Finding Myself After Postpartum Mood Disorders


 It’s no surprise to anyone that having kids changes you.

Moms often throw around phrases like, “You don’t know until you have kids of your own” and “It all changed the moment I saw her.” It is true after all. Becoming a mother certainly changes things. You are now on someone else’s schedule and you’re in charge of another person’s physical, intellectual, and emotional well-being and you suddenly have this enormous responsibility to put the needs of your child above your own needs. Some have said that when a child is born, so is a mother because a new identity emerges in that person. With all that comes with raising tiny little ones, its easy to feel overwhelmed. Motherhood definitely requires sacrifice.
When I went back to work at the beginning of this school year, our front office staff passed around fun little “About Me” surveys for us to fill out for our hospitality committee. They like to bring us our favorite drink or candy on our birthday. Well, as I sit there filling out this survey, I began to realize I had no idea what to answer for half of the questions. What do I do on my free time? Do I have free time? Do I even like hobbies or things? What do I do on the weekends? I used to have no problems answering these types of questions, but ever since becoming a mom, I guess I unintentionally let go of everything else. Literally.

I stopped being myself so that I could be the absolute best mom I could be. While there’s nothing wrong with aiming for excellence in something, especially something as important as mothering, I think maybe, you should probably not completely lose yourself in the process.

We sometimes do this to ourselves, don’t we? We do this to each other, too. We see other mamas in passing and when it comes to making casual conversation, we seem to automatically ask about their kids. “How old is she now?” or “I heard Bobby started little league!” While that’s not everyone’s experience, and it’s certainly not every encounter with another mom, I’m sure we can all relate at least a little bit. And again, there’s nothing wrong with someone making casual conversation about our kids. We tend to talk to people about the things that we have in common, after all. 
Unfortunately, after 3 years of talking about what new thing my kid is doing or how my pregnancy is going, I forgot what it was like to really talk about things going on with me. It felt like I was just going through the motions. Go to work, be a teacher. Come home, be a wife and mom. After bedtime, housework and chores. Repeat. As time went on, I pushed myself further and further into the background. My life consisted of lesson plans, caring for my children, attempting to manage our household work, and spending time with my husband. The more hats I wore, the less time I had to spend doing things I personally enjoyed doing. The more my brain thought about the never-ending to do list of things to think about, the less time I thought about how I’d spend my alone time. And then after a while, I forgot what it was like to really even think about me at all. When people would ask, “How are you?” I would automatically respond with answers about my husband, job, or kids. I forgot how to answer or really even reflect on how was. Destiny. Not Ryan and Zachary’s mom, Stephen’s wife, or Mrs. Cookus the music teacher. How was I? 
The real answer was that I wasn’t sure because I had somehow become wired  to only think about how my kids were. It was just easier. I hadn’t mentioned myself in a while and it just became the new normal. The real answer was that I had lost myself to motherhood, both physically and mentally and I don’t think I was quite aware it was happening. I think this was perpetuated even more by the fact that I forgot what it meant to talk to others about how they were doing outside of the surface level mom stuff. Conversation became shallow small talk about what I thought mom conversations should be about. I managed to put everything into a tiny little box. 
I started seeing a counselor not long ago. Turns out, I have postpartum depression and anxiety. As weird as it sounds, it’s kind of refreshing to have a name for what I feel. It’s an answer to prayer, really. I thought that this person that I had become was just me now. I thought I’d always just feel like I was lost and like it was all I could do to just survive this season. The old me, the one who used to thrive, she was gone and I’d never see her again. Turns out, it’s depression. It’s anxiety. It’s all the mental, physical, and social aspects that come with sorting though those things. I could just scream it sometimes. “I’m a mess right now, but I promise this isn’t my identity!”
When we talk during counseling sessions, it’s not always about what my kid is doing or how my job or my marriage is going, it’s about how those things are affecting me and how I can better manage difficulties in those areas. We talk about what “me time” looks like. We talk about what I hope my life looks like in 5 years. Talking to someone about how these separate areas of my life all relate together and how they all are a small part of my identity is helping me to get back to myself. I’m starting to see that teacher/mom/wife Destiny has stuff that she needs outside of just being teacher/mom/wife. She has things she enjoys, things she’s passionate about, and things she’s still figuring out. 
Without a doubt, I was made to be a mama to my two precious boys. I truly believe that I was created perfectly to be their mom. And with some help, I’m starting to see that I can be a good mom to my babies without having to completely let go of everything that I am.

I’m starting to see that taking time to make deep connections with others and to really pour into my own well-being is necessary if I’m going to thrive in this season and figure out who this new mom person really is.