Here it is – July 26th. Today marks 4 years since I experienced a major case of postpartum depression and was admitted to the hospital for a week.
I reread my post from last year’s anniversary in 2019 – I really struggled with that one, a lot of feelings of grief came up for me. I guess you never really know how your body is going to heal and process trauma. One thing I do know, it takes TIME.
I’ve been excited (sort of?) for this year however because I’ve felt really positive when I’ve thought about this day arriving. I feel like maybe I’ve turned a corner – I feel like I can really embrace this part of my story and understand how it’s made me a better and stronger person. Maybe next year will be different, but I’m thankful to feel grateful and positive this year.
While I would certainly have never wished this experience on myself or anyone else, I’ve been reflecting on ways which I think it has changed me. Not just changed, but empowered.
#1. It’s made me a passionate advocate.
After going through this experience, I knew that I wanted to publicly share what had happened to me. About 3 months after my postpartum depression episode, I published my first blog post about this experience. I remember just hoping it might make a difference, that it might help at least one person not feel so alone. I’ve since been given other opportunities in different avenues to share my struggle with depression, specifically dealing with postpartum stuff, and it has been very healing (albeit difficult) for me. I try to make it a point to be very open with others in conversation about struggling with depression and anxiety and going to counseling – I want to remove the stigma of mental health any way I can.
#2. It humbled me and gave me a lot more empathy for others.
I definitely had to come to terms with my pride when I realized that I was not immune to some serious mental health problems. Psychiatric hospitals are not just for one stereotypical type of person – it was one of those things I never thought would happen to me, and then it did. Before, if I had known that someone had been in a psych hospital, I would have thought that they were probably really messed up – and easily passed judgment on them. This experience was a wake-up call – don’t judge people. You don’t know what anyone is going through. I’ve since found myself better able to have empathy for people, and to extend grace and compassion to them. I am FAR from perfect at it, but this experience is a reminder to me that I’m not perfect and no one else is either.
#3. I’ve gotten braver and have been willing to take more risks.
Many people told me I was brave for sharing my story – it didn’t necessarily feel brave, but it felt like the right thing to do. Like something I couldn’t ignore. Since then I’ve had many times when I’ve felt that same feeling, like I’ve known what the right thing to do was, and that I needed to do it even though it would be hard. I want to be a person who can do brave things – I want that so badly.
I’ve also had many times since my postpartum depression where I’ve felt major imposter syndrome, and I have to remind myself that I can do hard things, I’ve done it in the past, and I’ve come out on the other side. I don’t always do it gracefully, but I want to get to a place where I’m not afraid to try.
The “old” Erica (the pre-PPD Erica) was a lot more timid I think – she needed to be perfect so she avoided trying anything she might fail at. She wanted to be liked by everyone and was afraid of making anyone upset. I feel like my experience allowed me to grow in a big way – to realize that life is too short to stay silent, to be afraid of failure, or to worry about what everyone else thinks about me.
Recently a few months ago, I was talking with a friend through Zoom (during the shelter-in-place order), and I said the words
“I like who I am and who I’m becoming.”
My friend pointed out how significant it was that I said that, and as I thought about it I realized she was right. The words just came out of my mouth, and it hit me that I was finally in a place of self-acceptance that I hadn’t been in for years.
I’m grateful to be in this frame of mind this year. I’m grateful for the healing and growth I’ve experienced over the past few years. We’ll see what next year holds…
Thanks for reading.