The beautiful art of self repair

A dive into vulnerable territory for me, my struggle with post partum depression and anxiety.

6/6/20235 min read

I recently listened to a guided meditation by Jay Shetty in the Calm app that talked about the ancient Japanese pottery tradition called kintsugi. In this practice broken pottery is repaired using a resin and metallic dust, usually gold, with the objective of highlighting the cracks and repaired damage, rather than camouflaging it. The philosophy is to treat the breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than as something to disguise. The point of the meditation was that this is something we should all embrace in ourselves and in each other. No one is unbroken or undamaged but many of us try to disguise the damage we have suffered.

This really hit home for me because I left my last job feeling completely broken and like a shadow of my former self. It took me a long time to realize that though my job played a large part in my experience I also had pretty bad postpartum depression and anxiety. I’ve taken steps to repair and heal myself and though I’ve shared some of that I’ve largely kept it to myself. I think we carry a lot of shame in the idea that we can be broken and are imperfect. There is so much pressure to be the perfect version of ourselves in every role we play: career, spouse, parent, friend, business owner, athlete. But we are all human, none of us are infallible.

I am a mom to two wonderful energetic boys. My post-partum time with my first was tiresome and stressful as you would expect with a first time mom to a newborn. My post-partum experience with my second was a whole other story. He was wonderful but I found myself the mother of two small children after an emergency C-section (due to fetal distress so that was a whole traumatic experience in and of itself) in July of 2020, during a pandemic. The physical recovery for me was an alternate world to navigate and the isolation was a whole different level than with my first one. I became extremely depressed and anxious. It is very hard for me to say this, but I will admit that I even began having thoughts of suicide. Though I never felt I would act on those thoughts, I also knew from my experience in medicine that many who make to decision to commit or attempt suicide do so impulsively so I asked my husband to change the combination to our gun safe out of precaution. I never had any ill thoughts towards my children and was able to carry out my basic life duties despite all of this but once I disclosed the thoughts I was having to my husband I got professional help.

I have to take the time here to pause and emphasize how lucky I am to have the husband that I do. Matt helped me realize how bad things were and how much I needed outside help. He helped arrange that care. He took on as many thing as he could in our life to take the pressure off of me so I could focus on surviving and healing. He was an unwavering support and confidant during this tough time and I truly don't know if I would have come out the other side without him in my corner.

It was February 2021 and the mental health system was even more taxed than normal. It was months before I could get in with a therapist, let alone a psychiatrist, so I went through my job’s EAP program. That helped stabilize me until I got in with my long term therapist who I still see to this day. I thought I would need medications so I found a psychiatrist who I ended up loving and she agreed that would be the best route. We found a regimen that worked well for me and I’ve now successfully come off one of the medications with plans to come off the other one soon. I still see her regularly as well.

Why, you may ask, am I disclosing all this extremely personal stuff on the internet for potentially the world to read? Because I am not the first and won’t be the last to experience it. I want people to know that they are not alone in this.

The face of depression and anxiety. This was at the time of my low point. The publicly posted photos didn't capture what I felt inside.

What I really felt like was a ghost and a shell of my former self. This photo was also taken around the same time.

Though we are all unique individuals we are not unique in this struggle. So, if you are reading this and having those same thoughts or feelings, know this: you are not alone, I see you. More importantly, there is someone in your life who loves you and wants to help you. You may be really good at hiding how you're feeling but I guarantee you that they've noticed something is amiss, though they may not be able to put their finger on it. Do not for one second think that you deserve to feel however it is you're feeling or that the world would be better off without you in it. I've been in that thought spiral and it can be so hopeless and isolating. Reach out, open up to one person, ask for help; we all need it because none of us can get through this life alone.

One of the biggest things I have taken away from all of this is that while I am fallible, I am not weak. I can do hard things and this was one of the hardest things I have overcome to date. I also learned that no matter how successful and driven I am I can never do everything alone. Burdens are meant to be shared. Connection and community are so valuable in every aspect of life. Once I admitted I needed help it was there in abundance, and for that I am so grateful.

To live a life is to make beautiful that which is broken.

If you or someone you know is suffering from depression or postpartum depression or anxiety here are some available resources:

A recent photo with genuinely happy smiles.