How Leaning On My Community Helped Me Heal
While I was really lucky with easy pregnancies, I suffered from postpartum depression after the birth of each of my children. With my first child, I found myself feeling very “blah” a year after he was born. After a slight panic attack at the gym — I’ll never forget that I was mid-wall balls — I went to my angel of a general practitioner. She quickly diagnosed me with PPD, put me on a low dose of meds, and sent me straight to a therapist she trusted.
The meds worked, and I slowly felt myself come out of the fog and feel like myself again. Fast forward to after the birth of my daughter four years later, and I was relieved that I didn’t feel the same symptoms at first. However, about eight months later, I felt my mental health declining over the following weeks. One morning I woke up feeling especially bad.
“It’s back,” I told my husband as he crouched down next to my bed. Even though this time I knew the feeling was an onset of depression, my husband still tried to talk me out of it with pep talks about how work would get better, and my body would get stronger. Finally, I shared an essay with him that I read on postpartum depression shed light on how it felt to be under a cloud that you couldn’t control.
Thankfully, this time around, I knew what to do. I went straight to my GP to get my meds adjusted and back to the familiar couch of the therapist I had seen years before. I had tears running down my face when she asked me, “what do you need?” Primally, I answered, “I want my mom!” “Can you call her?” she asked — like it wasn’t the most obvious question in the world. “Oh yeah,” I thought. I could.
I tried to wipe my tears before heading into the elevator and entering the crowded lobby. Right there, I took the phone out of my pocket and dialed my mom’s number. Through tears, I asked, “can you come here?” “Yes,” she answered — and then waited ten seconds before following up with, “do you want to tell me why?” By the time I got home twenty minutes later, my husband had told me that my mom had booked a flight for the next morning. Just keep an eye on her until then,” she instructed him.
In the meantime, I had canceled all my plans with friends. Knowing that there’s a dangerous stigma around postpartum depression — and around mental health in general — I admitted to why I didn’t feel like going to brunch. One of my mom friends, worried about me just staying in, walked right over to my house. “I’ll be downstairs until you’re ready,” she texted.
So I got myself together, walked downstairs, and off to brunch we went with our close-knit circle. Being open with my friends was healthy, and it allowed me to let them be there for me. I felt like I was in a fog, but it was helpful to be out interacting in the world instead of stuck in bed.
My mom showed up the next morning, and I only remember pieces of the next couple of days. Sitting on the grass in the park with the baby. Calling my dad to let him in on what was going on. Visiting my sister in Jersey City. Then, it was suddenly Sunday afternoon, and my mom was scheduled to go home the next morning. “I can stay if you need me to,” she said.
I was ready to take her up on it, but I was also ready to go to that massage I had booked myself earlier in the week — my last-ditch effort to feel better. I dozed off during the massage, and when it was over, I felt the weight shift from the massage table to my feet on the ground. I felt different.
Did the therapist mix the chemicals in my body around in a way that shifted my mood? I’ll never know. What I do know is that when I came home, I told my mom I was ready for her to go. “I can always come back,” she said. And I knew it was true. I knew I was lucky to have this supportive community around me, and I’m so grateful I turned to them.
I hope that, if you ever find yourself drifting into a fog, you remind yourself that it’s ok to lean on your community too.
If you want help seeing what that looks like, take what you need:
Connect with people you trust and let them be there for you — physically if possible and virtually in these weird times
Reach out to professionals and be open to listening to their advice
Do things that make you feel better. (For me, that’s exercise, being with friends, creating things, and sometimes even watching junky TV!)
Get a massage — it might change everything (literally)
Know, remember, and remind yourself that the setback will end
It’s so important to surround yourself with family and friends when you know you’re in a dark place. It’s as essential to be honest with yourself as it is with your loved ones when you need help so that they know how to be there for you. (And know that you will make it through.)