Updated: Aug 25
I've been asked many times how I got into fitness; what it was that really pushed me to not only start, but what made it so important to me to prioritize my health and fitness. I wish I could say that I thought it was something fun and healthy to do and it just grew from there. That wouldn't be the truth though. The truth isn't pretty, but it's part of who I am and how I got here. And hopefully my story can help someone else who may be in a dark place, like I was. Maybe it can help them see, that there is in fact, a silver lining that can come from a dark cloud. Exercise became my silver lining. People who cared became my life line, and I was able to step out of the dark and into a new beginning. This is my story (as told from a blog I wrote almost 5 years ago).
April 11, 2016
"I’ve wondered if I should write this post. I wondered if I really wanted to admit the ugly truth of what I’ve been struggling to overcome here recently. Ultimately, I decided that writing this could help to purge some of the emotions that constantly keep bubbling up or more importantly, to maybe even let someone else who may be suffering in silence know that they are not alone and that eventually things really will get better.
The birth of our second son was a dream come true. Here was this beautiful, chunky little piece of heaven that I couldn’t take my eyes off of. He was perfect and very much wanted and I had every reason in the world to be on cloud nine with happiness…but I wasn’t. Those first few weeks were a blur. I honestly can’t recall much about them. I should’ve been over the top with excitement. I should have been full of mommy bliss. I should’ve soaked up every snuggle and every little moment of holding that sweet boy, but I didn’t. I wasn’t happy, not at all, and I just couldn’t understand why. I wasn’t quite connecting with him and caring for him became just a chore. I loved him of course, I just didn’t want to hold him and love on him like I thought I would. I was just going through the motions. I also wasn’t trying to include my two year old or make him feel special. I really didn’t want anything to do with him either.
It was my husband who first noticed my behavior. He kept asking what was wrong and honestly it only aggravated me. I was exhausted and hormonal; of course I wasn’t feeling like myself. It started getting worse and worse and then suddenly I found myself drowning in a cloud of sadness that I just couldn’t escape. That cloud followed me around and hung over every aspect of my life. I was an emotional wreck. I cried nonstop. I tried hiding it from my husband, but soon it was too hard to hide and I no longer cared. Honestly, I didn’t care about much at that point. I wanted nothing to do with the baby. I didn’t want to hold him or cuddle him. I didn’t want to play with my two year old. I didn’t want to tuck him in to bed at night. I didn’t want to deal with either of them at all. I didn’t want my husband to touch me. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I wanted to be left alone. I stopped answering texts from my friends and I stopped returning their calls. I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. I felt like a terrible mom and a worthless human being. I felt inadequate as a wife. I felt that it was all too much and I just wanted to run away from everything. I was bombarded with these terrible dark thoughts, that haunted me throughout the day and kept me from sleeping at night. I never thought of harming my kids, though my thoughts would always be of them in danger and me being helpless to protect them. I was paralyzed with fear that I couldn’t protect them. Even small things started to feel overwhelming. I remember going to the store to quickly grab one item. While I was still at the store my husband called and asked me to pick up milk and orange juice. I remember getting off the phone and feeling completely overwhelmed. I stood in the middle of one of the store aisles and cried…UGLY cried, for about 20 minutes. I was unable to move and unable to stop crying. It made no sense. It was so illogical, but there I was, having lost my mind over orange juice and milk. Still, I ignored my husband's pleading for me to let my doctor know what was going on. He begged me to talk to someone about it. I would only get mad when he suggested it. I didn’t believe there was anything wrong with me except exhaustion and hormones. After all, I’d just had a baby. This was normal, right?
Shortly thereafter I got the wakeup call that I needed. We were having dinner and Tristan was doing as two years old's do. He was making a mess of his food and just being a kid. Normally this doesn’t even faze me. After all, he’s two. For some reason though, his normal behavior sent me off the deep end. I lost my mind and totally blew up at him. I screamed so loud and so hateful at him that he burst into tears. I’d never treated my son this way, especially not for just acting like a kid. I immediately realized what I’d done and the red hot anger turned into extreme guilt and regret and I too burst into tears. That moment was when I knew I needed to seek help; that this couldn’t be normal.
I emailed my doctor the next day and he responded within the hour with suggestions. He suggested taking 3000 mg of fish oil, a B complex and a hot bath every night for the rest of the week and then to let him know if there was any improvement. Unfortunately, there was not. When he emailed me to see how I was feeling, I was only feeling worse and I told him so. He told me to come in the next day, that he’d make room for me whenever I could come in. That next morning when I saw him I was in terrible shape. Every little thing made me cry and I couldn’t even remember my baby’s name when the girls in the office asked. That same day he started me on Zoloft. He also started me on Ambien so that I could finally sleep. That too made me cry. I felt like such a failure. Why couldn’t I shake this on my own? Why did I need antidepressants? I felt so worthless and alone. The next few weeks were like living in a deep, dark, lonely hole, where all I could do was cry. Having always been a happy person, I just couldn’t understand what was going on. I had no choice. I finally gave in to my husband, Caio’s, plea for me to talk to someone. My first meeting with the therapist wasn’t how I pictured it. I just knew she’d agree with me in feeling that the only thing going on with me was hormones and exhaustion. I figured when Caio heard that I was fine, just tired, that he’d get off my back about getting help. That wasn’t the case though. I was diagnosed with post partum depression with a severe depressive episode. This couldn’t be right. This couldn’t be happening to me. I was too happy of a person to suffer from this. I was wrong though. It all made sense now. Everything she described was exactly what I’d been going through and how I’d been feeling. It was such an eye opener. It also felt like defeat. I could no longer blame my exhaustion. This is what I had and now I had to face it…and deal with it.
