“Why don’t I feel normal”
I found myself wondering why I just didn’t feel like myself as I couldn’t muster the strength to get out of bed and go to class.
I had always loved school and learning. I had always loved people. So why was it that I couldn’t find the energy to take a shower, let alone go out and face the world? Why did anything more intellectually stimulating than staring at a tv screen and trying not to cry too loudly seem akin to climbing Mt. Everest?
I had been suffering from minor panic attacks since before I knew that’s what they were: episodes where for no reason my chest would tighten to the point where it felt like there was an elephant sitting on my chest and causing my heart to pound against my ribcage. I had long since been deemed “dramatic” and “sensitive” when things that most people would brush off caused me to burst into tears. But none of that had been anything like this. I was crippled by overwhelming fear. Fear of getting out of bed. Fear that if I didn’t get out of bed I would fail out of college and disappoint all of the people that believed in me. Fear that I was losing my mind and would never be the same.
The only thing that punctuated the fear was the overwhelming feeling of numbness, and that was even scarier than the fear itself for the girl that felt everything in extremes .
I wish I could tell you what happened next with detail, but to be honest, it’s all just a blur. I remember a good friend that held me while I cried uncontrollably and talked to my parents for me to tell them I was not okay. I remember being advised by my therapist to go ahead and drop my classes for the rest of the semester and focus on myself. I remember being diagnosed with “generalized anxiety disorder” and “dysthymia” (which is mild but long-term form of depression) and the relief that came with having words for what was happening with me.
That at least meant I wasn’t alone.
I got better.
It took a few instances of thinking I was cured followed by relapses (that were, thankfully, never as bad as the first), but a year and a half after my breakdown, I successfully completed a course of therapy and left with tools to handle my anxiety, which ultimately keeps the depression at bay.
I know that this is something that I’ll always live with. But now that I have the tools to handle it, and give myself grace when I stumble, it’s just another small piece of the cards that I’ve been dealt.
It made me who I am today.
Without my own struggles with depression and anxiety, I wouldn’t have the same understanding for my clients when they experience postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety. I know what it feels like to feel like your mind has betrayed you. I know what it feels like to feel like things can’t possibly ever get better. But I promise you, they can.
If you start to feel like your feelings are getting beyond the scope of the run of the mill postpartum baby blues--especially if you can no longer take care of yourself or your baby, or you have thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, know that it is not normal.
But that doesn’t mean you are not normal.
There are resources available to you, and you deserve to take advantage of them. Reach out to your medical providers or your doula. They should be able to match you with a specialist to get you feeling like yourself again.
I would never wish depression or anxiety on my worst enemy, but I do know for that for those of us that don’t have a choice, when we make it through the other side (and we will), we will never see life the same way again. We are survivors.