If I close my eyes, I can still feel the cold bathroom tiles beneath me. Crouched in the corner of the room, lights off, door locked; this was my stark reality for far too long. I remember my partner shouting for me to let him in, fearful of what I might do. I couldn't verbalize all the chaos in my head and I didn't yet know how to express my fear, too. This was just one of my personal red flag moments that made me realize I was suffering from postpartum depression, but it wasn't the last. Sadly, not even close to my breaking point, either.
After a difficult first pregnancy — filled with hormonal surges, hypertension that forced bed rest, and the loss of all emotional control whatsoever — I held my beautiful baby girl, born at 10:17 a.m. on Oct. 11 after being induced two whole days prior. I was on the verge of needing a c-section when she decided it was time for her debut (a pre-curser to her personality, I would come to learn). While I was relieved to be done with pregnancy and all the horror it put me through, I felt a new sensation pummeling through me: doom. It's hard to explain in the moment. I can only liken it to an overwhelm so heavy it clouded everything. I wasn't able to maintain my relationship in a healthy way, I hadn't bonded with my newborn, and intrusive thoughts ran rampant in my mind at all hours of the day and night.
The feelings started slowly as my hormones dipped. I was warned of "baby blues," which is explained by The Mayo Clinic as having "mood swings, crying spells, anxiety and difficulty sleeping," that are totally normal. However, because of my history of depression and anxiety, I was also told to remain vigilant, I knew my normal feelings could morph into something else entirely, something known as postpartum depression (PPD). This form of depression strikes 1 in 7 women and while it's treatable, it's also so severe that immediate intervention is necessary — as it was for me.
To be honest, I hadn't voluntarily sought help when I needed to. I waited and waited and hoped the feelings would change and that, miraculously, I'd bond with my daughter and stop feeling so worthless and empty. Pregnancy, labor, and delivery drained every last bit of self worth I had, so I could no longer recognize the signs or symptoms of my depression. When I went in to see my doctor for (what was supposed to be) a final post-baby check-in, I was in such a dark place there was no light left in me.
Thankfully my partner saw the warning signs of the severe depression, but I'd withdrawn from everyone else so he was the only one. Isolation had become my refuge and, sadly, so had self-harm. That day I went to see my doctor, he noticed things I hadn't been able to express to anyone — especially my partner. I told him I'd been feeling suicidal and while I would never dream of hurting my baby, I could no longer see a place in the world for me. He placed a hand on my shoulder and, with compassion, told me it didn't make me a bad mother. He then handed me a card to a therapist and suggested calling the suicide hotline and assured me he'd help however necessary. It was this conversation that I remember to this day because, quite frankly, it saved my life.
If you or someone you love is experienced any of the below, please know it doesn't make you weak in any way to ask for help. In my case, it actually helped me find myself again when I otherwise might not have. No, actually — I know I wouldn't have.