Part 2 - You Are Not Alone: A Mother’s Story of Healing After Depression & Anxiety
Updated: Jun 14
by Karenann Narkiewicz
This is Part 2 of Karenann’s story of Healing after Depression. To read Part 1 and her experience with medication, SPD and her first two birth experiences, click here.
THE PROACTIVE APPROACH
A previous history of depression and anxiety is associated with a higher risk of postpartum depression. With my 3rd pregnancy in 2019-2020, I did not want to repeat the past; instead, I decided to use it as ammunition to completely rewire my brain. I wanted to feel aware, awake, and alive, no matter the consequences. I wanted to avoid going on medication and decided to approach this pregnancy from every single angle: a truly holistic standpoint.
I chose to observe my thoughts and actions - what went into my mind and what I spoke, what I ate, what I wore, where I went, and what I did. I shared my plan with my husband and we agreed that if my depression and anxiety started to reappear, we would communicate that to each other and get immediate help. This experiment was crucial in my becoming aware which would address any defeating thoughts or negative actions right away. It wasn’t going to berate myself for choosing what I perceived as negative thoughts or actions, but rather was going to acknowledge and free my ego. This helped me create the space to separate myself from judgment and just be. I also hired a therapist that specializes in women’s issues that I could count on to check in with me every so often. I tried to meditate every morning, albeit imperfectly, for at least 10 minutes. I learned to feel my feelings and sit with discomfort. Unconsciously, I created a conduit to experience true self-love through grace and forgiveness, ultimately being kind to myself.
What gave me strength was focusing on what lay right in front of me rather than concerning myself with where the future might or might not take me. I prioritized finding the right activity in my daily life. If all the steps, even the monotonous daily chores like eating, washing, shopping, and cooking, lead me in the direction of purposeful action, it would be impossible for them to be unfulfilling.
While 24-weeks pregnant during the pandemic lockdown, I took the kids for a walk in the stroller. As I went downhill rolling almost one hundred pounds on wheels, I felt my legs losing strength under me. I rolled my ankle, sprained my foot, and my pelvic bones shifted again. The SPD was back and this time an entire month earlier than my last pregnancy.
Again, I had to go back to using the walker, which left me confined at home all day while pregnant and home-schooling my preschool-age kids during a pandemic. The guilt, anxiety, and rage were ever-present during this 'pandemic pregnancy", but I welcomed it, no matter how scary, and learned to watch the emotions pass like a boat floating down a river.
My 3rd son was born in July 2020 just as the pandemic lockdown was being lifted. Yet my family had to continue to quarantine because of a newborn in the house. Although I had to use the walker for another 2 months postpartum, my recovery was quicker because I chose to surround myself with things that would help, not hinder. I adjusted my priorities with every challenge that came up. Choosing to sit with and manage the uncomfortable moments when they crept in, rather than thinking of them as bad, threatening, or something to avoid is what really helped.
I don't believe you have to know the cause of the uneasiness you're feeling in order to heal. By improving your thoughts, food, life choices, and attitude, it will take care of itself.
THE THINGS I'VE LEARNED
“Every intentional act is a magical act.” - English magician Aleister Crowley
It has now been well over a year since I had my 3rd child and thankfully I don't think that I developed depression and anxiety this time, even with a pandemic. I believe this is due to my constant laser-focused attention to the present. My struggles ultimately brought me deep growth and even deeper faith. I am able to recognize that there are gifts and lessons, even in very difficult times, and that we have the support of the miraculous relationships that surround us every step of the way. Our “scary” feelings are an important part of that process and ones that we must lean into in order to get to a place of true healing, acceptance, and peace.
Sadness has given me a huge container for empathy towards others. Fear has brought me insanely sharp instincts and intuition about the present moment. Anxiety has helped me prepare intelligently for the future. Anger has helped me set clear boundaries and manage relationships. Shame has helped me manage my behavior and live up to my morals and ethics. But inasmuch as it is valuable to feel your feelings, it is also valuable to know that you are not your feelings.
Here's what I want to leave you with…
Acts that are done with joy or service, no matter how inconsequential they may seem, create more joy.
Clarity, honesty, and communication are radically vital in any struggle or challenge.
Never be too stubborn to accept help, even if it comes in the form of medication.
Never be too naive to believe that you can’t approach a struggle in your life just by sheer “awake mode” alone. You can, and it is possible to heal and become better.
Empathy trumps opinion. Every stage in parenthood has its challenges. Instead of comparing who has it harder, we can just admire one another for doing the hard things that come with every stage.
Hard isn’t the same thing as bad.
You can do hard things.
If you are going through darkness, know that it doesn’t last forever, even when your mind tells you it will.
You can follow Karenann Narkiewicz on Instagram @myintegratedbeing.