I don't think anyone has gone through the last year, during a literal global pandemic, without eventually feeling like they've hit their "coping skills" wall. We're running out of hope that it'll get better soon, and despite promising results from the COVID-19 vaccines, it seems like we're still going to be in this for awhile longer.
Combined, in my case, with the usual hormonal changes that cause postpartum depression and anxiety, and I'm fresh out of positive vibes, y'all. I've been leaning heavily on therapy lately, and reading good books. But I'm at that point where it's getting harder and harder to remember what "me" felt like, and all I want to do is sleep about it.
This time, it's different, though. Because the pandemic has taken away all the usual things I turn to, to feel normal again: the gym, distracting myself with Target seasonal merchandise, even gardening is too difficult. You can't just cruise the seed aisles and figure out what to grow right now.
It's harder, now, because I have nothing but time to learn from this situation. To learn from myself, how to care for myself. There's no excuse anymore about not having the time to deal with the Big Scaries. Time is all we've got right now.
So, I've been doing the work.
Diving deep, figuring it out. Asking the tough questions, opening up the old wounds, and taking the time to learn how to speak kindness to myself. Learning how to make enough small, incremental decisions to love myself that I could meet my Big Scaries with a toolbox full of shiny, new coping mechanisms.
Here what I want to tell you, if you're struggling with postpartum, or any other kind of depression or anxiety:
It gets better.
I'm not going to lie to you. You're not going to feel it suddenly, like someone flipping a switch on your mental light bulb. It's not going to just snap back to good because you started taking your meds, and one therapy session isn't going to give you the instant "all better" that you desperately need right now. You deserve that, without question, and it's a shitty reality that it's rarely that easy.
But, it does get better.
Therapy helps. Meds help. Good books, supportive friends and family, abundant rest-- all of these things contribute. They work together, little by little, and inch you closer to feeling a little more like yourself.
If you're in bed, that's okay too: use it as your safe space, and keep going. Read. Learn. Get quiet, and ask yourself "Why does it feel like this?" Journal. Do whatever you can do, even if you can't get out of bed, to get ready for it to be better. Prepare yourself by making a list of 100 things you can do *just for you* that will feel like acts of self love. Do whatever you can do get yourself ready to love yourself just a little bit more, when the time comes.
Because someday soon, you're going to take the things you learn about how to love yourself, and you're going to make one tiny choice that's just better for you. Maybe it's something like going to bed early, because you know you'll feel mentally clearer in the morning. Then, the next day, maybe you say, "No" to having a visitor, because you know you're most at peace without the pressure of entertaining. Maybe a few days later, you decide to practice yoga for 30 minutes, because you're sore, and you know stretching will help.
And then, before you know it, things will start to feel a little bit lighter. Maybe not totally better yet, but you'll start to remember what it's like to have moments of ease. And that's where the gratitude lives, for me. The moments when I realize that making a small, loving choice for myself didn't feel like a struggle.
Today, for me, it was the realization that I had a crummy morning, and yet without thinking, I made a really beautiful salad for myself for lunch. Normally, when I'm down in the Big Scaries, I just reach for what's easy, and comfortable, and eat knowing I'd rather be taking better care of myself.
Instead, I took my time. I built something colorful, with my favorite ingredients. I ate slowly, enjoying the sensory experience of combined textures, tastes, and smells.
It was a really good salad. But, perhaps most importantly, that salad was an act of self love. I was sad, but I chose to love myself anyway.
That may not sound by a big deal if you've never experienced postpartum depression or anxiety, or any type of abuse or trauma.
If you know, though...you know.
Sometimes it takes a salad to see it, but when you're able to start making those tiny choices, you'll see things change soon. I promise you that if you're struggling right now:
It. Gets. Better.