This is the last installment of my postpartum depression story, although in the future I hope to write posts related to this experience. But this is it for the back story. Thank you for following along!
If you need to catch up:
Part 1: The Beginning
Part 2: The Crisis
Part 3: Hospitalization
It was the day after Easter, but it was cold and snow was falling. Despite that, I reveled in being outside for the first time in over a week. Our neighbors waved to us as we were walking up the front steps. It was so surreal. They had no idea where I'd been. For them it was just a normal day.
I'm tearing up, thinking of the moment when I saw the children again. I was so worried that CJ would have forgotten about me. He was so young, too young to understand what was happening or where I had gone. But he smiled and called me Mama and wrapped me up in a big hug. He gives wonderful hugs, just like Nemo.
It was strange to see Noni lying on her playmat and batting at toys. While I was away Nemo had switched her to a hypoallergenic formula as directed by the pediatrician, and it helped her colic a lot. She was 11 weeks old at the time, and I only remember a few other occasions prior to that where she was happy to be anywhere but in the sling. I had missed a whole week of her development and she could do all sorts of new things. I almost didn't recognize her, but even she still remembered me.
My mother was able to stay with us for about six weeks, and I thank God
for that every day. Besides having the extra help, there are times
in your life when you just really need your mom. This was definitely one
of those times.
The first few months after my release were hard work. Postpartum depression was a wall, a sheer face that was impossible to get over or go around. The medication was a rope--scaling the wall was still brutal, exhausting work, but the rope made it at least possible.
I had my family rallying around me, I was in therapy, I was finding an outlet in regular exercise, and the medication was doing its job. I could carry on conversations, laugh at jokes, and have hope for the future. I started sewing again. After few months I had returned to my pre-PPD self. I thought I was cured, and asked my psychiatrist to discontinue the meds.
He refused, and it's a good thing he did. As time wore on the medication continued to chip away at additional layers of anxiety and depression that I hadn't realized were there. It took a lot of personal reflection to realize that ever since I was a child I've organized my life around my worries, fears, and insecurities. I didn't have a name for it and I didn't know it was common. What I did know (or thought I knew) was I was strange and no one likes strange people, so I held the world at arm's length to avoid rejection.
The medication and therapy stripped all of that away, and there was someone beneath it all that I had never met. It was still me, but more confident, contented, and at peace than I had ever been.
My experience with postpartum depression and the resultant hospitalization was traumatic, but I don't regret it. Though harrowing, it gave me so much more than it took.
I gained a true understanding of what it means to suffer from mental illness, and I have a new-found compassion for those who are currently embattled.
I have embraced my introverted personality and I make the effort to give myself the time and space I need to in order to function. Being an introvert isn't a weakness, it doesn't make me an inferior person and it certainly doesn't make me a bad mother.
I have learned to ask for--and accept--help. Needing help does not make me a failure.
I am learning that I don't have to live up to others' expectations. I only have to do the best I can with what I have, and that will be a success.
I am--and always will be--a mother, and yet that is only one facet of who I am. I do not have to feel guilty for pursing my interests. Letting motherhood eclipse my personality is detrimental to everyone.
It's hard to know how to end this, because my recovery is ongoing. I still struggle, some days more than others. However, I survived the crisis and found a happiness that I had never known. I'm going to call that a win.
Thanks for reading, friends!
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