Over the past year, I have been very open about my struggle with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety.
The more I share, the more I realize how important breaking the taboo surrounding moms and mental illness is; not just because of the private messages I get saying “thank you for sharing” and “I thought I was alone”, but because of the vocal opposition I get, saying that I neglected my children, or that I should suck it up, or that maybe I just need more Jesus in my life.
In the 2 years since I reached out for help, I’ve had so much personal growth and change. Even though I couldn’t see the changes happening day to day or even month to month, looking back, I can see how the choices I made that have had a huge role in overcoming PPD, and how simple they were.
I know that this list is not for everyone. I’m not saying “Do these 10 things and your depression will magically go away”. But if you are struggling, I hope that you pick something on this list and you give it a try.
Even though it’s hard.
Even though it may be way out of your comfort zone.
Because maybe in a year or 2, you can look back and see how small choices you make now add up to big changes, especially when it comes to mental and emotional health.
1.) Go to therapy
This one is kind of obvious. I have been in therapy for almost 2 years. But not just any therapist, I went to a sex therapist. Why? Well. Because I knew that I would never, ever be her weirdest client. I also chose her because she’s a mom. And who better to talk to about how my kids screwed up my brain then another mom?
Most insurance covers at least 3 visits with a mental health professional, so please give it a shot. Find someone who you can trust, and just go. Get it all out. You’d be surprised how perfectly normal everything you are feeling is. Having someone (who has a degree in this stuff!) validating you and helping you navigate your way through the depression fog is so powerful.
2.) Buy clothes that fit
Ladies. Choosing between your prebaby pants that are too tight and your stretched out maternity pants is not really a choice. Starting your day in clothes that don’t make you happy is not a path to success.
Go buy some clothes that fit! I’m not saying that you have to go spend $500 on a new wardrobe. But find some jeans that make your butt look great. Find a sundress that shows off your curves! Starting your day feeling confident and hot goes a really long way.
It took me forever to accept that I was no longer my prebaby size 10. I wore yoga pants for almost 4 straight years before I found the magic that is size 14 jeggings at Torrid. You are the size that you are. Wear clothes that help you celebrate that fact, rather than making you feel stuck.
3.) Take a break from your kids
Mom guilt confession: I always thought I would be a homeschooling mom. That my kids and I would be extra close, and that they would always look back at their early years with me as the best part of childhood.
But you guys.
I am not a homeschooling mom. I need breaks from my kids. I cannot be alone with them 10 hours a day. And not realizing that until my oldest was 3 and a half hurt my mental health, and wasn’t really great for my kiddos either.
One of the very first things my therapist told me to do was enroll my 3 year old in preschool. And I hated the idea of it. But I started touring schools. And eventually I found one that was structured the way I wanted to homeschool. My son absolutely loved it. In a matter of weeks he was happier and more verbal than I had ever seen him.
Being a good mom doesn’t mean being around your kids every waking minute. In fact, I’d argue it’s easier to love them when you miss them a little. When you get time to yourself. And when your mental and emotional health are taken care of first.
4.) Buy a vibrator
Yup. I said it. Go buy a vibrator. You NEED it.
Here’s the deal, ladies.
Sex isn’t exactly on the top of your priority list post baby. And that’s ok. But it doesn’t mean you can’t do anything about it.
Orgasms are great for mental health and well being, and well. They don’t always happen easily postpartum.
You can buy a cheap bullet from almost anywhere (seriously. Next to the the condoms at drugstores…). Or if you want to go all out, I highly recommend the Lelo Brand (www.lelo.com)
5.) Find a doctor who cares
My old pcp wrote me a prescription for antidepressants when I told him I was struggling and recommended I stopped breastfeeding because the pill he thought was best for me wasn’t breastfeeding friendly.
Don’t get me wrong, if you need to go the pill route, do it!
But what upset me was that the doctor wasn’t listening to me. Didn’t he understand I was being dragged down by mom guilt? Did he not realize how much weaning my baby would hurt our bond? I struggled so much with my youngest, I had a really hard time loving him and connecting with him. Nursing was the only thing that was easy for me with him, and I had to give that up?
So I didn’t fill the prescription. I found a therapist instead.