I continued to see the therapist and I continued to see my doctor, who ended up bumping up my medicine four more times. My husband was amazing from the start. He had started listening to an audio book about post partum depression. He wanted to understand what we were dealing with. I think it also helped him to understand those moments I was so irrational, or when I lashed out, or when I was inconsolable for no reason. He helped me understand it more as well. I can honestly say that he has been my saving grace through it all. Knowing how important sleep was, he took over night shifts with the baby. I’d pump and he’d use that milk to feel the baby in the middle of the night feedings. Knowing I would likely not do it myself, he’d urge me to take hot baths at night, he’d make and bring me chamomile tea, make me go to bed, he’d take care of the boys when I was basically useless. There were so many things he did and has continued to do to help me get better. There’s no telling how far into the darkness I would have ended up had he not been there to basically save me. I was too embarrassed to tell my friends what was going on and I certainly didn’t want to see anyone, so he was always my safe harbor when I felt myself spiraling deeper and deeper.
There is such a stigma when it comes to mental health problems that it makes it easier to deny what’s going on than to seek help. I was too embarrassed to seek help. I didn’t want my friends and my husband to see me as the failure I saw in myself. It had to be my fault, right? It got really bad. I didn’t want him knowing and I’m ashamed to admit it now, but there were several times when I thought that my kids would be better off without me. It crossed my mind that maybe they’d be happier or better cared for if I were no longer here. After all, I did have a large amount of prescription sleeping pills now and it’d only be doing them a favor by disappearing. Wouldn’t my husband be better off without a damaged wife? Wouldn't my family and friends be better off without me?
Sadly, I had even planned when and how. I'm not proud of that chapter in my life, but I'm also not ashamed. It wasn't me. It was the PPD.
Having those thoughts scared me and I’d quickly shake them off when they happened, only to have them reappear again those times I was an emotional basket case. I haven’t had a thought like that in awhile and it terrifies me that I had even entertained such a notion. I don’t think I would have ever hurt myself, but it still scares me that the thought even entered my mind. All of these things and more is what post partum depression does to you. No one knows what causes it or why it affects some and not others. It restructures your mind and makes you feel things you’d normally never ever feel. You’re not at all yourself. You’re really not. You feel like someone completely different and really you are someone different because your brain is literally rewired. You lose interest in the things you love. You lose interest in family and friends. You lose the desire and the will to do anything at all. You can’t help the things you feel and the way it makes you think. I never understood that before. I was also in denial for such a long time. I now have a new understanding and deep empathy for other women also going through this. It’s by far the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with and I still have to fight it daily. Having gone through this and now knowing what to look for, I am positive that there are many women out there suffering of post partum depression and don't even know it. They may chalk it up to exhaustion and hormones, like I did. If they do realize what's going on, sometimes, because of the stigma attached to mental health issues, will likely never seek help. Treatment is key though and as my doctor pointed out, the earlier it is caught and treated, the faster it can be overcome. If it goes untreated for too long it can get so much worse and last so much longer. I am just thankful that my husband knew what to look for and picked up on the signs right away. I can't imagine how many women out there go through this and don't get the help they so desperately need.
While I’m still not quite myself, and while I still have some really bad days and very very few good days, I AM getting better. I’m starting to heal and to overcome this. It’s still a constant battle and every day I struggle with it at some point, but the fact that I can even smile and laugh now tells me that I’m winning. Yesterday I let Lucas (my 3 month old) nap in my arms while I played Legos with my two year old. I was enjoying the warmth of him, his scent, his soft breathing, and the little smiles in his sleep so much that I didn’t want to put him down. I was even enjoying every moment playing with my two year old. As harsh as it sounds, a few weeks ago I would have rather pushed nails into my arms than have sat there with them. How awful is that? That’s why I felt like such a terrible mother. Thankfully though, those feelings are passing. Now I just want to be with them and love on them. Now I’m returning friends calls and getting out with them again. It’s been such an uphill battle, but I’m finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel. I’m healing and I thank God for that. I’m no longer ashamed. I finally accept that this is something that’s happened to me that I now have to deal with. Post Partum Depression is a serious and scary illness, but it’s one woman shouldn’t have to go through alone. I thank God for my husband and for my friends who kept reaching out and kept showing up even when I’d tell them not to. I'm thankful that I pushed myself to exercise, even if it was just away for me to get away from everyone. I believe that’s what’s gotten me through this and will continue to get me through until I beat this…and I will beat this."
I struggled for quite some time with my post partum depression. It was severe and the only way I could get any relief, aside from therapy and medication, was exercise. The more I worked out, the better I felt. And I did beat it, the PPD! It was soon after, that I was given the opportunity to become a group fitness instructor for a moms fitness group. Once I earned my Group Fitness certification and began to teach classes, it was there that I feel in love with fitness and wanted to keep learning as much as I could. I then furthered my education and became certified as a personal trainer and then a certified Prenatal and Postnatal Fitness Specialist and then finally, a certified Corrective Exercise Specialist. Most recently I completed my training and became certified as a Nutrition Coach. I love what I do and that I am able to help others. That's my true passion and what gives me the most fulfillment in life.