Style Living Self Celebrity Geeky News and Views
In the Paper BrandedUp Hello! Create with us Privacy Policy

Am I crazy? Maybe. And that’s okay.

By STEPHANIE ZUBIRI, The Philippine STAR Published Jan 14, 2024 11:07 am

The sunlight was streaming through the window, three of my best girlfriends were laughing and chatting animatedly while picking at our colorful ceviche and Peruvian chicken. It was a long overdue catch-up and everyone was happy and glowing. I didn’t have much to contribute; I’d just laugh and spew out platitudes and witty reactions. I was perfect company except for the sinking feeling I had inside. My heart would flutter and palpitate, it felt like it was pumping my soul into a black vortex of nothingness, a vacuum lived inside me.

I quietly excused myself to go to the bathroom. I choked back tears, scolding myself that if I cried now, I would ruin my makeup. I overcompensated by preening, after which I made a series of hideous grimaces at myself. Angrily sticking my tongue out making grotesque figures on my face, admonishing my vanity. “You’re so vain, b*tch,” I would tell myself. I took a breath and walked back like nothing happened with a big smile plastered on my face and a freshly painted coat of lipstick.

It all seemed perfect. But kind of like that Carole King song... ‘Something inside me has died and I can’t hide it, I just can’t fake it.’ What the hell was going on?

In hindsight, the self-loathing was evident. At that time, I had no idea what was going on. I felt like I was going crazy. This was my norm. I often retreated to the bathroom to sob. I wasn’t sure why. I just needed to cry. My hands would often shake, my mind would race. I thought I had a heart problem because it felt like it was beating a hundred miles a minute.

On the surface I looked fine. My youngest just turned one, I was working on my first cookbook, my career online was flourishing, I was building my home, it all seemed perfect. But kind of like that Carole King song… “Something inside me has died and I can’t hide it, I just can’t fake it.” What the hell was going on?

Belle Daza and I at seven years old—we’re just looking out for those little girls that are still inside us!

“Sounds like you have postpartum depression,” my OB GYN said to me. How was that possible? My son was one and a half. How is that postpartum? I had my pregnancies almost back-to-back. After I stopped breastfeeding my eldest, Sebastian, when he turned one, I immediately became pregnant with Max, followed by one and a half years of breastfeeding. Basically, for almost four years of my life my hormones were in full baby-making, fertility mode—and suddenly, they had to readjust to back to normal.

The dip in serotonin and oxytocin was palpable. It was like I was totally incapable of joy. Hormones are real. The Mayo Clinic explains: “After childbirth, a dramatic drop in the hormones—estrogen and progesterone—in your body may contribute to postpartum depression. Other hormones produced by your thyroid gland also may drop sharply—which can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and depressed.” Add that to genetic factors and the overall stress caused by the 24-hour needs of babies and children, it’s a perfect cocktail for postpartum depression and psychosis.

One in seven women experience postpartum depression. That’s about 15% of the population.

Half of these women say it’s their first time ever experiencing it. So, they don’t even know what to look out for.
We often busy ourselves with the idea of motherhood and go straight back into work so that often, like in my case, it’s left untreated and can fester. I felt unseen and unsupported and, quite frankly, it was my fault. I felt like I had no right to feel the way I felt so I was ashamed to get help.

In my recent “Soulful Feasts” podcast with entrepreneur, actress and content creator Belle Daza Semblat, we talk about the impact hormones have on women, our body image, our issues with self-love and the importance of seeking help.

“I remember there was a low point where I just couldn’t look at myself in the mirror because I wasn’t losing weight and I felt so stuck,” Belle shares. “I was also sleep-deprived. You’re not at your optimum potential when you just give birth. You’re trying to figure out how to feed the baby and you’re sleep-deprived. And then you go online, see what everybody else is doing. And you’re just like, what am I doing with my life?”

After months of feeling this way she finally hit a wall and sought the help of neuropsychologist Lia Bernardo, who taught her about the idea of self-love. “I didn’t understand that concept of self-love,” she says. “It took me a lot of time to understand what it meant and one of the things that she said to me that stuck the most was: ‘You know, you have to accept who you are and you have to know that you’re enough so that your child, when he looks in the mirror, he knows that he’s enough.’”

Amidst the joy of new beginnings, some battles are fought in silence. Postpartum depression
is real, and it's okay to open up, seek help, and embrace the support you deserve.

Loving yourself is knowing you deserve the help you need and not being ashamed to ask for it. It’s also excellent modeling for your children so that they may truly value themselves as well and not be ashamed to seek the support when necessary.

Women are hardwired to put themselves last, but how can we show up for the people we love if we don’t show up for ourselves?

Thankfully, today, one of the silver linings in a post-pandemic landscape is the normalization of mental health issues. More and more people are starting to realize that this is much more common than we originally thought. And what is frightening is it happens silently. High-functioning depression and anxiety is everywhere, often masked by busyness and escapism.

The good thing is you don’t need to be alone and there are so many resources out there for you. Here are a few ways to take stock of what you’re feeling and a few suggestions on how to feel better.

Journal your emotions. Take a few moments to write down what you are feeling. You don’t need to have eloquent, finely crafted sentences. They could be thought bubbles, words, scribbles. Date these entries, write down the circumstances of the who, what, when and where. The why will come as patterns may arise. When you go seek professional help, these entries will help immensely.

Break the silence. When lingering feelings weigh you down, opening up to someone is the first step towards healing. You're not alone.

Have an out-of-body moment. See yourself in third person. Do you recognize yourself? What is the overall situation? Are your reactions exaggerated? This doesn’t mean your feelings are invalid, it just means perhaps your response is a 10/10 when it should be 5/10. Try to think of why? And if there is no why, that is okay, too. Your hormonal fluctuations in your body may be the cause, but being aware and honest with yourself is so important to feeling better.

Forgive yourself. Don’t spiral into self-loathing. You’re going through something and you’re allowed to not be 100%. Give yourself some grace and the strength to seek help will come.

Open up. If you feel like these feelings are lingering, you must tell someone. You can’t go through this alone. Tell a friend, your partner, your colleague, your family, your doctor, anyone. You must say something.

Remind yourself you are not alone and you are loved. So many are going through similar feelings. There’s no need for shame. There is true power in being vulnerable. It means you have the courage to look out for yourself, to face your issues and fears, and to seek the help you need to be your best self.