I met Kim at a launch party back in May and have been following her on Instagram since. I also had the opportunity to hear her roundtable discussion at SALT in September. The term “boss babe” comes to mind when I think of Kim because she is so gorgeous and just read her bio. She has a heart of gold and I am excited to see what other amazing things she does. I love how she opened up about having postpartum depression and how she used mindfulness to help her overcome.
Kimberly is a freelance writer, journalist, creative brand namer, and book-loving mom. She talks about mindfulness, motherhood, and books online at Talk Wordy to Me, and is a contributor on Utah’s top lifestyle show, Studio 5. She is co-creator of the Loom Journal, a revolutionary parent-child journal that fosters mindfulness and screen-free connection and development. She’s also working on a historical romance novel inspired by her visit to the picturesque Cotswolds in the English countryside. She is a fan of BBC dramas, teaching and practicing yoga, ice cream, traveling the world, simplifying her life and home, and encouraging other women to live their dreams.
How mindfulness helped me out of postpartum depression and how it can help all of us
I had just had my third child—the sweetest addition to our family and our most mild-mannered baby. We were so happy to have her. We had tried for her for awhile, and had a few scares during my pregnancy that we’d lose her due to a significant blood clot I had in my uterus. So when she arrived, healthy and whole, we were overwhelmed with gratitude.
But despite that gratitude and her sweet temperament, I started struggling with postpartum depression about four months after she was born.
The days felt like a never ending carousel of overwhelm and not being able to meet my three little childrens’ needs. Every day felt like a gigantic wave crashing harshly against a cliff, then retreating back, just to crash into the cliffs again.
Adding a child to the family is overwhelming for everyone, but I could tell there was something else going on aside from the normal adjustment to having a new baby. I didn’t feel like myself. Anger, sadness, anxiety, and stress pervaded my thoughts and emotions and I felt like I could never quite rise above it.
Anyone who has experienced any form of depression knows what it feels like to have that heavy cloud following you around everywhere. Life just doesn’t hold the vibrancy or hope it used to, and self-love is far away. It’s replaced with shame, despair, and a desire to disappear.
Sometimes, when I was driving the car with all of my kids in it, one of them would freak out or fight or melt down, and I felt an intense loss of control. I remember wanting to crash the car on more than one occasion. I just wanted to escape.
The worst of it for me was that I started feeling uncharacteristic anger. It’s hard to explain the intensity of it, but something would trigger it, like a child’s meltdown, and I reached a point where I couldn’t process my anger or keep it inside any more. It was like it wasn’t even part of me, but something that rose up like an ugly monster when it was set off. I had to do something physical to release it. I would slam a wall, throw something, or knock something over to release this wave of emotion that was too strong for me to handle. I lost it with my kids too. I didn’t hurt them, but I had thoughts of doing so. And sometimes I yelled, swore (all the words), and grabbed them too harshly. Those moments scared me, and they scared my kids. They were always followed by a wave of intense shame and guilt, and a desire to escape this monster inside of me.
Here’s something I wrote in my journal about my newfound anger before I learned that anger can be an indicator of postpartum depression:
It’s the thing I hate the most about myself.
It makes it harder that it’s not even something I struggled with until I became a mom of multiple children. I’m trying to figure out where the frustration comes from.
I went on to write about a time my boy (4 years old at the time) was relentlessly begging and whining about something he could not have. After trying to hold it together for awhile, I eventually lost my temper.
Something about the sound and the loss of control and ability to reason with him breaks something in me and I snap. So, I did. I pushed a small table down and a few things tumbled to the ground. I swore too.
Camden’s cries changed instantly from whiny “I want my way” cries to more genuine “mom is scary” cries. He yelled to me that I was being mean and breaking our things, and he ran to his room. I thought I should do the same, so I proclaimed a time-out and shut myself in my room to write this.
Meanwhile, Ellie broke into sobs and started calling for me.
I, of course, felt like the piece of something I yelled out in my rage minutes before and hugged and apologized to my son, then did the same with my girl.
Those apologies are becoming pretty commonplace around here. I hope they don’t lose their meaning.
More than that, I hope to God that my sweet children’s childhood memories are not laced with vivid (or even blurry) scenes of me losing it out of frustration with them.
What does that do to their self-esteem? What does that teach them? How will my behavior affect them as they grow up and become parents?
How is it affecting them now? Ellie and Camden both “lose it” out of frustration for each other and for us. They threaten to hit and throw just like I catch myself doing from time to time. They yell and scream, just like I do. Is that my fault? Would they be much kinder and more patient if I was?
How do I break this habit? How is it possible to break a reaction to something negative when the negative thing isn’t going to change?
