“You are one step closer to your best, most authentically aligned… a greatness life!”
A happy childhood should not be considered a problem, correct?
Countless children around the world would love to be able to say they had parents who love them. They would love to be able to say they live in a safe community. That they have the opportunity to attend school every day.
In my case, having been blessed with that circumstance, it wasn’t that hard to look at life as my oyster. That I was so lucky. I wasn’t surprised when I meet a great man who loved me.
But we all have those times in our lives that brings us to our knees. Even when you’ve had the best of circumstances.
For me, much to my shock, it was when I had my first child. A baby I wanted, loved before I even met him, and was healthy. So why was it when he was just six weeks old, I found myself standing over him as I gave him a bath, tears streaming down my face, wondering “what is wrong with me?”
Shock and Awe
I had postpartum depression. Quite unlike any other life circumstances, I didn’t find anything could properly prepare me for becoming a mother. Advice, classes, books, baby showers, and hopes and dreams didn’t prepare me for the life-altering shift. Didn’t prepare me for sleepless nights with a colicky baby. Didn’t prepare me to be ready to throw away my identity as a competent professional to, what I felt at the time, an incompetent adult with the biggest responsibility of my life: raising another human being.
While I was battling depression for the first time those 14 years ago, it was rarely spoken of.
When the baby wellness nurse came along and asked how I was doing and how my son was thriving, there was no discussion of mental health, even when he screamed our whole visit and I shared I hadn’t slept more than an hour at a time since was born.
I visited my doctor, articulating sadness, frustration and stress. My doctor, trying to be supportive, told me that this is to be expected and of course I would experience tiredness and stress; that I’m a new mom.
I went to the baby groups. They looked so happy, their babies didn’t cry all class long. Clearly they knew what to do. I was just incompetent.
For nine months it felt like there was a wall between me and my baby. Me and my husband. Me and the world. It stood between me and sleep, denying my rest even when my child started to sleep. He stood between me and my memories, colouring them grey and bleak. It almost stood between me and having that second child my husband and I had always wanted.
Mental health. It can’t be excused, hoped or explained away. Mental health and recovery are possible, but first, someone has to believe. To listen. To hear the sadness and say, “you’re not broken, you’re unwell right now, and there are options.”.
The fact is we’re not always happy, thriving and successful. But in our society, we don’t like to talk about that. Yet, for many of us (one in four), it’s a pressing reality we have to face and deal with.
My hope in this article is to just take one further step out of the shadows of stigma, to help us remember that even the most successful, passionate, driven, and motivated among us are not immune to mental health challenges. Sure, it may just be a bad day or bad week, but perhaps it’s something more. If it is, are you ready to seek support and notice things are off so you can jump on the road to recovery? Or are you going to press it down, deny, put on a brave face, or reel against those who say, “you’re not yourself these days.” If you see someone struggling, are you there to help rather than reinforce the stigma that mental illness must be denied?
My experience with postpartum depression has taught me the importance of having a solid foundation in my relationship with the family. My husband and I were married for five years before we had kids but I don’t simply mean the length of time we were together. Surviving postpartum depression together makes you realize that there is virtually nothing you can’t get through. When I look at my son, now turning a teenager and wonderful human being, I know it was all worth it. But I can see that now because I got help once my depression was finally diagnosed.
To be able to say….
“You are one step closer to your best, most authentically aligned…a greatness life!”
Now, I feel fortunate to be able to focus on magnifying greatness, and it’s only because of battling through depression that I have that perspective. Compassion, understanding, purpose, gratitude…these are all unexpected gifts from having struggled with (actually two bouts of) postpartum depression. It’s not a lesson or learning modality I would have chosen at the time, however, it’s brought me to where I am and how I serve the world now. Every struggle has its purpose. And from a fortunate start in life, my struggle was necessary to round out my understanding of life and people.
“Self-compassion my friends. It’s your gateway to greatness.”