My Personal Story of the Importance of Addressing Mental Health While Parenting
SHARE THIS ARTICLE:
By Jessica Boner
Crying every single day for at least two months straight, starting arguments with my husband, being irritable, yelling at my children when I had not done so before, frequently feeling a ton of “mom guilt,” and feeling very unsatisfied in my life were some of the things that I was struggling with when I finally decided to seek additional professional help.
As a mental health practitioner, I feel very comfortable with participating in therapy. However, I had some “feelings” about medications. After having my second child, I tried to do everything I could to help myself in every way possible for just about a year. This included participating in couples counseling, exercising, attending church regularly, scheduling time for myself and participating in self-care, journaling, using my ‘Happy Light’ in the winter months, taking PTO days, going on more dates with my husband, deep breathing, crying, etc. I was depressed, and irritable and I didn’t know what else to do.
I came to the realization that I specifically had postpartum depression; but with symptoms that are not typically talked about. I felt a strong bond with my youngest (as well as with my oldest). However, I also felt severe guilt and sadness for my oldest. I was worried about our bond being challenged with change in our family dynamics and how she would adjust. It was so hard to meet the needs of a two year old and a baby at the same time. I felt so guilty for attending to one before the other and tried to rationalize the priorities of their needs. I couldn’t do everything at once.
The guilt, shame, disappointment, and defeat I felt that breast feeding didn’t work out for either of my children didn’t help either. I was determined to pump for a period of time, but struggled with lack of production. I sat indoors by myself for hours pumping, watching my husband play with the kids. I felt so sad and guilty that I was missing out and made the decision to stop pumping altogether so I could spend quality time with my family. Nothing was going the way that I had planned, and I was worrying about everything. I was also more concerned about everyone else’s needs that I neglected myself for too long.
“Let’s Get You Some Help”
When I realized that I needed to seek additional professional help, I had an upcoming annual physical scheduled with my primary doctor. I intended to speak with her about my symptoms of depression. I wanted to be prescribed an anti-depressant. I had accepted that I had tried everything in my power to try to “get better.” I felt that I needed medication to manage my depression. It took me a couple of days to truly accept this; and guess what? I felt immediate relief. I knew that I didn’t have to deal with this by myself and that more help was coming.
Before I called my clinic to let them know I wanted to be assessed for depression and medication, I researched several anti-depressants and their side effects and talked with others in my life who have been open about their depression. I felt ready when my appointment day came. From the time I walked into the clinic to the time I left, I was in tears. The tears were a result of holding so much in and finally allowing myself to let it all out to someone who could help. I honestly wasn’t sure if my doctor would prescribe an anti-depressant right away but I was so relieved when she said, “Oh honey, of course. Let’s get you some help.”
It has now been eight months of being on an anti-depressant. With the addition of other anti-depressants to help balance out some negative side effects, I am feeling great. I am a better parent, my marriage is definitely in a better place, and I manage stress better. The days of crying all the time are in the past. I continue to make time for myself and things that are important to me. And, I am able to manage stress better. Looking back, I wish that I would have sought help much sooner.
It was surprising to me that with my background and my profession being in mental health, that I didn’t catch the signs of postpartum depression. If not properly managed, postpartum depression can result in ongoing depression. I wondered why it took me so long… but I think I know part of the reason. Despite so many Americans suffering with depression and other mental illnesses, there is still a stigma attached, especially with the use of medications. I am here to tell you that there is absolutely nothing wrong with seeking help for mental illness. I wish more of us could be more open about our experiences. We all need help at different times, and that is okay and normal. Thank you for taking the time to read my story.
If you or someone you know is suffering from postpartum depression, you can find resources here.