If you think that it’s too late for you, I want you to know that you’re wrong.
There is no such thing as the perfect mother so please don’t spend another moment of your time feeding the monster of depression with the mom guilt that all of us suffer.
And make no mistake-we all have mom guilt. Some of us are just better at hiding it.
If you believe that nobody else understands the depths of your depression; you’re mistaken.
If you feel like nobody else can identify with your fear of failure, loss of self, and general give a damn, well then, I hate to repeat myself, but you’re wrong.
See, I can understand. I understand all of the above and then some.
When I created my blog, I used a pseudonym, because I was afraid of what people would think of me.
I feared the judgment that was bound to come along with this project that I have wanted to do for years.
Fear has held me back in the past, you know.
See, up until about six years ago, it held me captive on the right side of the bed. Aside from the few school and mandatory extra curricular activities I had to attend, I went nowhere.
I was the female version of Howard Hughes- without all of the injections and millions of dollars.
I had what doctors call, depression, and what buffet owners call jackpot.
I had a lot of feelings.
And I ate them.
I found that Mom guilt pairs well with Cheez-Its and cold Coca-Colas.
I found hope in cheeseburgers and milkshakes.
And marathon viewings of Law & Order SVU.
It was a vicious cycle because the more I ate, the worse I felt, and the worse I felt the more I ate.
At my heaviest, I bore a striking resemblance to Fat Bastard from the Austin Powers series.
Let me be clear; I’m not suggesting that the obesity caused my depression-I’m saying they went hand in hand.
I was medicating myself with junk food.
I hated myself.
And I hated myself for hating myself because I knew my husband and my children deserved better than I was giving them.
I knew I needed to change, but like most people, I was going to change tomorrow, or Monday, or after this bowl of Rocky Road with whipped cream and nuts.
I procrastinated procrastinating.
I was so ashamed.
I didn’t know that as many as one in four women will suffer from maternal depression in her lifetime. And that two-thirds of those women suffer in silence because of the stigma attached to mental illness.
Much like me they believe they will just snap out of it.
Here’s the thing.
Depression should not be confused with sadness.
Yes, people who are depressed often feel sad, but they have other symptoms as well.
For me, depression meant hopelessness, loss of interest in, well, everything, and a complete lack of motivation and energy. But the symptoms change from person to person.
The take home here is depression and sadness are not equal.
Depression is a medical condition, just like diabetes is a condition.
You don’t snap out of diabetes, right?
Well, I wish I’d known all of these things back then, but I didn’t. I almost waited until it was too late.
I COULDN’T BREATHE
As in, literally. I was having trouble inhaling.
One cold December morning in 2011, I woke up and couldn’t take a full breath. I had been having a bit of chest pain, but I wrote it off as a pulled muscle because I wasn’t sick.
I hadn’t even coughed or sneezed.
It turns out I was sick.
I had pneumonia with a collapsed lung.
Once I got to the hospital, I became the proud owner of a chest tube and three units of blood.
The doctor even hooked my new pipeline to a fancy medical Hoover Vac since I had a special kind of screwed up pneumothorax thing going on in my lung.
This would mean no showers for the week I resided in the hospital’s care.
Oh, and Dr. Vacuum jump started the exercise routine I was avoiding by assigning me mandatory walks around the infirmary in my hospital gown and safety socks pushing the chest vac in a wheelchair in front of me.
Kind of like a geriatric baby stroller.
I lost a lot of pride in that hospital.
Because my case was considered “serious,” I was on the fourth floor along with elderly patients with limited mental capacity and a few nurses who had completely lost their passion.
Every day I would stroll my wheelchair down the east end of the floor, and every day I would hear the same patients screaming at the nurses.
“I WANNA GO HOME…I WANNA GO HOME!!!”
“I WANT JUICE I WANT JUICE!!!”
The nurses ignored them.
They had to scream because they did not have anyone there for them.
Then there was me.
35-year-old fat, depressed Heather in a lovely couture backless hospital gown pushing her geriatric baby stroller with her husband by her side.
He was there for me every single day.
Sometimes he spent the night on the vinyl baby blue guest couch in my room, and other days he drove the hour from our hometown to the hospital. He was there when I woke up in the morning, and he stayed until I fell asleep at night.
I never had to scream for juice.
I never will.
I had been such a fool to feel sorry for myself.
If I can get out of this place, I’m going to live.
And I did.
I started making changes to my life, slowly.
I traded the cheeseburgers for fruit and veggies and started exercising.
I went to therapy and got help for my depression.
I took medication.
I am not ashamed to admit that.
One in four people will have a mental health issue at some point in their lives, and the stigma attached to it leads to them suffering in shame.
Often going public leads to healing.
Every time I wanted to quit and feel sorry for myself I thought about those patients on the fourth floor.
I WANT JUICE.
I WANT TO GO HOME.
That was all the motivation I needed to get back on track.
During this time in my life, I was asked to join the Junior Auxiliary; a national non-profit organization focused on helping the community with an emphasis on children in need. Membership came with a six-year commitment and over 40 hours a year of community service.
You see, I’m a firm believer that the best thing you can do when you are down is to help someone else rise. It may sound cheesy, but it’s true.
Six years have come and gone, but as I look back, I can see that I did not waste a moment.
I have lost over eighty pounds.
I would walk through fire for my children, and I may need to one day for Nathan, my son who has autism.
I used to daydream on the right side of the bed about writing my story, my memories; my thoughts…to have something of my own. But instead of taking action, I took a walk to the refrigerator.
I’m proud of what I have accomplished. I know that if I can do it, anyone can.
If you’re reading this and you can relate to thirty-five year old me, but if you think it’s too late, let me tell you something.
It’s never too late.
If you want to change your life, you can.
You don’t need a collapsed lung to lose the weight or the mom guilt.
Sign up for my newsletter. I’ll send you the inspiration you need to get going.
I’ll even buy you a pair of hospital safety socks-if you think that’ll help.