When I got pregnant I was wary of what it may do to my moods, given that I already suffer from dysthymia and anxiety disorder. I was warned repeatedly to keep an eye on my conditions and watch for them to get worse. Every midwife I talked to who found out about my history cautiously told me to be sure I had support in place. After all, post-partum depression is real, and so is ante-partum depression. The raging hormones of pregnancy can do crazy things to our minds and moods. Every pregnant person I’ve known has complained about the wild mood swings their hormones force on them. I was aware things may get worse, but I also knew they may not.
What I didn’t expect was that pregnancy would actually serve to level me out. Since getting pregnant I have had exactly one episode of depression, and it was under some pretty extreme circumstances when I was forced to be without my service dog.
I have, however, experienced the pregnancy mood swings everyone talks above. Oh my goodness, those swings have a range!
I tear up at lame TV shows. I panicked over finding the absolute best price for our stroller. Little comments can sting deep and cause hurt. Stupid things can make me sad. Crying is becoming a regular part of my day.
However, “mood swing” is the perfect name. It is as if I am on a playground swing, swinging out over ocean, secure in my seat. My moods go up and down randomly and unpredictably as I swing back and forth.
But it is nothing like depression.
Depressions is like falling out of the swing and plunging into the deep, dark ocean so low you no longer know what is up and what is down. You are lost, disoriented, confused, and hopeless as you struggle valiantly in a battle others cannot see.
The emotions of my mood swings, which my husband can tell you are pretty significant, are nothing, nothing, compared to the potency of depression. Yes I have a roller coaster of ups and downs throughout my day. Yes, I cry at the drop of a hat over things 20 minutes later I’ll realize don’t matter at all. Yes, I get genuinely unhappy more easily than before.
But these emotions are all so surface-level. They are me swinging securely well above the fathomless ocean, and in the lowest low of these hormonally induced moods my toes aren’t even touching the spray of the water below.
I almost enjoy my pregnancy lows, because they are so handle-able. They are so easy. I can deal with this surface-level unhappiness. It is nothing!
The experience of being pregnant and having these mood swings I have heard so much about has really showed me that what I suffer? Dysthymia? Is not normal. It is not a weakness that I cannot deal with depression taking over my mind in the same way other people deal with unhappiness. Now, for the first time in my adult life, I am getting the chance to deal with simple unhappiness. And I can not only do it, I can do it easily!
While I have said over and over to others that unhappiness is not the same as depression, I have always wondered. Doubted myself. Thought maybe it was just me. Maybe it was a personality flaw. Maybe if I just tried harder. Maybe I, for some reason, wanted to be unhappy and that’s why I couldn’t shake it off. Because even my unhappiness was always tinged with the threat of depression. My swing was set low enough that, at the low point of my arc, my feet were in the sucking ocean water. It was all caught up together.
Now it’s not. And I am realizing.
I am strong.
I am capable.
I can deal with regular emotion.
Depression? Is not regular emotion.
And you know what? I still deal with it.
I kick it’s ass. I did every day of my life for years before I got pregnant.
You know how you can tell?
I’m still here.
Depression didn’t win.
And I’m so glad. Because I’m getting to live the truth that it really, truly, does get better.
This may not last. I may have my baby and get hit with PPD so hard I cannot cope. I realize this.
But for now, I am enjoying this time of better.
Please realize this: Depression is not unhappiness.
If you do not suffer from depression then no matter how bad your PMS, how bad your mood swings, how often you might “get sad” sometimes, you are still swinging carefree over the ocean those with depression are drowning in. Recognize the difference. Even just that recognition can help those around you fighting the battle stay strong.
And if you are fighting that battle? You are strong. You are facing challenges most people don’t even realize exist. And you are winning. Every day you are here, you are winning. Keep fighting.