I thought I could beat postpartum depression on my own, but it was beating me

mom laying down on bed with baby
Tatiana Timofeeva/Stocksy

I could not stop crying. I was two weeks postpartum and my OB-GYN’s office had called to schedule my six-week checkup, but I could barely answer the receptionist’s question about what day I was available without big, choking sobs.

She very gently told me she thought I should see the doctor before the six-week appointment, and it was at that moment I suspected that I might have postpartum depression (PPD). At the doctor’s office, I again burst into tears, confiding to my doctor that I hadn’t felt an instant bond with my new, beautiful baby girl that all the Instagram influencers said I would feel.

My doctor pulled me in for a hug and promised me what I was feeling was normal for many women. She recommended starting a small dose of antidepressants to help with what she believed to be PPD. I’m not sure why her suggestion shocked me, but I mumbled something about really being OK, promised to get in touch if the feelings persisted and left her office.

It would take another six months before I could admit that I had PPD and get the help I needed to recover. Six months of slowly losing all desire to do anything outside of what was absolutely necessary to take care of my daughter, withdrawing from friends, feeling like my daughter was going to fly out of my hands and down our stairs at any moment and feeling like I would never be happy again.

It’s six months of time that I’ll never get back, and my heart hurts thinking about how things could have been different if I had agreed at that first doctor’s appointment to try medication.

Why didn’t I get help when the answer was so clearly in front of my face?

Even though as many as 1 in 4 women experience PPD, I still felt there was a stigma associated with experiencing it. Feelings of embarrassment, fear and shame all prevented me from admitting I needed help and in turn stole six months from me and my daughter.

I’m a classic Type-A overachiever who until having a baby had always been able to work hard and get the results I wanted. Other moms I saw were thriving (at least that was my perception) but I felt like I was failing all the time. How could they manage to be showered, dressed and out and about with their baby when I could barely manage only one of the three? PPD felt like something I should be able to get the best of, and it was embarrassing that no amount of mind over matter was helping me get anywhere.

Fear over what friends and family would say or how they would treat me if they knew that I had PPD also played a part in why I struggled to admit I needed help. I was scared that they’d think I was a bad mom, and ashamed that I couldn’t pull myself out of my perennial slump when for so long they’d known me as a go-getter ready to best any sort of challenge.

It took me the full six months to come to terms with the fact that what I was experiencing was not a reflection of who I was as a person or as a mother, that it was just a chemical imbalance in my brain.

My breakthrough moment when I realized that my PPD wasn’t something I could keep ignoring and hoping that it would get better was sadly also a scary one. It wasn’t until I had recurrent thoughts of running away from my family and thoughts of hurting myself (it is still so hard to admit that out loud) that I asked for help.

Within weeks of being on an antidepressant I felt myself improving. It was as if the permanent fog that had settled over my head was lifting. As time went on, I started to find joy in motherhood and finally felt that sense of overwhelming love that I had longed to feel.

Hindsight is 20/20, of course. My fears and feelings on how others would have reacted or treated me were unfounded—when I tell people what I experienced, the overwhelming response is one of compassion, empathy and love.

Being proactive with my mental health when my second daughter was born early and in the NICU made a huge difference in my postpartum experience the second time around. I talked with my doctor early on and agreed on increasing the dosage of antidepressants to help cope with the added stress and anxiety of having a preemie. It was easier to admit that I needed help, and I knew I wanted to try to avoid how PPD made me feel with my first.

I can’t go back and change my first postpartum experience, but I want you to know, mama, that if you are experiencing symptoms of PPD, it’s OK to ask for help. I promise: There are only upsides—and you deserve to be a happy, healthy mom.