And then there were three…

Hello blog friends!

It’s been a while! And I’m sorry for that – I just had my 3rdbaby, so life has been busy for a few months… but I’m looking forward to continuing my blog now that I’m settling in to life with THREE! That’s right- THREE little, moody human beings who depend on me almost completely for their daily survival. And guess what?!!!    I. LOVE. IT.

(Special note: Since writing the beginning of this post, I survived… the last few days.  What happened over the last couple days, do you ask? Well… little insane gremlins invaded my childrens’ bodies and wreaked havoc on my sanity and my heart.  Not the cute little “gizmo” gremlin in the beginning of that movie… but the slimy, crazy, destroying ones who almost leveled an entire city.  Yeah, THOSE inhabited my children sometime between bringing them to school and them getting home in the afternoon 2 days ago… Actually, maybe it’s contagious… So, PSA: * Alert to parents of children at my kids’ school…. if your children get the same thing, all I can say is “God be with you”… *

BUT… – and I actually cringed before writing this – I STILL love it.

(And I especially loved when my kids went sleep and must have slept or farted or otherwise dispelled those evil gremlins out, because yesterday afternoon was MUCH better… But now, moving on…)

So, some people might just read that “I love this life” and think that’s not a big deal. Kind of like, “Oh good for her – that’s nice.” And at one point in my own life – when I had no kids… and NO clue how freakin’ hard it was to even raise one – I probably thought the same thing… Sure, it’s hard being a parent, but it’s what you do – you raise your kids; you deal with tantrums here and there; you help them (hopefully) develop into little happy world-changers; you laugh and skip and frolic through the meadows with them… right?!  …. but NOPE!! OH no, no, no. Raising kids day after day is no joke. Seriously, give a mom (or dad) a high-five or a hug today (but maybe ask first before initiating the hug) when you see them in the store, on the street, … or twitching in the corner of a bathroom as they pray for bedtime to come more quickly.  I’m telling you – you never know how hard it is to raise children until you’re doing it.

All that said, loving my crazy, chaotic, child-filled life is a huge deal for ME because I couldn’t have ever imagined feeling like this while I was going through the depths of my severe post-partum depression and anxiety – even while I was recovering from it.

There was a time when – as you may have read in my initial blog post – I sincerely couldn’t remember what it felt like to hope, to feel hopeful.  I didn’t – couldn’t – smile for days.  I felt like there was a 100-lb weight sitting on my chest all day long because I just couldn’tbreathe. I was scared to be home alone with my 2 kids because I was just overwhelmedby what terrible things could possibly happen. I was afraid of anything triggering a “PPD&A attack” and being unable to care for my kids, let alone myself.  And – this is a “no judgement zone”, right? – I had to ask a family member to keep (and hide) my medication because I was afraid to take more than I should in moments of desperation to feel better/less anxious/less depressed faster. (*Obviously, medication doesn’t work like that – taking more doesn’t make it work faster or better AT ALL, but that’s what I “thought” in my worst moments.*)

It’s so hard to remember these things, and especially to share them.  Even now, I can feel that weight on my chest, those horrible days/weeks/months of hopelessness… and I’m tempted – so tempted – to hold back some of these details because it sounds awful… but THAT was my life. It was AWFUL. Not my kids, not my family, not my friends… but my personal EXISTENCE during that time was just awful. Having to live and endure and push through every single moment of every single day struggling… was awful.  And when I write these things, I’m not exaggerating. At all.  Every second was hard. I couldn’t even plan a few days ahead, because I honestly didn’t know how I would make it until then… if I even could make it until then. There really is no way to describe it, or fully convey how horrible it was… but, in hopes of helping others who may be feeling similar things and thinking “it’s just me”…  I’ll continue to try to explain and share it all – even the darkest parts.

