My resolution for 2015 was to be more present. When I decided upon that goal, I didn't realize that I was struggling with Postpartum Depression and that it was only going to get worse before getting better. It's really hard to be present in your life when you feel like life is spiraling out of control and feeling darker by the day. Sometimes all you want to do is hide.
At my baby's two-month doctor visit her doctor suggested I see my doctor about getting treated for postpartum depression. I knew that I felt off, didn't feel like myself, cried quite a bit and whatnot, but I didn't feel like I was depressed. I just thought it was afterbirth hormonal stuff that would sort itself out. My doctor suggested I start an antidepressant, a low dose since I was (and still am) breastfeeding.
Truthfully, I think my depression started while I was still pregnant and only worsened after delivery, but there I was. It took awhile to start feeling the medication working, but it still didn't seem like enough. Between the depression and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed at life, I was a mess. I didn't want to get out to even go to the grocery store. It seemed like a hassle. I snapped at my kids, snapped at my boyfriend, and generally felt pretty lousy about myself most of the time.
A little more than a month ago I decided things had to change. I hadn't really been engaging in life. I had been shutting myself up and I liked it that way. I would be actively involved with my kids every now and then, I was still keeping them (mostly) clean and alive, but I wasn't really there. I was numb. I knew I was loved, but I wasn't feeling it. I was feeling more like a failure than anything.
So I started finding bible devotions on depression and anxiety on YouVersion. I started reading articles on postpartum depression. I started reading blogs and forums by other women who had been through it or were going through it. This made me feel more normal when I felt very abnormal. I started researching different things I can do to improve my mood in order to improve my general well-being so I can be more present in my life, instead of just feeling like a floater or a bystander just watching it all happen.
This doesn't come close to explaining how I've been feeling, and I'm still struggling with depression and anxiety. An increase in my medication a couple weeks ago is helping, as my doctor said I've not improved and it may have even worsened since February. I have good days, more accurately, I have good moments and bad moments. There are definitely triggers that bring out the ugly, but here are a few things I've been doing that have been helping me. If you're struggling with depression, maybe you'll find them helpful too.
1. Being Thankful
I read that a grateful person is a happy person. With this in mind, I have an alarm on my phone that is set to go off at 9:30pm to remind me to be thankful. I then get out my Journal of Positivity and I write down 3 things I'm thankful for that day. I make them very specific. Rather than generally saying "I'm thankful for my kids", I write something specific that happened that day that made me thankful for them. Writing them down gives me something to look at as a reminder for days (moments) when I'm feeling down.
2. Physical Activity
I have taken up yoga, albeit sporadic, and planking. I try to plank daily and do yoga/stretching 3-4 times a week. I read that physical activity releases dopamine or some other feely-good stuff that sends happy goodness throughout the body. Couldn't hurt, right? Doing these little bursts of physical activity have been helping me to feel physically stronger and better about myself, without being a big time investment that would seem more overwhelming.
3. Accepting Imperfection
This one is the most difficult. I'm a natural perfectionist, so accepting imperfection is quite a challenge. But I'm trying to come to grips with the fact that I'm not the perfect mom, I can't keep my home spotless, I won't have perfectly behaved children, I won't have a perfect body, I won't have a perfect relationship, and that things WILL go wrong, but that does NOT make me a failure.
I have knit 10 (?) pairs of socks since March. When I'm knitting socks I can either focus on the pattern or on whatever Netflix show I'm watching. It allows me to sort of empty my thoughts for a bit. Externally it seems like I'm secluding myself or shutting myself off from the world, but I'm actually just trying to center myself a bit by doing something I enjoy.
5. Getting Outside
Since the weather has warmed up, I've been trying to get out more. I've been sitting outside from my morning coffee til late afternoon when the sun moves to the porch side and it gets too warm to sit outside. This has probably benefited me more than anything. The fresh air and sunshine has been greatly boosting my mood. I actually have been looking forward to mornings so I can sit outside.
Other things I've been doing have been to try to shower at least a couple times a week, which isn't always easy with a baby. Sometimes I have to bathe with her in order for this to happen. I've been trying harder to get myself dressed each day as though I were going somewhere, trying to do my hair and makeup now and then too. I've been taking time to read. I've been spending more time in prayer and asking God to free me from depression and anxiety, and I've been mindful of what I'm eating and trying to eat things that have been shown to help alleviate depression.
The last few months haven't been easy and I'm not sure how much longer it will last, but I'm finally starting to feel more like myself again. I'm finally starting to feel more joy. And I'm final;y starting to feel more a part of my own life.
If you'd like some tips on things you can do to be more present with your children, you can check out my post here.
Postpartum depression and anxiety are legit. They are something that you can't just snap out of or wish away. It's a daily process, with or without medication.
Have you ever dealt with depression? How did you get through it?