Is it possible to have “postpartum” after the birth of your dream? It sounds crazy I know, but I wonder….
I say this because for the past three months I have not felt like myself, and this got me thinking… Could I have postpartum depression?
But how could that be?
I’ve just realized one of the biggest dreams of my life, I’ve achieved something most people never get to accomplish, so why am I not euphoric every day? Dancing on a cloud? Why have I spent every weekend (that my kids are away) binge watching Downton Abby, or anything else I could find on Demand? Why have I refused to leave the house, unless I absolutely had to? Why won’t I work out when I know its what makes me feel better? Why can’t I find the energy to get out of my yoga pants? Why do I just want to sleep?
What the fuck is wrong with me? How can this be?
I am not myself.
I am not who I expected I would be when I realized my dream. Why did I work this hard to feel this… let down? And how could I POSSIBLY feel let down?? My dream was to write a book (Hustle Believe Receive), get it traditionally published, be able to buy it at a Barnes & Noble, share it with the world, have it make an impact… and ALL of that has happened on a far grander scale then I ever dreamed possible. So all I keep asking myself is, WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU??!!
And then I started thinking that this sounded a lot like postpartum depression. Only I’d not just had a baby, I’d instead given birth to my dream.
I’d jokingly referred to my book as my 4th child all along. It’s really the only thing I spent time with outside of my three kids for the past year and a half, so it kinda was (even though I hate when people liken things to their kids). Every single day for over a year, I put forth relentless hustle, intense struggle, love and pain into the project that was writing my book, and then suddenly it was just all over.
It was more than just writing a book because it wasn’t just about me. It was interviews with fifty-one people; I was the bearer of their stories. I was also the self-proclaimed poster-child for anyone who ever had a dream and needed proof that it was possible to make it a reality. I was their example that they could do it to. That kept me going on the dark days of chasing this dream, it motivated and encouraged me. But now it suddenly felt like this self-imposed pressure might crush me.
Much like a nine-month pregnancy, where you look forward to the big delivery day, every single day, I looked forward to my books release date. It was my light at the end of the tunnel, it was the day that would make all my sacrifice and hard work worth it. It’s the day angles would sing, my life would be forever changed and I’d live happily ever after. I’d be a “success.” Just like I felt in the hospital when I had my first born, the moment I held him I thought that would magically make me a “mother.” And of course it did, technically speaking. My heart did want to burst when I held him, I had truly never been so happy. And this is how I felt (on a different level of course), at my book launch party; like my heart would burst with joy and the feeling of accomplishment.
But as any mother will tell you, just giving birth doesn’t make you the fairy-tale mother you dreamed you would be. When the visitors stop bringing left-overs, and you find yourself at home; exhausted, scared, feeling alone, trying to find out how to actually do the things a mother needs to do, it’s a whole different story. People no longer dote on you the way they did when you were pregnant. Instead they dote over your baby. You feel joy, but also loss some how, in a way that makes you feel guilty. It’s a war of your emotions. And that’s exactly how these past few months have felt after the release of my book. Like I’d lost direction, meaning and my hustle. Like I should feel happy with my new reality, but that it wasn’t always as grand or easy as I’d dreamed it would be.
The last time I felt this way was after my twins were born, like I just wasn’t being myself, which made me feel too guilty to admit it. Maybe that’s how I could recognize those same warring emotions this time around. The guilt that comes with feeling “bummed out,” “off,” or “down,” or whatever you want to call it, is almost overwhelming. It’s such intense shame.
In writing my book and doing the interviews I learned that we must plan and prepare for success, we must always have our next move planned to keep us moving forward. So I’d done just that. I’d planned it all out, and much of it unfolded exactly as I’d expected, but much of it hasn’t yet.
But I didn’t plan for the emotional let-down that would come after the realization of my dream. And how could I have imagined or anticipated it? I’ve never been through this before. So instead I’d planned my next move, long ago and that has kept me busy, but has also stolen the joy of the present accomplishment. This left me feeling like a failure. Like I’d let myself, my kids, my agent, my publisher, and YOU down. It hasn’t yet all panned out as I’d planned (even though logically I am aware that it never does), but I guess I’d put a massive amount of pressure on myself that it would have by now.