One of the recurring thoughts I struggled a lot with was, “Maybe this isn’t just my postpartum depression and anxiety… maybe this is just me.  Maybe it’s just that I can’t handle 2 kids the way others can.  Maybe I’ll never be that mom I always imagined I’d be.   Maybe this is just the “new me,” and it has nothing to do with hormones, after all.”  But I don’t think I ever really accepted all those “maybes” were untrue until I had my 3rdchild recently and my hormones flipped the other direction and I realized that WOW! It really was ALL hormonal… I literally became a different person in the days after my 3rdchild’s birth, as my hormones surged post-birth and now have been evening-out over time.  Do I still have hard days? Yep.  Do I still get overwhelmed at times?  Yes, my friends.  Do I still want to bang my head against the wall when I hear “mommy” for the 3,487thtime that day? (It’s actually more like “mommy, mommy, mommymommymommymommmmmmmmyyyyyyy” 3,487 times per day…)  I sure do!!  And do I still worry my PPD&A will come back? Yes. Every. Single. Day. Every single time I feel down, or cry, or feel a surge of anxiety.

But, even with those fears, it is such a RELIEF, and a literal weight off my chest, to realize that that “person” (more like a “blob”) I had been for 2+ years, was NOT me.  It just wasn’t.  And I can’t believe the difference.  And now, having lived several months without PPD, it really and truly amazes me even more how insanely terrible it was, how I somehow made it through, and how different it is now. I really consider Ruby – my 3rdchild, who is now 3 months-old – to have saved me.  (And God, of course – thank you, God!)

Would I have gotten better someday, without the hormone-shift after the birth of Ruby?  Yes, I’m sure I would have.  But I thank God for that 3rd (unexpected) pregnancy and subsequent birth, because the drastic change in myself and my existence over just a few months showed me that it really wasn’t my own inadequacies and shortfalls that led me through that darkness… it was an illness that happened to me.  I didn’t deserve it.  I couldn’t have prevented it.  I didn’t bring it on myself.  It wasn’t me.

And if you are going through something similar, this applies to you.  You may not believe it, or be able to understand it fully until you are on the other side of this, but I’ll say it anyway – this is not your fault, your weakness, or your inability to be like “normal moms.”  This is a result of your brain/body chemistry being imbalanced, as well as most likely being severely sleep-deprived and over-worked.  It’s not a good combination… but also NOT your fault.

And I can now say something with full confidence that I couldn’t before – IT WILL END.  As my therapist told me many times, “This is time-limited.”  Did I believe her then?  Ehh…… Do I believe her now?  YES. So, hang in there, mom warriors.  Don’t give up.  I’ll try to share as many practical things as possible that helped me through my own battle with PPD&A, but – in a good and bad way – this is a battle that you unfortunately have to “wait out.”  Why is that a good and bad thing?  Well, it’s “good” because it means it’s really not in your control, and therefore NOT your fault.  But, it’s a bad thing because… well… it’s really not in your control. Many things can help – therapy, medication, coloring, journaling, exercising, communicating, sleeping, etc. – but it does take time.

As I continue this blog – definitely more consistently than in the past J- I will continue to share about the darkness of the depression I was in, the web of anxiety in which I was trapped, and the details of my journey through PPD&A before, during, and after my pregnancy with my 3rdchild. I’ll share the hilarious things that help(ed) me get through the day, and the difficult things that made it hard to survive to the next one.  I’ll probably share a whole bunch of silly, corny revelations or jokes along the way, and hopefully a few helpful grains of “wisdom” I’ve learned or am learning now.  Actually, I’ll probably even ask YOU for your input, as well, because I won’t endeavor to pretend that I know everything about… anything!  I’ll discuss how it was finding out I was pregnant and going through the pregnancy while not being fully recovered by PPD.  I’ll let you know the things people said that did and didn’t help along the way.  And mostly, I’ll just be honest about how PPD&A changed me forever.  Even now, I have scars that most can’t see, except those who know me well.  I will never be the “old Jenny” ever again.  But… maybe this “new Jenny” is even better.  I mess up more, and also more obviously to those around me.  I say what I think and feel with less inhibition – for better and worse (sorry, to my husband… haha), but I’m also less insecure, more confident, and more eager to share my journey with others. I hope you’ll continue to follow along with my journey, and even share this blog – MY handful of sand – with others who may need to know they’re not alone.

