Please welcome Susan of Learned Happiness

Susan and I became friends via Postpartum Progress and our membership in an online group of mental health bloggers. She is a stay-at-home-mom to a preschooler and a toddler.  Susan has her hands in a little bit of everything, blogging over at Learned Happiness about motherhood and mental illness, crocheting for her Etsy shop, teaching music lessons from her home, and keeping her family fed and mostly-put-together. You can find her in her sparse free time playing video games, hoarding Oreros, and being snarky on twitter @learndhappiness. Thank you Susan for sharing your beautiful story of finding your brave. 



I remember walking around a local pond with several women and children from a "Mommy and Me" playdate group back when my oldest (now 5) was about 9 months old.  I was 3 months into my treatment for PPD, resisting taking medication, and attending therapy twice a week.  I was telling another mom about my therapy appointments and how much I was struggling and she said something that rubbed me the wrong way:

'You're so brave to talk about this."


I believe she meant it as a compliment, but I didn't see myself as brave.  I still saw myself as weak and under depression's death grip.  And I wasn't yet aware of the stigma that others would place on my diagnosis - I hated the idea that I had to have courage to simply talk about how hard motherhood was for me.  So, being called Brave drew my attention to the fact that sharing about PPD makes some people uncomfortable - and it got me thinking more about deliberately speaking up.


Since that time, I have recovered from depression only to relapse while pregnant with my second baby.  I have had a positive second postpartum experience and graduated from therapy over a year ago.  I've made peace with my continued diagnoses of Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Major Depressive Disorder, and gladly take medication every day, proving that I am free from any shame that once possessed me about my mental illness.  I have become a vocal advocate for women suffering from mental illness, and a Brave one at that.


I didn't suddenly find my Brave.  It snuck in through the cracks, ever-so-slowly replacing shame and fear.  Every new blog post was an exercise in courage; hitting "publish" and sharing what I believed to be the worst part of myself was initially terrifying.  Each new friendship, birthed in PPD support groups and on social media, taught me to trust myself a little more.


At my last medication check, my psychiatrist teased me, asking "who is this new woman, and what happened to the new mommy who was afraid to leave the house or to talk about her feelings?"  Compared with who I was in 2008, I am a whole new (and improved) person.


My most courageous act of the last five years wasn't publishing my life online for all to read or having another baby after PPD.  It was in the small, day-to-day events when I had to practice courage by being vulnerable with myself: vulnerable enough to admit when I needed help and honest enough to look deep inside for what I really wanted.  In being Brave enough to be real with myself, I learned how to love myself, mental illness and all.


And after that?  Sharing about it became easy.  Taking more risks became invigorating instead of crippling.  Finding my Brave has allowed me to really live.