And a few months later, I found a new pcp (a fellow mom!). I told her how I was feeling and she ran some labs. Based on my labs she put me on Vitamin D, because my numbers were low. She also gave me a tincture for thyroid support because even though my numbers were “normal”, they were on the high end of normal. The last thing she gave me was a hormone support supplement, that helps my hormone levels stay balanced.
None of the things she gave me cured my depression, but they helped my “bad” days be not as bad. They help me get out of slumps faster.
If you are seeing a pcp (Or ob. Or any other health professional) that isn’t listening to you, find a new one. There are plenty of great doctors out there that will hear you out and want to see you thrive.
6.) Cut down on the alcohol
There is a well established link between depression and alcohol. Very simply explained, alcohol drains your body of hormones that make you happy, and it takes a few days to bounce back.
But if you were already struggling with depression, you don’t have a lot of happy hormones to begin with, so what might be a sluggish day or two for most people turns into a very dark week for people with depression.
I’m embarrassed to admit that it took me a long time to realize alcohol made my depression worse. A glass of wine a few nights a week can’t be that bad right?
When I stopped drinking for 2 months while I was pregnant until my miscarriage, I felt so different. I thought maybe it was just pregnancy.
And then I had a girls night. I didn’t get too crazy, maybe 3 or 4 drinks throughout the night. But the next morning I woke up feeling a dark cloud that I couldn’t shake for almost a week.
So now I will own it. Alcohol brings a huge depression slump for me. So I rarely drink. And if I do, I only have one and I make sure the following day is full of self care so that I can avoid carrying that “down” feeling with me in the following days.
I’m not saying you have to let go of adult beverages forever. I’m just saying that while you are restoring your mental and emotional health, it might be best to take a break from them.
7.) Learn to cook new comfort foods
This one is easy.
I stress eat. I stress eat A LOT. So instead of dealing with all the guilt that comes after stress eating, I found better foods so I could feel better about it.
I learned how to make veggie fried rice. Homemade sweet potato fries. Raw brownies. Roasted garlic veggies. Yum.
If you are going to stuff your face, at least make sure it’s nutritious. If you are depressed, you definitely need the vitamins anyway. So binge guilt free!
8.) Go to an event
Last January, I stepped out of my comfort zone and went to a local mom meet up for WAHMs. I didn’t know anyone there. I had anxiety for the full 48 hours prior. I cried packing the diaper bag because I did NOT want to go.
But I went anyways. And one of the moms in that meeting introduced me to some other moms.Which has led me to meeting every single one of the friends I have in my life now. Women who are there for me and love me how I am. Going to that meet up, I could have never imagined that my heart could be so full as it is now from the women it brought into my life.
Maybe it won’t be the first event you go to. Or even the second.
But you have got to get out there and meet people who are in the same place in life as you are. Meeting other moms in mom groups and chatting online is great, but it doesn’t replace the face to face connection you need.
9.) Go vegetarian
Just kidding! Mostly….
I have wanted to be vegetarian since I was 11. But my parents wouldn’t allow it. And after I turned 18, I was so convinced that going vegetarian wouldn’t make a difference in the world and would be a burden on the people around me, so I didn’t even try.
But there has always been this part of me that wanted to.
In the past year I have realized that I can be whatever and whoever I want to, and other people’s feelings about who I am really don’t matter. So I stopped eating meat and am now working my way towards vegan. And it took a weight off of my shoulders that I didn’t even know I was carrying.
For you, it’s probably not going vegetarian. Maybe you’ve always wanted to have blue hair. Or own a minipig. Or volunteer with LBGTQ youth. I don’t know your life!
I just know that those things you’ve always wanted to do, you should do them.
10.) Work out
“Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t just shoot their husbands!” -Elle Woods (Legally Blonde)
If you find a form of exercise you like, there really are no cons. Endorphins make you happy. It’s good for your physical, emotional, and mental well being. You burn some calories. You get out of the house. What more do you need?
I did a 30 day yoga challenge 2 summers ago. I challenged myself to attend a yoga class everyday, only missing 3 days during the 30. I had never done yoga before, and it was tough. At the end of the month, I had worked through some emotional blocks I didn’t even know I had, lost 5lbs, and gained a lot of body confidence.
It doesn’t matter if it’s yoga, kickboxing, or just walking around your neighborhood. Set a goal to do something physical everyday for a month and I promise you will see an emotional and mental change. The physical change is just an added bonus.