I'm no stranger to postpartum depression (PPD). I've struggled with—and overcome—it twice. It's a darkness I wouldn't wish on anyone; PPD robbed me of joy during the most amazing periods of my life. But as much as I lost to PPD, I also gained priceless insight into the importance of self-care and the value of mental health awareness and treatment. Here are five lessons I learned, courtesy of PPD:
1. Don't be your own worst enemy. The first time I experienced PPD, it nearly brought me to my knees. I suffered for months before seeking treatment, refusing to admit that I had a problem. I simply couldn't bring myself to concede that I was miserable when I should be anything but; I had a healthy, beautiful baby, after all! In hindsight, delaying help was the worst decision I could have made. Doing so threatened my mental and physical health and put a strain on my marriage.
2. It takes a village. Not just to raise a child, but to care for yourself. While the self-care journey ultimately starts with you, others can play a vital role in ensuring your physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Partners, family, friends, and mental health professionals can all help you be the best version of you. Don't be afraid to express your needs and wants, and certainly don't turn away help that's offered!
3. Self-care isn't selfish. When I first became a mother, I completely abandoned my own needs in lieu of my daughter's. Aside from daily showers and eating, I stopped taking care of my whole self, believing my only priority was the new little human I made. I desperately wanted "me" time, but erroneously believed it would be selfish to do anything but take care of the baby. I learned the hard way that self-care isn't selfish; it's necessary. And it helps me be a better mom.
4. You deserve love and help. Part of the reason I initially refused treatment for postpartum depression is that I didn't believe I deserved help. I felt incredibly guilty for not relishing in every moment of my new role as a mother. In my mind, because I didn't feel blessed from sunrise to sunset, I was a subpar mom and thus did not merit love or support. But that couldn't be further from the truth; everyone deserves love, especially during times of need.
5. There's no such thing as perfect. Especially when it comes to motherhood (seriously, try giving your toddler a sandwich cut into squares when he wanted triangles—wrong, wrong, wrong!). The good news is that kids don't need perfect. They just need your best. And, as my mother-in-law says, your best today might look very different from your best tomorrow. It only matters that you're trying your hardest. So cut yourself some slack, mama.
Note: If you're suffering from PPD, you're not alone. According to the American Psychological Association, up to 1 in 7 women in the United States experience postpartum depression after giving birth. Symptoms can appear days or even months after delivering a baby and, unlike the "baby blues," they don't disappear on their own. Getting help is imperative.