Three years ago, I was existing in my new area of motherhood. My youngest(at the time) was 2 months old. We had our four older foster children, all in various stages of becoming forever children. It was what we had been working for since our marriage a short two years earlier. I should have been happier than ever. The depression pregnancy hormones and life curve balls had thrown my way were healing and would be resolved. It was time to be happy.
Instead I was downright miserable.
I was struggling immensely with what I would learn in a few short weeks was post partum depression. A few months after that, almost 6 months after his birth, the diagnosis for obsessive compulsive disorder would come up. As time went on, discussion and therapy continued, we came to realize I had been dealing with OCD most my life. The diagnoses were not a shock. As a woman who struggled with mental illness most my young adult life, it was almost expected.
What I wasn’t quite as ready for is the shame I would feel for being “that mother”.
There’s a weird new shame that comes with postpartum mental illness. Since leaving college I had been open about mental illness. At times I’m more raw and authentic than others, but for the most part I resisted any shameful feelings over my diagnosis. I was all about ending the stigma. Mental health is as important as physical health. The hashtags are easy enough to add to the end of my Insta pictures.
Even so, there was a newfound shame involved in acknowledging I was not as mentally stable as I had thought I would be as a mother. The past was no longer only in the past-my mental health was a big part of each and every day. I found myself unable to sleep, intrusive thoughts interrupting any moments of quiet I may get. The guilt of not attaching “the right way” and hating breastfeeding and attachment parenting was horrible.
I went through a long time pretending like I was okay. And a whole lot of people thought I was. Very few people knew about my increased struggle before I willingly wrote abut it on this blog. I couldn’t tell anyone about it, after all. Mental illness is real and needs to be treated-except mine. Mine was going to be okay; it was going to just go away. And I was too ashamed to share it with others.
That shame is the number one reason I wanted to partake in this campaign.
I know I’ve talked about postpartum depression quite a bit and most of what I’ve shared is nothing new to long term readers. But what I do want to share with y’all today is a little new-a feeling that hangs over me everyday as a mother.
I feel so much guilt and shame for having my mental illnesses affect mine and my kids lives.
I am not sharing this in hopes you all come in and tell me how great a mother I am. At the end of the day, I know I’m a decent one. I work very hard to not allow my kids to experience some of the downfalls of the anxiety, depression, OCD, and PTSD I live with daily. But I also know at the end of the day, they have had to deal with some things only because of my personal struggles. I feel guilty for the first few months of my sons life I doubted he was a good choice. That I was heartbroken and miserable for him and the older kids. That my husband had to pick up a whole bunch of the slack I left there.
The shame of being “that mom” weighed on me. It still does. I hate when I wake up Bear because he’s been sleeping so long, my thoughts lead me to believe he must be dead. I’m not a fan that I’m extra strict with Doodle because of anxiety-a conversation we had that I wish never had to happen. Some days I yell more than I want and often I find myself annoyed at the silliest things, things that shouldn’t set me off do. After those days, I am ashamed of the mother I am and I hate my mental health for not always being at the top of it’s game.
And I don’t think I’m alone.
The fact of the matter is, we all have life events and emotional things that have made us the way we are today. I would bet there are somethings you do because your mother did it when you were growing up. OR on the slip side, things you purposefully don’t do because your father did. We are all molded and shaped into the people we are today because of the things in our past. My kids may remember that I yelled at them for not double checking before playing in the neighbors yard, but they will also remember the days we had blanket forts, movie marathons, and popcorn. They may remember mama had to pull over six times to check Bears seat belt, but they’ll also remember her fearlessly leading them through the woods.
Your kids will remember those great parts too.
I said I wanted to partake in this series because I still feel ashamed of my mental health sometimes. Writing this hasn’t fixed that. But reading so many other people share if on Jamie’s website has. Seeing I’m not alone has. Knowing many, many women out there live each day with maternal mental illness has.
I wanted to share this in spite of my guilt and shame. Because I am the face of postpartum depression. I am the face of maternal mental illness.