When I was fourteen years old, I was put on my first antidepressant. My parents were going through a long, extremely drawn out divorce and it rocked my middle school world. I moved with my mom and my sister from a very large, upper middle-class suburban home into a two-bedroom apartment. I was in shock and confused and needed some help. I thought the help would be temporary.
But I never got off the medicine. I tried a few times, thinking maybe I didn’t need it anymore. That I could handle this on my own. That always led to a downward spiral of sadness and extreme anxiety. That’s how I learned depression is a true illness and I can’t just “kick it” with good habits and yoga and green juice and meditation.
When I was 29, I was pregnant with my first son. I was so excited to bring my sweet boy into the world and I knew that being a mom would be hard, but manageable. Reading that now breaks my heart. Because for the second time, my world was literally rocked.
No medical professionals spoke with me before I gave birth about the higher possibility of postpartum depression because I had a history of depression and anxiety. They mentioned the “Baby Blues” but those would go away with time. They were nothing to worry about.
Fast forward three weeks and I was laying in my dark bedroom with my baby boy crying all day and trying to get him to nurse. It was the loneliest moment of my entire life. I didn’t answer my phone. I didn’t respond to texts. I didn’t talk to my husband who was trying hard to help. I made sure my child’s basic needs were being met and that was all.
I did attend a few social obligations with the baby. And I put on my biggest smile and flowiest dress and talked to everyone about how beautiful motherhood was. How it was changing my life. Along with the large glass of wine I would be drinking. Then I would go home and cry in my bedroom again.
I really knew how to put on a show. I ended up getting help a few weeks later, but if I hadn’t reached out, would anyone but my husband know I wasn’t okay?
I doubt it. I became a master of disguise long before postpartum depression. I woke up so many days as a teenager and twenty-something and dreaded what was before me. But that didn’t matter. I had to do life. I had to go to school. I had to go to work. I had to be productive and succeed because when you have anxiety there is no other option.
In my wild-child phase, in my lower to mid-20s, I would shower and get ready and my makeup and hair would always be done anytime I left the house. I was always put together and brought a smile and a jovial laugh to any party. I loved to drink. Which didn’t mix well with my anti-anxiety medication. I found myself at the age of 24, living in Nashville, swinging a full-time job while drinking to my heart’s content every single night. At the time, the mixture of Xanax and alcohol were the only things that made me feel okay about life.
This was the first time I hit rock bottom. I was broke, hungover, miserable, and pulling off my 9-5 with top marks. I don’t know how I did it, but I’m guessing the pills I popped every now and then helped.
The moral of this story is that women need to learn it’s okay to ask for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness. It is the strongest but hardest thing you can do. I don’t know if I would be writing these words today if I hadn’t reached out for help so many times. And you aren’t the only person with anxiety or depression or a drinking problem. You aren’t the only Master of Disguise out there.
You can and will get better. I promise. But first you need to ask for the help you need so badly.
Until Next Time,