A synonym for drowning.
Updated: Sep 13, 2019
- Kelsey Sheppard
Do you ever feel like you're drowning when there's no water anywhere near you? Or feel alone while in a room full of people?
You would know what it was if you felt it. The overwhelming feeling of wanting to jump out of your own skin. The constant struggle of being good enough or strong enough. Bearing your smile because no one needs or wants to know about your struggle. The struggle you have on the inside, with yourself, with your thoughts.
For me it was Postpartum. A time when I should be so happy and overwhelmed with joy... In creeps the regret, self hate, detachment, fear and all over feeling of being inside a body that no longer belongs to you. I just had a baby, something not everyone can do. "Be happy," I told myself. I pretended it was the typical "new mom tired" that everyone talks about. But, what they don't talk about is that even when the baby was asleep, soundly in her own bed, I couldn't stop my mind from wandering around. Did you lock the car? Did you lock the front door? Is she still breathing? Did you turn the oven off after supper? Even though a mere 20 minutes ago I had checked all of these things... Twice. 20 or 30 minutes after I checked them, I would be up to do it all again. Night after night after night. I would try to tell myself that I was just being silly and to close my eyes and go back to sleep... Until it felt like my insides were shaking. Like my heart may come out of my mouth. It felt like my mind was turning its back on me in a way I had never experienced before.
I would like to tell you that I was the one who advocated for myself and made a doctors appointment and that I was my own hero... But I would be lying through my teeth. It was my partner who looked at me one day and told me that he knew I wasn't okay and that I needed to talk to someone about it. We had talked before the baby about my struggle with depression and that I needed him to be there. I needed him to recognize the change and be adamant that I do something about it even though I was "great." In that moment "great" was a synonym for "drowning." I was terrified. Petrified even, at the thought of telling someone, out loud, that I was struggling because struggle is a sign of weakness. Let alone tell a stranger about the struggle I was having and not be believed.
I remember vividly walking into the doctors office and sitting in the room. When she asked me how she could help me I couldn't speak and instead I just sobbed uncontrollably. It wasn't until that moment that I truly understood the shame I carried. The guilt that comes with being a mother. The guilt of not being happy, of not being perfect and of not being mentally healthy.
Something I said I would never take. I was strong willed enough to find a different route, right? WRONG.
I had always found a way to cope with it before being a mother... But it felt out of control like I was spinning on a chair that wouldn't stop. I struggled well into our daughters first year of life. She was 4 months old when I saw the doctor. I finally started taking medication for the anxiety when she was 7 months old. That prescription sat unfilled for 3 months, something I regret doing to this day.
Why did I do that? Why did I not fill a prescription that could have saved my happiness, my relationship and my mind. I didn't know it then, but I definitely understand my reasons now.
The guilt of being a young, new mom. I shouldn't have mental health problems! There is always someone who has it worse. Why am I complaining? I'm fine! I have a healthy baby, a home, nice things... But I didn't have happiness. I felt.. Empty. I felt no attachment to this sweet, innocent, beautiful baby who I had just grown inside my body for 9 months. This perfect part of me didn't feel like mine. I felt ashamed when people would tell me "She looks so much like you!" Because, honestly, I wanted her to be nothing like me. This mess of a human I had found myself becoming was something I never wanted this baby to be compared to. I was ashamed, angry and upset that my mind was failing me and that I was falling apart piece by piece. Who would want to be like that? Who would want to love someone like that. I didn't even love myself enough to just "get over it."
Mental illness in any form is stigmatized and then we add a new baby in to the mix. Postpartum mental illness is seen as the inability to take care or love your child when in reality it is the inability to take care or love yourself.
To all the mommas out there struggling with themselves... I hear you. I see you. You need to be the healthiest, happiest version of yourself in order to take care of that beautiful baby. Don't let society make you feel ashamed for admitting something feels wrong or uncomfortable and fixing it.
You are strong.
You are worthy.
You are so loved.
You are seen.
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