It’s an ugly place to be – one where you feel alone and isolated from everyone, really. You can’t sleep or you sleep too much. You can’t eat or you can’t stop eating. You cry. You panic. You feel angry, sad, confused, and overwhelmed all in one breath. You contemplate your life – you begin obsessing over life in general – what if the baby dies? What if I die? Would it matter if I was here?
I’ve been in that place and I hope to never return. Regardless if you are experiencing postpartum depression, or just depression in its various forms, you’ve probably felt the same. And while I would never wish depression upon anyone, I will tell you that it was my second round of postpartum depression that taught me to be a better advocate for myself.
I was first diagnosed with depression and generalized anxiety disorder when I was 20 years old. For a time, I remained on medication, but eventually lost my insurance and couldn’t afford to pay out of pocket. Besides, the medication only made me feel numb to everything and I hated that feeling. So I did my best to cope – usually by avoiding the experiences that made me anxious. Well, you can only avoid so much before you just stop living your life. The same can be said about the first time I experienced postpartum depression, but not the second.
The second time around I recognized the symptoms fast enough to seek help. The problem was, however, that I didn’t want to seek help. I didn’t have time. I felt weak, like I had failed. Getting help is part of self-care, and an important part. But there are ways to help yourself before you get to a point where you’re too deep into depression to recognize the need for help. This is what I could have done the first time to prevent the complete meltdown I endured:
- Take a break – whatever that looks like for you. This could be a weekly break, daily, or it may mean you need to step away from school for a semester (or two) and work on improving your mental health.
- Confide in your closest friend. There is a stigma surrounding depression that causes shame, so we hide away our pain and it festers. When I was able to open up to my close friend, she gladly shared the burden but she also encouraged me to seek help.
- Eat Healthier. Some might disagree with this, but your diet does make a difference. If you start to feel depressed or just sluggish, reflect on your food choices. The problem could lie on your plate in the form of sugars, fats, and bad carbs.
- Exercise. A nice brisk walk every morning can improve your mood for the rest of the day. When you start to feel at your worst, get out and get moving because depression is a battle that can’t be fought in bed.
- Seek help from a mental health counselor. There is no shame in doing this. A major benefit with a good mental health counselor is that they are a third party, not connected to your personal life. For this reason, you can confide in them about issues you may be having with a loved one. You have someone with whom you can share deep, troubling thoughts and fears with, and they won’t use it against you or pity you for it.
Please don’t feel that you have to be alone. I am here. Help is here. Just reach out and do what you need to do in order to thrive in life.
In what ways have you taken care of your self and advocated so you could succeed? Share with me!