I’ve been getting some version of this since my daughter was born in September: Motherhood seems to be treating you well! You seem great!
Huh, that’s interesting. Why is it that you think my life is perfect?
Ah, yes. My shiny social media veneer.
I’m sorry. Let me try again.
I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety when my baby was a month old. It was a very hard time. I cried, worried, and wandered around the house in my husband’s pajamas. I couldn’t sleep even when everyone else was sleeping. I didn’t feel bonded with my daughter and that terrified me. My husband and I bickered and started to drift apart.
I felt confused, disappointed, and sad about how I was feeling. I felt guilty: I had my sweet baby so I was supposed to be happy, right?
I didn’t share what I was going through. I was worried about what people would think or feel if I did.
My midwife and my psychiatrist agreed that I should take antidepressants. I resisted weeks. It broke my heart that I would need meds to be happy as a mom. I wanted to be OK on my own.
By December I was exhausted. I worried about how my mental health was affecting my daughter and my husband, so I filled the prescription.
Within hours of taking the first pill I felt dizzy and nauseous. I felt weird when I sat down to meditate or tried to sleep. My psychiatrist told me to stop taking the antidepressant. She looked at me curiously, wondering out loud what else I might have going on.
I left her office and pushed my baby down the street, a panic attack building in me. I reached for my phone and called my friend Aliyah who is a social worker and therapist. I told her everything. It was the first time I was fully open about what was going on.
She listened and she said: Oh wow, that sounds really hard. I’m sorry it’s so hard.
She listened and she said: Tell me about what works. What helps? What’s helped in the past?
Thank you. Yes. I know what helps. Therapy helps. Having quiet time helps. Art and nature and music and dancing help. Reconnecting with my faith helps.
In past crises I have reached for a journal. It helps me make sense of my new life, see patterns and trends. Yes. Writing helps a lot.
I remembered that two friends had recently sent me journals in the mail. I put them where I could see them. I started writing more.
The next week my friend Jake, a Jesuit novice, sent me an email. It was Advent and his community hoped to connect to Mary’s experience as a new mother. Could I write a short reflection for them?
I sat nursing my baby, and wrote about motherhood and my new life.
As I wrote, sifting through my experiences, I started to make sense of things. I saw the lessons learned. I watched as my inner wisdom spoke words onto the page.
Yet as I wrote, fear curtailed my honesty. I self-monitored, making sure not to give any hint of depression or anxiety that overwhelmed me. Those words I carefully deleted. No one wants to hear about that.
I polished my public image as I wrote. I strengthened the romanticized image we have of Mary, the ideas we have about new mothers. I participated in the silencing of many women and our stories.
It has been two and a half months since then. I have been doing lots of work: mental, emotional, physical, spiritual, metaphysical. I have been led to the source of my fears, the roots of my problems. I have been busy tugging up roots, blessing the ground, planting and watering seeds.
Today one of them blooms.
I begin again.
I choose not to be afraid anymore. I choose to be open and honest and real.
My friends invited me out of darkness and into light. They invited me to trust my intuition and be open. They helped me choose joy. Now I invite others to do the same.
May you be well and blessed today. May you find what you’re looking for!