MY JOURNEY INTO POST PARTUM DEPRESSION & 3 PRACTICAL STEPS I'M TAKING ON MY WAY OUT
*Disclaimer: Everyone's journey is different. This post is simply my reflections on my own experience. If you or a loved one are experiencing or suspect you might be experiencing Post-Partum Depression, please seek professional assistance.
It all started with one small lie: You don't matter anymore.
On the surface, it seems easy enough to discount, or even combat, that lie. But it was ingrained in me so many different ways throughout my pregnancy and those first few months of Evie's life that it became something that felt true, and appeared to be true, and it rooted itself deep in my identity. That lie is how it all started.
Before getting pregnant, I was such a strong, confident woman. I cultivated healthy relationships, made time for self care, and knew who I was in Christ and how that called me to relate to those around me. I walked into pregnancy and towards motherhood feeling scared, but assured.
For those of you who've been following me for a few years, you know that my pregnancy wasn't easy. The first time that little lie was whispered into my ear happened when I began to lose weight, hair, and skin pigmentation during my first trimester. I went to my OB, worried and looking for help. They checked the baby. She was fine, so away I went. The baby was fine - I wasn't - but that didn't matter. As long as the baby was fine, how I was didn't matter.
Over the next several months, as I went through a minor stroke, bed rest, early labor, and more, the general process stayed the same: listen to Ashley, check on the baby, and do whatever we have to to Ashley so that the baby is okay. Even when it made things worse for me - if it made it better for the baby, that's what we did. Because I didn't matter anymore (see how easy it is for that lie to creep in?).
It was this sick, scared, confused, hormonal, and exhausted woman who watched her husband hold their little girl for the first time on April 8th, 2017. Yes, G held Evie first when she was born. I had been on oxygen for the last hour before Evie arrived, and didn't have anything more to give. And, as I was laying there, having my four (yep, four) third-degree tears stitched, I got to hear the nurses whisper judgements about me not holding my baby right away - judgements for me taking this time to lie still, and breathe on my own, and get stitched up - because the baby was what mattered, not me.
Throughout the following weeks, Evie was the one who had weigh-ins, doctor appointments, etc. I was seen once, when one of my stitches tore and I threw a big enough fit to be seen. But nothing was done, besides a general "yep, that's just part of recovery sometimes". And, six weeks later, a "yeah, looks like everything healed as well as it is going to" was all I got before I was sent on my way.
I spent months feeling alone, lost, and bewildered. It got so bad that I decided Evie and G, while they'd be sad, would be better off without me once they got over it. Because, let's be honest - I Didn't Matter.
Fortunately, as those of you who've heard my story before know, I broke down and asked G for help. He took time off, I got better at coping, and we continued on. But that lie was still there, and it was perpetuated by people I thought would be there to support me almost always having other things to do ( I didn't matter enough for them to find ways to be there), through rejections in my career (of course they're working with someone else - I don't matter enough to make a real impact), and through a million small things every day that the Devil used to pick at that lie and eat into my soul.
Did you notice I said I learned how to cope? Because that's what I did. I didn't heal. I didn't address it. I just learned to ignore it - most of the time.
The turning point came when I went to see a new OB-GYN, who told me it wasn't okay that I hadn't been taken care of differently. She opened my eyes to physical therapy (which has been amazing) and encouraged me to see a therapist for my as yet untreated PPD.
Which brings me to where I am today - much improved physically, and just beginning my journey to heal emotionally. While I want to be able to say to you "I'm better! And here are three ways you can be too", that just isn't honest - it isn't true. I'm not better. I feel so ... ashamed... to admit this to you, but I do it in the hopes that my honesty and vulnerability can help someone else. You don't have to be perfect, or ready, or in the right place to move forward. You just have to decide you want to, and start walking forward.
And know you'll probably slide backwards in a thousand ways. I feel like I do so often. That's okay. What matters is you walk forward again. And again. And again.
I want to close by sharing with you three things I'm doing as I begin my journey out of PPD - again, in the hopes that this encourages someone.
1) Find a Therapist
As many of you know, I waited to begin working with someone until we were in Pasadena & I had consistent care for Evie so I could really invest and begin this process. We're in Pasadena, and I have consistent care for Evie. So it's finally time, and I'm so ready.
2) Daily Devotions & A Weekly Mantra
So much of my struggle is because I let that lie steal who I am in Christ away from me. The truth is that I matter to Him, and He speaks over me so many truths that call out to the beauty, worth, and precious person I am. So, I committed to daily devotions a few months ago, which have helped quite a bit, and have decided to also find and hold onto a different truth about who I am in Christ each week. If I don't replace that lie with something, a different lie will come fill that space. So, I'm choosing to replace it with truth every time it tries to creep up and pull me back down.
3) List. Renounce. Reclaim.
This one takes some explaining: One of the biggest things that single lie has done is send out tendrils into other areas - spinoff lies, if you will - and I've been living in so much fear I feel paralyzed. So I started making lists. Listing the lies. Listing the fears. Listing the things I don't want to be. And then I list, right next to that, the truth, the attitude, and the actions that are the opposite of those - the things the woman I want to be would think or do. Because one thing G tells me all the time is that I have a choice. And I do. I can choose to be the opposite of the things I fear, the lies I believed. I can choose.
It's not easy. I have to choose over and over again. Daily. Sometimes every minute. But I can choose.
If you stuck with me through all of that., thank you. And I hope that this met you where you are, and gave you encouragement and hope. God bless you.