When I became a mother for the second time, I was blissfully unaware of the storm that was quietly brewing inside me. I'd just given birth to my beautiful son, and my adorable daughter had recently turned three. Life was seemingly perfect: a successful, rewarding career, a supportive husband, a loving mom who was always ready to lend a helping hand and now, two wonderful children. Yet, behind this picturesque facade, I was fighting a battle - the battle of postpartum depression.
It began subtly. I was tired, but then again, aren't all new mothers? The fatigue was unlike anything I'd experienced before, but I told myself it was normal. The exhaustion from taking care of a newborn while chasing after a toddler was manageable, I thought. It was just part of the deal, right?
The sleep deprivation, the constant need for attention from my children, the struggle to keep up with household duties, and the effort to excel in my new work role were all piling up. I was spread too thin, but I believed that I had to push through it. This was motherhood, after all, and I needed to be the supermom that I felt everyone expected me to be.
I was determined not to let my professional life suffer due to my personal responsibilities. Hence, after my maternity leave ended, I began working harder than ever, clocking in more hours than I ever did before. I felt the need to prove to myself and others that I could manage it all seamlessly. In the process, I was depriving myself of the rest and relaxation that my mind and body were craving.
All these external factors were just part of the equation. On the inside, I was struggling with feelings that were new and terrifying. I was sad, anxious, and irritable, constantly on the edge. I couldn't shake off the feeling of being overwhelmed. I felt like I was on a roller coaster that was only going down. I was drowning, and yet no one could see it because, on the surface, I appeared just fine.
Recognizing that I needed help, I started journaling and meditation. I hoped that pouring my thoughts onto paper would provide some relief and that meditating would bring the much-needed peace to my racing mind. While these activities did provide a temporary respite, the gnawing feeling of anxiety and depression kept coming back, stronger each time.
Eventually, I had to face the harsh reality - I was dealing with postpartum depression. It was a tough pill to swallow. Admitting that I was not OK, that I needed help beyond what my husband, mom, or self-help activities could provide, was scary. But it was necessary. It was time to stop pretending, to stop brushing off my feelings as mere 'baby blues,' and seek professional help.
Despite the stigma surrounding mental health, especially in mothers, I want to emphasize that there's no shame in seeking help. It's essential to understand that postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness or failure. It's a real, serious condition that can affect any mother, regardless of her circumstances.
Today, I am sharing my story, not to gain sympathy, but to raise awareness about postpartum depression. To let other mothers, know that it's OK to not be OK. It's OK to ask for help. And most importantly, it's OK to prioritize your mental health. Because the truth is, you cannot pour from an empty cup. To take care of your children and family, you first need to take care of yourself.
Samah Hamam is a grievance and appeals team lead at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan.
Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.
How to find help for postpartum depression
Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and Blue Care Network can help members find an in-network mental health professional by calling behavioral health access lines listed below:
PPO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-762-2382
- A free and confidential resource that’s just a call away when you need immediate support. Behavioral health professionals answer, 24/7.
HMO: Behavioral Health Access Line | 1-800-482-5982
- Connect with a behavioral health clinician if you need help finding a mental health or substance use provider.
Behavioral health clinicians are available for routine assistance from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. For urgent concerns after hours, clinicians are also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Learn more about mental health and options you have as a member to seek help at bcbsm.com/mentalhealth.
Photo credits: Courtesy of Samah Hamam