Postpartum depression. I had heard about it, was warned about it, even read up on it a little before I had my daughter…but nothing could have prepared me for the agony of experiencing it.
Almost immediately after arriving home from the hospital with my beautiful little girl, I began experiencing symptoms, like uncontrollable sobbing, extreme anxiety, uncontrollable horrifying thoughts of terrible things happening to my daughter, feeling like I was a horrible mother and that my husband and my daughter were better off without me, and complete and total feeling of deadness inside.
Before I had my daughter, I had a sense of confidence when I walked through the world – straight posture, big smile. During postpartum I became a person whose shoulders would hunch over, who could hardly hold myself upright and could barely look someone in the eye.
During the depths of PPD, I had crushing exhaustion, the likes of which I had never experienced before. By 8am in the morning on most days, I was already crushed by fatigue and sobbing tears and feeling utterly hopeless, not knowing how I would get through the day.
My senses felt like they were simultaneously heightened and muted – hearing my baby cry felt like bullets ripping through my body, but I could hardly hear or track regular adult conversation.
I desperately and constantly wanted to get away from my life, like a wounded animal who needed to protect herself behind a tree in the woods. Intimacy was impossible. I could hardly bear holding hands or having anyone touch me.
I felt devastated on every level, like a holiday ornament that shattered onto the floor in a million little pieces. Any sense of myself or who I was… it was lost. And as much as I tried to pick up the pieces and put them back together, they kept slipping out of my hands and crashing to the floor again.
This went on for 20 months, and every single day, I wanted to die. Some days, I had to hold myself back from driving into ongoing traffic, or off a bridge, or into my city’s elevated (L) train. The urge was overwhelming and almost uncontrollable.
I tried many things to get better, and each would work a little, until it didn’t….7 different medications, individual therapy, couples therapy, acupuncture, nutrition (not a processed food crossed my lips for almost a year, to no effect), supplements, juicing, meditation, coaching, exercise, prayer….
I did everything that I knew to do, but nothing worked.
I kept getting worse.
When I finally found the neuropsychiatrist who eventually saved my life, he began our work together by taking SPECT and EEG scans of my brain.
I remember sitting in his office with my husband as he shared the results.
He told me that the severity of my postpartum was equivalent to stage 4 metastatic cancer, and that I needed to immediately begin a course of treatment that included ketamine infusions combined with Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS), 2-3 times per week.
Without this aggressive treatment, my remaining options were Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and hospitalization.
I was stunned and scared, and I stubbornly refused to acknowledge that it was as bad as he had said. I spent 6 more months in denial, believing that somehow I could fix it.
It took multiple interventions from lifelong best friends, family, and my husband before I could finally see and admit that my way of trying to heal postpartum depression wasn’t working.
I finally surrendered to the recommended course of treatment. 4 days later, I was in an infusion room, IV in my arm, ketamine drip ready to start, TMS machine affixed to my head, and needing sedation just to get through the terror that coursed through me on what felt like the darkest day of my life.
But it turned out that landing in that infusion room saved my life.
The healing process has taken about 19 months, so in total it’s been almost 3 ½ years of postpartum and postpartum recovery.
And during that 3 ½ years, the growth of my company exploded.
Health Coach Institute became and still is the fastest growing health coach training in the world, requiring me to be in hundreds of hours of video, on live stages teaching for days at a time, at photo shoots, in countless behind the scenes meetings, and coaching while thousands of people watched.
Can you imagine being the face of the fastest growing health coaching company, while being 60 pounds overweight and struggling just to get through the day? It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do.
So how did I get through?
When I reflect back, I can see that there were 6 beliefs that kept me going. They are….
#1. Success Equals Showing Up
One thing I’ve learned after 13 years as a professional coach is that good things happen when you simply show up. When I was deep in the depression and trying to work out with my personal trainer, I could barely do a single squat and I never lost a pound.
But I know the power of consistent habits, and I believed that if I kept showing up to training sessions, then eventually good things will happen. And they did.
#2. Aim For 1% Improvement
All too often we expect 100% improvement, and when we don’t get it, we quit. When you aim for 1% improvement, you’re moving forward, and even the smallest amount of progress matters.
Some days I had to change that to .01%, and some days I had to accept that there might be no improvement. On those days I went back to Belief #1.
#3. Widen Your Timeline & Narrow Your Focus
Accept that goals or outcomes might take much longer than you want. What I learned when I was sick was that I was in control of my habits, but I wasn’t in control of my healing. That I had to give myself more time, not less, to get where I wanted to go.
You’ve heard the saying “Take it day by day”…well, I took it minute by minute. I focused only on what was right in front of me so I could keep moving forward without falling apart. Chunk what you need to accomplish down to simple steps and let yourself lower your expectations.
#4. Connect To Your Power Source
My spirituality was one of the biggest healing forces in my journey. I hung onto the belief that there was a part of me that was never harmed by this experience, and that that part of me could hold everything and have it weigh nothing; that it could take the wheel when I couldn’t drive.
Before almost every live event or webinar or video or podcast in which I appeared, I prayed “Please help me so that I may serve”. And my prayer was always answered.
#5. It Takes A Village
When you’re struggling, get more support than you need or as much as you can or both – at home, at work, everywhere.
You can do it all, but you can’t do it all alone.
#6. The Mission Is Bigger Than This Moment
No matter how dark things got, stopping was not an option – stopping my healing, stopping work, stopping on my family…
One way or another I was determined to get better, be a mom and help people transform their lives. This was my life’s work, and I would not be derailed.
Sometimes it took sheer iron will to push through; sometimes it took grace.
I would remember a saying we have at Health Coach Institute, which is “Nothing happens to you, everything happens for you.”
I believe that everything you’re experiencing is strengthening you for what’s to come; building you into the person you were born to be and creating a life will that ultimately be better than ever.