This one year PPD update is coming a little bit late, but I have been going back and forth about which way this post will go. The problem is, I started writing about PPD so that other women searching the internet late at night would be able to feel less-alone. It’s interesting because in the last year, many celebrities have come out and talked about PPD more than any other year in history. That’s great! And also, annoying. It’s amazing that these women have brought awareness and resources to the postnatal mental health community, but at the same time, every PPD experience is different, and honestly, celebrities may have more resources than the typical momma to deal with their symptoms.
I learned a few things over the course of this year, and I wanted to share them here. Be warned – they are not all happy and positive. This is unfortunate, because I would love to write some sort of catchy post entitled “5 Ways I Beat PPD.” I mean, let’s be serious, that post would get a lot of traction. Instead, I’m keeping to my word of playing it straight with you guys, telling the real truth.
Lesson #1: Keeping up with friends was and is nearly impossible for me.
Many PPD resources give the advice that you should get out of the house, join mom’s groups, and try to socialize. I laughed at this advice. I could barely keep up with the friends I had, and these people wanted me to go and make friends with a bunch of other new moms? The irony is that I actually think it’s great advice – if you are able to – go meet new moms in the same stage of momhood as you. It would have been awesome if I could have dragged my ass to a new mom’s group and it would have been so, so beneficial to create some friendships with these women. But instead, I stayed home doing a lot of self-hating. I went to a really great PPD support group a couple times, but then my husband’s schedule made it hard for me to continue going.
As the months went on, I felt guilt for not keeping up with my real friends, and I started to feel guilt about the fact that I hadn’t made any new mom friends like I was “supposed to.” So now, as a result, I have very few friends. There aren’t too many people in my life who can identify with how my brain is working and how my heart is feeling. There are people I care about who have dropped out of my life because I couldn’t keep up with their friend needs. And there are people who I would have liked to have been friends with whom I will likely never see again.
I hate that this has been the case for me. There are many people in my pre-baby life that I wish were in my life now – but I simply do not have the energy or the emotional space to make that happen. I do cognitively understand that if I wanted to get these friends back, I could, and I think that they would understand, but I’m not quite there yet.
Lesson #2: Find something that you like doing and do it.
This has been the thing that saved me this year. My family built a new house that we are currently living in. Moving was one of the reasons that this update post was so delayed. Not only is having a newly built house AH-MAZING, learning about interior design and styling saved my sanity. Just a reminder, my son cried non-stop for about his first 6-8 months of life. I spent most of my days wearing him in a Solly Wrap and bouncing on a medicine ball. All day. Every day. I recruited my close friends and family to wear the wrap and bounce him too. Fortunately, one thing I could while bouncing was look at Pinterest on my phone.
We went through the design process for our new house and we got to choose all the finishes. It was the best! So fun. And I felt that process was fast and smooth for us because I had already cruised Pinterest and pinned many of the designs that I wanted before we got to the selection process.
I’ve always like having projects to do – building, crafting, drawing, painting, etc. If I feel a DIY is within reach, I will try it. This has resulted in some DIY fails, but that’s ok with me because I do enjoy it. During the past year, I have designed our new house by picking out all the finishes, styled about half of the rooms since moving, designed the fireplace and surrounding built ins, painted and revived some furniture, designed an addition onto our existing kitchen island, and come up with a plan for our master closet. Additionally, our house has an unfinished basement that we will finish this Fall – and I have been busy designing that as well.
That is a lot of designing, and I found that I love doing it. And not only do I like doing this as a hobby, but it keeps my mind busy. That means that my mind isn’t spinning about being a bad mom, or a lazy person, or a terrible speech-language pathologist. Instead, I am just being busy figuring out and absorbing design aesthetics. And that is an awesome feeling, not to be weighed down by a heavy fog, instead doing something I really enjoy.
Lesson #3: Look at time differently.
