“‘Why are you depressed? You have nothing to be depressed about! You just bought a house and have a husband who loves you! Stop that. You’re fine!’ This is just one of many things I was told when I would try to voice my struggles.
Anxiety, depression, postpartum…. some of the few things many people don’t like to discuss.
Ever since I was a child, anxiety was always something I dealt with. I remember when it hit me at such a young age; I remember being in the fourth grade and really grasping the meaning of critical illnesses and death. I would be crying to my parents anytime I felt some sort of pain or sickness. It would consume me! I would ask them through my tears, ‘Do I have cancer? Am I going to die?’ As I grew older, my anxiety grew stronger. Then came my first anxiety attack, my senior year of high school. They came more and more often, and that’s when I was prescribed antidepressants, at the young age of 17.
I tried the antidepressants for a while, but they weren’t for me and we decided to discontinue them. That’s when I learned to ‘cope.’ I was a dancer and ran track, so I found healthy outlets within those. It helped for a long time, and into my adult years. I was able to fight my anxiety through fitness. Now, through all of this, I struggled with chronic low back pain, from the age of 17. The older I got, the worse it was.
In 2014, I was eventually prescribed Cymbalta for my chronic low back pain. I know what you’re thinking, ‘Isn’t that an antidepressant?’ Yes, it is. It is also a medicine prescribed to treat chronic low back pain. I took the Cymbalta for almost five years, and it was great! Talk about killing two birds with one stone! My back pain was managed, and I was no longer having to make a conscious effort to cope with my anxiety. I had medicine doing it for me!
Fast forward to 2018: I am now married and we just bought our first house! You know what that means? BABY TIME! In order to conceive, I had to, of course, stop my birth control and all of my pain management meds. Which meant no more Cymbalta for me. I weaned off of the Cymbalta and boy was it hard. My husband got switched to the night shift and I stopped birth control, which messed with my emotions and then the antidepressants that messed with my brain’s chemical imbalance. It was A LOT.
I had to relearn how to cope with my anxiety again, something I was just NOT prepared for. My anxiety came back with a vengeance, and this time, it brought depression with it. I would come home from work to an empty house and cry. I started shutting people out and isolating myself. I didn’t even want to leave the house. I was having to be sent home from work, because I was having full-on meltdowns.
For the longest time, I didn’t admit ‘I wasn’t okay,’ out of fear of what others would say or think. I was worried they’d think I wasn’t ‘thankful’ for the many blessings in my life. I was worried they’d think I’m crazy and not understand. I remember being at work one day, and one of my customers said, ‘How are you?’ Mind you, it’s someone I’ve known for years through my job, and I wanted to be honest. Like, ‘Let’s give this a go. Let me test the waters on really speaking how I feel.’
I said to him, ‘Ya know, I’m not doing too great. I’m dealing with some serious depression, and I’m not okay right now, I’m struggling.’ He kind of scoffed and said ‘Why are you depressed? You have nothing to be depressed about! You just bought a house and have a husband who loves you! Stop that. You’re fine!’ I replied, ‘I wish it was THAT easy, but it is not.’
That is the problem, right there. People think depression and anxiety are a choice. They think you can just wake up and decide, ‘I’m not going to be depressed today.’ IT IS NOT THAT EASY! I can’t just shut off my brain. I would love nothing more than to be lying in bed and to just fall right asleep, rather than sending myself into a panic attack because my brain is racing with all of these ‘worst case scenarios!’
I eventually sought counseling, because at this point, I was crawling out of my skin with anxiety and depression. I felt like I was sitting on the outside, watching a stranger live my life. Upon counseling, I discovered I had OCD, which triggered my anxiety and led to the downward spiral of depression. Sitting on this couch, I thought to myself, ‘This is what I’ve come to? I’m crazy. I’m freaking losing it and I’m on the couch pouring my heart out to some stranger. How is this going to help me?’ As I’m just laying it all out for the counselor, he looks at me and says, ‘I just want you to know, you are not crazy. What you feel is OKAY! And it’s normal!’ I felt this relief, someone got me!
Upon starting to open up about my depression, I noticed a lot of people responded like the gentleman I mentioned above. ‘Why are you depressed? What is there to even be depressed about?’ Why does there have to be something in order for someone to be depressed? Why is someone who has great things in their life, not allowed to be depressed? That is why they say depression is a silent killer! Because some people just don’t know how to speak up. They have been scared into believing it’s not okay to not be okay! Because when they speak up, they are getting shot down by people who are not educated on depression. Now, let’s get to pregnancy and postpartum….
During my whole pregnancy, if I struggled with anything at all, I was afraid to voice it, out of fears of the feedback. Society has women afraid to speak up about their struggles because, ‘There is always someone else who wishes they were in your situation.’ Even on a post of mine that went viral about postpartum struggles, someone commented, ‘I’m so tired of new mommy’s whining. Parenthood is a choice, not a chronic illness. YOU CHOSE THIS. And babies are a BLESSING. Get over yourself.’ So, because babies are a ‘blessing’ and we should be so grateful to be parents, don’t you DARE be depressed! Do you see how that can scare a new mom into not voicing that she is not okay? Why she may keep it to herself and convince herself, ‘I’m not depressed. I’m just ungrateful!’ Where it eventually eats them alive, to the point of not even wanting to be on this earth anymore!
We have got to stop shaming people for speaking up. Just because it is not a reason that you would be depressed about, does not mean it can’t be someone’s struggle. Encourage people in your life to speak up, and always remind them it is okay to NOT be okay! So many new moms are out there having to disclose, ‘I swear I am thankful for my baby, but I’m struggling.’ I’ve seen mothers say in private, ‘I feel so guilty and like a horrible mother for saying this, but I NEED a break!’ Why can’t a mom just say, ‘I need a break!’ Because being a parent is HARD! We should just lift them up and say, ‘You’re right, you DO need a break.’”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Gabrielle Lynn Dunn, 30, of Glenpool, Oklahoma. Follow her journey on Instagram here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here. Be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
Read more stories from Gabrielle here:
‘Gabrielle, look at me.’ I burst into tears and told her I was struggling. ‘That’s it. I’m coming over. I’m taking the baby. You are going to eat and shower!’: Overwhelmed new mom thankful to friend for ‘showing the hell up’
Do you know someone who could benefit from reading this? SHARE this story on Facebook with family and friends.