And until then, enjoy these pictures…

On the left below, is my little tribe of children (/sometimes gremlins).  Scarlett is 5 (she’s the one who brought me a handful of sand and unknowingly inspired me to do this blog!), Isaiah is almost 3, and Ruby is 3 months old.

On the right is me jumping over (real) fire at a “Warrior” Mud Run I did almost 1 year ago, on my 28th birthday.  I participated with some friends for fun, to stop isolating myself, to face some of my fears, and honestly just to do something silly that made me feel like the warrior I knew I’d become inside through my fight with PPD&A.  *Also, I found out a few days later that I was pregnant with my 3rd child… So, Ruby did that mud run with me!!

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Ups and Downs

One of the scariest things about this journey has been… getting better.  Once you’ve encountered the darkness, there’s a kind of “safety” in it. Or, maybe not safety, but… predictability.  You know what to expect.  You come to expect the hopelessness, the absolute loneliness, the despair.  You become familiar with the “downs” and the “lows.” You stop hoping for things to get better.

But, once you start to see the “light at the end of the tunnel,” that’s when you remember how dark it was.  How dark it can be again, if – or when(?) – that light disappears.  You start to fear the ups because you “know” the down must be right around the corner.  You fear the “highs” because of how low you know you can fall… and how broken you may be when that happens.

As I mentioned in a previous post, it was around 6 months after my son was born when my PPD became glaringly obvious to me, and when I consequently sought help and support.  I knew I couldn’t fight through it alone anymore.  I knew I needed to do something – anything – to change the depressing darkness that had become my reality… the harrowing hopelessness that had become my life.  And although I now see that seeking help was the beginning of my journey to recovery, it was also the beginning of the scariest part of my battle with PPD&A.  Because once you know that something is wrong, … you know that something is wrong.  It has a name.  It has a title.  It has a description you can google on the internet.  It becomes a certainty instead of a possibility.  And, once it has a name, you have no choice but to face and acknowledge it.  Which is exactly what needs to be done.  BUT, it doesn’t make it easier to do.

Because once you know you are struggling through a disease like PPD&A – that you have by no choice or doing of your own – you realize that it IS bigger than you.  That you can’t beat it on your own.  You need help.  Now, there is certainly freedom in those realizations – once you actually accept them and realize there IS help for you.  But, it’s also terrifying to fight a beast with no body.  A presence with no tangible form.  If your “enemy” is a person bullying you, you can attempt to avoid them, or give them a nice punch in the face – although I do not necessarily suggest it.  But when the “bully” is inside you, and you can’t tell what’s real or not, or what is truth or lie, or what is or is not in your control, it’s a lot harder to fight.  And when you start to fight, but then the PPD&A seems to fight back, it’s even more challenging.

There was a day many months ago that I was at work.  I was still in the period of the deepest part of my depression and anxiety, and I had just started a new medication a couple weeks earlier.  As a side note, I ended up having to try 10 different medications – TEN.  Each medication took 4-6 weeks just to start seeing it’s true effects, at which point – if it didn’t work as intended, or had a significantly negative side effect – I would have to transition off of over another period of 4-6 weeks while simultaneously beginning a new medication.  And each time I started a new medication, or transitioned off of an old one, my body and mind had to adjust… over and over and over.  It was a very difficult time… but well worth it once I found the medication(s) that worked for me.  All that being said, I had started a new medication and was going about my day at work.  All of a sudden – and I really, truly mean out of nowhere – I realized that it looked… brighter around me.  I literally asked, “Did the lights just go on?”, and I’m pretty sure my co-worker thought I was a little crazy… because the lights had been on for HOURS, and it was rainy outside the window all day… But I will never forget that feeling because I looked around and literally thought and felt like it was physically brighter in my workplace.  I left work slightly confused and, coincidentally, went straight to therapy where I explained what had just happened at work.

