There are great initiatives such as Bell’s Let’s Talk day to help get people talking about mental illness and break the silence about a topic that will affect most people in their lifetime.
The mental illness that has touched me is depression and anxiety, especially after the birth of my first child.
When my beautiful daughter was born, all was right in my world. She was gorgeous, healthy and made our lives immeasurably better. I was surrounded by family and friends and quickly developed a lovely routine.
However, when Maddie was 4 months old, we decided to move from Vancouver back to Ottawa. Within two weeks, my husband had to come here to start work, so I was left in Vancouver to pack up our house with a now-teething baby. (Don’t blame my husband – we made that decision together!!) For two months, I was on my own with our baby.
The stress of moving and being a single mom took its toll. By the time we were settled in our new house and life returned to a new normal, I was still in a constant state of stress and anxiety. I was in a new town where I knew no one, and had no close family nearby. I have extended family here, but was too proud to ask for help, and didn’t want to appear like I was whining. I had a nice house, a wonderful husband and an amazing child. Why wasn’t I happy?
I spent months hating my life, feeling trapped and alone, and feeling like an awful mother for not being 100% fulfilled to be spending each day at home with my child. I felt crushing guilt over every perceived failure as a mother. I held myself to ridiculous standards and beat myself up over not being able to live up to my own expectations, like crying over feeding my daughter jarred baby food instead of preparing my own from homegrown organic veggies. I would lie awake at night worrying what would happen if I didn’t have time to cook baby food, or if I forgot to wash a load of diapers. It was awful.
After months of this, and being short and irritable to my husband who was trying his best to help me, I decided to see my doctor to see what was wrong with me. It was the best decision I have ever made. I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and depression.
I chose to start on anti-depressant medication to help me cope and spoke with a counselor for several months. The combination of the two allowed me to climb out of the hole I was in, and start seeing solutions to the seemingly giant problems I was facing. I squirreled away a mini stash of diapers for “emergency use”. I bought a bunch of healthy baby food in case I didn’t have the oomph to make my own. I spent some time out of the house. I started attending a local baby group and met other moms in the same position as me. Within a few months, I felt like myself again.
I have continued to take the antidepressants, and most times feel fine. Although I am mostly a happy person, I still have days where I feel really down. I am now able to see those days for what they are though – just a bad day.
This experience has changed my attitude towards raising my children, and my perspective towards motherhood in general. I do my best and don’t strive for perfection. There are no perfect mothers, but I am the best one my children will ever have.
It has changed my attitude towards other moms as well because they might be going through a similar thing as I did. I try to reach out to moms new to our little baby community to let them know that there are other moms they can turn to when they need us.
I am absolutely not ashamed to say that I have suffered from mental illness. I fought a battle, and I won. Depression can be ongoing, so I may have to do it again in my lifetime, but I now know what tools there are out there to help.
So if you are feeling this way, please reach out to someone. Your doctor, a friend, or even me. You aren’t alone, and once you start talking, people start to share their stories with you as well. So let’s talk.