I recently encountered a mom who took one look at me and assumed I had it all. And y’all? I can’t lie. I have a wonderful life. I am 34 weeks pregnant with a healthy baby girl. I am fortunate enough to work from home and for myself, doing a job I adore. My amazing husband is currently working on his PhD at an Ivy League school, has job security, and is home almost every night for dinner and to bathe No1. And my first-born is a thriving, energetic, bright little girl who is mostly well-behaved.
I know it must look perfect from the outside. But like @Hopin2bHappy said to me the other night, “Sometimes I wish I could just open my brain and show them the broken parts. ”
Because sometimes? I feel like I have no excuse to be struggling with antenatal depression and anxiety. I think people glance at my life and see the house and the cute preggo belly and the crafts and the swept kitchen floor… and decide that I can’t possibly be struggling. How dare I? Look at how great my life is, how much I accomplish, how pretty I am, and how my floor and countertops are clean. (Really, folks, I can’t tell you how often people comment that my floor is clean. As if I’m sweeping my floor not because I have an anxiety disorder that compels me to sweep every day lest I feel out of control, but because I want to make them look bad.) I know I shouldn’t care what they think, but it gets to me.
There are days I feel an overwhelming sense of guilt. Guilt for having so much going right in my life and for not always being able to enjoy it. So I remind myself of the truth. Women struggling with PPD or PPA (or any kind of mood or anxiety disorder) are strong, successful, talented, and loving. We have passions: we bake, we sing, we write, we craft. We parent the best we can and reach out to help others despite our pain. We work: for ourselves, for companies, for our families. We are normal people dealing with an extraordinary situation. The depression strikes despite all we have going right in our lives. It literally prevents us from being able to enjoy our blessings and windfalls. That’s why it’s called a mood disorder.
I realize that if you haven’t walked in my shoes, it’s impossible to truly understand where I’m coming from. I get that it’s a complicated subject, and often uncomfortable for people to discuss. I’m managing the antenatal depression and anxiety well these days, but it is what I spend 80% of my energy doing. They are always humming in the background, challenging my daily tasks with their lunacy. My wounds are invisible, I know, but they are so very real and so when asked, “how are you?” the answer is “I’m okay. I’m in survival mode, but I’m doing okay.” I choose authenticity, and I hope in response you choose compassion.