“A semicolon represents a sentence the author could have ended, but chose not to. The sentence is your life and the author is you.” – Project Semicolon
This is the story about my semicolon. It is not an easy one to tell, nor was it an easy one to get help for. I am still struggling to find the words and feelings that I have experienced for the past 8 months, but I am going to do my best to tell you my whole story, regardless of how difficult it is for me to express this. I am hoping that by sharing my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety, other women will find the help that they need and know that they are not alone.
I have postpartum depression. Or maybe I should say, I had postpartum depression. I feel like I can confidently use the past tense now because I finally got the help I needed after many, many months of struggling. However, I can also now confidently tell you that this was not my first experience with depression. Many of the feelings I have felt in the past 8 months are similar to the ones I experienced in high school and college. Thankfully, these experiences were situational and once the difficult time was over, the depression and anxiety were not nearly as difficult to manage.
I think I knew almost immediately that things were just not right after Miles was born. While I was absolutely in love with my new baby, I was struggling with every other aspect of being the mom of two children. MacKenna was no longer the sweet little girl I had been so in love with before. I didn’t want to spend time with her like I used to and every little thing she did bothered me. I was moody and impatient, and when things got overwhelming (crying, whining, etc.), I would blow up at her – something that I had never done before ever.
I had very similar feelings toward Matt. Every little thing that he did annoyed me, and I would be so overwhelmed and exhausted by the time that he got home, that I just needed to get out of the house. I felt like my life had been turned upside down, while he was just happily spending his day away from the kids, enjoying all this time by himself. I was jealous and bitter, and I’m sure you can understand how our relationship would struggle because of that.
Many of these feelings were very similar to how I felt right after I had MacKenna, so I told myself to give it 6 weeks. Well, 6 weeks came and went and the same feelings were still there. Then I told myself that maybe it would be better when I went back to work. While things did improve, I still was impatient and angry most of the time. MacKenna was on my last nerve constantly and, well, so was Matt. If Miles started screaming, you could find me in the closet crying because I just couldn’t handle it.
Once the summer hit, things continued to get worse. Most of the time, I was able to handle it because Matt was home with me. But, on several occasions when Matt was gone leaving me with the kids by myself (something I came to dread), I would break down and just cry. I felt overwhelmed. I felt like a terrible mother. I felt that I couldn’t take it anymore. I was to the point where I knew that if something didn’t change, I was going to reach my breaking point.
This is where it gets really hard for me. Thoughts of suicide and running away started to flood my mind. I didn’t know how I could survive parenting anymore, how I could survive my life anymore and I just wanted out. While I didn’t necessarily want to die, I knew that I just didn’t want to be around anymore. But, I knew deep down that I loved my kids and my husband, and I knew that if I left, I would never get them back.
I went through most of the summer hiding all of these feelings to everyone. Faking happiness and continuing to try to just deal when things got overwhelming. I felt that all I needed was a break. A break from the kids and some time for myself. Our trip to Chicago seemed like that perfect getaway. And while it was an incredible weekend with Matt, once we were back with the kids, the overwhelming feelings came back. Feelings that I just couldn’t handle motherhood anymore.
One afternoon while we were vacationing in Branson, I reached the point where I knew something was wrong with me and that I absolutely had to do something. I was sitting in bed with a baby who just wanted to be held and I was sobbing. I was praying for God to help me, to take me away from everything because I just couldn’t handle it anymore. I was starting to lose sleep, scared that I was going to hurt myself or someone else while I was sleeping.
That’s when I began researching. Thankfully, Postpartum Progress was brought to my attention. I began looking at the symptoms and finally realized that I needed to get help. I was terrified. I was terrified that I would tell someone my feelings and they would either put me in the hospital or that they would tell me that it’s just not that bad. After seeing someone I love go through a similar experience just a few months before then, I knew that I didn’t want to end up like that, but that I also didn’t feel like my situation was as bad as that. I was lost. Confused. And terrified.
I was finally to the point where I knew I needed to tell someone. I was tempted to call a counselor but again, I didn’t want to be laughed at. I went to my OBGYN for a checkup and had to fill out a questionnaire. There were the words: “depression” and “thoughts of suicide.” I felt a tightness in my chest as I circled them and then waited for my doctor to bring them up. But, she didn’t. I was relieved but also knew that I was at a dead end.
Ten minutes later, my phone rang. My doctor wanted to talk about some of the things I circled. At the time, I was in the car with Matt and the kids on the way to the zoo, and I finally broke down and told Matt how I was feeling. I knew I loved this man for a reason because he did not judge me one bit. He held my hand and told me that he couldn’t do this without me. That he needed me and he wanted me to get help (heck, he was tired of having to walk on egg shells around me all the time).
The next day, I went in to the doctor and told her everything. How overwhelmed I was feeling. How I just wanted a way out. She hugged me and told me that I wasn’t alone. That so many other moms feel the exact same way. And that yes, I needed help.
It’s been 1 month since that doctor’s visit. While I am now taking antidepressants to treat my postpartum depression, I can honestly say that this is the happiest I have felt in a very long time. I feel like myself again. I feel like I can be a good mother to my children again. I want to spend time with my family again. I don’t feel rage and anger over tiny little things anymore. I am finally the person I always knew that I was. And you know what? I’ve seen MacKenna begin to act differently too because she is around someone who is relaxed and is enjoying spending time with her. I’ve seen Matt’s attitude change and he can come home and talk to me without getting his head chewed off.
I am me again. I chose not to put a period. I chose to put a semicolon and continue my sentence. Because I love my family, and thankfully I can love myself again.
This was taken one week after I began getting help for postpartum depression. It was the happiest I had been in a very long time.
(If you have not heard of Project Semicolon, I highly suggest you check it out, especially if you have experienced depression or suicidal thoughts before. Also, if you are a mom with similar feelings or wondering if what you are experiencing is normal, please checkout Postpartum Progress. I am thankful I found it when I did, because had I not, I would still be battling postpartum depression.)