports during that time. One of the hardest things I learned to do was ask for help. People often see asking for help as a sign of weakness but its actually a strength. Its not easy to put your pride aside and call someone and ask through the tears, “Can you come over right now? I can’t do this! I need help.”
You learn to forgive yourself and work towards letting go of the guilt. Postpartum Depression is NOT YOUR FAULT. It doesn’t mean you’re not strong enough to handle this. Its an illness that you will recover from.
Things can seem so endless, like there is no light ahead but its so important to hold onto the hope that you won’t feel this way forever. Because you won’t. It WILL get better. And you can take charge of your illness by doing things to help yourself feel better.
I can’t stress enough the importance of self-care. We have to allow ourselves time to recharge our batteries. Its not always possible to get time away, but we have to learn to make the most of what little time we do have. Even a minute of deep breathing can go a long way. So can a bubble bath, a phone call to a friend, a coffee date, or even just cuddling up with a good book once the baby’s asleep. But you have to make the effort and commit to following through. You deserve to make your wellness a priority. Self-care is not only a gift to yourself (and a necessity!) but a gift to your children. You come back refreshed, happier, and calmer, helping you to be a better parent and helping you further yourself along your journey of recovery.