The reality is this article could be quite short, it feels like there is no real navigation when you don’t really know where you’re going. Every new day feels mostly the same and just a little bit different. We are coming up on a year of this ‘new normal’, a phrase I have a love / hate relationship with and am still figuring it out. Our world has become quite small, as I am sure it has for many people. The beginning was VERY hard. I will say that my personal experience threw me down a spiral of depression I had never experienced before.
Lockdown started March 14, 2020 – I had just stopped breastfeeding, sort of unintentionally. We went on a trip to visit family and everyone wanted to feed the baby, since we were transitioning to part formula (Holle for the win- please ask anytime about this, I LOVED this formula) when we got back she had basically weened herself off of me. I was already having a hard time being a new mom, having left my job with no real intention of returning and taking on a new role that was completely foreign to me. I didn’t know myself or my body and was constantly struggling with a new identity.
But weening was the first thing that separated my baby from my body and I wasn’t ready for that. I was not ready for the additional SURGE of hormones that would course through my body for the next few months causing some pretty intense Postpartum depression. This photo was right as I was starting to ween Poppy and I was starting to acknowledge that I might be experiencing PPD. Even though my doctor had anticipated the potential of PPD while I was sobbing in her office, exhausted from pregnancy insomnia as she handed me a referral for a PPD physician and I was immediately offended, I was convinced that wasn’t going to happen to me. My hormones were already stressed but adding weening to it sent them barreling out of control at the very beginning of lockdown.
Not only were we trapped in the house but my hormones were surging and Poppy was going through a phase where she just shrieked non-stop (in the morning mostly) to get our attention. It rattled my nerves, was incredibly jarring and very triggering for me. Any morning that started like this sent me immediately to tears where I stayed for most of the day. I lost a handful of very close friends during this time, felt more isolated, and then George Floyde was killed. I will never pretend to know what this or any other killing meant for the Black community. I will never pretend to know what that kind of hatred or targeting feels like or experience it myself- but I did feel intense heartbreak and deep DEEP sadness. I took some time to look inward and make myself more aware of the things I wanted to improve in myself on a daily basis but that time also sent me further into depression. I was drinking more than I care to admit just to feel anything ‘normal’ and couldn’t seem to escape the dark thoughts.
I didn’t want to talk to anyone and completely retreated to the noise of my mind. I found myself often curled up on the floor in our room or under the blankets in bed listening to my husband take care of our daughter on his own, and shamed myself for not being able to help. Our daughter learned to walk around her first birthday, in June, and that just added to both mine and my husbands mental health decline. Not that we weren’t thrilled that she was walking but that meant there were more falls, more tears, more getting into things, and less time for ourselves or each other. We were pretty good at keeping the stress of our family private except for a few Instagram stories where I was pretty candid about needing to acknowledge the importance of your mental health or talk about some recent frustrations at home but I did keep it to a minimum.
When Corey and I finally got child care it was a game changer. We only did a few days a week for a few hours (total of 9 hours a week) but the impact for us was HUGE. We started being able to take time for ourselves. Simple things like putting away laundry, cleaning my office, even checking emails was a delight. About a month after we started with our part time help I also started seeing a therapist. When cases got bad again around November we took a break from child care, I dipped back into a depression and a few weeks later started on anti-depressants. I never saw this as a path for myself but I am so so grateful for the medicinal support. I needed it. I am able to create space between the big problems and the little ones. I am able to manage the emotion of this ‘new normal’, of being a new mother, which is a challenge in and of itself (more on that later), and I got comfortable with a smaller world.
The past year has been incredibly vulnerable for so many people. We all experienced loss and isolation and we all dealt with it in our own ways; in the ways that felt comfortable for us. It was not our place to judge another persons method of dealing with a global pandemic but there were times when, I am sure, we all did. It is still new for everyone and there is no ‘right way’. A big part of our figuring out how to navigate this time was getting comfortable with our boundaries and being upfront with people right out of the gate. I keep joking that inviting someone into your life now is like practicing safe sex- you have to put the condom on before you get intimate if you want to keep yourself safe. It’s weird to ask such personal questions, do you wear a mask, how social are you, how many people do you see, etc. but by setting these boundaries up front you are able to avoid confusion down the line. The other thing that is so so important to remember during all of this is that all of our needs are different and we are all making choices to help ourselves survive. We might not always get it right and thats ok. The most important thing that I have learned during this time is that I have to make myself and my mental health a priority. It is ok to be upset but if you are finding that you can’t get out of it or you are having dark thoughts, ask for help. Even asking can be hard but know that here, in this place, I will always listen.
With an open heart,
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