What Surviving Postpartum Depression Has Taught Me

There are many things I could list, if I could sit down and thoroughly write them out. But for the sake of not overwhelming the reader (or the writer), I am going to limit this post to the main thing I have discovered these past few weeks. 

In the middle of labor with my firstborn, postpartum depression started. I didn’t realize it then, and when I finally pinpointed the moment I felt cheated out of my ideal birth. Circumstances following didn’t help my case, and since I was new to being a mom and new to depression, it took a long time to get through it.

When I was pregnant with my second, I had legitimate fears of reliving the nightmare. I also had major things planning to happen afterward that made me even more anxious. I didn’t know how I was going to survive two kids, on my own, for the better part of a year.

Without getting into too much detail, the second birth went drastically different than my first. There was no hint of postpartum depression during labor, birth, or even the first few days of his little life. It was euphoric. Something I never dreamed was possible. I did things differently, which helped my postpartum mental recovery, but I still had symptoms of depression and anxiety. A very low dose of medication helped stabilize me, which was good considering I was heading into “single parenting” (not really, I know I have scraped the surface of what it means to be a single mom, and I respect and admire all the single parents out there even more now that I “know” what it’s like).

So, let’s get into what I’ve learned. You’re probably thinking, “She’s rambling again!” And, though that may be true (I like to chatter), I do have a point in bringing this up.

When I started this year with two kids and a husband leaving for deployment, I was petrified of being alone. I had vivid memories of my first year as a mom, and it downright scared me. So I made plans. A LOT of plans. I had to stay busy. I had to get out of the house. I had to be around people as much as I possibly could. Because, anything could snap me.

Or not?

After my husband left for deployment, we got sick. A month or so later, we got sick again. Getting sick turned into a common thing in this house, and by now we’re down to every 2-3 weeks. (We’re working on building our immune systems back up and making them stronger).

I soon found that “staying busy” was impossible. Having something planned daily was impossible. Getting out of the house to escape the “possible”, was impossible.

The first few times I was downright scared. I couldn’t see how I was going to get through the day, at home, with two boys, all by myself. What if I snapped? What if I lost it? What if I began to repeat my own history of postpartum depression?

But as the sick days kept coming, something shifted for me. I began to appreciate the home days. I began to stop looking at the clock. I began to stop and really see my two boys for the human beings that they are. This change happened so internally that when we weren’t sick, I wasn’t desperately looking to get out of the house. I wasn’t ticking off the hours till bedtime.

I was finally living my life, and no longer surviving my life.

Getting sick so often forced me to slow down and be (you guessed it) present. Actually present with my boys.

Can I say I enjoy my kids? I love watching them play?

Yes, I also don’t enjoy the attitudes and the whining. I don’t love watching my oldest do the “jerk” move on the toddling baby. But that’s parenting. This isn’t about how tough it is.

What I’m trying to say, is that even though postpartum depression is something I despise about my life, something I wish never had happened, surviving it taught me to value my kids, to value myself, and to believe in the beauty of motherhood. And I specifically say “surviving” because when you’re in the midst of the depression, these things aren’t present. They have to be learned, because the mind of a mentally ill person needs to heal from the damage that was done.

We’re still in the midst of struggles and trials, but because I have learned how to be at peace (whether I listen to my own lessons every time is another thing entirely) when I’m in the throes of it all, I know I can get through it. Because what I have learned was internal, not flippant. And each time we get sick, I am reminded of it again. And again. And again.

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