My counselor was excited and thrilled because – unbeknownst to me – apparently that is a good sign that a medication can start working… You can have periods of “brightness” during the day, often in the afternoon if you take your medication in the morning, that start off just a few minutes a day every few days and, ideally, expand to hours of the day every day until your mood brightens and your anxiety lightens.  I remember coming home after therapy that day and being SO excited to tell my husband, my mom, my sister, my brother, my grandmother, … basically ANYone who would listen.  But… then, the brightness went away again.  And I didn’t feel it again for a few days.  Although I began to have those moments – albeit few and far between at first – I kept waiting and waiting, and hoping and hoping, for that period of brightness – when I could finally BREATHE for a few minutes.  When I didn’t feel the physical WEIGHT of anxiety pressing on my chest that felt like 100 lbs, just for a little while.  And, ironically, I actually found it harder at times to endure the dark periods while waiting for – and expecting – light periods.  It’s like how they say “a watched pot never boils” (whoever they are, anyway…)… Even though you know the pot will eventually boil, that knowledge won’t make it boil any faster – and it actually can seem to take longer!  That is kind of where my love-hate relationship with the mantra “This is Time-Limited” originated.  There were times that it was supremely helpful to know that THIS moment is time-limited… that it will end, even if that end isn’t “now.”  But, there were MORE times when I thought, “Who the heck CARES that this is time-limited?!  I need it to end NOW so I can survive NOW!!  So, SCREW “time limited” and everyone who tell me that that’s what THIS is!!”  (Those clearly weren’t my best moments…)

There was another day not too long after the “brighter” day at work when I walked outside of my house to get to my car.  I breathed in the air… and realized it was COLD. I actually noticed it’s temperature.  It made me stop in my tracks.  It was then that I realized I hadn’t noticed – in who knows how long – what breathing the air felt like.  What the temperature was outside.  How it felt to breathe in cold air.  In that moment, I was so excited that I felt the cold air!!  But… I also was frightened realizing how out-of-touch I had been with my environment until that point.  I mean, WOW – Who doesn’t notice that air is cold in the winter?!, I thought.  Not just “doesn’t notice” because they aren’t paying attention, but because the haven’t been capable feeling or noticing things like breathing.  Air.  Cold.  And that was scary, honestly. It was scary to see how disconnected I had been, and it was scary to know I could get to that point again if I didn’t continue to recover.

And that is basically – in a (large, cracked, complicated) nutshell – what this journey has been like for me.  I think I used to believe recovery was the easy part.  Or at least easier than being unwell.  But it’s actually the harder part.  The scary part.  Having a “bright” day means that the next day(s) could be dark again.  Reaching a “high” on this roller coaster of life means that, inevitably, a “low” could be coming.  Feeling hope again means that you can lose it… again.  It’s true that when you hit rock bottom, “there’s nowhere to go but up!”  Because once you’re “up”, you can go up more… or you can go DOWN again.

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I remember my counselor warning me of this, and I knew it would be a battle.  And it has continued to be one.  On the hard days I have now, I still PANIC that “maybe it’s going to get worse again! Maybe this ‘down’ is the start of a downward spiral I won’t be able to stop!  Yesterday was a good day, but maybe that was a fluke!”  The truth is that I still have these moments more often than I’d like to admit.  But, even so, I have to acknowledge that… Wow, I feel hope now!  I now remember what that feels like!  I feel happiness now – not all the time, but most of the time.  Which is literally a miracle to me!  When someone else tells you that they haven’t seen you smile in a week – a WHOLE WEEK – or haven’t heard you sing in 2 years – when you’ve always LOVED to sing – you can’t help but be GRATEFUL when you DO smile, and you DO sing.  And laugh.  And hope. And breathe.  And move.  And get out of bed.  And tell corny jokes.  And gain weight back that you’ve lost.  And take care of your kids alone.  And plan.  And dream.  And SURVIVE. And LIVE!!!

