Working Through Depression: Teri's Story
It’s funny to me that others always describe me as being so calm and at peace. I typically appear that way on the surface, but inside I’m actually hoping no one sees me flailing and trying not to capsize in my own ocean of emotions and anxieties.
For the last two years, I have been dealing with depression and anxiety. I’ve actually always had anxiety. I distinctly remember preparing for basketball games in high school and hyperventilating before going out on the court. So, it has definitely always been there, but after my son was born, it kind of took on a life of its own. My doctor called it postpartum depression/anxiety, and after being left untreated (because, you know, I was “handling” it on my own), it surpassed the postpartum period. Due to some other personal and non-pregnancy related things that were going on simultaneously, the symptoms were exacerbated, and it just became “severe anxiety and depression.”
Although I was functioning - working, parenting, etc. - there were always so many moments when I just couldn’t push through it. Functioning depression makes you appear like everything is normal, but it’s so difficult because you’re overexerting yourself even though you feel like you’re at the ends of your seams - constantly moving and doing because if you stop there’s a chance, you wouldn’t be able to pull yourself out of it again.
There’s something pretty scary about feeling like you’re outside of your own body. I was having the most sudden mood swings, I was extremely irritable and would absolutely dread waking up in the mornings to start my day. I was always thinking, thinking, thinking. Worrying, worrying, worrying. You know you don’t like feeling this way, but you just can not turn it off. You desperately want someone to just please turn it off.
That’s the part people always have a hard time understanding. It’s not something as simple as “just be happy.” I also think that’s why so many people stay silent about it because it is so misunderstood. How can you be this way when you have these beautiful children in front of you?! You have a home, food…everything you need! So, we feel guilty and ashamed which causes us to push it deep down and “handle it” on our own even though we know there’s something wrong that’s beyond our control.
A woman’s body goes through so many changes when she has a baby. Not just physical changes, but there are neurological changes also. Of course, there are the Beyoncé’s of the world who immediately “snap back” after pregnancy with their abs; and muscles in places you didn’t even know you could have. However, it should not be so surprising that there are women who pregnancy changes so much, physically and mentally, that it takes years for their neurological & hormonal changes to balance out again.
The factor that forced me to realize I couldn’t see myself through this on my own, was my children. I couldn’t stand how impatient and snappy I would be with them sometimes. It was not at all like my typical self. I know all of the churchgoers would say “Don’t claim that sickness!” However, it isn’t something I could wish or pray away (trust me, I tried). I had to claim it so that I could heal it. Claiming it doesn’t mean you’re letting it consume or define you. It means you’re acknowledging there’s something you need to take control of. It means helping others to see that having depression or anxiety isn’t “crazy,” you just process and react to things differently.
I’m finally feeling a bit more in control, but I’m still not sure when I will finally feel completely like myself again. I know my triggers, and I do my best to keep them at bay and to retreat when I need to. Still, while some days I feel like Wonder Woman, some days I feel like collapsing into myself. It’s all just a part of the journey, I suppose.