I’m sending out a huge thank you to Cassie of The Accidental Iowan for her post for #MentalHealthMonday. Mental illness is a tough issue to talk about, especially when it is your own. As a mother and mental illness warrior myself, I understand just how hard it can be to open up to strangers. I’m thankful she has brought to light her story about postpartum depression and how it has affected her marriage. Thanks again Cassie!
My Marriage & My Postpartum Depression
For my husband (B) and me, the birth of our daughter brought huge changes to our life. Not only were we first-time parents, but we were also renovating and moving into a new house. Plus, I was starting a new job right after maternity leave. And, we had only been married a few months. Our lives were madness. Literally, everything about me was changing, including my name. Three months later, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression. As with the other changes in our life, postpartum depression changed our marriage. These are 4 ways that it changed my marriage…
1. We divide up responsibilities differently and equitably
When I was going through postpartum depression, my husband took care of everything! He was solely responsible for all the household chores and the baby. I just couldn’t function well enough to participate in life at home. I was emotional, unable to participate, and not at all myself.
Once I started on Sertraline, I felt like myself again and became more engaged. I wanted to take care of the baby like I hadn’t before; that meant diapers, bedtime, feedings, and baths. I became interested in cooking again. And, I took on all the laundry in the house. Meanwhile, B focused his energy on the yard work and the dishes.
Together, we found a routine that worked for us. Is it always perfect? No, and it is constantly evolving. We also stopped obsessing over dividing it all up equally. I am proud to say we try to split our life 50/50, but on any given day it fluctuates by 10%. That’s ok.
2. We communicate directly about our needs
For the first six months of parenthood, B and I skirted around issues with each other. Whether it was money, home renovations, parenting responsibilities or anything else married people talk about. Even when we talked about issues, we both left the conversation feeling like we hadn’t truly expressed ourselves. I physically struggled to put sentences together at times, and B was afraid of making me angry.
Through many arguments, we have become much better at directly saying what we want, and we say it nicely. B knows I need quiet time to myself on occasion, even if it’s just a solo trip to the store and back. I know B doesn’t need that as much, as long as he gets his quiet time mowing the lawn on Saturday morning. When we need something from the other, we just ask politely or engage the other in conversation. Properly communicating has drastically reduced the arguing in our marriage.
More important, we now honor each other’s needs too. Keeping each other’s needs in mind has drastically reduced stress in my house.
3. We are more in-tune with each other’s stress levels
While stress is lower, it is never gone. After all, we have a walking, talking toddler! The weekends can be especially stressful if we have nothing to do to get us out of the house. Inevitably, if our daughter starts acting up, the tension rises. We are very aware of each other’s verbal and non-verbal stress cues. And, we are more knowledgeable of what annoys the other! B reaches his limit when our daughter won’t listen. I am triggered by a blaring TV. We have both learned how to proactively lessen each other’s stress levels and stay a unified parental team.
4. We are more confident about our marriage
The first year of parenthood tested us! PPD made me believe I was unworthy of my family and that I should just run away. I truly believed my family deserved better than me, and I was nothing more than a burden. B had to step up when I was unable to. If we can get through 2015 and 2016 together, we can get through any hurdle in life. He has truly seen me at my worse and stuck by me. There is no greater gift than that.
Cassie is an Iowa mom and professional with opinions. A survivor of postpartum depression, she is passionate about mental health education and access. When she isn’t chasing her toddler, you can find her buried in a book.
Once again, it was my pleasure to bring you #MentalHealthMonday. A special thank you to Cassie (yes, again) for sharing her struggles with us. Please share and spread the word because together we can end the stigma.
Have you suffered from mental illness? Would you like to share your story? Go to my Contact Me page and send me an email, I’d love to share your story with the world whether it be anonymously or not.