These three pictures were taken at very different times.
True, they are only a few years apart, but the person in them is different. The first was taken in December 2012, the second in May 2017, and the last in April 2018. It’s the same person on the outside, but a very different person on the inside.
The girl in the first picture is scared, haunted by obsessive thoughts and feeling like a bad mother for wanting nothing to do with the baby she can’t believe is hers. This girl would be put on medication for the short term, but then suffered with crippling anxiety and rage long after. This girl was a one and done with children. This girl thinks she just made the biggest mistake of her life. She hates the baby, her husband, and herself. She overcompensates by keeping her house obsessively clean and working out for hours on end. She cooks months worth of homemade organic meals and keeps herself up at night making homemade graham crackers. She is not me anymore.
The girl in the second picture can’t believe she did this again. She can’t believe she’s feeling this way again. She had it right this time: exercised and ate healthy all through pregnancy, switched from her OB to a more natural minded midwife, had a natural birth, encapsulated her placenta, took magnesium supplements and had read every book out there. Yet, once again, she’s plagued by sleepless nights, panic attacks, and a crippling depression. She’s heartbroken to see a safe haven sign and learn that she can only drop off a baby 30 days old, and her son is 33 days old. She has visions of dropping her newborn down the stairs. However, she’s acting as if nothing has changed, and she can totally handle life. She repeats to herself: This is normal. It will pass. She is not me anymore.
Then that girl got the help she needed. That girl started therapy, found the right medication, and met her people. She made it her job to go to every possible event at the Center for Perinatal Mood and Anxiety disorder. She learned she has struggled with anxiety her entire life. She learned that therapy, meditation, mindfulness, writing, exercise in moderation, medication and acupuncture could help her thrive.
The woman in the third picture is not without her battles. The difference now is that smile is genuine. Sure, her kids drive her nuts sometimes and she still struggles with anxiety and not having a constant sense of order. But, she knows how to handle it. She laughs more and stresses less. She’s found a sisterhood of amazing women who accept her for who she is. It’s hard work changing her mindset, but she’s committed. She loves her boys fiercely and knows that she was brought to this place for a reason. This woman is me.
Perinatal Mood and Anxiety Disorders are the most common complication of childbirth, and affect one in five women. There is help out there. It’s work, but it can change your life. At almost thirty-five, I’ve finally found myself. I’m a work in progress and that’s alright.