After I had my first child, I had a great deal on my mind. My new daughter needed surgeries and extra medical care early in her life. This was a huge adjustment for me and my husband. She needed so much so often, when could I rest? The thought of returning to work was looming in my mind. All of this took a toll and eventually spilled out into postpartum depression. How could I get myself back?
First and foremost, I got through everything by focusing on my daughter. She needed to be fed, changed, held, and so on. She didn’t understand what I was dealing with and still needed me anyway. As long as I could keep going enough to get her what she needed, I could let go for a while.
After several weeks of feeling utterly burdened, I began to wonder about how things were “supposed” to be. Was this how every new mother felt? When does it stop feeling so hard every day? When will I turn into one of those more relaxed mothers that has everything going well?
I decided that maybe this is really what goes on under the surface for every new mom. They just put on a happier glow when they are out with others. But most of the time, everything seems like hard work and stress. I was pretty sure that after another few months and after all these surgeries were over, I would be myself again.
Here’s the problem. I had started to forget how I was before I had my baby. Didn’t I have moments of tinkling laughter when something seemed funny? When did all this negative self-talk take over my head? Can I ever get it out? How do I enjoy being a mother when I feel like this all the time? I had moments of happiness, but I had no feelings of content and general satisfaction. It was all tinged with something bad, something wrong, something I needed to get away from. The depression was everywhere.
When I finally got treatment for my depression nearly three and half years later, I noticed the changes immediately. I had some serious mood swings with my premenstrual dysphoric disorder. When I no longer had to dread the swings, the adjustment, and the mental exhaustion, I felt so free. That freedom let me reclaim my emotional energy as my own, not the possession of my mood disorder. The medication and some brief therapy helped me to
stay stable long enough that I finally *finally* could remember what I was like before.
Turns out I was more carefree, more forgiving, more open-minded and accepting than I had remembered. I started doing it for others and I learned how to do it for myself. This was no quick fix. It took at least a couple of years to undo all the bad depression habits in my mind and with my emotions. My more positive natural self emerged once again, though sometimes I really had to prod it along. I had once thought I would forget that woman when I became depressed. Never have I been so joyful to find what once was lost.