Dear Struggling Mama,
Ten months ago I was given the best blessing and biggest curse of my life. I gave birth to a beautiful baby boy, and was also given a diagnosis of postpartum psychosis/bipolar disorder. The following ten months were tumultuous at best. I battled, hard, to regain my health, life and mental stability. I tried to stand strong through my delusions; seeing Jesus in my bathroom, spending months hearing voices in my head, and feeling utterly disconnected from reality. I suffered through daily panic so strong I was convinced that anyone and everyone was out to kill me and my baby, and depression so dark that many times I fought the urge to end my own life. Every time I went to bed at night I considered the success I had accomplished, just by surviving another day. My life was a living hell and it is a wonder that I’m still here today. But, I am.
In those same ten months, I triumphed. I made strides. I improved. And I got better. Sure, it happened slowly, but it happened and now, I am a better version of myself. With the help of a therapist, a psychiatrist and a plethora of medication, I have found peace. Throughout this time, I searched madly and endlessly to find a blog or story of something similar to mine. I wanted to hear of someone suffering the way I had, and getting through it. I failed to find such successes, and when I did I didn’t believe that I, too, could ever get through it.
So here I am, writing to you. I’m writing what happens next in my story to show you that it CAN get better, and that with help, it will. Obviously hind sight is 20/20, and there’s a value in experience that you can’t possibly find otherwise, but I hope that my story can help you to find hope in your own.
Someone asked me the other day, what percentage of myself I felt I was at this point. I stopped and thought, and responded, “about 75.” After the words came out of my mouth I was immediately emotional and surprised. Though I knew I had improved greatly, I had yet to acknowledge my growth in the way it truly deserved to be. The fact that I am 75% of myself is something I NEVER thought I would be, and it is utterly shocking to me. I now wake up every day, in a mostly balanced place, and go to work. I connect with Ollie in a way that a mother should, and I love him relentlessly and completely without distraction. I spend time with my family and friends and I am present in the moment. I am able to be in social settings with little to no discomfort. I walk through the store, and down the street with peace of mind, knowing that we are safe and that no one is trying to harm me or Ollie. I go to sleep at night uninterrupted by chaotic voices in my head, and I wake up in the morning without the looming burden of constant thoughts of my own death. I have broken free of the traps of my mental illness and damn, does that feel good.
I’m not sharing these things to brag, or to rub in my joys to someone less fortunate than I. I share my triumphs to give you the confidence that I know I needed in my worst moments. Everyone deserves to have hope, everyone deserves a silver lining.
To give birth to your baby is to give birth to your new self. As the caterpillar turns into a beautiful butterfly, the young woman turns into a mother. In both, there is immense change, growth, fear and pain.
I believe that when I went into my childbearing journey, I was truly naive to what lay ahead of me in so many ways. As I’m sure you were too. I could’ve never anticipated the anguish and suffering that lay on the other side of childbirth. The grief, struggle, and fear left me paralyzed and broken.
For many months I mourned the loss of my old self, thinking that I had truly lost her. But through my journey I have realized something. When we gave birth to our new selves, we let go of the young, naive and carefree girls we once were. But we also grabbed ahold of a strong new woman. A woman who can conquer anything. A woman who is beautiful because of the darkness she has seen. She is incredibly powerful, and I am proud to be her. And I’m proud of YOU, too.
My mental illness is certainly a part of me, but it does not define me. I struggled, but now I have regained control and I know you can, too. Things will not always be as hard as they are now, and you WILL get better.
Reach out to those around you for support, get the help you need and deserve, and take the reigns.
You’ve got this.