Sunday morning here. Don't know why I'm up early. I seldom get up early. I should be sleeping but can't. So I figured now's as good a time as any to begin this story. I may have to do this in parts. But I need to write these important things down before too much time passes and my memory allows me to erase the trials I've learned so much from.
I want to be real. Can you handle real? Raw emotion?
After having three babies at home, I've begun to realize just how much intervention goes into birthing in a hospital environment. Don't get me wrong. I think there are times when a professional medical staff is absolutely necessary for birthing women, and I'm super grateful the option is there should I need it down the road, whether for myself or for a friend or family member. I am grateful to the staff that helped me with Orion's birth, for in no way do I feel they were ill-intended. Their assistance to me and my baby was what I needed at that time. And if I had a choice to do it over, I'm sure there are things I would like to have done differently, but in the end, I'm not sure I would change them. The situation I experienced with him was the most difficult time in my life that I can recall to date. And I've learned so much since. And it's for that life-long lesson that I am grateful. But today, I want to be real with you. Let's talk about the things no one talks about. The things I wish people would have shared with me so that I didn't feel so alone. The things that happen behind closed doors.
The day Orion was born, he was beautiful. I know many of you reading this already know about so many of the struggles I went through with him. And if not, I plan on telling that story too. I tell that story to almost everyone I meet. I'm passionate about it I suppose. Today, I will share the story that few people know about me. Just close family really. And even my own parents are somewhat in the dark about it.
After giving birth to my first son, I myself suffered pretty terribly from post-partum depression. Yup. I said it. It's not something many people openly discuss I guess. I mean, seriously, why would anyone walk around claiming they were suffering from depression? As a fitness and dance instructor in the past and one who is always somewhat health conscious and aware, I was afraid and yes, indeed ashamed to have that stigma as a label attached to my person. Ligia? Depression? Disgusting. Truly, I felt like a failure. You feel like a loser not to be able to control your emotions and the dark cloud that fogs up your mind. And you worry. You worry about being pitied and having people come and try to help you because they pity you, rather than because they truly just want to be your friend. This thought alone consumed me. I'd spend many hours rocking myself on the bed and crying. The anxiety attacks would often make me cry in despair as I spent many days alone while my husband was at work. I'd work myself into a such a frenzy that I'd cry myself to sleep and then wake up to a crying a baby and the anxiety would start all over again.
My self-esteem was shattered. My body is not perfect and seldom where I want it to be ideally. But at that time, sadly, my focus when I looked into the mirror was every single flaw that I bore. I hated myself. I detested my human flaws and found no trace of anything good.
The stress of moving around, having little money and recovering post-partum, had sent me into a state of post-partum psychosis. I often entertained the idea in my head about what suicide would be like. Don't know if I actually would have been brave enough to follow through with it. But the thoughts in my head were there. Very real. Very dark. Scary. And they were not productive by any means. Thoughts of ending my life were there. Thoughts of ending Orion's life were there too. I'd make a mental list of people that might notice my death right away. People that might be shocked. People that might think about it for a few hours and then move on with their lives. I'd wake up late. I mean, I'd get up to take care of my baby and try to get a routine going, but in the end, would just fall asleep whenever he did and literally not even move. A first new baby is a hard adjustment as it is already without having to cope with depression.
I often wondered what it would be like to feel connected to my baby. My mom often described how much she wanted me when she had me. She described the feeling of overwhelming love she had for me right away. I can honestly say, that while I loved my sweet boy, I did not have that bond with him the way I thought it should be. I didn't know why at the time. But I have some theories about why, now.
I was ashamed of feeling that way too. I felt like a thoughtless and terrible mother. What mother wouldn't enjoy her new baby, right? I mean, some women struggle to have babies. And here I was, this ungrateful human being, holding a sweet and wonderful newborn baby and thinking about killing us both. And who would want to be friends with this psychotic mother? A mother that at one point had locked herself in the bathroom seriously contemplating whether to down a bottle of Aleve or not. Who's husband called the police that night, desperate to get some help for this crazy woman. This woman who refused to get help from anyone, for fear that someone might see that she was human.
I don't mean for this post to be a doom and gloom about depression. But I wanted to take a moment to say that depression is real. It's consuming, and over-bearing. It's the heaviest emotional weight I've ever carried in my life and what made it heavier is that I was trying so hard to do it on my own. It was as though I was trying to prove to myself that I didn't need anyone to help me heal. My pride definitely hindered my ability to overcome this mental illness. But there was a light at the end of this dark and dreary tunnel. The moment I decided to allow others in. The moments I would see my baby smile were few, but just enough to keep me going. The moment I allowed God to soften my heart and let go of my pride is when I began to manage the self-destructive thoughts so much better.
It's not something I talk about lightly now. I simply want other moms, as well as those who experience depression outside of post-partum, to know, that they're not alone. That they don't have to choose to go through these things without help. And most of all, that they're not failures for feeling the way they do. To me, failure has become a good teacher. We all experience failure in some way or form. But if you listen carefully, failure can teach you so much. About who you are and who you'd like to be. If you allow it to, it can teach you about how strong you really are and just how much you can bear.
You see, before this experience, failure was not an option in my mind. I didn't think anything good could come from it. But I think it's all about what we choose to do after a great failure that defines our true character and shows us what our true potential in this life is.
It's okay to feel like a total loser from time to time. As long as you don't allow the thought to consume your life, it can be overcome. And no sedative or prescription pill will allow you to do that. That decision needs to come from within. It's not easy, by any means. I know. But I firmly believe that depression can be overcome by the lifestyle we choose.
Yes, I have four kids now. So you're probably wondering, if one baby made her crazy, what did three others do? Well, I'll be honest. The hormone fluctuation that occurs inside my body after each baby is always a difficult thing to balance for me. That's for sure. May be due to weak genetics. May be due to emotional scars. May be due to daily food choices and habits. But the small and simple steps I've taken to imrpove the quality of my life by allowing others to be a part of my healing process is what has actually made it easier to move past the burden with each successive pregnancy. It hasn't become a non-existent thing, if you want the truth. But I think after four kids, I've learned how to get a grip on it, so to speak. I'm mentally prepared for the feelings and when they arise, I know I can choose to entertain them or, like I said, get a grip on it. A good strong one too. Metaphorically speaking. So, having four babies has somewhat made me a pro at battling depression a lot easier with each one. By the time I have our tenth child, I should be depression free. Just kidding. And no, having more kids is not the answer to battling depression.
So there you have it. The things no one talks about. The things probably very few of you knew about me. Now, before I share with you some of the steps I took to overcome this illness, what I would love to know is, have you been through a similar experience? And if you're comfortable sharing, what were some of the ways you chose to battle it? This exchange of ideas might save the life of a new mom somewhere. Or someone experiencing it because of a different trial in their life. No matter the reason. I know that hearing others' stories are what saved me. So please comment below. Short or long. Have a happy Sunday!