How can a supportive marriage help you manage Post Partum Depression?
On this week’s Feature Friday we are showcasing a REAL-ationship that knows this battle well. Today we have another guest author sharing her story with Post Partum Depression (PPD) and relationships. It’s our honour to introduce Shannon and share her story. We sat down and had a great chat with Shannon and Curtis. We dove into the inner workings of their marriage, and as we started chatting about her struggles with PPD we knew we needed to share her story all on it’s own.
In today’s feature, Shannon’s bravely opening up about her experience with PPD, reaching out and getting help, and how a strong, supportive marriage is a cornerstone in her recovery. She’s also sharing her advice and perspective for both roles in the relationship and encouraging others to step forward and own their PPD, too.
At The Relationship Project, we are firm believers in exposing the underbellies of all relationships and we have a soft spot for mental illness and relationships. Although we don’t have children, we know this battle is a common one and deserves to be spotlighted.
We’re thrilled and honoured to be sharing more stories, just like Shannon’s, experiences and advice, to help others out there, just like us.
Without further ado, let’s get to it!
I have Post Partum Depression… I have Post Partum Depression… I have Post Partum
It wasn’t the easiest thing to admit to myself, especially when I planned my pregnancy and my husband and I had all the cliché “good parent” boxes checked. The nursery was decorated, the clothes were purchased, and the car seat was installed.
Everything should have been perfect, shouldn’t it?
How could I have everything I ever wanted and feel so broken?
How come other women could do this with grace, joy, and poise, but I felt empty and hollow?
Where was that abundant love I was supposed to feel the first time I held my baby in my arms?
What was wrong with me?
These were all questions I asked myself and all questions I didn’t have answers for.
Here’s a bit of back story.
Anxiety and depression have plagued my family for as long as I can remember.
My parents, my brother, my aunts, my uncles, and even my grandparents suffered from these challenges. It seems none of us are immune. My Dad suffered immensely before the beast finally became too much for him to bear. It took him from this world when I was only 13 years old.
I, myself, have gone through periods of anxiety over the years but learned to control it with a special cocktail of exercise and excessive amounts of positive self-talk.
I knew I was at risk…
When I got pregnant, I was open with my OBGYN. I told her of my family history with mental illness, and on my chart, there was a section in the notes that stated “monitor for Post Partum Depression.”
But I still wasn’t ready…
When my son, Anderson, was born, I felt that initial rush.
I wouldn’t say it was a rush of love, per se. It was more like a high from the experience as a whole. I brought a person into this world. That was no small feat. I was overcome by the excitement, the exhaustion, and the experience…but when we got home from the hospital, I didn’t feel right. I had this insatiable urge to run away.
Breastfeeding was daunting, I was sleep deprived beyond belief, and I felt trapped.
I think all new moms feel that way to an extent. You go to the hospital as one person, and you come home completely changed. Some of those feelings are normal and to be expected.
What I felt was not.
I was angry. I could feel my rage bubbling beneath the surface 100% of the time. I felt anger toward my husband, my baby, my in-laws, and my friends. It didn’t matter. The littlest thing would set me off.
I knew I was being irrational, but I couldn’t control it.
I would lash out at anyone and anything for the smallest indiscretions. Then the guilt would set in. Oh the guilt! It was crippling.
Accompanying my anger was a debilitating sadness. I wanted to leave. When I would shower, I’d cry. When I would eat, I’d cry. I would try to sleep, but, instead, I would cry.
I felt completely alone and lost – like I was stuck inside myself.
I felt like I should want to take care of my baby. I felt like I should love to take care of my baby, but I didn’t. It was nothing more than a sense of duty. I took care of him because I knew I had to. Nothing more.
Even to type those words now makes me feel like a terrible mother. Oh yeah, did I mention the guilt?
My husband, Curtis, took 2 weeks off work when Anderson was born. When the time came for him to return, I remember feeling scared.
I had heard of women with Post Partum Depression. Some of them hurt their babies. Some of them hurt themselves. I know deep down, he was nervous too.
He tells me now that he always thought it was strange that I didn’t bubble over with giddy appreciation when looking at our son, especially considering my general reaction when seeing a puppy.
I remember terrible thoughts crossing my mind. Admitting them now is still incredibly hard (especially in such a public fashion).
In the first 3 months of Anderson’s life I often wondered if I would be sad if something happened to him.
Wondering if he fell asleep and didn’t wake up, if I would cry.
(Looking back now, the idea that I could have ever had those thoughts is devastating. It’s like I wasn’t myself – I was some unrecognizable person in some recognizable place. Even when I look back on photos of that time, I don’t see myself in them. I was there physically, but emotionally, I was somewhere else. I feel as though I was robbed of those precious moments in the beginning of Anderson’s life)
He is the reason I am on the path to health.
He checks in to ensure that I’m alright.
He offers to stay home (or come home)when I am having bad days.
He is careful not to trample my self worth by calling me out too harshly – even when I’m behaving badly.
He always knows when something isn’t right with me and he never places blame.
I guess that is what you get when you are part of a strong team. You get a mirror that sometimes sees you better than you see yourself. His support truly never wavers.
I know that I would not have made it through the toughest times without him.
He was (and is) my pillar of strength. He has encouraged me to seek help and supported any decision I’ve made. Be it counselling, medication, or support groups.
He is always on my side. Post Partum Depression can crumble even the strongest of relationships if you aren’t open and honest about the struggle.
When you feel like you can’t escape yourself, you need that person who will hear you…. even if your voice comes out screaming.
You need that person who will love you despite your anger and sadness. That person who will stand beside you because they know what you’re experiencing does not define you, and working through it together is the best way to heal.
Post Partum Depression is not predictable, it is not simple, and it sure as hell is not fun.
To think that I could have wondered if my son, my entire universe, mattered enough to mourn if I lost him is soul crushing…but these were thoughts I had, and I know I am not alone. This is Post Partum Depression. This is the struggle we face.
For every woman, marriage, and family suffering this painful experience, the journey to recovery will be different. My hope is that we all get there. These are precious times and we deserve to be present in them.
I continue my journey toward that goal with my husband, family, friends, and a team of supportive mothers on my side. Because of them, and their ongoing love and encouragement, I can now say that the love I feel for my son is like nothing else in this world.
There you have it, our Feature Friday spotlighting one story on managing PPD with the help of a supportive marriage. Our biggest take aways from Shannon’s brave story are:
To own your experience–that’s half the battle.
Lean on your teammate–they will be there to support you.
Communicate your needs–as Shannon so perfectly said, “You need that person who will hear you…. even if your voice comes out screaming.”
Thank you, Shannon, for being so vulnerable, real and honest in sharing your story. You are not alone in these struggles and we are so honoured to be sharing your story and providing the platform for these REALationships to be showcased. You and Curtis are both heroes of this experience and your marriage. We commend the courage it takes to share this with us and the social media world.
Cheers to imperfect relationships, and not only managing Post Partum Depression, but setting an inspiring example of how a strong marriage can support this journey. Keep your eyes peeled for their feature coming to the blog soon!
Shannon Ledger is a wife, mama, makeup artist, cross-fit enthusiast, and Christmas fanatic living in Edmonton, Alberta. She believes in open and honest communication and thinks it’s the key to all successful relationships… even when the conversations are hard.
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