I had a very brief moment in my life when I realized the importance of motherhood. And I was at Target. (Of course you were at Target.) I was leaving though, because my very sweet & very terrible three-year-old started screaming. I normally don’t let my daughter’s tantrum derail my very deserved Target trip, but she was ruining everyone’s day. Including mine.
To avoid her flailing limbs, I held her under my armpit by her waist. The same way you would carry a purse, but it’s a screaming, three-year-old shaped, wish-you-were-a-Kate-Spade handbag. As I reached my car, there was another woman, heading into the store, with a very angry toddler. We made eye contact & both looked down at our very large pregnant bellies, then we nodded towards each other in a “I can’t believe we are doing this again, but you got this girlfriend” sort of way.
That’s when I knew, we are a team. A team of moms with screaming children, dirty diapers & the will to keep having more, despite their conquests to ruin our trips to Target. And that is also when I realized how much power there is in supporting the women around us.
Without this support, I would have put my mental well-being aside. I have two very sweet daughters. I also have postpartum anxiety & depression. There is a lot of open dialogue about postpartum mental illnesses, which is great. There is comfort in knowing that a lot of other women are struggling right beside us. There is strength in talking about our experiences with anxiety & depression, however, I want to talk about treating it.
There is a period of time that we, as mothers, brace ourselves for. The sleepless nights, the pants that don’t fit quite right & the normalcy that we try to create after our little one arrives. This transition in life can often mask our internal struggles. What is the difference between being depressed & just being exhausted with a newborn? What is the difference between being an attentive parent or being paranoid with anxiety? I didn’t know.
After I had my first daughter, I was hyper aware of the baby blues. Every shift of emotion I evaluated & analyzed. Coming from a long line of mental illness, I was waiting for my first depressive episode but it never came. However, I did notice how I was quick to become angry. I was constantly irritated with my daughter, husband, friends, Meredith Grey, & Amazon Prime. Everyone was being the worst. Everyone.
Almost a year later of the birth of my first daughter, I finally opted to see a doctor about my mood. That’s when I first was acquainted with postpartum anxiety. I was uptight, irritated & my body constantly felt like it was buzzing. My OBGYN offered me a lot of options to treat my anxiety. Exercise, diet, therapy, medication or a combination of treatments.
I didn’t want the medication. I thought I could learn coping techniques to shift my mood or eat salad until anxiety went away. It helped. Exercise helped the most. I also accepted that this aspect of my mood was here to stay & I needed to just deal with it.
Here’s the thing: anxiety is tricky. Just as you accept that you may need some help, the anxiety subsides. You convince yourself, “hey, maybe it’s gone for good.” It’s like the monster under the bed. It creeps out when you are feeling content. That is probably why I went to the doctors three more times about these anxious episodes.
After the support from the women around me, another baby & a few years later, I finally filled a prescription for an antidepressant. Medication isn’t for everyone, nor do I believe it should be. However, it has helped me. I have a new sense of clarity. The anxiety is still a part of me, but it’s quieter now.
If you need support, let me be your girl to tell you, if you are feeling the effects of anxiety of depression, talk to your doctor. See a therapist. Fill your prescription. You will be a better person, mother & friend if you choose to take care of yourself. We are in the trenches of motherhood together & I will slip you a Zoloft if you need it. (JK. Too far, I know. I don’t share my medication. See you at Target.)