There is a large misconception that being diagnosed with PPD and beginning treatment – whether that be with prescription medication, exercise, therapy, or, whatever your personal plan may be – means that you’re good or that it’s something that you’ll be able to talk about in past tense.
Sadly, that just isn’t the case.
While I was diagnosed fairly early on – eight weeks postpartum – here I am eighteen months later and PPD is just as much a part of my daily life now as it was then, just to a different degree. It’s full of reflection and awareness, and involves preventative management of my symptoms.
Just like with any traumatic experience or illness, there were different stages of recovery for me. There was the initial stage of sadness, which I would classify as the actual depression. Personally, this was the easier stage to move past once I had a plan of treatment and medication plan in place. Being aware of my condition allowed me to look at it from the outside versus being caught within its symptoms.
It was the later stages of recovery that took longer to accept and move forward from, some of which I am still working through.
After I became aware and conscious of my diagnosis, I experienced a period of extreme disappointment. When you’re pregnant and anxiously awaiting motherhood, you paint a vivid picture in your head of the type of mother you’re going to be, the amount of joy that you’ll feel, and the love that will be so deep it will give you the glow that so many new mothers have.
Because of postpartum depression, all of the things I imagined feeling, and the type of a mother I had planned on being, were devastatingly robbed from me. This led to a level of resentment that I had never before experienced. I’ve never been the person who compares their life or experiences to another’s; however, it’s all I could think about.
Why was I robbed of this period of joy and happiness? Every mother I came across had that beautiful glow, while all I had to show for motherhood was horrible acne, dark circles under my eyes, and bald patches in my once thick and shiny hair. Why were they nauseatingly and obnoxiously happy, yet I could barely find the motivation to get out of bed or off of the couch or even hold my daughter? Why them and not me? Why did Marlo have to have me as her mom when she deserved one of them?
I also found myself becoming increasingly angry that I was robbed of Marlo’s infancy, a time that I can barely remember even if I try my hardest. It’s a cruel realization that I’ll never have that time back with her either. I have to catch myself from not holding it against my friends who would tell me how much they loved motherhood when my dark secret was that it was absolutely eating me alive.
The symptom that has been the most stubborn is the guilt. Guilt is such a powerful anecdote to joy. I’ll occasionally wonder if my husband and daughter would be better off or happier with a mother or a wife who was more stable or who didn’t have the type of bad days that I still have.
I’ll ask myself “What am I actually contributing to my family and to their happiness? Or am I taking away from it?” Depending on the day, my answer can be either heartbreaking or reassuring. It is during the moments of self-reflection and understandable doubt that I make myself accept my family’s situation.
The fact of the matter is that whether or not I have postpartum depression, I am still Marlo’s mother and Joe’s wife. I am still a writer with a voice. I still have a very big purpose. Maybe motherhood didn’t look or feel as I hoped it would; but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I know that not only am I learning how strong I am, but I’m also teaching my daughter that you can bounce back from anything if you have the right tools.
Those tools- my husband, my therapist, my family, my medication program, and even my own will- are what keep me managing my expectations and keep me going in the direction of emotional and mental wellness. Those tools are the things that remind me that I am exactly the mother that I should be, which isn’t a perfect one with the beautiful glow or the by-the-book experience, rather, I’m the mother who tries her best to be her best for herself and for her family.