Once I got pregnant with my daughter, I had to wean off the medication. My medication wasn't deemed safe for pregnancy or breastfeeding. As scary as that was, I found my life perfectly livable without it. I did my research on postpartum depression and prepared myself for the worst. I knew that the odds were that I would suffer from it. I knew what it was like to be in those pits of despair. I also did my best to prepare my husband for what was to come.
After having my daughter, the 'baby blues' hit me hard. With all those hormones shedding, I knew it was perfectly normal to be rather emotional. I also suffered from severe Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflex (D-MER) which caused me to break down into tears, sobbing every single time I breastfed. But those things passed. The baby blues faded. Once I learned about D-MER, the tears gave way to just anxiety. And I thought I was okay.
After my daughter was born, I never once felt the urge to end my life, like I did so many times before. I had this beautiful, wonderful, adorable tiny human that needed me. I could never leave her. I had the will to live. The will to get through all of the hard times- the sleep deprivation, the witching hours, the teething, the sickness, my anxiety. I soldiered on, willingly, because I had to. I wanted to. Because I wanted to always be there for my baby girl. And I thought I was okay.
I sacrificed all of myself and poured every ounce of strength I had into being the best mother I could be. She was my reason for everything. I didn't realize just how much of myself I had given up. All of my former hobbies and pastimes faded to the background as I was consumed by giving my daughter everything she needed and more. I didn't see myself fading away with them. Every single day, I got up and cared for my daughter. And I thought I was okay.
My marriage hit a rough patch. And not just a little rough, but rough like an earthquake that brings buildings crumbling down. I gave every single part of myself to care for my family. Why couldn't my husband do the same? I sacrificed everything I used to enjoy to spend every waking moment caring for my daughter. Why couldn't my husband do the same? There was yelling and screaming and more ugly moments than I'd like to relive. I thought my marriage was over. I was ready to leave. But I had my daughter. She's all I needed in my life. And I thought I was okay.
Eventually, my husband and I started to try to patch up and rebuild our crumbling marriage. It's something we're still in the middle of working on. And then one day, for the first time since my daughter was born, I had a feeling. A feeling of happiness. A feeling of joy. For the first time I started to look forward to the future. I started to look forward to what lies ahead. And in that moment, I realized something. Up to that point, I hadn't been living. I had been surviving. I never wanted to end my life, but I had let go of so many of the things I enjoyed about life. It was in that moment that I realized that I was not okay.
I learned that day that depression doesn't have to be life-threatening to be depression. I thought of all the things I had been holding myself back from because of my depression and I hadn't even realized it. These things could have benefited myself and my whole family. How does the saying go? "You can't pour from an empty cup." Well my cup was empty, but I was still squeezing every last drop out and I didn't even realize it. I didn't realize how differently depression would manifest itself after motherhood. But it is still depression and it needs to be recognized and treated as such.