The goal of the Mental Health Mom Series is for Moms and Moms-to-be to share their stories to be used to help inspire, uplift and spread awareness about mental health and motherhood.
Whether you suffer from depression, PPD, PTSD, anxiety, ADHD, bipolar disorder or something else your story may help change the life of another mom reader and that’s important to me!
A submission by Courtney of Courtney Allison
Therapists don’t get depressed. Therapists don’t get anxious. Except when they do.
Admitting that I was struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do, but it was also one of the most liberating.
My first daughter Josephina was not a good sleeper at all, she was always afraid of missing out on something (even at just a few weeks old!) and fell into the pattern of taking only 15-30 minute cat naps when she was about 4 weeks old.
As in introvert, having downtime is extremely important, so having only 15-30 minutes of alone time, especially after it took me 30 minutes just to get her asleep, was not ideal. I was also breastfeeding, pretty unsuccessfully due to the fact that she also had a heart condition that stunted her appetite and therefore prevented my milk supply from being what it should.
In short, I was failing at being a mom. One day, after Josephina had refused to nap all day I was sitting in her rocking chair, attempting to breastfeed with tears streaming down my cheeks and my husband walked in from work and immediately asked what was wrong. After tearfully telling him about the day he walked over slowly, took Josephina from me, and said, “I’m gonna take her, and you go take a break.”
That was when I knew I needed help.
I saw my OBGYN a week or so later and immediately started on Ativan for anxiety, and it was a world of difference. The stress of being a first-time mom was cut in half, and my anxiety, in general, was diminished significantly.
I felt like I could handle the unpredictability of life with an infant, and my mood swings, for the most part, were a thing of the past. For the first time, I felt like I was bonding with my new baby girl and that I was no longer failing at motherhood.
It was during this time that I also weaned my daughter and started formula feeding her, another decision that I feel helped my anxiety and depression immensely. Now I could ask for help when I needed it, and the pressure to feed her was no longer one that only I could take care of.
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When I had my second daughter three years later, I was ready. I had been using the Ativan on an as-needed basis for the most part, but when I had her I immediately started on it daily to keep the anxiety at bay, because I knew that the stress of having two children was not a good combination for me.
Unfortunately, the stress of having two children was not so easily managed with only my daily Ativan; I was crying constantly and had an almost constant feeling of guilt that my husband and I had decided to have another baby and take some of the attention away from Josephina.
I began to have a longing for the time when it was just the three of us, and I knew that those feelings were not normal for me, so I made the decision to begin taking antidepressants as well as my daily dose of Ativan. The combination of antidepressants and antianxiety medication was, for me, the right one, and I immediately felt better and like I could manage my new role as a mom of two.
My daughters are now 5 and 2, and life is much easier for all of us; we have found a routine that works for us all, and my girls are developing a bond that they will (hopefully) treasure forever. I continued to take both the antidepressants and antianxiety medication daily for about 18 months and recently made the decision to wean myself off them both.
It took me one month to wean off the antidepressants, and close to 6 months to wean off my anti-anxiety medication, mostly because I was afraid of what would happen when I no longer had my daily dose of anxiety armor.
I can say with confidence that I no longer need the medication, but I know for a fact that they saved my life emotionally.
Without them, the bond I have with my two girls would not be the same, and I know that I am a better mother because I made the decision to try medication.
No mother, or anyone for that matter, should have to suffer in silence. Anxiety and depression are real, they are hard, and they will eat you alive if you do not seek the help you need to manage them.
As a therapist, it was so hard for me to admit I needed help, and I even worried that if anyone found out that I was on medication, they would not want to work with me. However, I know that the best therapists are the ones who have a story to tell, and who can truly understand what their clients are going through, so when my clients are struggling, I do choose to share some of my experience with them, and they appreciate it.
If you are a mom and you are struggling, know that help and relief are out there, and you are not a bad mother if you feel depressed or anxious after having a baby. Being a mom is the best job in the world, but it is also the hardest, and a little help never hurt anyone.
Courtney Stewart is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in private practice, and she shares her experiences as a mom on her YouTube channel, Courtney Allison. She lives with her husband, two daughters, two dogs, and a cat in Florida.