And THAT – all those things – makes it worth it to go through all the pain and struggle when you’re on the road to recovery.  It makes the highs exciting and the lows endurable.  It helps you appreciate days and moments of hope, and just hold on in moments of despair.

Although I still hate it and love it, the truth still remains that “This Is Time-Limited.” Whatever “this” is for you, or for me.  You can make it through this.  You may need some help – or in my case, LOTS of help – and you may need to wait longer than you hoped, but you will see the other side of this.  And that means a lot coming from ME who literally had lost ALL hope at some points.  Just don’t give up.  All of these moments will someday be your proof that you are stronger than you ever thought you were, and that you can withstand things you once couldn’t fathom.  Many grains of sand make up a beach.  Some are pretty, some are sharp.  Some may actually be pieces of long-dried up bird poop. (HA! ISN’T IT TRUE, THOUGH?)

SandUpCloseBut it’s all “sand.” And I’m still grateful for that precious gift my daughter gave me in one of my darkest hours… a handful of sand.  MY own unique, beautiful, literally dirty, infinitely precious handful of sand… that reminds me to find love when I feel unlovable, worth when I feel worthless, hope when I feel hopeless, and beauty when all I see is a mess.

The “beginning”…

Now that you all know where my “handful of sand” came from (literally and figuratively), I guess a good place to start now is the “beginning” of my journey through Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety (PPD&A).  For me, it began with… a diaper.

I know that probably comes as a surprise, but it really is the truth!

My son was around 6 months old.  Honestly, when I think back to that whole time period now, it all seems foggy to me, as does a sizeable chunk of that first year and a half after he was born… but what I remember with great clarity is the day I broke down over a diaper change. Being a mom of 2, I had changed many, many diapers before… obviously. Diapers of all shapes, sizes, and smells. But on that particular day, when faced with who-knows-what-number diaper, I just… couldn’t do it.  I couldn’t wrap my head around HOW I could possibly change this diaper.  It wasn’t an issue of reluctance or disgust…  I just felt like it would be impossible to change it.  I mean literally, physically impossible. Like I wouldn’t survive it.  So I just… cried.  I sat there on my living room floor with my 2 kids around me and broke down.  I don’t even remember if I ever changed that diaper… but I DO remember that it was then that I knew this wasn’t “normal”- for me, for sure… but even in general. So, that began my journey to seek help…

That was the beginning of what has now been my reality for last 18 months, and counting… because my recovery is ongoing, even to this day.

Looking back, I now see that there were signs that came long before I ended up getting help.  (‘They’ say “hind sight is 20-20” for a reason, right?)  But I convinced myself that the sadness, loneliness, and anxiety were normal for this stage of life – you know: 2 kids, sleep deprivation, living in leggings and spit-up stained t-shirts.  It was easy to believe that those negative feelings were normal, especially when others would say “Oh, that’s how it always is with 2 kids! You’ll get used to it eventually.”  And I don’t blame people for saying that – not at all.  For some, that is truly the case. They “get over it” on their own.  Life with 2 kids IS harder in many ways.  “This is just life now”…  But it does make me wonder now about how comfortable we as women – as a society – have become with moms feeling alone, depressed, hopeless, anxious, overwhelmed, underappreciated, and… well, “crazy”… to any degree just because it’s “the way life is now.”  Have we normalized these feelings and thoughts to such a degree that women talk themselves out of getting help?  I know that was the case for me… I descended to such a dark, low, and depressed state of being – no, SURVIVING – before I realized that – wait a second, this is not “normal.”  And, more than that, it was NOT okay, no matter how “normal” those feelings might have been.  I realized that this should not be normal.  I needed help.  I couldn’t survive any longer believing that being a mom of 2 kids meant living this way… because I knew I couldn’t live that way much longer.

