Looking back now, I almost see my first few years as a Mum a blur. It’s hard for me to remember a lot of things. I remember feeling almost numb. I was definitely in survival mode.
When you are in it though, it’s not so easy to see. While its perfectly normal to have overwhelm, exhaustion and many emotions when transitioning into motherhood I got to a point about 6 months after my daughter when I realized what I was experiencing was much more than “normal” and the moment I realized this I remember being paralyzed in fear.
It was all so unclear I didn’t understand what was happening to me or when I was going to feel normal again.
I remember thinking to myself, I will never be the same after this. That was terrifying.
Before becoming a mother – I was a confident career focused woman who landed an amazing salary dream job weeks out of college. I loved traveling, seeing my friends and cleaning and organizing my space. Yes, you heard right. I LOVE cleaning.
Looking around at the disaster of a home that had become my world, I felt anything but confident or clean. Having moved to a new city 6 hours from my friends and family – I also had no career, social or travel plans in sight. At 25 and now a Mum of two, I felt like I had lost myself.
Mostly I felt alone.
Then I felt guilt. Who was I to complain? I was blessed with a roof over my head – 2 beautiful babies and a husband who supported my dream to start a new business.
It was the guilt and the idea that I was just “ungrateful” that stopped me from asking for help early on.
More months past and I got to a point in my depression that I started having panic attacks. I couldn’t go to the grocery store without heart palpitations and remember leaving my basket in line and running out of the store. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that the idea of standing in line for something meant in my brain and body that I was trapped. I couldn’t bring myself to do it anymore, infact I stopped leaving the house. Who was this crazy person I had become?
I felt worthless, and ended up sending my daughter to daycare at only 10 months old because I figured she was better with someone else. Even writing this I am getting emotional. I have so much guilt when I think of all the moments I missed with my baby as I was laying in bed at home and while she was crying at daycare wanting her mum. Or at least that’s the image I kept playing in my head. I blamed myself for being too afraid to ask for help and realized that I was in the deep end and figured that now I was too far gone to come back up.
My doctor had no recommendations for me other than medication, which out of personal choice I did not want to experiment with. I figured there had to be another way. An anxiety center that I found on a desperate internet search gave me breathing exercises and some workbooks. Problem was that when I read them they made me panic even more because in my mind reading them was me admitting I was sick.
The breathing exercises didn’t stop me from having attacks, so I figured they were useless.
My husband didn’t understand what I meant when I would tell him in the morning I couldn’t physically get out of bed, or that my body hurt, or that I couldn’t breath or sleep.
He told me to get over it, that other women had it much worse.
I never felt so alone and worthless, and all I desperately wanted was to be happy for my babies. To be a successful business owner, because I needed something for myself outside of motherhood that allowed me to be creative.
I missed my parents and friends terribly. Not that I figured any of my friends would recognize or relate to me anymore, but I still missed them.
Ouf. This is hard to write. If you recognize yourself in any of the above please read on.
Then, I started to get mad. Like, REALLY MAD. Mad that I had to work so hard to get “help”. Mad that nothing was working to make me feel better. Mad that my husband didn’t understand my suffering. Mad because I was sick of this illness controlling and numbing me.
So one morning I took a step.
Well actually a kick and a punch.
I found myself about 6 months after my first panic attack, sitting in a parking lot in font of a “30 minute HIT” center. A kickboxing circuit for women. Though walking helped, I knew my pent up anger and grief needed to come out somehow. Punching something sounded really good at this point. I struck up the courage to go in – and even though my anxiety was raging from the second I opened the door, I promised myself I would push myself to get through it. I figured if I passed out on the circuit – I would be in good hands.
I hit those bags like my life depended on it, and even though I thought it would kill me, I pushed through my panic attacks and got through the circuit. Then I sobbed in the car on the way home. Not out of sadness but because I was so fucking proud of myself. I had finally won a battle after feeling like I had lost so many.
I had stood up for myself. That the old confident me had surfaced. Even if it was just a glimmer of it.
So I kept going back. I had good days and bad days but slowly the panic attacks subsided.
Slowly I started having the courage to share what was going on with me to my friends and family.
I met my best friend in Montreal named Vanessa and she inspired me to stay strong, because she had been through so much herself yet she always found the strength to keep going. She was REAL and I wasn’t afraid to show my darker side to her. She was the first friend I admitted having panic attacks to and not once did I feel judged by her. I also convinced her to come kick some bags with me, so it was amazing to have an accountability partner in that!
Next, out of pure intuition, knowing it was just the next thing to do I started organizing meetups with other Mum’s. I shared my experiences and what I was going through and quickly realized I was not alone. I felt so much relief in this. I started taking more pictures. I started going back to the grocery store. My husband finally understood, because I finally understood what had happened to me and was able to verbalize it.
Am I cured today? No. I still have waves of anxiety from time to time. I still feel guilty for not being present with my kids or lashing out at my husband because he “just doesn’t get it”. I still have to exercise and have an essential daily self care routine to ensure I can show up for my business friends and family.
Do I miss still miss the “old me” before becoming a mother? No.
As crazy as it is to say I am grateful for my first years of motherhood postpartum depression and all. It taught me to not take life for granted, to fight for what is important to me. To enjoy the little things, even things like going to the grocery store! To LOVE my babies more than I could have ever imagined, to love myself, to have compassion for myself and to recognize how strong I am. How strong WOMEN are.
Oh and have I mentioned Jagger? He’s my therapy dog. He changed my life!
Thank you for listening to my story. As hard as this was to write – I hope it helps anyone to know they are not alone and there is light on the other side and that we are stronger more resilient and braver than we know.
For more amazing resources related to anxiety and postpartum depression check out : https://postpartumprogress.com/
or REACH OUT O ME! I’d love to chat. firstname.lastname@example.org