Since yesterday was Mother’s Day, I found myself reflecting on my past and how much different my life was before becoming a mother. Looking back made me realize how much I have changed since Lily came into my life. Specifically, how much happier I have been and how much her presence in my life has helped with my depression.
I have never really talked openly about this with anyone other than my family members. So writing this is pretty scary, to be honest. But I recently was part of a discussion between mothers talking about their experiences with postpartum depression and I realized that keeping it hidden doesn’t help me or anyone else. Depression left in the dark only gives it more power and only makes people feel more alone in their struggles.
For as long as I can remember, I have struggled with bouts of depression.
However, it was throughout my teenage years that my depression was the worst. Of course, I have those changing hormones to blame for a lot of it, but for me, it was worse than a bit of teenage angst. I went through a period of time when I couldn’t even leave the house. I had crippling anxiety and it made me just want to curl up in a ball and shut the world out.
No matter how much my family tried to help, there was nothing they could do to get me out of my head. I have always been a perfectionist and I was so far from my idea of perfection that I was so ashamed of just being me. I felt completely worthless. I thought I was the ugliest person on the planet. I thought no one could truly love me because I wasn’t skinny enough or beautiful enough. I thought that I brought no value to anyone’s life and it would be best for me to just disappear.
Long story short, during my time hiding at home I learned how to play the guitar. I started writing songs and it gave me a way to express what I was feeling in a creative way. This allowed me to get out of my head and slowly my mood and mindset started to improve. I was able to function outside of my house and start living my life again.
I moved from Palm Springs to San Diego with my older sister when I was 19-years-old and got a job. Less than a year later the rest of my family followed us. I moved back in with my parents so I could go to school and keep working. I was very busy and to everyone else, I looked like a happy, productive young adult. Compared to my teenage struggles I was doing great.
Still, I was suffering.
I can’t count how many times I cried myself to sleep throughout those years. I still had so many thoughts of inadequacy and self-hatred. Throughout this whole time I had only one boyfriend and to me, that meant I was unlovable. This turned into me going out on the weekends, drinking a little too much, and satisfying my need for attention and affection by meeting guys at bars and being a little too promiscuous than I really care to admit.
I just couldn’t shake this depression that I had been dealing with most of my life. Although it came and went and varied in severity, it was always something I was dealing with. Then, I got pregnant with Lily. The circumstances surrounding the whole situation scared the hell out of me. I was already prone to depression and here I was in this awful situation. I met the father of my child on a dating app and he wanted nothing to do with me or my child.
How was I going to deal with this? Would this make me spiral back down? Not to mention the fact that people who suffer from depression before getting pregnant or more likely to suffer from depression during pregnancy and also suffer from postpartum depression. I felt like my past and my present was setting me up for disaster.
Then, something miraculous happened.
I stopped caring. Here I was, 24 -years old and having a baby on my own and I didn’t care. Not in an “everything is shit so I just won’t care about anything at all” kind of way. But in a freeing “I have bigger, more important things to worry about than how I look or much people like me” kind of way. I felt so relaxed, so at ease, and more comfortable in my own body than I ever have been. Which is crazy right? Because my body was going through so many changes!
My whole life I was so hyper-focused on myself. My thoughts, my emotions, my pain, my self-image, me, me, me. Then suddenly I had this other little life to think about and my entire perspective changed. I started to respect myself and my body and the miraculous way it was working to build this little baby.
Getting pregnant forced me to grow up. I no longer had the energy or mental space to accommodate my usual self-absorbed thoughts. I also realized how ridiculous some of my past thoughts had been. If what I thought was true or not, it was real to me in those moments. But in hindsight, I realized I had wasted my time caring way too much about what others thought of me. I let how I thought other people saw me skew the image I had of myself.
After I had Lily I felt like a new person.
I love focusing on her and not on myself. Sometimes I can go days without even looking at myself in the mirror. And I love it! I am a single mother and I’m completely okay with it. To be honest, I’m really enjoying this break from men. I no longer need validation from male attention. I am just focusing on being the best mom I can be and I’ve never been happier.
I wanted to write this post because I wanted people, especially young girls and women, to know that I don’t think you have to have a baby to have the type of mental shift that I did. If your depression has less to do with a chemical imbalance and more to do with negative thought patterns like mine, sometimes you just need a push to change your mindset.
Remind yourself that you matter. That there is so much beauty in the world to appreciate and live for. That nobody cares if you have zits on your face or you need to lose weight or are having a bad hair day. People don’t love other people because of how they look. They love and appreciate them for the people that they are. I bet if you ask anyone why they love their significant other, best friend, or family member, the first thing they say is not going to be, “Because they are thin and have nice hair.”
Now I am not saying that I always see life as rainbows and butterflies now.
Of course, having a child brings on a whole new bevy of worries and concerns. And having a baby alone, and being alone most of the time, can feel awfully isolating. The difference is that no matter how much I worry and feel anxious and alone, it’s not life-shattering. It doesn’t cause me to retreat from the world. Now I can remind myself of what really matters because now I know what really matters.
Anyway, I hope sharing my story was helpful to someone in some way. I am also not belittling people who are depressed and have negative thoughts and emotions. Trust me. I have been there. I know how hard it is to shake. It’s not trivial and not a simple fix. I just want to encourage people by sharing my story and letting people know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Mine came in the form of a beautiful baby girl, but yours might come to you in a completely different way.
Just keep going. Keep trying. Keep loving yourself. Don’t keep your feelings to yourself. Talk and share. There are people who want to help and listen. Remember you are not alone in your struggles. And always, always look for the beauty in the world. It’s there, I promise!