I didn’t want to cry myself to sleep every night wondering how I was going to make it through the next day – or if I even wanted to.  I didn’t want to fantasize about just disappearing for a few hours (or days) until I could come back, “feel better,” and be the mom I was “supposed to be.”  I couldn’t battle my loneliness and sadness alone anymore.  I didn’t want to continue feeling like I was watching myself living my life, instead of actually living it.  I couldn’t convince myself anymore that there was hope.  It’s hard to imagine or explain, but I promise you that I could NOT remember what it felt like to feel hope anymore.  Or even to feel genuinely happy, without a weight on my chest that made it hard to breathe – a weight comprised of my fears, sadness, and hopelessness.  Actually, I lived in a constant state of a kind of shortness of breath from the darkness and panic that constantly pummeled me.  I stopped noticing things like “cold” or “hot.”  I basically just… existed.  Barely.

After my breakdown over the diaper, I knew I had to get help.  But even THAT was overwhelming… If I couldn’t change a diaper, how was I supposed to do research, find a therapist covered by insurance, then possibly a psychiatrist covered by insurance, etc…  So, the first thing I did was open up to my family.  Which wasn’t too difficult because, by that point, they could all tell something was going on.  They formed the start of my own personal “support group.”  My husband, mom, and sister – along with other close friends who – although I had isolated myself from – I contacted to let know to pray for me.  I was blessed with finding an amazing therapist through a local “new moms meet-up group,” who is still my (amazing) therapist to this day.

I remember my first couple of sessions with her… I remember finally getting the chance to vent many of the scary, lonely, “crazy”, embarrassing, depressing, anxious thoughts and feelings I had been experiencing… I remember admitting my hopelessness, and that I hadn’t smiled or laughed in days. DAYS.  I remember being terrified of what was to come, but even more afraid of continuing on alone.  And I remember my counselor confirming what I had suspected- I had severe post partial depression and anxiety. Severe.

Sometimes there is a relief in getting a solid diagnosis. At least then you know what’s wrong, right?  And I guess to a certain extent, I felt some kind of relief… like at least I wasn’t REALLY crazy, or maybe not quite as terrible of a mom as I thought I was, or even a little bit less alone…

But, for me, hearing those words opened my eyes to just how deep in a pit I really was.  And that was utterly terrifying.  Now- I’ve done some pretty scary things in my life – as a gymnast, I did flips over 4.5-inch balance beams, ran full-speed towards a vault table that I was supposed to flip over, swung around bars and let go only to flip some more and hopefully land on my feet… But… those few days in “the beginning” were legitimately the scariest in my life.  I think that my diagnosis led me to give myself permission to finally acknowledge how DOWN I was feeling; to really feel and think the things that I had been attempting to block out…

My lack of motivation to get out of bed, even in the face of my kids’ needs.  My want – no, NEED – to disappear sometimes, until I felt better.  The reality that I couldn’t be left alone with my kids because I could very well have a breakdown and their needs would be left unmet.  How things like banging my head against the wall seemed like a completely logical option to feel better in some moments.  (Really… I’m not exaggerating.  This really made sense to me at the time.)

After allowing myself to really feel and think those things, I felt more depressed and hopeless than ever.  It felt like too deep of a pit to ever climb out of.

The good news?  I did.  Almost 2 years later, I’m still here.  Still battling.  But doing much better overall.  The hard news?  It was HARD.  It still is.  Sometimes I feel stronger for what I’ve gone through in this journey.  Sometimes, I feel ruined… like I will never be the same.  Most often, I just feel… tired.  Of battling, of fighting in moments of fear or sadness.  But, I’ll say it again – I’m STILL HERE.  And that, my friends, is a miracle.  THAT is why my “handful of sand” meant so much to me, and still does.  THAT is why the “little moments” mean so much to me, and why I have to focus on them to get through each day, and sometimes just each hour.  That is why I can look at my kids – at my son, whose birth (unbeknownst to him) led me on this journey – and I know I would do it all again for him, because HE is worth all this…  They are worth all of this.

