My Struggles with Depression + Anxiety
I’ve never been one to openly discuss my mental health with anyone outside of my family. It terrifies me, actually. Today is World Mental Health Day and it’s been weighing on my heart to share my struggles with depression and anxiety, both during and after my pregnancy.
I have struggled with depression in the past. When I was a sophomore in college I went through a really rough patch. I was having panic attacks in the middle of class and felt hopeless 24/7. I was prescribed Zoloft and ended up taking myself off of it after a couple of months because I felt like a zombie. After that situation, I decided to find ways to help me cope with my anxiety sans prescription meds. I started blogging, focused on friendships, tried to do things that I genuinely enjoyed and avoided situations that I knew would be anxiety-inducing. That worked for a while, honestly. But about four years ago, I felt like I was losing control again and it wasn’t until I met Chad (two years ago) that my anxieties started to fade back out. He was (and still is) my safe place and one of the only people who can bring me back down when I’m spinning out of control.
I’d heard of women struggling with PPD and PPA, but never fully grasped the concept until I experienced it myself.
I’m an overly emotional person to begin with and I knew that being pregnant would throw my hormones out of wack, but what I didn’t know and was completely unprepared for, was that it would cause my anxiety to increase tenfold.
About a month after I found out I was pregnant, I started having full-on emotional breakdowns out of nowhere. I brushed it off as hormones changing at first, but it just seemed to keep getting worse and worse. Chad was working night shift for a majority of my pregnancy and he would come home to check on me and find me curled up on the couch just crying. The worst part was that I couldn’t even give him an explanation as to what was wrong with me. I was just sad for what seemed like no apparent reason. I will say, though, that during that time I was feeling very alone and isolated- I felt like I was going through my pregnancy all by myself. My family was hundreds of miles away and the number of friends I had nearby (and still have, actually) was minimal. I think the hormone changes just amplified those feelings and are part of what caused me to gradually sink into a depression.
Chad made me bring it up at my next doctor appointment and they immediately put me on Wellbutrin. I quickly noticed a difference. I had less severe mood swings, I cried what I think to be a normal amount for a pregnant lady (hah!) and I started to feel like myself again.
I kind of coasted through my second and third trimesters in a haze though. The downside to taking antidepressants (for me, anyway) is that it sort of dulls your senses. It eliminated the manic episodes I was having, but it made me numb to normal, every day feelings. I was so excited to have a baby, but I didn’t feel connected to her while I was pregnant. I was overjoyed when I had her, but I had a hard time really feeling that joy deep down. It’s like I knew I was having these emotions, I just couldn’t feel them. Almost like an out-of-body experience, but with my emotions. That probably makes absolutely no sense, but if you’ve ever been on antidepressants you might be able to relate.
Since the day Aria was born, I noticed a spike in my anxiety. I know that’s totally normal, but that anxiety has yet to go away. Being a first time mom is stressful and can be very scary. You’re constantly wondering if you’re doing everything you can for your baby and trying to figure out how to make it all work. From day one I’ve felt like I’m not doing enough. That feeling has snowballed into what has become a little voice in the back of my head reminding me that I need to try harder, creating a never-ending feeling of being inadequate.
Fast forward to today- I’m seven and a half months postpartum and my doctor has doubled my dose of Wellbutrin. Over the last couple months, I noticed my mood getting increasingly sour and my emotions spiraling again. I had mood swings like I’ve never had before and was constantly in a bad mood. The smallest things set me off and I have been having a really hard time controlling my anger. My normal emotions are still dulled, but the increased dosage has helped control the sadness I’ve been feeling. Increased dosage aside, I still have my good and bad days. Some days I’m all smiles, other days I find myself crying behind a locked bathroom door. It’s been extremely hard for me to handle my emotions lately and that in itself makes me feel like a failure.
I made the choice to stay at home with Aria about three weeks ago and I can already see a change in myself. The changes are very minor, but they’re definitely there! The thing I’ve noticed most often is that I don’t wake up in a bad mood anymore. I used to wake up angry. Angry that I had to get up early, angry that I had to leave my baby, angry that I knew I wouldn’t be able to spend time doing what I actually wanted to do during the day. It was causing friction in my relationship and making me so miserable I was literally sick to my stomach nearly every day. The everyday stressors added to what I was battling with emotionally put me on a fast-track to a mental breakdown.
I quit my job and have used the last few weeks to decompress and spend time with Aria. On a scale of 1-10, I’d say my anxiety level has been at a steady 7 over these past weeks. If you would have asked me that question a month ago, I would’ve said an 11. It’s amazing what a change of scenery will do for your mental health. And it’s so important to recognize when that change needs to take place.
Circumstances change and those changes oftentimes bring on different waves of emotions and everyone handles those emotions differently. I wanted to share this post to let whoever is struggling right now know that you’re not alone. I know I’m not the only one struggling, but I feel so alone with these thoughts and feelings sometimes- which is another reason I wanted to share my story. Encouraging words, friendly texts, funny memes- they all show someone you care. When a person is dealing with depression, we tend to unintentionally isolate ourselves. So if you know someone who’s having a rough time, reach out to them. My hopes are that this post will serve as a helping hand to anyone who needs it.