My husband and I had just had an argument. It wasn’t about anything important. I can confirm this because I didn’t remember who won the argument the next morning. I also knew there was something not quite right about me.
I had been overly emotional about life in general lately. I was lashing out at my kids, extremely sleepy, and nauseous. I knew this feeling all too well. I was pregnant.
You see, I have had four successful pregnancies as well as two unsuccessful pregnancies, so I knew how my body felt when I was with child. My biggest obstacle at this point was to tell my husband (whom I wasn’t speaking to at the moment).
I went to the closest drugstore and picked up four pregnancy tests because, well… I couldn’t be too sure. I took all four and they all had the same result – pregnant. Now the real work began because I called my husband at work and asked him as nicely as I could to go into a conference room – I needed to tell him something.
He instantaneously became irritable with me and refused. I somehow convinced him and in what seemed like a million hours later, I told him I was pregnant. He was ecstatic! I was equally terrified.
My mind began to race. I knew my husband would be excited. He loved babies!! Every time he held a baby he gave me these annoying “baby fever eyes”. I would scoff at him and tell him that the baby factory was closed. Obviously I was wrong. I had a million questions in my mind.
“Are we really going to do this again?”
“How will we make this work?”
“What will people think?”
“Why, God, why? I thought we were done.”
Our youngest was nine years old and we had no baby items in our home any more. Furthermore, I was in my mid-thirties and I knew there was a significant risk of being pregnant at this time in my life. I knew that this pregnancy was going to be difficult physically because being pregnant at 25 compared to 35 is significantly different.
I had officially gone back to work after staying home for many years, so now I would have to juggle work and home, something I had never done before. I knew it would be physically taxing on my body but what I wasn’t prepared for was how mentally taxing it would be on my psyche.
When My Anxiety Started Progressing
The next nine months were some of the hardest nine months of my life. I had extreme food aversions, so much so that I could projectile vomit at the meer smell of almost any food. I had car sickness and nausea my entire pregnancy, so commuting to and from work was a journey by itself. It got so unbearable that I would get to work early just so I could collect myself and sometimes vomit to feel better, although most of the time, it didn’t help. I was also susceptible to sciatic pain and as my belly grew, so did the pain.
One day everything seemed to crumble around me. I wasn’t sleeping well. My anxiety was at an all time high and my body was aching everywhere. I began to have consistent contractions every 5 minutes. It was the busiest day at work in a while. I had to call my supervisor and notify her that I was very uncomfortable at work and needed to leave.
Thankfully my husband worked close by and was able to pick me up from work and bring me to my OBGYN. She advised me to stop working and started the paperwork for disability. I was relieved and equally anxious about this impending birth.
I was so worried about having a boy. You see, I had four girls before my little guy. So having a boy was foriegn to me. The moment I started my forced maternity leave, I began to talk to all of my friends and family who had boys and everyone reassured me that I would be just fine. To be honest, none of the positive advice helped. It actually made it worse. I was terrified of raising a boy because I believed it was out of my wheelhouse.
This was my biggest fear while pregnant. In hindsight, this was the least of my troubles but it was such a big deal to me at the time that I would ruminate on it all day long. I began to consult “Dr. Google” about all things related to having a boy and that did more harm than good, only fueling my anxiety. The closer my due date came, the more anxious I became.
When I Knew My Behavior Started Getting Out of Hand
For most people maternity leave brings feelings of relief. For me it brought out even more worry. My biggest concern was my husband’s commute to and from work. In my mind, I was convinced that something was going to happen to him on the windy backroads as he traveled, so I had him text me constantly. If he forgot to text me when I was expecting it, I would yell at him.
My mind would go into overdrive and create numerous irrational thoughts about him getting into a car crash. Every morning I would check our local police websites or social media accounts to see if there were any accidents. If there were, I would call him frantically until he answered.
It got so bad that one day he yelled at me on the phone for lecturing him about not answering his phone. “What is going on? Why are you so worried about my commute every morning? This is getting out of hand.” He was right. It was getting out of hand. So I tried my best to stop the behavior, but then I just internalized the constant worrying.
At 38 weeks, my son arrived. Recovery for me was rough. I slept on our couch for a month since the master bedroom was upstairs. No matter how much will-power I had I couldn’t move my body around as fast I wanted. This was something I was not used to – staying still and asking for help.
