Having my beautiful daughter Alice was the best thing to have happened to me. When she stares up at me with her deep blue eyes, care free and untainted by the world, I melt like a marshmallow over a campfire. However, a hard realization struck me; depression does not discriminate. It does not care that I just had a wonderful baby. As ecstatic as I am to be a new mommy to my little girl, I still have feelings of deep depression to battle. For me, it’s not post partum depression. I have no desire to run away from home, no ill intentions or thoughts toward my baby, etc. And if you are experiencing those things or suspect you may be experiencing PPD, help is available! In my case, I am experiencing the same depression I have felt before, during, and now after pregnancy. I thought my depression was intensified during my pregnancy because of all the complications I suffered. I dealt with Hyperemesis Gravidarum (excessive vomiting/extreme nausea) all the way up until the end. I was hospitalized on several occasions to be given IV fluids and medications to keep us both alive. What I didn’t expect was for my mental illness to come back full force after delivery. This was ignorant on my part but I wrongfully assumed baby bliss would send depression packing.
On the contrary, my illness is a vile and cruel manifestation within my brain. It tells me my husband and baby would be better off without me. Logic and illness are enemies because I know of course this isn’t true but the feelings are SO overwhelming and intense it’s difficult to believe logic. It feeds me lies day in and day out and requires constant management on my part. While I absolutely adore being mommy now, at times it is challenging to balance my mental health while taking care of my tiny person. It is not impossible though and if you’re struggling as I am, I want that part to stick. It. Is. NOT. Impossible!
Some things that have helped me are working with my therapist and devising a custom plan for me and my depression. Depression affects us all differently so it’s not a one size fits all treatment style. I for instance struggle with thoughts of self harm so part of my plan is to utilize my “self soothing kit.” This is just a simple box I filled with comfort and distraction items such as a fuzzy blanket, tissues, a journal, coloring books, and more. When I feel the urge to self harm, I go to my self soothe kit in hope of retraining my brain to utilize healthier coping mechanisms. Also inside my self soothe kit is a list of things to do instead of self harm. An example would be to meditate or paint. Sometimes in crisis mode my mind is not focusing on these things and the printed reminder helps me recenter on more positive coping skills.
I often feel I won’t ever escape the grip of my illness. It feels like an ever present cloud looming over me, waiting to release another torrential downpour that will threaten to drown me. Yet somehow, I always persist and as a result, I see the sun again. My Alice is my sunshine and I am so grateful for her and my supportive husband, as well as anyone else who has supported me through all of this. Even those who are no longer present. Depression isn’t easy for anyone. Not the sufferer nor the person trying to help. But there is always hope and I’m inexplicably grateful to anyone who has ever helped me find that hope when it felt lost.