Overwhelming sadness. Alone. Irritable. Ashamed.
These are the words that come to mind when I think back to my struggle with postpartum depression three years ago. During those dark days I remember feeling so confused. I knew how lucky I was to have this beautiful baby, and how happy I should be, yet I began feeling the exact opposite as time went by. Feelings of hopelessness, despair, and even anger began taking over my brain. I felt so alone, whether I was sitting by myself at home or in a room filled with other people. No matter how hard I tried to force my emotions to match the fake smile I plastered on my face, it didn’t work. I convinced myself it wouldn’t be that much longer before I “snapped out of it.” I was so wrong. Days turned to weeks which turned into months of depression.
Thankfully, I eventually received the help and support I needed in order to overcome my postpartum depression. I no longer feel detached from my friends and family. I am not constantly overcome with sadness and despair. But I would be lying if I told you I don’t have concerns about the future.
I’m so afraid of a “relapse.” To be completely honest with you, my postpartum depression was not the first time I dealt with depression or anxiety, nor can I guarantee that it will be my last. That scares me. It is something that is always there; a monster lurking in the shadows, just waiting to attack. There’s just no room in my happy life for that unwelcome guest.
I am terrified that my daughters will follow in my footsteps. Of course as parents we want the best for our children. For me, that includes never feeling the same isolation, shame, sadness, hopelessness, despair that I have felt during my bouts of depression. If they do show signs of a mental illness, I can only hope I will be able to recognize them very early on and get them the help they need and deserve.
I worry that the stigma that surrounds mental health will never disappear. For some, it is much easier to offer support and encouragement to a friend with a terrible illness like cancer than a friend who’s suffering from a mental illness. I hope with time, and perhaps more education, that will change. There’s nothing worse than having an elephant in the room and knowing that elephant is your mental health.
I do have hope though. A hope that these fears of mine will not come true. And so for now I will try my best to live my life each day, soaking up as much of the joy and happiness I possibly can.