The first time I started antidepressants, I remember straightening up my daughters’ drawers while putting laundry away and noticing my middle daughter didn’t have any pajamas that fit her. It’s embarrassing to even admit, but I had been living in a fog of depression and now that the fog was lifting I was painfully aware of the things I had missed during those few hard months. My children were fed and loved, but I hadn’t been keeping up with some basic things because I was barely surviving the day to day. That time around, I felt pretty great within two weeks of starting my medication and within 6 months, I was back to my old self and able to wean off my medication for awhile.
This time around, after I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety six months after my son’s birth and placed on a high dose of an anti-depressants, it wasn’t the same. Sure, there was a moment when I realized I wasn’t living under the suffocating weight of depression and anxiety anymore, but at the moment I also knew I wasn’t better. I still had a long way to go.
This time around, there hasn’t been an easy fix to dealing with my postpartum mental health. Everything has been a little more complicated.
Honestly, when the fog lifted for me, after I had been on medication for two or three weeks, I realized it wasn’t my children I had failed to care for well, it was my own well being that had been pushed to the side. Getting back on track wasn’t simple. Before, my kids just needed some new clothes and shoes, some one-on-one time with mom and we needed to break a habit of eating convenient junk food for breakfast everyday. This time around, I was starting from square one, learning what it meant to take care of myself when I have three kids who need me, too.
The last few months have been difficult, but rewarding. When I realized I hadn’t been caring for my body or my soul, I had to return to old habits of eating well and moving my body but I also had to start some new, more consuming self-care habits. Some were as simple as putting an end to falling into bed without washing my face and brushing my teeth, others more intensive. I started therapy up again. I shared candidly with my husband, a friend and my mother how much I was struggling and what kind of help I needed from myself the most. I created distance in a few unhealthy relationships and I started writing in my journal on a daily basis
I guess what I’m trying to say is that sometimes, when you’re dealing with depression and anxiety you really do just need a push from a little medication to get back to your old self again. Sometimes, it’s a simple fix. Other times, it isn’t so straightforward. Sometimes, the only way to start feeling better again is to commit to radical self care, to attack the problem from all angles. Sometimes, it takes a long time to start feeling well again, a lot of trying something, learning it isn’t working and trying all over again.
That’s what my life has been life lately, since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression after the birth of my third child. I am taking medication and it is definitely helping, but it isn’t enough. Instead of helping me feel like myself again, medication has simply been the small push I need to do the hard work necessary for my own wellness. Without it, I never would have had the clarity of mind to see how much I had neglected myself. To realize I needed to be back in therapy, that I needed to walk in the evenings to clear my mind and that I need to be prioritizing sleep over housework every time.
Life after a postpartum depression diagnosis isn’t what a lot of people imagine. I think that some of my friends and family assume I am back at 100 percent, but that isn’t the case. I still find myself struggling in the afternoons or dealing with panic in the middle of the night. I still have a lot of work to do, to accept the changes having a third has brought to my life and to sort the new emotions his birth brought to the surface. But I haven’t given up, I’m doing the work, and that is what’s most important.