‘I feared my children would be taken. If I marked those boxes, I was admitting to the world I was crazy.’: Woman battling postpartum depression details finding control, happiness

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“When you are in the midst of a major depressive disorder you forget the emotions overtaking you aren’t normal. It’s incredibly easy to listen to that lying voice in your head telling you your loved ones would be much better off without you. I lived in a thick fog of self-loathing and intense guilt for a long time.

I have lived with depression in varying degrees for as long as I can remember. After the birth of my second child, my daughter Rowan in 2016, I hit an all time low. I hear parents speak of those precious, first moments with their new babies and a glow of peace and true, deep love seems to shine out of their whole being. When I speak of, or think of, those first days, weeks, and months as a mother of two a shadow crosses my face and I realize how little I actually remember of the day to day. All my memories are clouded with a dark filter. I hear a screaming baby, my own tears, my desperate thoughts that this was the biggest mistake of my life, I would not and could not survive being a mother. I felt little love for the tiny creature who depended and needed me so dearly. I felt frustrated by the demands of my adoring 2-year-old son who couldn’t ever be able to understand what was happening to his loving, doting mother.

Woman lying on bed with newborn on top of her
Courtesy of Maura Marko

I got help. My husband and family made sure I got help. When Rowan was 4 weeks old I was put on an anti-anxiety medication by my midwife. I was referred to a therapist. I took my meds and they became my lifeline. In my mind, it was only because of those meds I was able to survive the daily struggle I was living in. I went to my therapist twice and thought it was a huge waste of time. Talking about my ‘pitiful, unimportant’ problems wouldn’t help. I would be judged. Worst of all I feared deeply my children would be taken away. I lied on anxiety and depression questionnaires all new parents fill out at doctor’s visits. I thought that if I dared to mark the box that said I had suicidal thoughts daily I would be hospitalized. If I marked those terrifying boxes that my life was just too damn much for me to handle then I was admitting to the world I was ‘crazy’. If I told somebody all that was in me I would lose everything and everyone I held dear.

Two years went by, I kept taking meds, upping the dosage on a semi-regular basis when checking in with health professionals and admitting things still weren’t going well. I talked to well-intended family practitioners who were woefully undereducated in the delicate ways in which to talk to somebody struggling with mental health issues. ‘So, do you think you’re depressed?’ one doctor awkwardly asked me while not looking me in the eye. I’m a midwesterner so, of course, I replied quietly ‘I don’t think so?’ all while screaming, internally I just wanted to be saved. I returned to my midwife for help when things still weren’t getting better and actually, seemed to be worsening and she referred me to a psychologist and a psychiatrist.

I waited for months to be seen. That’s how it works. Waiting lists are huge and being seen quickly just doesn’t happen. I still remember saying to the scheduler ‘So, I just have to feel like this for the next three months.’ she responded with a sad, ‘I guess so.’

Woman hiking with baby in backpack
Courtesy of Maura Marko

I started therapy, thinking it wouldn’t do any good but at least it would please others and get them off my back. I had opened up to a few individuals about how I was feeling and they all became terrified I was going to kill myself. All of them wanted to ‘save me’ in some way. I would soon learn having Suicidal Ideation is a far cry from being actively suicidal. While, I wished I would die I wasn’t planning anything.

My new therapist proved to be my saving grace. Through her I learned about depression and the lies it tells. I learned to readjust my thoughts because I have the power to do that. Depression may tell me one thing but that doesn’t mean I have to listen, that doesn’t mean I have to lay down and take what it throws at me. I get to stand up and tell myself to think of something different or simply distract myself. Changing my clothes, reading a book, going to yoga, baking cookies, singing a song on full volume, anything to help adjust my brain to the positive.

My therapist taught me to stand up for myself. She taught me to be vocal in my needs and wants. She taught me to set up boundaries with people. She taught me how to have uncomfortable conversations with those I love the most. Through all these lessons and a ton of hard work I now take joy and find happiness in the everyday. My daily journey through life no longer feels like a death march I have to endure and wish would end, but an opportunity for growth and discovery. I feel the love from and for my children. These are the days I will get to look back on with a glow and talk about. These happy days I am still learning, I take note of everything that brings me joy and peace and when dark thoughts circle and try to close in I shine the light of joy and peace into them and they shrink into the distance. Knowing I have control over myself and my happiness is a power I never knew I had until I had somebody tell me I did.

Don’t live in the darkness. Speak up, reach out, surround yourself with those who bring light and joy into your life, find the help you need and that works for you. Find the change you need to bring you happiness. Living with depression is utterly isolating, but know you are most definitely not alone.”

Mom smiling with two kids
Courtesy of Maura Marko

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Maura Marko. You can follow her journey on Instagram here or on her blog here. Do you have a similar experience? We’d like to hear your important journey. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

Read more stories like this:

‘I’m FINE!’ I heard my son call out. Something very wrong was happening. It was an out-of-body experience.’: Mom of 2 battles PPD, becomes advocate, ‘Motherhood shouldn’t be so hard’

‘The first thing the doctor said was, ‘I see we’re having some anxiety lately?’ I was in denial.’: Mom battling postpartum depression says ‘it’s NOTHING to be ashamed of’

‘I need to leave. I have to get out of here.’ I felt clammy, trapped. Anxiety was taking precious memories away from me.’: New mom shares journey with postpartum anxiety, ‘There IS a way out’

‘The first 8 years of being a parent were rough. ‘It’s the after-baby blues. They’ll go away.’ I felt like a failure.’: Mom shares journey with postpartum depression, ‘The NOW is where I’m content’

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