The guilt I feel over this behavior of mine is a bottomless pit. I wish I could magic it away, but it keeps coming back. Worse when I’m tired.
Would I be able to control my temper better if I worked less? Was less involved in Instagram and blogging? If I planned my days around my children instead of around my agenda? How do I even go about doing that?
First, I’ll start with prayer.
Prayer to know if there are things, distractions in my life that I need to let go of. And to know which ones are important for me to hold on to. Because I don’t think letting go of everything I’m doing outside of motherhood is the answer. I think the other things I do go a long way to help me feel fulfilled and more well-rounded and happy as a person and mom.
But what is causing this imbalance?
Is there a change I can make in my health that will help me have more balance, more calm, more control, more energy?
Is there something lacking in my spiritual life? Will reading scriptures more, going to the temple help me overcome this weakness?
Do I need to cut way back on Instagram and being on my phone? How do I stick to disciplinary goals I’ve made in that regard?
I know I want to be more in tune with my kids. Their needs, what makes them tick. I want them to feel so heard, understood and valued. I want them to know they are more important to me than anything else.
Looking at my phone while they talk to me is not going to communicate that. Kids can tell if they’re being put first or not. I need to put more energy into making them my primary focus.
Because these years are short. They go by quickly, then there’s no time to start over or go back and spend more time with them or erase the parental temper tantrums. This is what I’ve got. Today. So I need to pay attention.
Five years from now, will I look back and be happy with how I spent my time? Addicted to social media and the responses I get there? Is there a middle ground? I’d like to be part of it, but not consumed by it.
As I pray for guidance in this anger issue and social media addiction issue, I hope I will get an answer that will lead me to a better, more present and productive version of myself.
I did get that answer. It came as three distinct steps:
First, I needed help. I wanted to fix things on my own, but I realized that was I was experiencing was not entirely in my control. I saw a therapist who diagnosed me with postpartum depression and helped me realize that many of the feelings I was struggling with (including the anger) was not my fault. I did not need to keep shaming myself for it. She gave me some tools for processing emotion that I still use today.
Second, I needed to look after myself in a productive, meaningful way. I needed to reconnect to who I was and what made me feel whole.
Third, I needed to care less about the world of my to-do list and my phone, and more about the little people in front of me.
At this time, mindfulness was becoming a buzzword. It’s been around for centuries, but we are all learning about it now because of social media and technology, instead of it being kept in therapist’s offices or monasteries. When I started learning about mindfulness, is felt like I was refamiliarizing myself with grounding practices that were already a part of my intuition, I just had forgotten how to access them.
Studies show that mindfulness can help prevent and alleviate symptoms of depression and anxiety. It helped me in a huge way to climb out of the darkness I was in and it continues to help me access happiness and stay grounded every day. Here are just a few ways mindfulness helps me:
- Mindful technology and social media use
The worst thing about this PPD and social media addiction I was experiencing was that they disconnected me from my kids and my husband. I wasn’t connected to the things that really mattered–the life and the people right in front of me. They disconnected me from my own intuition, the voice that tells me what I need to be doing instead of just watching what everyone else is doing and trying to fit myself into that box was quieted by the whoosh of my scrolling and tapping.
Once I had my wake-up call, I set some ground rules with my phone. No more going to it first thing in the morning. Instead, I turned it off by 10 at night and kept it out of my bedroom. I stashed it in a drawer during the day in favor of more eye contact with my kids. I left it behind on purpose. I still used it, but with intention instead of mindlessness now. My kids noticed, and our relationships and their behavior improved. All of our behavior improved. Our kids deserve so much more than being brushed off in favor of a screen. My social media use still gets out of whack sometimes, but creating boundaries and staying connected to my real-life relationships has helped immensely. I wrote more tips on healthy social media use in this article.
2. Meditative moments
I love meditation, but an hour-long session of seated silence just isn’t realistic for me right now. Instead, I find other ways to “meditate” throughout the day:
- A three-minute guided meditation on Headspace
- Three deep breaths anytime during the day
- Youtube yoga
- Meaningful prayer
- Anchoring myself in moments by observing all of my senses
- Making a mental gratitude list
Working these moments of pause into my day go a long way to helping me feel more calm and grounded.
3. Thought work
All of our emotions are a result of our thoughts. Everything we believe, do, and are starts in our thoughts. Once I started paying attention to and changing the course of my thoughts, I noticed a huge change in my emotional health. I stopped believing everything I thought and chose my thoughts instead of letting them rule my emotions.
No one is immune to feeling the effects of depression and anxiety. We are all on the spectrum, and there are things that trigger it and things we can do to prevent and manage it. Beyond the medication that is necessary in some cases, I think mindfulness is the most powerful thing we can invest in to take care of our mental health.