Trigger warning: suicidal ideation
I have always had a hard time asking for help. Before I had children, I was determined to do it all on my own. Help lifting a mattress? Nonsense, I would rather sprain my back and be deemed immobile than dare to ask for assistance. I remember the first time I asked my husband for help paying the deposit on a new apartment, he smiled wide and said, “I thought you’d never ask.” It took almost another two years before I asked him for help. Then we had children.
I started to notice a change in myself after my second baby was born. My daughters were 23 months apart. It seemed like a good gap. My eldest was mobile enough that she could throw diapers away and be somewhat entertained by herself while I was nursing the baby. I had been through the stages and leaps before, so I thought I was ready for what was to come. Except I was not prepared for the mental shift from one to two children.
It was when I was visiting my sister that the shift in my mood had started to show itself more. Lucy was only three months old. She would sleep for the most part, but her sister wouldn’t. They were up all night alternating who was screaming and who was sleeping. It was horrible. My husband was back home, and I was alone at night. But I didn’t just feel alone there. I felt isolated at home as well. I thought I could do it all. Chris would go to work during the day, and I felt that it was my duty to stay up all night with the kids and then take care of them during the day. I was exhausted.
It was in the guest room of the basement when I had my break. I was sobbing and called my husband up and sob-screamed, “I NEED HELP! You don’t understand! I think of shooting myself!” It was a dark moment. I was so deep in it that I didn’t even think of how hearing those words come from my mouth would affect my husband. All I could think of was how I was on an island that was sinking into the ocean.
After I got off the phone, I went upstairs and told my sister everything. It was extremely hard for me to open up about how I was feeling, but I know I could be honest with her. She urged me to call and get help. Chris had also mentioned that I needed to call my therapist. Luckily, I already had a therapist that I spoke to about my mother issues, but I hadn’t talked to her about this. For some reason, even opening up to a professional about my feelings was, in my mind, admitting weakness. What gave me the right to feel the way I did? I had two beautiful and healthy children, but I was still so unhappy with everything. The truth is, we don’t need permission to feel the way we do, and we don’t need to justify our feelings. I just needed to learn to admit my feelings and open up.
It was through speaking with someone and learning to ask for help that I began to heal. I stopped therapy and felt like I was in a good place. In January of 2018, my son was born. By the end of summer, I started to feel like I was drowning. It was hard to get out of bed, crying was quickly becoming my favorite pastime, my energy levels were low, and I couldn’t handle the stress. One day I was driving over one of Pittsburgh’s many bridges, and I thought about pulling over and jumping.
I had this thought before, but this day it was different. It was a little too real. I made an appointment with my OB/GYN and told her how I was feeling. She gave the name of a new therapist, and I started to go again. While I’ve never officially been diagnosed with postpartum depression, I know that if I didn’t go to therapy, I very well might not be here today. The truth is, if I honestly opened up with everything I was feeling, the crying, and the screaming, I probably would have been. But I had such a hard time admitting everything and allowing myself to be vulnerable that I got in my own way.
Recently, a fellow mom in Pittsburgh pulled her car over on one of the bridges and jumped. Her small children were in the car. The story of her death touched me in a way that I find hard to describe. I knew her suffering. I knew what she was thinking. She was drowning. She needed help but couldn’t get it. There had probably been one too many fights with her kids, her husband probably didn’t answer the phone when she called to vent, and her only escape was to jump. Now, there are children without their mother. I cried for days after the story hit. It made me realize how close I had come to being her.
There are so many of us moms that feel we can do it all, but we’re suffocating. Each spat our children have pushes us closer to the edge. A burnt pot of macaroni can cause us to shed tears. But it’s more than a burnt lunch. It’s the need for help. And it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not weakness; it’s strength. It takes strength to be honest about our feelings. And if you’re a mom, you have that strength in you. I had to find it, but I know I have it if I ever need it again.