Me, Oprah and my experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

My oldest son is four. He loves books, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and asking questions – lots and lots of questions.

If you make the mistake of not answering in a timely fashion (ie: within seconds) he repeats the question over and over again until he receives a response he deems satisfactory.

His curiosity is insatiable. His love of learning knows no bounds. He searches for meaning in everything.

It’s a quality as irritating as it is endearing.

“But why Mommy? But why?” he pleads, looking up at me with his big, innocent eyes and expecting me to have all the answers. Sometimes responses come easy.

“We’re going this way because it’s faster.”

“You can’t sit on your brother because you’ll hurt him.”

“You’re going to bed because Mommy and Daddy need to watch Game of Thrones.”

I try to answer honestly. I really do. But sometimes the answer is too complicated to explain in terms he’ll understand and it’s just easier to say “I don’t know” and distract him with another subject.

I resorted to this strategy when I spoke about my experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety on the IWK Foundation’s Annual Telethon in May.

Not surprisingly the news that mommy was going to be on TV opened a floodgate of questions from my son. I explained to him that after he was born I got sick and the people at the hospital helped me get better.  By going on TV and talking about it I was helping the hospital do the same for other moms who need help.

“But why did you get sick Mommy?”

That’s when I pulled out the distraction technique. It was just a whole lot easier than explaining what I’m about to tell you.

I’ve thought a lot of about why I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety. Sure, there were risk factors, most notably a family history of mental health issues. But I don’t believe I got sick because my grandmother suffered from depression or because my mother has struggled with anxiety for most of her adult life. It’s bigger than that. How do I know? Because Oprah told me.

I can hear the collective groan as I write this. If you’re rolling your eyes, trust me, I totally get it. But before you click away, hear me out.

My maternity leave with my first son coincided with the final season of Oprah’s show. What a happy coincidence! Queen O was seriously killing it on every episode and I looked forward to tuning in every day. By the time the season came to an end I was preaching from the gospel of O. I hung on her every word during her final show, but one thing in particular has stayed with me since:

Everybody has a calling, and your real job in life is to figure out what that is and get about the business of doing it. It lights you up and it lets you know that you are exactly where you’re supposed to be, doing exactly what you’re supposed to be doing.

It wasn’t until I started this website and blog, shared my story and spoke out publicly about women’s mental health that I discovered the true reason why I got sick. This is exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing.

This is what lights me up.

So I’m going to get about the business of doing it.

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