As I am gearing up to the new store opening in July, and thinking about my little girl heading off to kindergarten in September; I find myself reflecting more on the life events that brought me here and how I never thought I would get through them...
Many of you may know my story, but I think there is value in repeating it - in the event it could encourage someone currently struggling.
I gave birth to a baby girl 4 years ago, after a happy and healthy pregnancy. I felt happy but I started a mental decline almost immediately after the birth.
The first night in the hospital I couldn't sleep because all the screaming babies were keeping me awake and I was constantly on high alert thinking I needed to feed my new baby. I asked the nurses the next morning how many babies were in the nursery because they were so noisey.
And she slept all night.
I didn't think too much of that incident but after 5 weeks of struggling to keep my head above the proverbial water, I had a complete meltdown. I could not stop crying and I wanted to run as far away from my baby as I possibly could. The sight, sound, smell and touch of her caused me extreme anxiety to the point where I wanted to drive my car into a pole.
I was taken to the emergency room and was promptly told I needed to be admitted. I spent 3 months as an inpatient on the psychiatric floor. I spent another 3 months in total in and out of hospital following my initial 3 month stay.
I was numb. I could care less about my daughter. I didn't want to HURT her, I just didn't WANT her. I had fantasies of suicide and self harm. I would swallow 6 lorazepam just to stop the racing thoughts in my head. I was put on nearly every psychiatric medication on the market, and at one point had a cocktail of 7 different medications just to keep me from completely losing it.
I suffered for two years....I never thought my daily hell would end or that I would ever feel love for my daughter or get to experience true happiness again. I was a robot and I looked at other mothers to figure out the way I was supposed to talk to and interact with my child.
Excruciatingly slowly, the fog began to life and I felt spontaneous smiles returning, and that warm feeling you get when you feel genuinely content. I began to hug and kiss my daughter because I felt like I wanted to, not because I knew I should.
I had lost my full time career due to my illness, but was very unhappy staying home. I attempted several times to work part time and it never worked out because it made me anxious. I finally resigned myself to being someone that could not have a job, and decided I would give it a go staying home.
I launched head first (in my true fashion) into cooking, cleaning and overall nesting. This is when I came across painting and started to make over different pieces for our house.
Painting was the only thing that came natural to me in terms of a skill that was marketable. I fell into the business side of things last year and haven't looked back!.
Which brings me to the point of this post...I NEVER would have thought I would run a full time painting business and love my work as much as I do....but I also never thought I would have severe postpartum depression either.
Although I know some people love label's, and I have been labeled "crazy" on several occasions, my mental health status does NOT define who I am today.
What defines me is the struggle and challenges I have overcome and the direction with which I have decided to funnel those experiences. Mental health problems are not a death sentence, and those of us that struggle or have struggled, need to stop feeling that way.
You are STRONGER because you struggle, not the other way around.
I can't say it enough, but we have to stop creating a stigma around mental health. Every time you make a joke or put someone down who you think is "crazy" you are indirectly and perhaps directly, causing yet another mother to take her own life because she feels ashamed and terrified to reach out for help.
Be proactive and ask how friends and family are doing...and truly listen! Know that other people are carrying burdens that may just be heavier than yours and they need some support.
Don't be that person to say "I had no idea they felt that way" when they lose a friend or loved one to suicide.
And as for me, I am proud to tell you my story because I know I am so much stronger now than I have ever been. If you think my depression is who I am then you are sorely mistaken. I will never hide, or be ashamed of, what brought me to such a great place in my life.