DISCLAIMER: The following post outlines the writer’s personal experience with mental health and postpartum depression. It is not intended to act as medical advice. As always, please consult your doctor with any questions about how to improve your mental health.
Mom groups. Facebook posts. Instagram reels. Children. COVID. The general state of the world. The news. Family. It’s all overwhelming. Even the best of us can get caught up in the craziness of the world. It can stress us out, give us crazy anxiety, and even lead to depression. I know, because I’ve been there.
As a first-time mom during the peak of the pandemic, I was a nervous wreck. I not only wanted to do motherhood “right,” but I also wanted to protect my family from the craziness of the world. I was home all day with a newborn and my habits caught up to me. Too much scrolling. Too many opinions. Definitely not enough self-care.
During one of my virtual therapy appointments, I explained how everything felt heavy. I was six months postpartum and I was not feeling great and felt like crying all the time. I knew there was nothing to be “sad” about specifically. But, I couldn’t seem to find the joy that I once had pre-baby and pre-pandemic. My therapist asked me a few questions and then let me know that what I was experiencing was mild depression.
I suspected depression. But, I had never dealt with it before, so I thought maybe the weight of the world and lack of sleep had caught up with me. Although hearing I had postpartum depression was scary and upsetting, it was nice to know what was going on so I could take action to feel better.
Getting to the Bottom of It
I reached out to my midwife and let her know that my therapist thought I was dealing with mild depression. She was quick to say she’d prescribe me something to help. I like to investigate all routes of healing before I decide on taking medication. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication; I’ve had some experiences in my life that have jaded my view on psychoactive drugs and made it scary for me.
So, I made sure to do my due diligence before deciding on my plan of action so I felt comfortable. Long story short, what I ended up finding out was that my depression was caused by a few key factors.
A big one was my hormones. My thyroid was low. Once I began medication, I began to feel a lot better. Quickly. Turns out, pregnancy can throw our bodies majorly off – when it comes to our hormones, especially. Sometimes it doesn’t fully self-regulate and that’s what happened with me. I went to a hormone specialist because my primary care doctor said my thyroid was fine. So, I found someone who specialized in hormones and was able to look a little deeper into my blood work and symptoms.
The other big contributing factors were the choices I was making on a daily basis. Things like what I was consuming in my life–TV, social media, podcasts, as well as the food I was eating. Turns out that watching NBC Nightly News while eating dinner wasn’t the best choice for me and my family. I had to ask myself, “Was this serving my highest good?”
I had to take a close look at what I was spending my time doing and if it was feeding my soul in a positive way or not. So, here’s what I did to change that.
Leave the group.
I was spending way too much time on Facebook scrolling through the various mom groups I was in, which is another thing I found out was more harmful than helpful for me, personally. I noticed a lot of mom-on-mom judgment and ridicule. It seemed like something that wasn’t serving my highest good, so I left most of the mom groups I was in. This was the first thing I did on my healing journey with postpartum depression.
Plus, I learned that there’s no right way to be a mom; these groups were hindering my ability to trust my instincts. If you find yourself scrolling in mom groups feeling like you’re doing it wrong or you’re not enough, it’s not you. The group isn’t for you. Leave it. Trust me. You’ll be much happier.
Turn off the news.
As much as I like knowing what’s going on in the world, let’s be real–these past few years have been rough to digest. The news was simply feeding into my fears and anxiety. It was causing me to have more judgment and frustration with the “other side.” I knew that if there was something I needed to know, I would know, but the news was no longer an option in our house.
Instead, as part of my healing journey with postpartum depression, I would turn on music in the morning while I cooked breakfast. At night, we’d turn off the TV during dinner or have some music playing. We also watched a lot of Friends. Little changes like this do make a difference.
Plan for daily movement, nature, hydration, and quality food.
When we feel like crap, we tend to create a vicious cycle for ourselves. The simple things that make us feel good go out the window. I stopped moving my body as much as I used to. I wasn’t drinking enough water and definitely wasn’t eating enough food (hello breastfeeding hunger). So, I decided to create some weekly non-negotiables to help with my healing journey with postpartum depression. These included daily movement like nature walks or a walk around the neighborhood. I added yoga back into my routine, and eventually got back into the gym.
Other things included buying a big water bottle and making sure I was drinking enough water every day. I focused on eating foods I liked while making sure I was getting enough nutrients to have energy. Down the road I got some extra support from a coach with this (a fellow Detroit Mom, Brooke Rozzie). She helped me take a look at my daily habits and prioritize good habits over everything. We worked on stress management, daily movement, hydration, and nutrition.
The investment in coaching added another layer of accountability to my wellness. Sure, it was expensive and I should have spent the money on other things, but I made it work because it was important to me to feel good. I’m glad I did this. You deserve it too, mama! If it’s important to you, you’ll figure out a way to make it work.
Of course, therapy.
I’ve been seeing my wonderful therapist for a few years now. I switch off between weekly visits when I need more support and every other week for maintenance. But, postpartum I needed more support because in motherhood we need a place to be seen and heard. I needed a space that I could unload my fears, anxiety, and feelings so I didn’t hold it in and explode or harbor resentments. This is why therapy is something I will never give up.
While some sessions are more serious than others and we work through hard things, other times, I look forward to an hour when I’m heard, validated, and often redirected to be more kind to myself. Bottom line, we’re our toughest critic in life and in motherhood. We need to give ourselves more grace, more praise, and the space to be who we are.
Other things that help…
While making time for myself is hard, it’s non-negotiable for my mental health. This doesn’t have to require a babysitter. You can get creative if childcare isn’t available. It could look like utilizing naptime or bedtime to take the time you need for yourself.
I decided to join Lifetime Fitness because they offer childcare for a reasonable price. So, I can go and take a yoga class, workout, grab a coffee, sit in the sauna, work in the cafe, or get my nails done while utilizing their childcare. While I do have help, it’s never enough, and I wanted an option that I could use every day without having to rely on anyone.
Some simple things that work well for me are:
enjoying a podcast or audiobook
taking an epsom salt bath while doing a facemask – it’s relaxing, destressing, and rejuvenating
making a cup of non-caffeinated tea or hot cocoa and thoroughly enjoying it while my son is watching Cocomelon
heading out for a nature walk – nature always makes me feel more grounded and connected
It takes time to heal. It’s been a year since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. I want to recognize that everyone’s journey is different; I don’t want you to compare your healing with mine. If you feel like you need support, reach out to someone. A great place to start is your OB or midwife if you don’t have an established mental health provider.
Becoming a mom is a very hard transition. But, being a new mom in times like these is extra hard. Take some time for yourself. Give yourself grace. And get support if you need some.