You all have gotten to know me as a pretty open and honest woman. I’ve been honest about being a healthy fat chick, working out, the joys of eating great food from all over and paying for it with excess cellulite and stubborn fat that wouldn’t go away no matter how many times a week I didn’t “cheat” or go to the gym.
In the past year or so I’ve also been pretty open about my experiences as a mom, not just the joys of motherhood, but the realities of being a new mom unexpectedly struck with postpartum depression, a condition that, unfortunately, still has a stigma, and doesn’t go away overnight. It takes time, therapy, psychiatry, and yes, even medication. Sometimes you need one more than the other. But none of it works on it’s own. I’ve kept most of the struggle to myself as my son has gotten older, especially as I’ve witnessed other women in my life ( and on my timeline) experience tougher, more troubling issues with motherhood. All of a sudden, I didn’t want to be so public with my internal battle.
While I was being congratulated and applauded for being “brave” for sharing, I was also being judged. I felt it. I felt myself wondering if I should block co-workers and colleagues from my posts, because I didn’t want what I shared so freely to my readers and friends to all of a sudden be a topic that would define me at the office.
I wondered if I should block the seemingly happy parents that didn’t understand.
I wondered if I should block the friends I knew suffered from fertility issues and probably hated my struggle, not knowing, I too, suffered losses before Abe. PCOS made me think I wouldn’t have a baby, then along came Abe! And that made the PPD even worse, to want something as badly as I wanted Abe and then to have that take over me. No one wants that shit. Believe me.
I was pissed at the friends who messaged me privately to say, “Still?” or ” I don’t get it? How is it possible?” I wanted to yell “If I had the answers, I’d be a millionaire cause I would have solved mental health issues for everyone! You get sanity, you get sanity, we all get sanity!”
My freak accident in August didn’t necessarily help things either, cause now we had to throw in physical therapy and checkups. I kept having the right reasons to walk away from my job, and go part-time, or quit entirely, because I was physically and emotionally exhausted. I didn’t want to deal with anyone or anything cause I just wanted to deal with me.
In my mind, these are the conversations I feared:
- Michelle is out of the office? Must be at therapy.
- Michelle is stressed out? Probably hasn’t taken her meds.
- Michelle is out of the office, again? Well, damn.
- Awh, poor thing. If she can’t handle this, how can she handle work? She must be SO stressed.
- Michelle isn’t coming to the party? Why? Is it the depression, or the baby? Ugh, she’s using both as an excuse.
I was SO MAD AT MYSELF for putting my heart and hurt out there. I wouldn’t have had to worry about the judgement, the backdoor conversations, the perceived notions about my life and health, if I had just kept it to myself.
But then I thought:
- What about the women who privately messaged me asking me for therapist referrals?
- What about the women who swore me to secrecy to never reveal their names but also suffered from PPD and felt ashamed for it?
- What about the people who suffer from other forms of mental health issues that messaged me thanking me for trying to hard to erase the stigma of what mental health looks like?
And I thought, fuck this. Why should I let others control so much of me, of my life, of my decisions? Why let them take away something that means so much to me? The fact that this platform I chose reaches 1 person, much less dozens of people, makes being that open and vulnerable worth it cause I empowered someone to change, to look for help, just by sharing my experiences.
It also helped that my psychiatrist absolutely refused to give me any kind of “get out of jail” free card when it came to taking time off from work. She told me “If you give up now, what will you learn? You will always give in time and time again. You don’t give up. You figure out the problem, we discuss, and we find a solution so you can manage. This is real life, there aren’t enough doctor’s notes in the world to help you when you have to face reality.”
So, after my freak accident, after my weight-loss surgery, I actually did have to go on disability for a month away to physically heal from all the cut and pasting they did to my body.
When I did return to work, although it took some time to heal, I did it. It’s been a exhausting, it’s been rewarding, but I know each day it also allows me to get up and say, “I’m not giving in. Not today”. Hearing my son excitedly say “Mama!” in the morning, reminds me that I did nothing wrong, I’ve done all right as a mother when everything in my mind tells me otherwise. His love is unconditional, and our bond is unbreakable.
I do this blog selfishly, because it’s an outlet for me, but also because it brings me closer to those of you who can relate, but don’t feel the need to share so much with the world.
There will always be those will support every word, breath, and action that you make towards a better you. And right next to them will be the ones waiting for you to fail.
Make them wait forever.