Can you keep the cup from tipping
Can you keep your grip from slipping in despair,
For just another day
Those are lyrics from the song “Just Another Day” from the musical Next To Normal. If you know me at all, you know that I basically form my life around lessons I’ve learned from musicals. It’s super healthy.
When my last baby turned three, I realized that the jig was up on my postpartum depression. I couldn’t blame my state of being on my children anymore and I had to accept the facts. I have depression, anxiety, and a touch of OCD. You know who told me this? A DOCTOR. Because these are legit illnesses that require medical attention and I’m here to tell you that it is OKAY.
It has taken me years to manage my depression and anxiety. In hindsight I’d say that it’s actually taken my whole life. I didn’t know I had these illnesses when I was younger mostly because nobody ever talked about it. We all just hid our feelings under our WASPy exterior and carried on. When I lost my second baby, I lost my damn mind. I had a psychotic break and I’ve never been the same. A lot of doctors will tell you that depression is a little bit like a hibernating bear that hides in your brain until something wakes it up. That still birth was the wake up call for my ugly beast and I’ve had to cope for the last 9 years.
First I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and quickly put on medication to get me through the desire to throw my babies out the window (real talk, people). But as my kids grew and as I grew, I realized that there was something more to it all. I figured that if I lost weight I’d feel better. Nope. I thought that if I took on 900 projects that it would fix it. Nope. I would envy my friends who seemed to have it all together. I played the part, sure. I kept up the facade that I had my sh** together but under the surface I was drowning. I felt like a potato bug flipped on its back desperately trying to right itself. And once I did (very rarely) all I wanted to do was cry.
The combination of depression and anxiety is such an evil thing. For me, I have this overwhelming desire to do all the things but the crippling weight of knowing that I’ll fail or that I will lose interest. They go hand in hand to make you feel like you are the most incapable person and a sorry excuse for a human. Forget being a good mother, you don’t feel like you’re worthy of anything let alone the love of your kids. There were (and still are) days when I would wake up and go through the motions with a fake smile on my face all the while aching for the night to come so I could just hide under my covers from the seemingly perfect world outside my door. It’s the constant feeling that you are doing everything you can to have a normal life but you just can’t. You just can’t get it right. Everyone else can, but you can’t. It is infuriating to say the very least. You feel like you’re falling without the safety of a net.
I suffered. Every day.
Now I exist. I exist with my illnesses and they are managed by a doctor and medication. It’s a much better world for me now but I want more. Of course. The OCD in me wants to not just exist with this, but survive and thrive and the only way I know how to do that is to talk about it and help eradicate the stigma that surrounds mental illness. We’ve come a long way in accepting mental illness as a legitimate disease but we still have so far to go.
I have always been a very open person. Sometimes I scare people with how much I am willing to share about my life but truth be told, it has only helped so far. I once read an article about postpartum depression that made me realize that OH HEY I AM NOT THE ONLY ONE! That inspired me to write this. And then I read the beautiful words of my friend Patti and became inspired to write even more on the subject.
Now that I’m OK with the fact that I no longer have postpartum depression and have been officially diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and OCD, I’m ready to share a few things with you about how to deal with it if you feel like you might be feeling the same way.
- Know that it’s ok. It is 100% OK to feel like something isn’t right. No one says you have to be perfect all the time. Well, actually the media says you have to be perfect all the time but that’s not real life so ignore it and listen you yourself. You’re smart and your brain will tell you when it needs help. Don’t shut it out. Don’t hide from it.
- Find someone to talk to. For me it was a doctor. For you it might be a friend, a parent, the friendly cashier at Trader Joe’s. It doesn’t matter who it is, if that person is willing to listen and tell you it’s OK to feel this way, then go nuts. Spill your guts and smile and listen as they tell you that they too have felt the same way. You’d be shocked how many people just want someone to talk to about it.
- Get serious about it. Once you’ve bared your soul to the Trader Joe’s cashier, find someone who is professionally capable of helping you. If you choose the medication route, know that it will take time to get your dosages right and to feel normal again. But you will feel normal again. Better living through chemistry.
- Do what makes you happy. When you have depression, you are constantly trying to find the happy things in your life so you can feel something again. Once you accept your illness, you’ll be able to pinpoint the little things that make you happy. Once you find them, do them with abandon. If you discover that you like to workout, go for it. If you learn that crafting makes you happy, then hurry up and make me a felt board and letters please and thank you. Just do what makes you happy and screw everyone else.
- Repair your soul. This is the most important one to me. I had a lot of broken to fix and I encourage you to do the same. Hard truth: I used to cut. I used to binge eat. I was once very suicidal. I used to do awful things to my body so I could basically punish myself for feeling the way I felt. I discovered yoga and meditation and learned that I was worth so much more than my scars and stretch marks. Find what feeds your soul and forces you to take time for yourself and you’ll be amazed how healing it can be.
- Thrive. I’m working on that one. Right now I just like to say that I exist with depression and anxiety. I used to suffer from it but I don’t like that term anymore. Right now, I exist but soon I’m going to thrive. Just like a chronic physical illness is with someone for a lifetime, a chronic mental illness is no different. People thrive with chronic physical illnesses all the time so there is no reason that I/you can’t thrive the same way.
So, that’s that. Thank you for taking some time to read my rambling thoughts and if you take anything from this, please let it be that you’re going to be fine and that other people out there are going through the same things. Talk about it. TALK ABOUT IT. Take the stigma away and open up. You never know who you might help.
P.S. If you want to talk about things, email me. My contact info is on the menu bar of the site.