For some strange reason, I was under the impression that my perfect birthing experience would be healing. Would make my psyche at peace. Would make me happier. But that’s not what happened. And in fact, quite the opposite. My antepartum depression and anxiety turned into postpartum depression and anxiety. And it was crushing.
During some of my worst days, it was hard to move off the couch. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to get dressed. I didn’t want to do anything. But you don’t really have that option when you’re a parent.
When I was pregnant and working with my favorite hair and makeup artist, something was different. For some reason I didn’t feel as sad, and it was easier for me to get up and do something. Anything. And then one day she put makeup on me, and I remember looking at myself in the mirror. And I didn’t hate what I saw.
My journey of self-loathing is one for another day, but suffice it to say, I have not always been very nice to myself. As with most teenage girls who become self conscious, mine only festered and grew. Coupled with anxieties after our miscarriage, a long awaited pregnancy, and conflicting feelings postpartum, it continued to grow.
I hated leaving the house, even to see friends. I made every excuse I could to not get out of the house, to cancel playdates. I pulled away so I wouldn’t have to face anyone. To face what was going on. To address my sadness. I hid behind my computer and posted little edited squares of highlights to deflect. But they got harder to post as I sunk lower and lower. So they became less and less frequent.
Postpartum depression and anxiety have such a stigma. I get a sour taste in my mouth even just typing those words. I remember breaking down in my midwives office while still trying to smile through the feelings I was experiencing. How much I hated it.
I got everything I wanted. And yet, I still had this deeply rooted sadness that would not dissipate. It was always there, nagging. Tugging at my ear, pulling on my shoulder. Raining on my parade. Bringing me back down from every high. Always.
One day I decided enough was enough. I wasn’t ready to admit what was going on. I told myself I was fine, and that it was time I started acting like it. So I washed my face, brushed my teeth and pulled out a much neglected lipstick. I chose a shirt that fit my soft, postpartum shape, pulled on a pair of too tight pants and I stood in front of the mirror. I decided today was the day I was going to try to fight the darkness with the brightest thing I could. The only problem was nothing fit.
Except for the lipstick.
The color was Razzberry, and was a crazy bright pink. A color I never would have chosen for myself. I don’t like to be the center of attention. Ever. This color was the antithesis of blending in. Of hiding.
But I put it on anyways.
And a funny thing happened. I suddenly didn’t feel quite so sad.
It was a snowball effect, really. Days I could muster up enough gumption to put on my Razzberry, I felt better. Not always, not 100%, but a vast majority. I didn’t understand why – my clothes were still too tight, my body still felt alien, but there was something else going on now as well. Instead of my days being filled with sad and dark thoughts, light started peeking through.
Almost 4 months later, and the trend still continues. So now, when I wake up in the mornings, I tell myself I can do this. I can do hard things. I can get out of bed, and I can smile real smiles and laugh real laughs.
And I do. I wake up, I get out of bed, and I put myself together. I brush my teeth, wash my face, take care of my skin, and put on my makeup. And each time I do, I breathe a little easier, and feel a little bit better.
The feminist inside me hates it. I hate that makeup is the only thing that makes me feel human most days, but it does.
I have started taking selfies that I don’t hate. I have started finally not grimacing everytime I see a photo of myself. Two weeks ago I took a picture of myself, just wearing mascara, tinted moisturizer and a bold red lip. And I did a crazy thing. I posted it. Online. In a very public group, full of gorgeous women who look like they are straight out of youtube videos for how to contour and how to get the perfect brow.
My heart raced as I pushed post and shared my self portrait, but in a particular moment of strength, I did it anyways. And I felt good about it. I saw a woman who looked confident and pretty. Yes – I said it. Pretty.
I don’t remember the last time I felt that way – pretty. Pretty is not a word I use to describe myself. Pretty is not a way that I feel about myself. But pretty is what the woman staring back at me was. The tears this time felt good, they felt great. For the first time in a long time, I felt something other than critical about myself. I didn’t see areas that needed improvement, or areas I wished were smaller. I just saw a happy, pretty woman. Wearing the heck out of a bold red lip.
This prideful feeling I was experiencing? I realized I wanted to have that more often. So I continue getting ready as many days as I can, and I continue to put on my bright bold lipstick.
I never thought I’d be one to become a part of a beauty company, because that’s just so not me. I can barely draw a straight line with eyeliner, I don’t know the proper way to highlight and contour, and my eyebrows aren’t “on fleek” (full disclosure, I still have no idea what that actually means). But I’ve come to realize none of that is important. At the end of the day, I just want people to feel good about themselves. That’s it. I want them to experience the glimmer of light and the sparkle in their eye.
If I can help make another mom, another woman feel that same way? My heart would be full. Because I’ve been in that dark place, I am in that dark place. I’ve lived there for a long time. And I know how it feels to scrutinize every square centimeter of your own body. But I also know how good it feels to be okay, happy even, with the woman staring back.
A tube of lip color does not a doctor replace. Postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety are very real, very scary mental health issues. I won’t claim my lipstick is 100% effective, I won’t claim it has 100% positive results. Because it doesn’t. There are still some days the darkness can’t be taken over by even the brightest of pinks or reds. But the days it does help? Those are the days I can feel real again. I can play with my kids and laugh and wiggle and feel good walking out of the house.