This probably resonates with a lot of moms, but time is just a different beast than it was before there was a kid involved. I used to get so, so much done. I was awake at 5:30am, and went to bed at 10:30pm, and all the time in between was filled with productive happenings. I don’t like to be bored, and I don’t like to feel lazy, so I made sure that ALL the hours in the day were filled with important things. Now, I feel lucky if I get one errand/task finished in the day. Some days I work a half day, and in the afternoon, if I can get laundry done, I feel this is a huge accomplishment. The issue is that I wish I could do more. I wish I could clean the house, and paint furniture, and write more blog posts, and do research for projects that I want to finish. But I also want to spend time with my son, and make sure he is having fun, and keep him healthy and safe.
I feel that last bit – keeping him healthy and safe – takes up the majority of my time. I would venture to guess that this is just called being a responsible parent. However, I follow so many moms on social media who are just killing it – getting it all done. How are they doing it? How are they able to be so productive, and seemingly, so successful? It is so confusing.
Instead, I have been trying to train myself to look at time differently. Things that I would normally give myself a day to do – I give myself a week. I try to prioritize any time with my son over any other work I have to do. So if that means I have to write my clinic notes in the late evening, that’s what I do. This allows me to hang out with him in the afternoon, instead of working straight up until dinner.
Projects that I would have previously been able to complete now happen over the course of several weekends. Trust me, I’ve read countless blogs and listened to podcasts where these DIY people talk about how they finish projects while their kids are napping. HAHA! Even when I get my kid to sleep in his crib, it’s barely enough time for me to open a can of paint, or be more than one paragraph into writing a post.
Time is different now, and I am still getting used to that.
Lesson #4: Get a routine and then forgive yourself from deviating from it.
This one is just funny to me. For years and years and years, I have preached the benefits of routine. I have always operated better on a routine, and I have tried my hardest to get my kid into a routine that will work for him. The problem here is that he doesn’t give a crap about my routine. Though he does have some general times when he will take a nap, and go to bed at night, we don’t have a set routine of what we do every day.
If your kid follows a routine, great – kids do awesome when they follow routines. However, if you are in a similar position as us, just go ahead and forgive yourself now for deviating from the routine.
This is so incredibly hard for some people because since they know that their kid may “operate” better with a routine, they LOSE THEIR MINDS when the routine is thrown off or disrupted. Common causes of disruption include travel, visitors, or events that interfere with your typical schedule. In fact, some of my family members have driven back to their homes 9 hours away because they wanted their kid to get back on a schedule.
To each his own. But in my case, I try to let myself be ok with deviating from the routine. I try to make sure that I don’t beat myself up if my kid gets cranky from a simple schedule disruption. The truth is that the world isn’t ending, it’s just life. This has been a tough one to wrap my head around, but ultimately, those days where our routine is off really don’t have an impact on our life in the long run.
Lesson #5: Try and recognize the small wins.
A post that I wrote was published on The Mighty. The Mighty is a website full of articles for various mental health challenges. But I didn’t tell anyone. In fact, I was EXHAUSTED by the fact that I submitted article and it was accepted. I know, I know, that doesn’t make any sense. But I rode a shame rollercoaster about it. I got to a place where I didn’t care about my work. I was literally just tired thinking about it. This is kind of how my year has been – I work hard at something, think I’m doing a great job, and then think of a reason to destroy these accomplishments.
More recently I have been trying to get a little bit more energy and control of my life. I have been trying to move forward instead of backward or stagnant. The easiest way that I am doing this is by celebrating a small win…and I mean small. For instance, if I get out the door on time, I am like doing a happy dance.
My husband has been super helpful with these simple things and that has been a big help to my mental health. He needs a shout out in all these lessons learned because he has really sunk his teeth into being a dad. I tell him all the time that I’m thankful he’s not a dead-beat dad – and for that…we are #winning.
How are you doing postpartum? I’d love to hear about your experience in the comments.