I Refused To Believe I Was Depressed. Here’s What Saved Me.

I Refused To Believe I Was Depressed. Here’s What Saved Me.

After my son was born, the most important thing, every day, was to make sure I didn’t drive my car into the grill of an oncoming truck. That was what I wanted to do—something immediate to make the pain stop. I had never felt like this or had thoughts of hurting myself before, but with a new baby and a derailed career, all I could see was failure stretching out before me for the rest of my days.

My fiancé and I were in our mid-twenties when we got pregnant, and it happened unexpectedly. In a matter of weeks, I went from living in bustling downtown Chicago, preparing to pursue my dream of a Ph.D. program, to buying a crumbling house in the suburbs and taking a data entry job.

When the acceptance letters of Ph.D programs started coming in, I panicked. I was so terrified at the prospect of moving again and the cost of school, that I ended up passing.

And then shortly after our son was born, I was laid off from my copyediting job.

I had always wanted to be a mother, so my logic went that I couldn’t possibly be depressed once I became one. But it’s clear to me now that for about a year, I struggled constantly—dangerously—with post partum depression.

During the day, I’d fight the urge to drive into oncoming traffic; in the evening, when my husband was home, I’d hide in the bathroom and cry. Late at night, my mind would race with thoughts of mistakes I’d made, opportunities I’d passed up, how great everyone else’s lives seemed. I told myself that if I could just get some sleep, then I’d feel better; if I just had time to take a shower, I’d feel better. If this, if this, if this.

When I finally blurted out, “I think I have post-partum depression,” a huge weight lifted off me. I still felt too ashamed at the time to seek therapy—a decision I regret deeply in hindsight. But once I named the problem, I committed to getting better. I had to.

My first step was to find friends with kids. All my friends were just starting out in their careers and going to grad school, so they couldn’t exactly relate to my complaints about colic, eczema, and getting back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Instead, I found a local moms’ group with weekly playdates, park outings, and mom-only events, like a book club. Suddenly, I was surrounded by women dealing with the same challenges that I was—women I could laugh with and ask for help.

When date night got ruined by the baby’s unexpected fever, I had friends who understood. When our son had a weird rash, or refused to eat a certain food, I had friends I could turn to for advice. By surrounding myself with these women, I came to a sobering yet comforting realization: I wasn’t the only one who put her dreams on hold to manage a family.

At the same time, I knew I needed—and wanted—to re-enter the workforce. Moving and starting a Ph.D. program were out, though that dream still existed in the realm of the impractical. But I had a teaching certificate and time in the evenings, so I started tutoring at a nearby ACT/SAT-preparation center. It wasn’t much, but it gave me a sense of purpose beyond changing diapers.

I also started writing. Never in my life had I thought I could become a writer, but I began publishing some blog posts to build a portfolio, and then I reached out to editors. I sent out what I know now to be some laughably bad pitches. But I stuck with it until I got better at it. I landed article assignments and clients looking for copyediting. Soon, I was interviewing sources, reviewing books, and writing about horticulture and sustainability. I saw my name in magazine bylines and mastheads, and that sense of failure also started to lift. Sure, it wasn’t the New Yorker, but I was a published author with regular clients, and I was doing it whenever I could: in the early morning hours, midday while the baby napped, after dinner while my husband put the baby to bed.

As the copywriting assignments became more reliable (and financially beneficial), I came to a realization that seems simple only when you’re not the woman drowning outside of it: Even though I love being a mother, it’s OK to want more.

The American Psychological Association places the rate of PPD at one in seven women. But sadly, the likely truth is that it’s much higher; it doesn’t account for women like me who don’t realize they have PPD while they’re in the thick of it, as well as women who never end up seeking treatment from a medical or psychiatric professional.

When I look back at the dangerous depths of my depression—those terrifying moments in the car, staring at the headlights of oncoming trucks—I realize what a big deal it is that I was able to find some sense of equilibrium through getting back out there both personally and professionally.

It won’t be the same story for every woman who is dealing with PPD. But we need to keep moving toward a place where we have the language and acceptance to talk about these things honestly, without judgement. Because even saying it out loud can be the first step to saving a life. It’s what saved mine.

If you or someone you know is in need of mental health assistance, visitthis siteorthis siteorthis sitefor access to resources.

If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or just want to talk to someone, text theCrisis Text Lineat 741-741 or call theNational Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 741-741 or call theNational Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1-800-273-8255.