Oh, hi. It’s another day of rallying for mental health over here. (MHMRWNSJM, what?!)
This morning’s post comes from Branson of the blog My Reflection of Something. Branson is a new Twitter friend of mine who is super nice and really helpful. She and her husband Matt have one son, Aiden, who will be ONE YEAR OLD on Wednesday.
Branson’s here today to talk about what it’s like when you suffer from depression and anxiety BEFORE getting pregnant and what it’s like after the baby arrives.
Leave her some love, y’all.
For me, having a child was something that seemed out of the question. I was always too scared that I wouldn’t be able to be the mom I wanted to be because of my depression. My whole adult life I have been on medication and in and out of counseling. I have managed my disease really well, but I was scared that adding a child to our family would change that. I had watched my mother struggle with her depression throughout my childhood, and in her case the battle didn’t always end in her favor. We spent time in foster care while she got help. It was a dark time for our family, and one that came rushing back every time I even let my mind wander to having a child of my own. Yet there was always an emptiness in my heart, just waiting to be filled.
When I found out I was (surprise!) pregnant, it was a mix of absolute joy and absolute fear. My doctor advised that I would need to go off of my medication by the end of the first trimester. I did, and it was hell. Let’s be honest… pregnancy hormones and medication withdrawal are not a good combination. A few weeks in, I went to my doctor and pretty much begged for him to find something, anything that I could take. Instead, he told me that if I was a good mother I would be able to “get over it” by thinking about the baby. I left that appointment feeling like my worst fear had been confirmed: I was going to be a terrible mother.
When Aiden was born, everything changed. That sounds like such a ridiculous thing to say… of course everything changed! I am talking about more than diapers, feedings and sleep deprivation, though. When I met my son, something clicked in my brain. I wasn’t cured, and it didn’t get any easier, but at that moment I knew I would make it work. My experience was so much the opposite of many women’s experience. I felt an intense connection to my son. I knew that I would absolutely do everything I could to make this work. It was these feelings that helped me get through the weeks ahead.
The depression after we left the hospital was bad. So much of those first few weeks is a blur. I remember being regularly paralyzed by fear. I remember sobbing in the shower every single day. I remember that same doctor telling me it was just the “baby blues” and that it would get better. What I don’t remember is the feel of my newborn’s touch, the sound of his little coos, or the joy of seeing my husband care for our son. I can muster up smiles and faint memories when I look at photos, but without a great deal of effort all that is there is darkness and regret.
There are very few times in my life when I can say I would have done things differently. This is one of them. I wish I would have gone and found another doctor the minute he made me feel worthless. I wish I had known the amazing community of women who now provide me with support and encouragement. I wish I could have known that depression is not what defines me as a mother.
I have my bad days (bad weeks even) but I also have a husband who is amazingly supportive and a son who is loved and cherished. Month by month, things get a little easier. There are fewer foggy days, and instead I find myself amazed at how much joy I have in my life. I have a long way to go, and I am very realistic about that fact, but I am moving forward. I am an amazing mother, and nothing is going to change that.
I only hope that sharing my story can give other women the courage to face their fears, and stand up for themselves when they encounter ignorance. Depression is not who I am. I am a wife, mother, child of God and so much more. My mental illness might be an extra challenge for me, but it doesn’t change who I am or keep me from doing the things I love. I have a mental illness, but I also have hope.