I’ve written about my recent health journey here. But there was a whole other aspect to wellness that I wasn’t prepared for.
It’s something we joke about, or discuss only with those closest to us, but the mental health of mothers is in a precarious state. Most of us are ashamed or too busy to deal with it, so we just trudge along in life, hoping we can keep that dark aspect of ourselves well-hidden.
That was me. I was crippled by postpartum anxiety which manifested itself as rage and dealt with suicidal ideations throughout my pregnancies due to antepartum depression. Did I speak with a professional about it? Nope. Because what kind of mother wants to just die every day? I didn’t want to hurt myself or my baby, but I just wanted to not live any longer. My husband didn’t know. I didn’t want ANYONE to know because I was so ashamed. So after years of this crappy cycle of depression in pregnancy and then PPA, I thought I mastered the art of hiding my darkness.
We moved during the dark years. Our children started school, and I had to meet new people and try to make new friends for my children’s sakes. It was rough. My PPA had me feeling cripplingly shy and reserved. I had ZERO confidence in myself and basically saw myself attempting to either shrink into the walls or become hyper-attentive to the children at school events, just so I wouldn’t have to interact with adults. It was like I had forgotten how to be an adult.
Six months after having my youngest, I began seeing a high school friend as my new general practitioner. During my evaluation, she immediately flagged the anxiety I was experiencing and I began taking medication to help cope. It made such a positive difference for me. I’ve made some friends through my kids, and met the amazing LAFMB team, and slowly the ice started to melt. I finally came to a place where my medication was no longer needed, which was both freeing and terrifying. Then I buckled down and really took care of my health, and in doing so, many of my mental health issues came to light. In conversations with my health coach, we discussed many of my mental hangups and what I felt were road blocks to my success. She gave me a place to feel incredibly supported, and I really quieted down all other aspects of my life to truly focus on myself. Mama came first, and everyone was just going to have to be on board with it.
One day, in line to pick up my two youngest kiddos, one of the other moms stopped to tell me how great I looked. I responded with “Oh thanks! It’s been a lot of hard work.” She whipped her head around and looked me in the eye and said “Oh I’m not even talking about that. Your body looks great, but you seem lighter. It’s your hair and your smile too. Everything about you is glowing.” It took EVERY OUNCE of my self control to not start crying right then and there.
I was glowing because I was happy. I was happy with myself. I was happy with my children. I was happy in my marriage. I was TAKING CARE OF MYSELF!
For the mama’s in the back:
WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR TAKING CARE OF OUR OWN DAMN SELVES!
No one else is has as vested an interest in you as you do. YOU must make yourself a priority. For yourself, first. For your husband, second. For your children, third.
I could not remember the last time I felt content with life and myself. I was in the darkness for so long, I assumed that it was the light. I also thought that I had hidden my darkness so cleverly from everyone that I fooled everyone around me fooled into thinking that was who I really was. It wasn’t until I found my way back into health and happiness that I realized of course others could see the darkness that was there. Because now they could see the real me.
Mamas, seek help. Talk to a friend. Talk to a professional. Take the medication. Do the counseling. Figure out how you need to be cared for and make it happen.
Because if Mama ain’t happy,
ain’t nobody happy nobody will notice because she does such a great job of hiding it.