I don't want to get into the details or wallow too much in self-pity but I've been struggling with a bit of post-partum depression recently. I thought I was handling life with two kids pretty well until about three weeks ago and then it hit me like a ton of bricks. I have some dear friends who have struggled with PPD in the past and I could never really empathize with them. I mean, "having a baby is the best!", "why would you ever feel sad when you have a sweet, healthy baby?", "how could anyone not love everything about being a mom?" Well, I understand now about feeling overwhelmed and feeling physically sick because my life is chaos. I understand about not finding joy in small things like I used to. I understand about feeling incredible guilt piling on top of me every time I fail to do something I want or need to. I understand what it's like feel ashamed that motherhood wasn't fulfilling me like it used to. This was not me and I certainly felt like something was wrong. In reality, these feelings had nothing to do with my children, my husband or even my life. I knew that but I was still struggling to be happy.
Things have gotten better since those days when everything felt like a hot mess. One of my best friends gave me some good advice and cautioned me to not let things spiral downward. That gave me the boost I needed to make some necessary changes I needed to get me out of this hole. The first step was realizing that my hormones were creating havoc on me physically and emotionally and I had to give myself a break. It's not because I am a bad mom. The second was to remember that this phase doesn't last forever. The hard moments will fade away and the good moments, if I focus on them, will create a memory to buoy up my strength the next time I feel down. For all the tears I've shed lately I have learned a few valuable lessons:
1. Prayer and meditation are key to connecting my spirit and body. Having some time every day to be quiet and think really improves my overall feeling about my life. The other evening I put on my ear buds and took a walk at twilight by myself. I listened to this talk and prayed. I cried in relief as I heard a prophet of the Lord say, "Tenderly the Master speaks to these and indeed to all: 'Come back. Come up. Come in. Come home. Come unto me.'" It renewed me and helped me remember that God loves me, as imperfect as I am, and that I can improve with His help.
2. Fill your life with as much joy as you can. Every time I felt sad or overwhelmed over the last few weeks, I would stop and tell myself to look around and find at least one thing that made me grateful. Things tend to pile up on my grateful list as I start naming my blessings one by one. I also found that surrounding myself with my closest friends was really helpful. Even though I didn't feel like socializing (really out of character for me) I forced myself and it made me feel so much better.
3. Don't sweat the small stuff. I used to find this so much easier to do but lately, the cereal crunched into my rug or the blocks I've tripped over and the screaming kids in the car on the way to the grocery store made me burst into tears. I started just laughing one day at the ridiculousness of it all and it made me realize that it's all OK. I'm doing just fine. The cereal can be vacuumed up, the blocks can be put away and we will complete our grocery store outing in one piece.
4. Sleep. Duh, right? Don't stay up late because it's the only time you have to yourself. Put the kids to bed, take a bath and go to bed. You won't regret it in the morning.
5. Make good, small choices. I realized that by choosing to eat something healthy instead of ten cookies for lunch or by choosing to read to William instead of getting on the computer while the baby napped, I felt so much better about how the day went. Those things may seem insignificant at the moment but at the end of the day, when I'm evaluating everything, those choices make me feel better or worse depending on what I chose.
I look at my life and it is really good. Really, really good. I have this awesome husband who is sweet and supportive. He tries so hard to make me happy. I am so grateful for him. I have two sweet, healthy, happy boys who make my life really joyful. I have a wonderful family, health, happiness and so many other things and I want to concentrate on that. And it always helps to remember that "tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it".