I was always an anxious child. I was anxious about serious things, like potentially losing my parents, and I was anxious about silly things, like glitter (seriously! glitter!). I remember seeing a therapist starting when I was around 10 years old, because of my anxiety. Depression reared its ugly head during my adolescent years, and I remember coming home from school at 12 years old and contemplating cutting myself. Over the years I experienced severe depression that negatively affected my attendance in high school and college, anxiety that was so bad that I was afraid to get out of bed some mornings, In college, I was hospitalized for suicidal ideation and was kept on an inpatient unit for most of a week. Despite having extremely kind and supportive parents, and (later) an extremely kind and supportive husband, no amount of therapy or medication seemed to get me where I needed to be. Eventually, I did recover somewhat and was able to hold down a job and go to nursing school. Despite all of that, the hardest aspect of mental illness that I had to confront was Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I had been on antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications for years, and continued the antidepressants through my pregnancy, under the guidance of a highly-skilled, well trained, psychiatrist. My husband and I had been together for almost 6 years. We both really wanted the pregnancy and baby. Prior to meeting my husband, I had dreamed for years about becoming a mother. I had thought that I would do almost anything to become a mother, because this is what I so desperately needed to do with my life. My pregnancy was ideal – healthy mother, healthy fetus, very little vomiting, and almost no breakthrough mental illness symptoms. The day my daughter was born was physically difficult, but it was otherwise amazing. I was finally a mother to this amazing, perfect, little girl. She was everything I ever dreamed of, and more. The next day, I cried. A lot. The following day, I cried and slept, a lot. The days following that, I cried a lot more. I loved that baby so much, but her presence was ruining my life (or so I thought). I literally hid under my blankets when my husband brought the baby to me to feed her. My anxious, depressed, mind thought that hiding under the covers was a reasonable course of action. I considered bringing my baby to my mother so my mother could raise her – that way I could have my life back. What life? I don’t know. What did I want back? I don’t know. Depression and anxiety had thoroughly distorted my reality. Fortunately, I was under the care of my psychiatrist, and an amazing therapist. Although the baby was never in jeopardy, and my life was not in danger, the dissonance between my drive to become a mother, and my experience during my first weeks postpartum was astounding. I followed up closely and frequently with both my psychiatrist and my therapist, and with lots of medication, and time, I did get better. I was eventually able to become the mother I had always dreamed of being, and the Postpartum Depression and Anxiety resolved. The “regular” Depression and Anxiety persist, though. Despite still being medicated, and still working closely with my psychiatrist and therapist, bad days (and weeks) are inevitable. Parenting is hard, even under the best circumstances, but with your own brain fighting against you, it can be unbearable. Some days are a struggle, but support systems are in place, and being here for my daughter makes every day worth living.
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