I was blessed to have relatives close by to help bring meals over, to help with the kids and the cleaning. This was a new concept for me and it made me very uncomfortable. I felt as if I was failing as a parent because I couldn’t do my daily duties. In retrospect, I obviously couldn’t because I was healing and recovering from having a person cut out of my body. I had to remind myself to slow down and take it day-by-day.
You would assume that I would be an expert at all things breastfeeding but I regret to inform you that I was not. My son and I were successful at latching but I struggled to pump. The inability to establish a foundation of frozen breastmilk really weighed on my heart. I felt like a failure – again. This was not the norm for me. In my past pregnancies I was able to successfully pump a large stash for my girls. This fifth newborn stage experience was not what I expected or was able to understand.
What I didn’t acknowledge at the time was how my thoughts and feelings were becoming increasingly negative. I really got down on myself for not championing the last 10 months and this newborn stage. I began to think about all the things I could have done better.
Just as I was starting to get my footing, my family was dealt a big blow. Two weeks prior to my youngest sister’s wedding, my dad had a major stroke. His vision was compromised and he was unable to walk. It was one of the darkest days of our lives.
Over the next few years, he had numerous hospital stays and many times fought for his life. Today, as a result, he is not very mobile and his aphasia makes it hard for him to communicate.
When I Knew It Was Time to Get Help
Eventually I went back to work and my anxiety continued. During late night feedings I would search the internet for what would be causing my symptoms, which included:
- extremely anxious
- worrying all the time about everything
- negative self talk
- everything seeming overwhelming to complete
- irrational thoughts around commuting to and from work.
These symptoms on top of lack of sleep and parenting five kids really took a toll on my psyche. The end of the year came and went. I felt no joy during the holidays. You would think I would have been so excited because it was my little one’s first holiday. Instead, I faked my joy for the family but deep inside I felt nothing and I hated myself for it.
I still remember the day I took a mental health survey and it concluded that I had depression. I was shocked and relieved. Now I had a name for what I was going through, but I still didn’t accept this self diagnosis. My ego was getting the best of me so much so that I didn’t tell anyone about my self diagnosis until over a month later.
I knew my symptoms were getting worse and I didn’t know how to make them stop. It was getting harder and harder to leave my bed. There were many days when I would cry myself to work because I was consumed by my negative thoughts. I felt like I was losing myself and I knew I needed help.
So I finally decided to tell someone – my husband. I didn’t even know how to start. I was so anxious by the thought of his reaction to my news that I kept pushing the conversation to a later date. I did this for about two weeks. It was the hardest two weeks of my motherhood journey. I felt like I was a shell inside myself. The person inside of me was extremely unmotivated, anxious, and overwhelmed with life. I knew that I needed to tell him but I didn’t know how.
So on a random weekday, while my husband was in the shower, I sat next to the shower door and uttered the words “I think I have depression.” I was a wreck inside. My ego and pride were crushed. I no longer held up the mask I had been putting on day after day. I couldn’t do it anymore.
My husband was in mid-rinse and turned off the water. He had the most concerned look in his eyes because I had melted onto the floor and was hysterically crying. He quickly rinsed off and scooped me up off the floor. “Are you sure?” I nodded hysterically. “Great,” I thought, “he’s gonna leave the crazy lady with five kids.”
He sweetly lifted my chin, “Ok. We will get you help.” I cried so hard with relief. I did it! I asked for help! Even if my mind was racing with so much negativity, I knew that this would be the beginning of the end of my suffering in silence.
I realized that I needed to solely focus on my mental health in order to begin to feel like myself. So after a month of leave from work, I quit. It was the first time in a very long time that I put myself first and it was the best decision of my life. I believe it saved my life. It wasn’t easy doing all the inner work with a therapist. I had a hard time accepting that medication would help quiet my mind but after a time of adjustment, my mind was so much quieter.
I still struggle today with depression and anxiety but I have accepted my diagnoses and wear it as a badge of honor. I did not allow these struggles to take a hold of my life. I now understand how to manage my mental health and am sharing my story because I want others to get help sooner. I pray my journey gives strength to those who suffer in silence to get help NOW.
about the author…
Maryann, otherwise known as the Filipino Mom, is an entrepreneur, life coach, and mental health advocate who shares her struggles to help, heal, and encourage others.
She shares honestly about her own mental health journey, what it’s like being a wife and mom of 5, and is truly passionate about helping others – especially those in the Filipino community – through mental health awareness.