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Three Lessons From Therapy

Today is World Mental Health Day. I’m so grateful that people are beginning to have more conversations around mental health and that the associated stigma is starting to diminish.

If you’ve been following my blogging journey, you may know that earlier this year I struggled with my own mental health issue after the birth of my daughter. Like most new moms, I loved my baby so much. She was a complete joy, but something felt off on the inside. I didn’t really have words to describe what I was feeling. I just knew something was different. I was tired, irritable, sad, and disconnected from those around me. Long story short, I decided to seek the help of a therapist so that I could start sorting through my feelings. In my first session, the therapist asked me about postpartum depression (PPD). I didn’t think I was depressed because I wasn’t exhibiting what I thought were the “typical” signs of PPD. I loved my child. I didn’t want to hurt myself. But as I read more about the condition, I realized that what I was feeling and experiencing was actually indicative of PPD and anxiety. I later talked to my doctor and she confirmed what I already knew to be true. To work towards healing, I decided to continue therapy and invited my husband to join me. We’ve been doing couples therapy now for about 6 months and it has made a huge difference, primarily, helping us navigate through some of the challenges of life with two young kids.

Here are 3 lessons I’ve learned through therapy:

Lesson 1. Perspective matters.

One of the first things we talked about in therapy was perspective. The lens through which you view the world matters. Your thoughts matter. What you think about will eventually manifest. Focusing on negative things brings about negativity. Positive thoughts bring positivity. I’m learning that in order for positivity to flow in my life, I need to fill my mind with positive things. One Bible verse that speaks to this is Philippians 4:8, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” I keep a plaque on my desk at work with those words to keep me focused.

Lesson 2. You can only change yourself.

I realize that while there are things that I would like to change about my spouse and vice versa, we can only be responsible for our own actions. I don’t have the power to change him. He can’t change me. We both have to be willing to do our own work to better ourselves, which in turn will benefit our relationship with each other and those around us.

Lesson 3. Let yourself be seen.

Be vulnerable. Often times vulnerability is equated with weakness, but in reality being vulnerable is one of the bravest things you can do. I am learning that in order to experience true connection, with my spouse, children, family, and friends, I have to let my guard down and open myself up. I have to let myself be seen, all of me.


If I’m honest, these lessons are definitely easier said than done, but therapy has given me the opportunity to learn practical steps for living out these lessons. I feel more empowered than I ever have in my adult life.

If you’re struggling in anyway, need help sorting through your emotions or a difficult life change, I would encourage you to seek help. Talk to a trusted friend or family member. Seek the help of a therapist. Even if you may not be experiencing a major life crisis, counseling can be a very effective preventive measure. Just as we see a doctor to maintain our physical health, seeing a counselor or therapist is a great way to be proactive in taking care of your mental health.


Need help finding a therapist?

1. Most employers include an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) in their benefits package that provides access to a variety of resources to help employees with work life issues, including counseling. Through an EAP, an employee and any dependents can confidentially be connected to a therapist and receive several counseling sessions free of charge. This is the method I used to find our therapist.

2. Look online. Psychology Today has a section on their website where you can search for providers based on location, area of concern, insurance carrier, etc. A simple Google search may also be effective.

3. Ask others. If you have a primary care doctor, you can ask for a referral to a licensed mental health professional. Friends and/or family members may also be able to recommend someone.

4. Local churches often have pastors available who can help you or can make recommendations of licensed professionals in the area.

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The truth is…I’m getting better

“When you shed light on something dark and shameful, it’s exposed and it begins to lose it’s power.” Rachel Druckenmiller

I came across this quote in an article I read at work related to mental health. The truth of this quote resonated deeply with me as I had just publicly shared my struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety. I had moments of darkness and shame, but after I shared what I was going through, those feelings began to weaken. A weight was lifted. Sharing my story was a catalyst for healing.

I have been on a journey to becoming a healthier, happier version of myself, focusing on the following:

  • Therapy
  • Engaging in activities that bring me joy
  • Being more diligent about self-care
  • Resting
  • Addressing relationship issues
  • Being more honest about my needs/feelings
  • Positivity – in my self talk and what I consume
  • Living in the moment
  • Being more intentional with my time

I’m blessed to have an awesome community of people that have supported me through the last few months and I wouldn’t be where I am today without them. I want to take the opportunity to express gratitude to a few people:

  • My husband – for being there through every moment. There are really no words to express my gratitude for his presence, consistency, and unconditional love.
  • Our parents – for spending time with our kids and loving on them so much and so well.
  • My friends – who have listened to me, encouraged me, spent time with me, challenged me and most importantly, recommended therapy.

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The truth is…I’m not okay

I came across a social media post last week by Chrissy Tiegen in which she shared her partnership with Allegheny Health Network focused on increasing awareness of postpartum depression during the month of May, Maternal Mental Health Month.

