I hope you enjoy this amazing guest post from Michelle about postpartum depression. Michelle Tucker is a stay at home mom to an amazing 5-year-old son. She has been married to her best friend for nearly 7 years. She can often be found outdoors running! Since starting on her journey to a healthy lifestyle she has lost 70 pounds and ran many races including half marathons and her first marathon this past November. You can find her at www.babybluestorunningshoes.blogspot.com as well as @michelle_tucker79 on Instagram and @s_michelle_t on twitter.
I had postpartum depression. I didn’t have the baby blues. I had a very dark period of my life and it was very hard to find my way out. When my son was born I remember being overwhelmed with a sense of needing everything to be perfect. I struggled to breast feed him in the beginning and I think that triggered a lot of my stress. I was determined to be a perfect mother and for me breast-feeding was a big factor in that. So after that didn’t work out I became very focused on making sure I made the right choices and did the right things. So obviously that made things a little stressed! I talked to my OB and was prescribed some medicine.
I took my medicine and felt better. By the time Colton was around two months old I figured that the “postpartum” time should be over and I shouldn’t continue to need medication. It was not my smartest move! That was when my depression really took hold. For the next year I didn’t care about anything except Colton. I didn’t care about my husband or myself.
I got really good at pretending. I would pretend to care that I was very overweight and I would pretend to try to follow Weight Watchers. Then every week I would pretend to be upset that I just wasn’t losing any weight and I would have every excuse for why I was steadily gaining. I would pretend to care when my husband would say something was wrong with me and please talk to him. The bottom line is I just didn’t care. If it didn’t concern Colton then I just didn’t care.
My husband knew I was miserable but he couldn’t help or fix it for me. So when one day he suggested I try running to help me lose weight I said sure. I figured I could pretend to try it and then in a month or so have an excuse for why it wasn’t working and I could quit. But something happened on that first run. I didn’t hate it. Sure I felt awful and I couldn’t run more than 50 feet but when I was done I felt in control for the first time in many months. Between the tears and frustration of not being able to run I was able to see what I had been missing. I was missing out on life. My postpartum depression had made me willing to quit participating in my own life. I was just sitting on the sidelines and not caring what happened to myself.
So I got back out the next day and tried running again. In my head very few things mattered to me anymore but while I was running I was able to see more and more the life I desperately wanted to regain. With every run I felt like I was literally chasing the depression away. Maybe it was the exercise endorphins or maybe it was me finally taking a step to better myself but something changed inside me. So I kept going. I started losing weight but more importantly I found myself again. I cared about me and if I was happy.
Postpartum depression looks different for each person that goes through it. For me it took away my desire to care about myself. I am so thankful each time I get to run that I was able to find something that gave me back myself. It sounds crazy to some people but I know for me running saved me. I don’t know if I would have ever been able to get out of that dark place if I hadn’t taken that first run. Through my journey I learned some very valuable lessons:
1. As moms we need to give ourselves some grace. We can be so hard on ourselves and feel the need to be that “perfect” mom. For me this triggered a lot of stress and created a very hard image to maintain. At the end of the day if you are happy, your baby is happy, and you have a happy family, then you are doing an amazing job.
2. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If I had been willing to talk to someone or admit that I was struggling I could have saved myself so much heartache. There are people in our lives who are more than willing to help. We just have to ask.
3. The power of exercise is an amazing thing. I truly believe that running saved me. Just the act of getting out each day and doing something for myself, no matter how small or how short, felt empowering.