Full disclosure: I might have had postpartum depression during the first couple of months after my daughter was born. My mind and feelings were such a whirlwind then, I didn’t know what to make of them.
First of all, I didn’t have a clue what I was doing. It’s true what they say, especially in the first few months, that motherhood is mostly instinctual.
Second, I couldn’t find the light at the end of the tunnel so to speak during those times. Back then, it felt like the tunnel was so long and so dark, it felt never-ending.
Everything that my partner did at the time was under my constant scrutiny. I was so sensitive about how it was so unfair that I couldn’t just go out whenever I wanted or do whatever I wished. I felt like a victim of my own doing.
And there was nothing wrong with having my beautiful baby at all. It all had to do with me and the horrible things I was feeling. I wanted people to understand but the only ones who can truly understand are those who have been through the same experience of being a mother.
When my baby was around 7 months old, I read a book by Brianna Wiest called 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think. It was about life and the way we think about life. You bet it was not a book about motherhood at all but it was one of the best life-savers for me at the time.
Here, some of the things I learned from Brianna’s book of essays:
Don’t be the victim—be the heroine
Victim-hood is such an easy escape when we feel hurt. Whatever it is that caused us pain, it feels much more rewarding when people come to our side to comfort and, dare I say, feel some pity for us. But it’s not really a solution… it’s a coping mechanism for protecting our egos.
When we play the victim, we are releasing control and responsibility over our thoughts and emotions. But that’s not the case. We do have the choice and we can emerge stronger than our adversity if we so choose.
I was endlessly bothered most of all about the loss of my freedom and how I felt like it was only women who suffered because of it. But reading through Brianna’s essays taught me that I do have the power in me to think differently about my situation. Playing victim to my circumstance didn’t help me one bit. But taking back control of my own thoughts did. It challenged me to focus on what I could change.
It will pass—especially in motherhood
I’m not sure that the thought, “This too shall pass,” is comforting or nerve-racking. Of course, I want the bad moments to pass but what about the sweet moments? The moments when I hold my baby so snugly in my arms. When she can’t sleep unless her head is on my chest. When she smiles at me for the first time.
Just like the bad things, the good stuff doesn’t stay forever, too.
In the context outside of motherhood, you can also say the same about the things you worry over on a day-to-day basis. Those worries and anxieties will pass. That anger you felt when someone mistook your words and actions will pass. Negative emotions and events might seem uncomfortable at the moment but sometimes you just have to go through them in order to learn from them.
Anger is a strong emotion
Anger is not just a strong emotion. It is an indicator, as Brianna Wiest tells it, of the things you find in other people that you can’t see in yourself. That’s such an enlightening thought. It makes sense that we become so frustrated when we can’t relate to what anyone is saying (or doing).
Knowing this reminds me to take a step back and gauge the situation. To be curious about my own emotions as if observing them under a microscope. There are so many things we can learn about emotions and emotional reactions if we took the time and patience to understand them and where they’re coming from. Indeed, things have their own purpose.
By changing your thoughts you take back the power that you’ve been giving away. The biggest takeaway I got from the book thus far was that I had the power to change my thoughts.
Of course, if you feel like your depression (postpartum or otherwise) has gotten to a point where you really need help, please seek it. Please don’t go it alone. I did my part about taking control of my own happiness and thoughts and processing my emotions but I can’t deny the healing power of asking for help from other people when I really needed it.
Granted, not everyone will understand. And, as you will find, even with those closest to you, there is no guarantee that people will be able to empathize with what you’re going through.
Learn to choose the people you confide in. But no matter what you do, don’t go it alone. There are people who have experienced or are experiencing the things you’re going through as well and opening up to them might just help them as much as they can help you.