So, to moms out there who can relate to this at all… please know that although it is normal to feel soooo may things after giving birth (no, you’re NOT crazy!), it is also SO worth it to get help sooner rather than later.  Please know that things may feel like they’re getting worse before they get better… Coming to terms with deep depression and anxiety is never easy and is downright scary, at times.  BUT, it will get better.  As my therapist told me many (MANY) times, “This Is Time-Limited.”

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Post-partum depression and anxiety does end… eventually.  But having a support team of family, friends, and a therapist helps tremendously.  And if that’s too much to think about, just pick ONE person to let in.  Just one.  It helps to know you’re not alone.  For me, having a journal helped – as I briefly mentioned in my last blog post, and will mention more in depth in the future.  My PPD journal became my place to admit my raw, “horrible” thoughts and feelings in my darkest moments, and then revisit them again in my not-as-dark moments to remind myself what was and was not true.  I will post a picture below so you can see a time when I did exactly that…  I wrote down many of my hopeless “truths” in a moment of extreme sadness, only to revisit that page later on and see just how NOT true those things were… So, I wrote down that REAL truth on the following page.  Then, in the many difficult moments that followed, I would look at those pages again and fight to remember what was REALLY true.

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I’ll even give an example now, from something I battled this very week…

PPD&A “truth”: “I shouldn’t have started this blog… I stink at writing and thinking and being a mom, so what was I thinking?  I’m not even better yet, so there’s no way I can help anyone.  Life is still SO hard sometimes… is it even worth it to do this?”

REAL truth: “Sometimes the most helpful advice comes not from someone who has all the answers, but from someone who is still figuring them out.  Share the things that you wish someone could have shared with you, or the things someone did share with you that helped you push through.  Even if it helps one person, and even if you never know who it helped, it will be worth it.”

A handful of sand…

In the depths of my battle with severe Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety – when I would cry every night about waking up and starting a new, difficult day and and also most mornings about getting out of bed and going to work – my daughter did something for me that changed and impacted me in ways I will never be able to fully explain…

She was 3 years-old, and attending preschool at the same place I work. At the end of recess – 45 minutes before I picked her up – she grabbed a “present” for me. She held onto that present for the entire 45 minutes of ending her school day and dismissal until I walked in to pick her up to bring her home.

And what was that present? A handful of sand. From the sandbox.

It was the cutest thing – she thought about me, and loved me so much that she wanted to bring a part of her day – SAND – to me as a gift. I think I started crying and, of course, thanked her profusely… while doing what sentimental moms do and saving that handful of sand forever and ever in a ziplock bag. (Totally normal, right?! Haha.)

Well, that handful of sand now – after a year – is still in my possession, in a journal that I like to call my “happiness book” (or my “PPD book”), which my mom gave me. Little did she know how important this journal would become to me… The front of this journal says “Enjoy the little things… for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things”. Just like my daughter’s handful of sand.

That day, when she gave me that sand, she reminded me that even through the seemingly unending darkness I was trying to navigate through… even in my darkest moments when I truly believed my kids would be BETTER off without me… she loved me… unconditionally. Scarlett thought of me while she could have been distracted by other, normal, 3 year-old things… art projects, bugs, snacks, boogers… you know.

But she gave me a handful of sand. Maybe silly, “dirty”, and messy to some… but unmeasurably precious to me.

So, that is what I want to share now… my own kind of “handful of sand”… grains of pain, truth, and hopefully wisdom from my own battle with Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety, in hopes that maybe they can encourage and make a difference for even one other person.

So, here it begins… my own possibly-silly, “dirty”, messy handful of sand… for someone out there who needs it…