post partum depression Archives | Sheryl Steines

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Queen Victoria – The Strong, Real Women

The Ultimate Strong Woman

I watch quirky, I also watch relatable characters, most recently, strong, real women. I've started a new show. You may have heard of it, Victoria on Masterpiece. While I'm a sucker for the dresses, the jewelry, the crowns, I'm wildly fascinated by the role of women in each century. While I realize that writers take liberties, I'm guessing there's some truth to the portrayal of the Queen, and I'm finding it fascinating to see that a woman's many struggles haven't changed all that much.

Queen Victoria

Victoria ascended to the throne in 1837 at the tender age of 18.  Almost immediately, she found herself struggling to be heard, to be thought of as the monarch, of a strong leader. It hadn't helped that she was a petite, delicate flower, considered mildly incapable of doing much more than having children and spending time in the nursery. The life she would most likely have had, had it not been the accident of her birth, to be born as the heir to the throne.

You can hear the frustration in her voice as the young girl fights to be heard, to find her way in a male dominated world, where simply by her sex and stature, she brushed aside as nothing more than a girl.

Our Struggles are Universal

Victoria stumbles along the way, but remains steadfast in her duty, in her desire to make a difference, to rule her subjects with honesty and do what's right. But she does all this by her own rules, choosing to marry for love, not duty, standing up to those who wish to sway her and push her aside.

Though she's the ruler of England, a vast kingdom in 1837, she's still a woman. She suffers postpartum depression, she struggles being heard, she's jealous, when her husband flirts with a female mathematician. But when Victoria meets the woman face to face, she sees a woman struggling just like her, who is constantly trying to find her footing and prove herself.

The Picking of a Role Model – Real Women

Who knew I'd find a role model in a woman who lived 181 years ago, in a time and place so different from my own. And who knew just how much just being a woman, has not changed. How we still want the same things, and our difficulties are universal. And more than anything, the answer is same. We are the solution to our own situation and only we can make it right or better. We are our own strength and we owe it to each of to be supportive of our choices whether we chose to stay at home and raise our kids or we chose to work outside of our homes.

And just like Victoria, I stand firm in my desire to write, to create, to say something and leave behind a legacy. To help others like myself by sharing my story in hopes I can help someone else find their way.

No matter what, we're all strong, or delicate flowers, smart and capable and sometimes we stumble.

And Victoria isn't just the strong female character, it's not just watching and getting angry by thoughts and ideas I'm not used to, it's also the dresses, jewels, and crowns. Because hey, there's still that.

Victoria on Masterpiece



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The Lost Decade

Some of my frustration with the past few months is the realization that I'm 45 years old and life didn't exactly lead me down the path I wanted. I know that life isn't fair and it doesn't always work out, but I know exactly why I was derailed and when it happened.

One think I've learned about myself since becoming a legal adult is this, I actually handle real stress, not the perceived stress, but the real kind, pretty well in the moment. I'm one of those people who can let it roll off my back and find a way to move on. Or so I thought.

My real issues stems from two lengthy stretches in my life that really beat me down. The first was four years, the second was five. They weren't of my own making but they were thrust upon me, by life, this chaotic existence that sometimes we have no control over.

Like a lot of married couples, we had a plan, five years, save a little money and try for a family. I kept up with my end, worked for a while, we bought a cute house and saved quite a bit. I even traveled and saw many places that I had always wanted to visit. I tried to get pregnant. I couldn't and so that threw me into a four-year tail spin that included infertility, a horrible pregnancy with two hospital stays and an eleven month period of caring for twin girls, one of which was terminally ill and would die.

Don't pity and don't feel sorry for me. What this became, was my first life lesson. I'm strong enough to survive it can I now thrive. I thought I had grieved and moved on, but sometimes the scars we receive from these horrendous lessons aren't visible with the naked eye, or they just don't appear until later, until long after you've had a chance to really see what had happened or you struggle with another stretch of crap.

I had a year after my daughter Stephanie died in which to pick up the pieces and move on, though any parent who has lost a child knows that you never really do either. It's always a whisper in the background and it always haunts what you do. But I did have a mourning period before the birth of my third child and with her birth, I thought I was onto the happy ending.

It comes at you all at once, a surprise that isn't a present. I had an easy pregnancy though I was nervous the whole time, nervous that she would be born with the same undiagnosed condition. It wasn't until I felt her move at 18 weeks that I relaxed, though only some. And the pregnancy was easy. I slept, I ate, I went out and I lived my life. No hospital stays and really the only time I spent at the hospital before she was born was because the carbon monoxide detector went off at 1 in the morning. All that was required was a stress test, just in case.

But I digress, into other areas, because where I really wanted to focus on was the five years after my daughter was born. The five years that I plunged into new territory. You hear about it on the news all the time, women with post partum, killing their children. I didn't realize for 17 months that was what I was feeling. It was depression, and the inability to function at daily living. I dieted and ate better, exercised six times a week, went out with friends but it wasn't enough. It was merely myself going through the motions, pretending I was still human.

They give antidepressants for post partum, which I'm not opposed to. I took them and for five years, I managed to do the laundry, grocery shopping, care for my kids, in this relative haze, not really feeling, not reacting emotionally, just existing. When I finally could stand the lack of feeling, and realizing half a mom did my children no good, I asked the doctor to take me off.

I lost weight, I straightened my hair and really what I did was wake up at the end of my thirties realizing the entire decade had been lost to the empty void. I was a shell of the person I used to be. I was afraid to take my kids to places, to go out, to speak my mind, to share my voice. It wasn't until I turned 41 that it all hit me. A vivid map of my life and the trails and stops and shortcuts, and mountains that I had to climb to get to where I was. It was long and difficult and I decided it was time to dream again.

Do something that I had always wanted to do. And that was write. I didn't want to merely survive The Lost Decade, I wanted to thrive and live and come out on the other side of the mountain as queen of the world. Bang my hands against my chest and yodel and let the world know, I'm still here and I'm fabulous.

I never sugar coat my journey as a writer. It's been hard and it sucks, but I learned the lessons from my past and what I've really learned is you can keep throwing things at me and I will remain standing. I'm still here and I'm still trying because I finally decided to believe in myself. It hasn't been easy and I've threatened to quit several times. But because of support of editors and marketers I've finally managed to find my voice and my path. I wish I didn't have a lost decade. I wish I could fondly look back on my thirties as a remarkable time in my life but it's merely a bittersweet time, a time of deep sadness, pain and joy. But it is me and it is what makes me. I couldn't imagine now, having it any other way.

So I can't reclaim that decade, but I what I always do well is move forward. So here I go. Here's me moving forward, still afraid but ignoring the fear. I'm going. See me, see me fly.

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