“Soothing Pain Through Community Love”
by Tira Feierstein
I often think that people associate depression with a general level of sadness or discontent. The truth is, I could have never articulated depression until I experienced it. This visceral feeling of emptiness, hopelessness and complete loss of grip on anything, yet white knuckling EVERYTHING. My experience is with postpartum depression, a condition that can affect a woman post-pregnancy due to severe hormonal and life upheavals.
For me, giving birth and becoming a mother was arduous. Domesticity and motherhood where not childhood dreams of mine. My mother was not your average housewife and most of my friend’s moms weren’t either, I never aspired to that outcome. Yet, there I was, a stay-at-home Mother/housewife; who just happened to be 70lbs overweight and pumping my breasts like an animal. My depression set in immediately, although in hindsight, I used exhaustion as an excuse for my pain.
I ate my placenta, I figured I’d be fine! Until one night, my agony became so intense that I wanted to harm myself. I reasoned that feeling physical pain could distract me from my internal distress. I was alone with my son, my husband was working, so I made an emergency call to my therapist, who vetted me for more serious symptoms. By the end of that week I was on a SSRI and starting a more rigorous routine of self-care.
I was lucky to have given birth without intervention, which simply means, I didn’t take the drugs. I am no hero, I just had a plan and was blessed to be able to fulfill it with a manageable labor and really supportive hospital staff. I mention this not to brag, but as point that when you are able to give birth without severe interventions, you are also able to restart physical activity much sooner. Working out post-delivery becomes available almost immediately. I started taking my son for walks on day 11 and by week four I was sweating it out again.
I found my individual workouts to be lonely. I would listen to music and run the stairs in my apartment building. Other days I would tackle the machines at the gym picturing myself in a bikini. I was sad…This was supposed to be my “me time.” Aren’t those cardio endorphins supposed to send me into a post-coital type of bliss? AND, aren’t I supposed to be losing weight? None of the aforementioned benefits regarding fitness seemed to be working on me…but again, I was still battling new-mama overwhelmed’ness.
I think the best part about becoming a mom is that I’ve finally gotten to know and accept the truest essence of who I am. Part of that came from excavating my motivations regarding fitness. I had to ask myself “what really feels good?” “When am I most at peace?” “Where do I thrive?” The common theme to all of those questions was, “when I am connecting to others.” I am an extrovert. While people can definitely drain my energy, having a meaningful connective interaction gives me so much life. So, I unrolled my yoga mat and went with my friends to my first group fitness class since having a human inside of me. Yoga is not only how I connect to myself but how I began to connect to a community of like-minded woman. I found that by some miracle of the universe, every class I took had a theme relevant to something I was experiencing off my mat. And when I was in downward dog with leaky, boobs falling in my face, I could look over at my friend and have a laugh.
My son was born in the fall and by spring I was starting to find a shift in a positive direction with my spirit and my relationship to fitness. Before my pregnancy I participated in a lot of boot camp style workouts or any fitness class that worked with my schedule. Group fitness was always my sanctuary, but now, as a mom, these people where like my family. They held me accountable, they asked about my life, gave me encouragement and deeply cared for me when I needed it most.
My yoga practice played a significant role in re-discovering my new body. Yoga required me to breathe into all of my parts, sending them love, even if they hung in a way I wasn’t completely in love with. And when I needed some variety in my workouts, I found that other fitness communities are just as welcoming and filled with love.
Today, I am an avid Lagree Method doer. Here in Denver, we have a group of Lagree Method Studios branded Feierece45. As this workout is so difficult every single time, the community makes being there so fulfilling and motivating. I have become friends with the instructors, studio managers and fellow “Fierce’ers.” And, because the studio is in the middle of our community, we all in it together, as a bunch of like-minded people who just want to practice self-love and do good by our mind, body and souls.
It’s my sincerest belief that my commitment to group fitness helped to lift me out of my post-partum depression. The woman I have met along the way are sewed into the fabric of who I have become as a woman and dare I say it? An athlete. Through community I have felt and shared the struggles of living in a body that’s constantly being judged by ourselves and others. Together, we ask for support and friendship and as a result build more confidence and love. When we cultivate love in our communities, we are more apt to spread it around wherever we go.
This is the second installment in Tira Feierstein’s “We Love Her” series. Love Squad’s “We Love Them” series takes a deep dive into the personal fitness journey of a guest writer, in weekly installments told over the course of several weeks. These narratives will get real and open as they talk about life-changing events and personal obstacles that were somehow overcome through fitness, exercise, and both mental and physical wellness.
If you are interested in contributing a personal story of your own as a part of our “We Love Them” series, please email firstname.lastname@example.org !
Tune in next week for the third installment in Tira’s story.
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