“How long are you comfortable waiting before you let me write you a prescription?” my therapist said to me. I was cross-legged on my classic patient couch and she sat across from me in her doctor chair. Her nature was to always smile a little when she spoke, and this provoking was no exception. She was playing my game with me. Me, the perfectionist and control freak. Her, hilarious and straightforward. I loved this woman. I still do.
She knew I was clinically depressed. She knew I had only a couple weeks ago started to accept that truth for myself. She knew I would try to control it and micromanage it myself before I’d even be receptive to her suggestion of an antidepressant.
“Give me 2 more weeks,” I said to her. Dead serious.
Because DUH, I was going to BEAT this thing in 2 weeks. Just as soon as we switched daycares. Yes, that would fix EVERYTHING and I’d be much better equipped to be a mom and human being then. I wouldn’t cry as much. Or feel as anxious or overwhelmed. I wouldn’t feel like my body had failed me with its rapidly diminishing milk supply and it wouldn’t matter that I still loathed my job with the fire of 1,000 suns.
BECAUSE I would have FIXED that daycare problem, don’t you see! Because I’m a fucking wizard and at this time in my life, 3 years ago, I was incredibly confident about the “type” of woman I was. A gets-shit-done chick. A climbs-the-corporate-ladder badass. A DOES-IT-ALL-AND-THEN-SOME socialite with an affinity for dance parties and girl time. No, motherhood wouldn’t shake me. It wouldn’t change me. I would HANDLE. THIS.
Two weeks later, slouched in the warm embrace of that brown leather couch, I bawled my eyes out and defeatedly said, “I’ll take that prescription now.” In the next breath I probably said something like, “I feel like a failure. I hate myself. Why can’t I figure this out?”
My therapist probably smiled at me again, knowing that logical words of consolation only go so far when someone is in as deep a hole as I was at that period of my life—four months postpartum. I now realize that what she knew then was that EVERYTHING would change once my medication kicked in and I could think clearly again.
I was already in depression’s classic cycle of negative thinking. The negative and irrational thinking was the result of a chemical imbalance in my brain. This imbalance was the result of dramatic shifts in my hormone levels during and after pregnancy (note: this part happens to all pregnant women. We’re not joking when we say hormones are a bitch). ALL THIS was exacerbated by the fact that depression runs rampant in my family and I had experienced it before—in college. Yes, friends it is WAY genetic. I was already crazy high risk. I knew this. Top all this excellence off with the environmental trigger of me going back to work after 3 months of maternity leave and transitioning from spending my leisurely days breastfeeding, sleeping and watching Grey’s Anatomy to leaving my newborn with strangers and spending 40 hours a week at a job that was sucking my soul out my eyeballs and what do you get?
The perfect postpartum cocktail for a pregnancy hangover!
A life+genetic+chemical+hormonal elixir GUARANTEED to induce overwhelming amounts of stress and lead to classic postpartum depression (PPD).
“So we meet again, old friend,” I thought resentfully to my stupid self.
Things got much, much worse before they got better. The meds took two to three weeks to kick in, and I remember thinking despairingly one night (my crazy thoughts spiraling out of control), “Oh God, I waited too long.” My husband was doing his best to support me without, well, dying. He was nearly a single parent and definitely a lonely one.
“I’m using every single ounce of my energy to just keep it together every day,” I told him. “I’m hanging by a thread, and I just don’t have the energy to worry about you, too,” I told him indifferently one night in bed. And I meant it.
Don’t get me wrong. I was still taking care of our baby. Showing up for my job. Smiling at people in the hallways. Drinking myself to sleep and maybe even using eyebrow pencil (can’t confirm this last one, actually), but once the curtain closed and the audience went home at the end of the night and it was just me and husband—I collapsed exhausted. Disappointed. Terrified I wouldn’t have the fuel to start the show bright and early again the next morning.
My mantra during this time in my life was literally, “JUST PUT PANTS ON.”
If I got the pants on at 6:30 in the morning, then I’d probably make it to the car. If I made it to the car (baby in tow), then I knew I could make it the 40-minute drive to the office and once I sat at my desk—victory. What I actually accomplished at that desk each day mattered not nearly as much as the fact that I had gotten my ass there.
HOLLER IF YOU HEAR ME.
FRIENDS—I am one of the shiniest and happiest people I know. I am also one of the most highly sensitive and emotional people I know. You can look fine on the outside and be a hot mess on the inside. I mean, most of us are. I’m a LIFE COACH FOR MOTHERS, for goodness sakes. Yes, even I am human. I, ESPECIALLY, am human.
My point is, we are not here to suffer. We do not need to crawl our way to each day’s finish line (read: bottle of wine) as new mothers without taking care of ourselves. Usually, we just don’t know HOW to take care of ourselves. And then, even if we do, we don’t see mental and emotional and spiritual health as a priority because “I can handle this just fine, thankyouverymuch.”
I was not FINE at this time in my life. I am eternally grateful I said YES to those meds. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they saved my life, but I would say they saved my spirit. I would not have had the mental clarity to quit my job if it weren’t for those meds. I wouldn’t have had the energy to put into my marriage if it weren’t for those meds. I would have LITERALLY killed myself pumping breastmilk for my baby instead of supplementing with formula, as needed, if it weren’t for those meds.
Take the Goddamn meds if you need the meds. You’re not failing—this shit is just HARD, and anyone who says it’s not is lying or has literally blacked out the memory of what it’s like to adjust from ‘human with all her own body parts and hormones’ to ‘new mom.’ #ThatsWhatGSaid
As part of my new Mommy Real Talk series, I did a Facebook Live video about with 6 Tips for Helping a Friend with Postpartum Depression. You can watch it here for more resources and actual, tangible things you can do to support a mama with PPD. Side note: You can subscribe on that video screen to receive notifications when I go live in the future. (Because you know you want to KNOW).
Becoming a mama is such a rite of passage and there are so many important life-changing lessons to be learned along the way. For me, one of them was self-care and sanity and celebrating what I now know to be real life: Beautifully Messy Mommy.
My rocky start as a new mom changed my life and allowed me to truly embrace my new identity and create a life I love after healing and self-care. My intention is always to help you do the same.
Love and Truth-telling,
PS: Mother’s Day! IT’S COMING. Did you ask for something you actually want? I’m doing 25% off single and double coaching sessions until next Sunday only. Tell your lovers to SHOP HERE and enter promo code ShinyHappyMoms25 so they can gift you the self-care and support you have more than earned.
PPS: Please share this with any mamas who need to hear a “Me too. You’re not the only one.” and the next time you’re out to lunch with 10 mothers, remember AT LEAST 2 of them experienced PPD.