In my last post, I wrote about how mental health is a largely silent issue in America. I very strongly believe that this needs to change. To put my money where my mouth is, today, I’ll tell you my own story. Bear with me. This is a long one.
I have always been an emotionally volatile person. My emotions are literally a rollercoaster – my highs are wonderfully high, and my lows are despairingly low. I’m a generally happy person, but I’m also pretty sensitive, and something seemingly trivial can bring me down for the rest of the day. These are things that I have accepted about myself; it’s just part of who I am.
When I gave birth to my first child, I knew I would need to watch for signs of postpartum depression. I also knew that the baby blues (not the same thing) were probably going to come calling. After Ellie was born, we struggled with breastfeeding for the first few weeks, and I had a very difficult time developing attachment to her until I was on my own with her. Adjusting to motherhood was difficult. There were definitely times that I screamed at my baby or had to set her down in her bed and walk away for a few minutes while I calmed down. Ellie wasn’t a particularly difficult baby, but almost all babies are trying. I never felt like I needed help, though.
This was not the case after Charlotte was born. Charlotte was the BEST baby. She was so easy. She was great about going back to sleep after eating during the night. She was so chill. She didn’t cry a ton, although she still had fussy spells. Despite all of this, I was freaking out. I would scream at her. I would scream at Ellie. There were times that I screamed so much, I felt like my throat was raw. After I screamed, I’d sob. I couldn’t handle stress; I’d blow up at the slightest thing. I knew this wasn’t normal for me.
At first, I sought help from my midwife. She was so kind and helped me to feel like I wasn’t alone in my struggles. She recommended taking inositol, which is essentially a B vitamin which aids in mood stabilization. The benefit of this over an antidepressent is that your body uses what it needs and flushes out what it doesn’t. She also encouraged me to focus on self care, ensuring that I was eating, getting as much rest as I could, etc.
By three months postpartum, though, I wasn’t feeling any better. If anything, I was feeling worse. Ellie, now officially a two year old, was getting more challenging by the day, and Charlotte relied on me for all of her nourishment, since she refused a bottle. I literally never got a break. There were definitely moments where I was happy, but the days I didn’t scream and sob were few and far between.
I felt like a terrible person. A terrible mother. Why couldn’t I keep it together? Charlotte was such a sweet baby. She didn’t deserve this. She deserved a mother who always treated her with loving care. Ellie didn’t deserve this either. Yes, she was challenging, but she was behaving like a typical toddler. There were so many days where all three of us were crying at the same time.
I felt so alone. Even though I had an incredible community of local moms online, I felt isolated in my house. I hadn’t figured out the whole going out with two kids thing yet. My parents, though they live in the area, were incredibly busy and so weren’t able to just hang out and give me help. Jesse’s job gives him three days off each week, but the days he worked were so long.
I knew I needed help. But I didn’t want to admit that I couldn’t do this. I didn’t want to admit that I was as weak as I felt. Admitting to needing help felt like failing. It felt like admitting to being a terrible individual. It felt like admitting defeat. But my girls deserved better. My spouse deserved better. I deserved better.
I went to see the OBGYN who was my back up doctor during my pregnancy. I had only seen her once before. After chatting about my situation, she prescribed a low dose of Zoloft to take for 6 months, and then we’d reevaluate.
The difference it made was astounding. Within just a couple of weeks, I was already feeling better. I was not 100% better, but I was able to handle days with the kids. I wasn’t screaming as often. For five months, I felt pretty good.
Then it got worse again. It almost felt like I hadn’t ever started on the meds. My period had come back at 6 months postpartum, and the weeks I was on my period were terrible. I had switched my care to my primary care physician, and she recommended that we increase my dosage to 100 mg. So we did. And I got better. A lot better.
I’ll talk more in my next post about what happened after I increased my dosage a second time. But I want to leave you all with this:
If you’re struggling, get help. You deserve it. You deserve a life that isn’t ruled by chemical imbalances in your brain. You can get better. And remember that you’re not alone. I have been there. So many others have been there. Maybe as we all share our stories, we’ll all feel a little less alone. You are important. You are loved. Get the help you need.
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