Gratitude and Depression
I have always struggled with gratitude. Or rather, I have always struggled with expressing gratitude in ways that others deemed appropriate. Ever since I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, anxiety and PTSD people have talked to me about gratitude a lot. As I study, practice and teach about self care the subject comes up even more. Just yesterday it came up again – this time in the form of a question: how do you look back on my experience with mental illness, what do you think about depression and gratitude?
Answers came pouring in from women who had revelations about themselves, their relationships, their purpose. Women had found strength they never knew existed or had realized there were underlying issues they had been ignoring. None of these women were excited to have suffered with/be suffering from a mental illness, but all of them had found some thing about them that was stronger, better, more now.
Who I Was
For a long time I was lost. I am the stereotypical ‘Gifted and Talented’ kid who aced all the tests without studying and flew through school too easily. When things got hard I didn’t know how to stick. Add in a bout of depression and anxiety in my early 20’s and I was just lost.
I’m my late twenties I moved about 400 miles away from home. Close enough to drive, but far enough that I had to fix my life myself. I met my best friend, worked some crappy jobs, and dated some truly horrible men. Slowly I began to figure myself out, to find out who I was, what I wanted, and how hard I was willing to work for it.
I came back home with a plan, and a passion. I was going back to school and I was going to help small business owners build a social media presence online. It was a perfect fit for my personality and would leave time for my passion – political advocacy on behalf of women and children.
My life was coming together. I was doing really well in my classes, I had a job that paid the bills and I met a great guy. I could see my future laid out. The work, the goals, the family and children one day. I finally had faith not just in my intelligence, but in my willpower, work ethic, and in my strength.
[clickToTweet tweet=”Mental health does not equal thankfulness. My healing process does not include gratitude.” quote=”Then my son was born and I was thrust into hell. I fought, climbed, slipped, was carried, and finally walked out of that hell with my head held high. But is there anything from that experience I’m grateful for?” theme=”style4″]
Who I Am Now
I learned more about myself, my relationships, my family. Some of those lessons were good, a lot of them were horrible. Yes, there are parts of me that are stronger. There are parts that are more fragile. My focus has shifted from empowering small business owners to empowering mothers and mothers-to-be. My advocacy for women and children has narrowed in focus to maternal mental illness. I have amazing friends, and am part of a community of advocates who work every day to save the lives of mamas. These women are fantastic. I am grateful that they are in my life.
Now I will never know how that other life would have turned out. What work, friends, family I might have had if we had come home from the hospital with The Little Monster and the world hadn’t fallen apart. It isn’t something I’ve ever considered until writing this – where would my business be? Would Dork Dad and I be married already? Would I be working on a political campaign this year?
It doesn’t do any good to dwell on the past, and I haven’t. I move forward with love – for myself, my family, my friends, and all of the mamas who are out there suffering. I will never, ever stop fighting for moms. But I’m not grateful for my mental illness. I’m not any better because of it. I’m just different. And I’m okay with that.
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