November 25, 2014, I welcomed into the world my pride and joy. I knew my life would change, but what I was not aware of was how much I would change.
I didn’t notice it right away.
Slowly, I began to notice that something just wasn’t right with me. I didn’t want to be around others;I constantly felt overwhelmed by my circumstances, loneliness smothered me daily, and there were just times that I didn’t feel anything.
But, how could this be? I had my daughter that I was over the moon for and this should be the happiest part of my life right? Why was I not happy?
Postpartum depression is very common. However, as with many other mental health issues, it’s not discussed enough in a healthy context. And in the Black community, it’s even more taboo to talk about. People don’t have a true understanding of what depression is.
What’s worse, are the people closest to you, think they’re helping and being supportive but in actuality say some of the most harmful things to you. You have no idea how hurtful it is to be told, “Happiness is a choice and you’re choosing to be unhappy,” until you’ve been in this space. Also, depression isn’t just sadness. Most of the time, there’s just an emptiness that can’t be explained. You feel as if you’re always being watched and judged. “Am I smiling enough? Do I seem happy? I don’t want to go to this event, but if I don’t, they’re going to think I’m being shifty.” These are the thoughts that plague you on a daily basis when having to interact socially while depressed. You become overwhelmed with how your issues are impacting those around you. Instead of reaching out, you withdraw because you don’t want to feel like a bother to anyone. Or, you felt that if you did reach out, they wouldn’t understand and treat you differently because of your issues.
There were times where I really contemplated death. I never wanted to hurt my child, but life felt so cumbersome and the unknown of my future felt so scary that I just wanted to escape it all. Further reflection, led me to the truth that I am, in my heart of hearts, too much of a punk to actually go through with suicide. My next solution was to run away. When my next paycheck came, I would just pick up my baby and drive my car to some undetermined destination and begin my life anew. The only thing wrong with that plan was that I would be taking my daughter away from her dad. So logically, I planned to just leave on one of the days that she stayed with him.
The only thing that made me decide against all of those options, was thinking about what people would say about me. Think about that for a moment. I did not stay because I wanted to live. Nor did I stay because I felt the will to push on. I stayed because I cared so much about what other people thought of me that I would endure this emptiness to prove that I was strong and a good mother. That was the breaking point for me. When I realized that my love and concern for everyone else around me was stronger than the love of myself, I knew it was time to seek help.
That was 9 months ago. The journey back to me has been an interesting one filled with highs and lows. What I have learned through this is that:
- What people think of me is not my problem. Why am I worrying about how others’ perceive me? If I’m not happy at that moment, there is no reason for me to pretend to be. Me pretending to be happy for other people’s satisfaction serves me no purpose at all.
- It is okay to not have a good day. Everyday is not going to be filled with hearts and rainbows and that’s OKAY. What’s important is knowing that I can HANDLE a bad day. I used to feel that I couldn’t make it through, but now I’m learning that I can.
- Depression does not end in one day, it takes work. It takes getting up when you don’t feel like it and making yourself do the things that you know make you happy. For me, that was getting up in the morning and making myself feel pretty.
- I have to make time for me. As a new mom, it’s natural to feel as if you’re somehow neglecting your child if you’re not with them 24/7. But taking the time to do things that remind you of who you were when you were happy makes a huge difference in how you feel. Going to happy hour with friends, buying that cute shirt you saw in the store window, or taking that extra long bath. Do not lose you in becoming a mom.
- Owning my problems and facing them is the only way to combat them. Deep reflection and talking with a counselor to truly address the issues in my life that I avoided in the past has helped me love myself, flaws and all.
If you are feeling as if you are experiencing postpartum depression, please do not do what I did. Get help as soon as you realize that you are not feeling right. Do not suffer in silence. It does not serve your child to have a mom who is not the best them that they can be. Nor does it serve you to go through this alone.
If you or someone you know is suffering from or believe they may be suffering from Postpartum depression, you can call Postpartum Support International (PSI): 1-800-944-4PPD (4773).