The last few days I’ve questioned my dream and my own resolve. Wondered if any of it even mattered, if I’ve made the right choices. If the sacrifices I’ve made were worth it. In my soul I know the answer to these dark and dangerous questions, but I allowed myself to think these destructive thoughts anyway.
Then this morning at three am, as I finished watching like fifteen hours of mindless TV, I realized that I’d hardly written at all in the last six months. I’d avoided everything and everyone I love. I’d closed myself off from the world (though not intentionally, and you’d probably not know it by my social media lol). I’d created this “rut.” This unhappiness. I don’t know exactly how or why, maybe I was subconsciously trying to protect myself. Maybe to prepare for what I know will eventually come. But last night I could see that this is NOT the women I am, or what I’ve fought so hard to become. I’d allowed myself to wallow. To become lost. Even if on the outside I was still steadfast and working hard for my next goal, my heart had somehow gotten defeated.
So this morning I forced myself to do what I haven’t done in well over a year. Read a book. I picked up The Alchemist, a book I read four years ago when I was just beginning this journey. At the time I took so much wisdom and courage from it to start my dream. But this time as I devoured it again, I took something very different. I learned that the fourth obstacle to success is the one which has been blocking the type of success I’ve been preparing for. That I was afraid of success itself. That I’d allowed myself to believe there was “virtue” in not truly being successful.
As I read it felt like my brain would explode, it was all finally making sense. Every word rocked me. I was able to face down the fear of my own dream for the very first time. I could see that the blocks to my financial freedom are because I’ve feared it would change me. That if I became wealthy I’d lose my “realness.” Or I’d be un-relatable, just like all the other people I couldn’t relate to when I was starting out.
But I realized that to get to the next level, the one I’m currently (and have been) beating my head against, I must embrace this next phase. I must find peace with success and be ready and willing to embrace the financial reward of a life-time of effort. I am worthy of success both financially and otherwise (man if you only knew how hard those words are to write. I want to delete them so bad!) But I won’t. Baby steps.
These are hard realities for me to face. These last few months have taught me soooooo much about myself, what I want, what I don’t and who I really want to become. They have tested me. They have flushed out my crew, till there are very few left. They have left me feeling both blessed, and alone. Euphoric and defeated. But I am so grateful that I have tools to get me out of these “ruts.” I am applying my own #HBRmethod, reading, using the tools I know have saved me in the past and I know they will again.
I am no doctor, and I’m no expert on depression of any kind, but I do know that when we don’t feel right it’s our responsibility to do the work to figure out what’s wrong. To face it. I know that for the past few months I’ve been avoiding all the difficult questions I asked myself today, and that avoiding led me to the low point of last night. I chose not to see it or address it. I chose to wallow in it.
Well today I say enough is enough!
So everything didn’t turn out as planned, and I’m not living happily ever after yet, so what! I mean, HELLO Sarah!! That’s called life. It’s a process. Nothing is overnight.
Today I CHOOSE to take care of me. To get back to me. To do the things I love with the people I love. To move forward, and see this as only the beginning rather than a disappointing end. I’m taking my own advice and taking action to get out of this damn funk!
*Please know that this post is not intended to make light of mothers suffering with postpartum, it was simply the only way I can try to make sense of the emotions I’ve experienced lately that have been very similar to what I experienced after the birth of my kids. If you think you are experiencing signs of depression of any kind, talk to someone, get help. There is no shame in it.
April 17, 2014, I just want to say thank you to everyone who reached out to me, commented on my Facebook post, shared this post and just generally supported me in a “down” time. It’s amazing to know that you all support me in both the highs and the lows. I promised myself from day one to always share both, even when it’s so uncomfortable to do so. So thank you for loving me regardless!
I also wanted to say that I got so many messages from people who have experienced the very same feeling after realizing their dream, and thought that something was “wrong” with them, kinda how I felt. So if this starts that dialog and helps people to be more prepared when they are chasing their dream then this experience was more than worth it. I think it’s the one thing no one talks about, and I hope that dialog changes.