With the courage “Mom Bloggers” have recently shown when posting their personal “1 in 5” stories on Instagram, I felt encouraged to share my personal “Mental Health Mama” story as well. Being someone who has struggled in the past with depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicidal ideations (as well as attempts), I felt drawn to this viral hashtag and the message attached to it.
Mental illness is raw, real, and should be taken so seriously. If someone struggles with their mental health, they are often faced with some version of that demon for the rest of their life. The struggle may get a little easier, but the fight never fully stops – even when you become a mom.
Facing Pregnancy Blues
My pregnancy was a huge surprise. Throw the surprise of twins into the mix and, holy moly, was I in shock. On top of that, I was having a difficult time handling a recent family situation and my boyfriend had just found out he had to leave for military training for four months - so the timing was less than ideal. Add in severe back pain, being put on disability from work, having to move out of my apartment, move in with my mom, and then move out to live with my boyfriend in a brand new city – the changes were never-ending.
I had always wanted to be a mom. However, I found it incredibly difficult to enjoy my pregnancy with the stressors going on in my world at the time. I fell into a deep depression and my anxiety skyrocketed. When I had discovered I was pregnant, I immediately took myself off my low dose antidepressant for the first time in fifteen years only to be put back on an even lower dose for the remainder of my pregnancy. The low I reached came close to some emotions I had felt during my high school days – and that terrified me.
Hearing my little girls cry for the first time was a moment I will never forget. As cliché as it sounds, those little cries really do impact a person in unexplainable ways. Even though recovering from the c-section was painful, breast pumping was not fun, and I was hormonal beyond belief, the anxiety and depression I had felt during pregnancy slowly started to disappear – just to return in a different form.
Recognizing The Struggles
I haven’t officially been diagnosed with postpartum depression, but I continue to struggle with major depressive episodes and continuous anxiety. I am constantly overwhelmed, exhausted, achy, emotional, and the bubbly, energetic personality I once was known for only comes around every so often. I am working hard to embrace my new “mombod” and all the sags and scars and extra skin that comes with it, but that too hasn’t been the easiest.
Since I’ve experienced major mental health battles in my past, I know how important it is to focus on my mental and emotional well-being during this critical time. I now have the clarity to recognize when I am getting to a point where I need that extra help, something I didn’t have when I was younger. I know how hard, yet healthy, it is to admit to yourself that you may need additional support from a counselor or antidepressant or those around you – and that’s the point I have found myself to be at lately.
Pushing Towards Postpartum Positivity
Even though I am always working to improve my mental and emotional state-of-mind, one thing remains constant: I am so damn lucky to have the life I have. I’ve overcome childhood cancer, suicide attempts, self-harm, major family deaths, and major family changes. I am stronger than I think and I need to remember that on those days when all I want to do is roll up in a ball, spoon with my schnauzer, and sleep.
It’s cliché, but life truly doesn’t hand you what you can’t handle. I know motherhood will keep throwing chaos my way, but it’s the most beautiful form of chaos I’ve ever experienced. I know I will continue to fight mental health demons for the rest of my life and I will be able to overcome them, even when I feel like I can’t. I know I will be a good role model for my little girls because I am proof that bumps in the road are simply just bumps, not dead ends.
Part 1 of 3: Motherhood and Mental Illness: Mom Bloggers Speak Out here.
Part 3 of 3: Motherhood and Mental Illness: Ways to Help here.
Jennifer Aline is a coffee addict, new mom of twins, and a passionate freelance writer and author. She writes for Moms.com on a regular basis and has had articles in publications such as the NY Daily News, NY Post, Rochester Magazine, and In Good Health Newspaper. Aline received her Bachelor’s Degree in Child and Family Studies from Keuka College and worked in the Human Services field before her two little girls entered her life. Aline now focuses primarily on writing, teaching aerial arts classes in the evenings, and caring for her twin daughters – all while continuously chugging coffee, of course.