In her post, Tiegen shares that more than 500,000 women, or 1 in 7, will suffer from postpartum depression each year, but only 15% of women experiencing this or other perinatal mood disorders, such as postpartum anxiety and postpartum bipolar disorder, will seek help. This is likely due to the stigma surrounding mental health and/or lack of knowledge about these disorders.

I’m choosing to share more about postpartum depression and anxiety because this is something I am currently dealing with. I never imagined this would be my struggle, yet here I am.

My Story

About a month or so after giving birth, I knew that something was off, but I felt connected to my baby and I had no thoughts of harming myself so I didn’t think I was experiencing postpartum depression. I didn’t understand that the signs and symptoms of the condition were more than that.

Our pediatrician asked me how I was doing at all of Skylar’s initial doctor visits. In the first few weeks, I felt fine, but after about one month I started feeling more tired and overwhelmed. Even though I felt this way, I didn’t really admit it to anyone. Every time someone asked how I was doing I said I was fine, even when I wasn’t. 

I did the screening assessment for postpartum depression at my 6 week postpartum visit and again at Skylar’s two month visit. If I’m truthful, I may not have answered the questions with 100% honesty. Again, I felt connected to my daughter and I didn’t want to hurt myself. I continued to assume that the way I was feeling was a normal part of life with a newborn. I wasn’t aware of the other ways postpartum depression could present itself. I also feared what it would mean to have postpartum depression. Did it mean that I was weak? A bad mother? Incapable of handling my responsibility? I felt ashamed.

I have learned that the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression and other perinatal mood disorders are often mistaken as normal feelings that occur with caring for a new baby. Understanding the signs and symptoms is important because perinatal mood disorders can impact the entire family and if not treated can get worse or last much longer.

Common Signs of Postpartum Depression

  • Loss of pleasure or interest in activities you once enjoyed
  • Feelings of sadness
  • Change in appetite
  • Feeling guilty about not being a good enough mother
  • Irritability and anger
  • Indecisiveness
  • Mood swings
  • Fatigue
  • Lack of focus or feeling that you don’t care about anything
  • Struggling to connect with your baby
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Feeling like a whole different person
  • Thoughts of self-harm or harming your baby

Another common perinatal mood disorder that isn’t discussed as often is postpartum anxiety. It is estimated that about 10% of moms will experience postpartum anxiety, but there are likely more that suffer in silence.

Common Signs of Postpartum Anxiety

  • Constantly feeling on edge
  • Racing or irrational thoughts
  • Excessive worry
  • Sleeplessness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Irritability
  • Nausea
  • Lack of focus
  • Muscle tension

As I read about the common signs of these conditions, I realized that there was more to postpartum depression than a lack of connection with my baby or thoughts of self harm. I was oblivious to all the other signs. Based on what I read, I realized that I might be struggling with both postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety in some form.

Some signs I have experienced are:

  • Feelings of sadness, sometimes crying for no reason
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Lack of focus/feeling like I don’t care about anything
  • Withdrawal
  • Feeling like a different person
  • Feeling on edge
  • Fatigue
  • Sleeplessness
  • Nausea
  • Irrational thoughts
  • Muscle tension

The weekend before I went back to work at 6 weeks postpartum, I had a mild anxiety attack. I remember nursing my baby and having to wake my husband to take her because I started to tense up and shake out of nowhere. My heart felt like it was racing and I couldn’t control my body. The only thing I could think to do was lay in bed and try deep breathing to settle myself. I ended up falling asleep and when I woke, I felt a little more relaxed, but my body ached the rest of the day. It was such a weird experience and I couldn’t identify why it happened. Looking back, I suspect that days of anxious thoughts and worry about returning to work may have been the trigger.

I went back to my OBGYN office around 9 weeks postpartum for a visit unrelated to postpartum depression, but I talked to the nurse practitioner about the symptoms I was experiencing. I did the screening assessment again and my score indicated postpartum depression. The NP discussed treatment options with me including therapy and medication. I decided to try therapy first.

In the last few weeks, the biggest step for me has been acknowledging that I’m not okay. I’ve had highs and lows, good days and not so good days. I am taking it one day at a time.

Writing this post has been one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while. I went  back and forth about whether I would share it. What I’ve learned recently is the power of vulnerability and the importance of sharing your story because you never know the impact it will have. I’ve been encouraged by others sharing their stories. They have helped me realize I’m not alone and that there is hope. I pray my story helps someone else know that it’s okay to not be okay. Embrace how you feel. Share your struggle with others. Seek help. Most importantly, remember things will get better. I believe now more than ever that there’s a purpose in our pain and I’m hopeful that I will find mine as I work toward becoming healthy.

For more info about postpartum depression and anxiety and to hear other women’s stories visit http://www.mywishformoms.org and follow the hashtag #MyWishForMoms on Instagram.