You'd think celebrities would be exempt from the postpartum depression discussion with their perceived perfect lives and the financial ability to hire help at any time for any need. But, life doesn't work like that. We forget that celebrities are people just like us. Flaws, addictions, hardships in life, and even hormones. Obviously fame and money cannot buy happy marriages or even a happy postpartum. Could those factors and pressures make it even worse on their side of the fence?
I am not a celebrity nor do I have gobs of money to hire the help I wish I could (will someone fold my mountains of laundry, please?), but I do have this in common with Hayden Panettiere: I struggled too.
With Hayden in the news right now regarding her battle with postpartum depression, I wanted to be another voice so other moms know that they are not alone. I applaud Hayden for speaking out with her struggles and seeking help. If that's one thing I learned in my experience, it is this: Asking for help is nothing to be ashamed of. It is needed so that we can be the best mom for those little people we love the most. In fact, it is a sign of strength in times of vulnerability.
After birth it can be so easy to push aside mood swings and feelings as part of the hormones trying to get back on track or simply calling it sleep deprivation. I mean, who is their best self on four hours of sleep? No one. For moms though, it can add fuel to the mental fire of PPD. In a recent interview on Live with Kelly & Michael Hayden brought much needed media attention to the issue of PPD. She is so right. We need support. We need awareness that it is a real issue that can look different for everyone. We need women to not hide their tears and stop plastering happy faces on in public, thinking they have to appear strong all the time.
My personal battle began after the birth of my third parented child. The first months of adjusting to life with three went actually really smoothly and I felt full of joy. Then the sleep deprivation kicked in when she was around four months old. I began sinking fast into a late postpartum funk. I lost myself in my role of Mom. I was so consumed with meeting everyone else's needs that I forgot my own. I was empty. I stopped doing what I loved: reading books, writing, crafting, and visiting with friends. I literally felt like I was drowning from all the responsibilities I had as a mom and wife, the weight constantly pressing into my chest so I couldn't catch a full breath of air. Simple things like keeping up with the dishes, grocery shopping, and spending time with my kids took more effort than it should. I felt angry at every whiny demand and bitter that I felt like a servant to everyone in our household. I felt guilty for feeling this way. I felt gloomy like Eeyore with a little gray cloud following me around raining on my mood constantly. I cried a lot. I cried because life was hard. Why was life so hard? Isn't this what I wanted in my life? I cried because I felt like I was screwing up my children.
In those darkest days, I thought they would be better off without me.
Thankfully as I sat nursing my baby with tears forcing their way out from the dam that had broken within my heart, I realized that something was not right. This was not just being tired anymore: I needed help. Like Hayden, I reached out to counselors to help survive this season of life and find my joy again. I desperately wanted to enjoy my family, I wanted to take pride in my home again. I wanted to write again. I wanted to devour books again. I wanted to feel like me again.
Over the next months I did just that with my counselor's help, my husband's support, and a few other tools. I chipped away at the weight on my chest with a chisel of hope. Bit by bit, I felt more free and could breathe easier one day at a time. I cannot say that it was a fast fix. It wasn't. I felt this weight for over a year and a half before it finally lifted completely. I coped with the feelings, I fought them daily for months. I clung to hope that this season would pass. I learned about myself in the process and what makes me tick by design. But, I also resisted the thought of seeking medication to help me in the process of becoming me again. Looking back now and knowing how long I would struggle with my gloomy cloud hovering over me, I wish I had looked to more resources in addition to my counseling. I did cope and I did overcome, but it took me longer. Now, I am nearly eight months postpartum with my fourth parented child and the tools I learned then help me stay out of that lonely path. But, now I also know my limits. If or when I ever think those dangerous thoughts again, I know I need to seek help beyond before. I refuse to sink again!
I'm glad Hayden realized her limits too and took action. It will make her a better person and a better mother when this season of hardship has passed. If you are struggling too, I urge you to do the same.