To be honest, looking back, it hurts to admit how long it took me to own the fact that I had postpartum depression. And that this had come to affect not only me, but those around me. It took me sitting in my boss’ office, facing the fact that my beloved career was at stake, to truly understand the magnitude of how far I had allowed this to go on.
“Seriously, is there something going on? What happened?” he asked, irritated, an hour and a half into me answering for every single mistake I had made for the past 15 months since I returned from my maternity leave. I hesitated. He insisted. “Is there something we should know about? What is wrong?”
I took a deep breath; yes. There was something very wrong.
The tears welled up, and looking through them I shakily said, “I was diagnosed with severe postpartum depression and anxiety.”
For months, I had been fighting this truth. I knew something had changed inside of me. Clearly, I became a mother- that is a big change. But there was something bigger at play here, something that I couldn’t quite grasp on my own or understand the magnitude of its affect on me, until I was sitting in that chair, blurting those words out, and admitting it into the universe.
My postpartum depression and anxiety developed after I was unable to breastfeed my daughter. There were many factors that led to this, but it was mainly due to the trauma that delivery caused to my body. I felt like a failure. How could I not do the one thing that distinguishes me as her mother? How could I fail at the most maternal, natural responsibility of providing nourishment for my child?
From there I became an exclusive pumper, and my days became a meticulously, obsessively scheduled routine of pumping, counting ounces, and measuring my self worth from what my body could produce. My maternity leave revolved around this, and upon my return to work, that didn’t change.
The mood in that office shifted instantly once I said those words out loud. There was silence. I was terrified. Finally, he asked:
“Why didn’t you tell us?”
What my boss didn’t know is that they aren’t the only ones I didn’t tell. In a way, I didn’t even tell myself. Becoming a mother made me realize how much there is that I can’t control, how many things I am not good at, and how many things I didn’t know. I had to learn to give myself grace and accept less than perfect. I should have asked for help so much sooner, but realizing that I had allowed this to translate into allowing poor performance and lowering my standards at work was the turning point for me. Saying it out loud, that I had postpartum depression, and admitting that this was the reason for this change in myself gave me more strength than pretending to fight this battle alone ever did.
From that day forward, it felt like I was free. There’s something truly powerful in admitting your biggest fear, and still having people believe in your ability to come back from it. And even to want to better support you. There is strength in getting knocked down and pulling yourself back up again. If I could go back, I would have asked for help much sooner. I would have said it out loud a lot sooner, and not been scared to face the fact that something was wrong. I just didn’t know that I had everything I needed to make it right.
About the Author:
Carolina Guske is a District Manager for ALDI (which she absolutely LOVES) and moved to Memphis 4 years ago for the job. She and her husband lived in Nashville for 15 years prior to the big move, are high school sweethearts, went to college, and got their MBAs together. They’ve been married for 5 years; together for 11. It took her a long time to accept Memphis as her new home, but now she couldn’t be happier that they are here. They have one daughter, Blair, who is equal parts doll and maniac (aren’t all toddlers?).