12. How I Fought for Myself Amid Postpartum Depression – Julie Thomas
*This is a sponsored post. "As much as I wanted to hide out forever, I responded to a tug in my heart and attended a women’s event at my church. Sitting in a room of 400 women, I still felt alone and unable to fully embrace the positive atmosphere or laughter of others. Yet, it was a first step outside of my darkness that ultimately led to another step, and another."
With the birth of my second son came a new version of myself that I didn’t expect or recognize. I developed a deep sadness, heaviness and confusion that I couldn’t seem to shake off. What began as postpartum depression grew with intensity and dragged on for six years.
I never expected to suffer in this way. I wanted to be a good mom and I wanted to be happy. I was living in a nightmare that I couldn’t wake up from. I tried to hide as much as I could, avoiding eye contact with people, creating social boundaries and closing every drape in the house. The burden of my depression stole my joy, purpose and hope for the future. Darkness took over my life.
Postpartum depression is one of the worst-kept secrets. For most new mothers, the first several days after having a baby is an emotional roller coaster ride. Moments of happiness and bliss are abruptly interrupted by a hormonal, exhausted plunge into depressive symptoms like crying, anger and anxiety. Often referred to as “baby blues,” these emotions can emerge within the first two to five days after delivery, and for most women, go away as quickly as they came.
Except sometimes they don’t go away. For some women like myself, the depression continues for months and becomes so overwhelming, you’re only a shadow of the person you were before. It’s lonely and frightening.
The darkness in my life began to dissipate when I realized I had to fight for myself. That’s not easy for most women to do, because we naturally put our kids’ needs above our own. But I was desperate. I couldn’t live this way anymore. Although my journey to complete healing wasn’t quick or simple, I took a few brave steps in the right direction that ultimately served as a meaningful starting point.
I sought community
As much as I wanted to hide out forever, I responded to a tug in my heart and attended a women’s event at my church. Sitting in a room of 400 women, I still felt alone and unable to fully embrace the positive atmosphere or laughter of others. Yet, it was a first step outside of my darkness that ultimately led to another step, and another.
Humans are relational beings and crave connection with others. Pursuing positive social interactions and emotional support may help to reduce the overwhelming feelings of depression.
I talked about it
Although I was very reluctant at first, sharing my experience with others helped me feel less alone. Many women with postpartum depression are ashamed of their symptoms and the social stigma associated with the diagnosis. Maybe it’s because we think we should be stronger than this, or we’re bad moms for feeling anything other than pure joy about motherhood. Postpartum depression affects around 1 in 7 women, yet 1 in 5 women keep quiet about their symptoms. Not only can talking about it provide a much-needed release and diminish feelings of shame, but I discovered that I wasn’t alone. Many other people in my life had experienced or were currently experiencing some form of depression too.
I let the light back into my life
As I began to connect with others and share my story, a new light in my life began to take over the darkness. I felt a renewed sense of purpose in encouraging others that they weren’t alone. I discovered that I could – and would – make it through this. Naturally, life still throws tough stuff at me occasionally, but when I feel that familiar twinge of depression trying to come at me again, I’m prepared to seek support, be open and honest about it and remember that I’m not alone.
Fellow moms, distinguishing the “baby blues” from more serious conditions such as postpartum depression and postpartum psychosis can be difficult, but recognizing the signs early is important. You don’t have to pretend you’re okay or live in shame. Consult a healthcare provider to discuss treatment options that may include peer support, clinical counseling or antidepressant medications. You’re not alone, and you’re worth fighting for.
Julie Thomas is a wife, mother of two, life coach and author. After the birth of her second son, Thomas battled a severe case of postpartum depression. With the release of her novel, HOPE Inside Out, and her willingness to be open and transparent, Thomas was able to find healing for herself and help others do the same. Thomas was recently featured in I Am Second’s series of short films, sharing her raw and emotional journey from depression to healing.