You are reading Letters from Hannah. If you like it and want more in your inbox, please subscribe.
I hope it’s been a beautiful festive season for you. I heard something that resonated with me about the holiday season - it’s not necessarily the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s often the most INTENSE. It has certainly felt that way for me, traveling across the pond with our two toddlers (Julius is walking!), lots of family time and celebrations, the go-go-go that’s trying to take care of two little people without childcare while attempting some fun and adult conversations myself, schlepping around the world while dealing with poopy diapers, nap schedules and time changes, etc.
I’ve been spending my (minimal leftover) headspace thinking about my goals and dreams for 20223. I even started a Google doc! Then I got an email from Katelyn from Mother Nurture with the subject line “Resist the urge to plan this week,” and it stopped me in my tracks.
One of the best things I did in 2022 was take Katelyn’s Beyond Balance workshop for working moms. If Katelyn suggests something, I am going to listen with an open mind. She urged using this weird in between time to reflect on the year coming to an end, and, well, here I go!
One reason my brain is so eager to jump to 2023 is that 2022 has been a really hard year.
At the end of 2021, Julius was born. The period after felt dark - literally a cold, grey winter. Emotionally bleak. Achingly exhausting. At three weeks postpartum, I tested positive for Covid and had to isolate with my newborn, back when that was a ten day experience. I could only see Simone, who stayed with my parents, outside in masks. She was not yet two. It was too cold to play outside for long, so these were quick experiences with Julius bundled up against my chest, my c-section incision still itchy and tender.
I recovered and the family was reunited. I planned a maternity leave for myself (in the US, there is zero family support for freelancers), but managing two under two felt on good days, overwhelming, and on bad days, impossible.
So here I was with so much support, a wonderful therapist, a loving and hands on family, an amazing husband, an awesome eating disorder recovery group, and yet - and yet - things felt dark, unmanageable, and for periods of time, hopeless. (I blame the exhaustion!)
What came to my rescue was a prescription for Zoloft, the antidepressant. At the age of 35 (then 34), it was my first time taking this sort of medication, and I was ambivalent to try it. I had heard horror stories about side effects. Even though part of me knew better, I still had stigma. I thought if I was better or stronger, I could work/will/hack my way through my days and back to myself. I thought if I could just get some more sleep, I would feel more human.
I voiced some version of this to the very kind psychiatrist I saw via Zoom.
“Well,” she said, patiently. Kindly. “That MAY be true, but you fit the criteria for postpartum depression. And there is a treatment that I am recommending as a medical professional. And the treatment is quite effective.”
Something about her straightforwardness opened something up in me. It was a warm day, and I was Zooming with her on my porch. I erupted in a flood of tears.
Maybe it was the Zoloft.
Maybe it was Julius sleeping through the night.
Maybe it was my friend who texted me every day, just to check in.
Maybe it was my mom showing up at the door when I texted SOSOSOSOSOS.
Maybe it was finally making friends in my new town.
Maybe it was walking every day I could.
But here I am, writing from the other side of that very weighty, opaque cloud that followed me around at the start of the year.
I made it through, and that feels like my biggest achievement of 2022.
There were other highlights, too. I went to LA to speak at the LA Times Festival of Books and managed to pump at LAX, Newark, and lots of awkward places between. (The TSA agent even gave me a shoutout at how well I handled my breastmilk and ice pack-filled luggage). I traveled to Atlanta for my first time for an exciting business trip. I published my first essay at Bon Appetit after pitching them for 8 years (!!), and it’s an essay I’m proud of. I taught a lot, including at Catapult, Zingerman’s and the Writers League of Texas, which always brings me joy. The National Eating Disorder Association (NEDA) gave me the Inspire Award at their gala in October, and I got to share my story to people fighting for important change. I received a standing ovation.
I spent a weekend in Annapolis with Tony. We walked and walked along the water and ate crabs at every meal.
I watched the sun set over the river.
I saw Julius take his first wobbly steps.
I heard Simone start to sing.
I cooked the shallot Brussels sprout hash I hadn’t made for Thanksgiving for two years, because of the pandemic. ‘
I walked Ace in the heat, the rain, the cold,.
I spent a month in England with my family. I pushed the double stroller around what feels like half of London.
I mourned a book proposal that my agent failed to sell.
I practiced asking for help.
I practiced resting.
I practiced being gentle with myself.
I have to go because Julius is crying (it’s nap time, he’s supposed to be napping!).
But just to say I’m hopeful for the year ahead.
I’m grateful for you for being a part of this journey.
I also got new headshots (by the talented Tiffany Simone)) and have a new website! I invested in myself this year.
Hannah, I'm so happy you are throwing away the stigma and taking care of yourself. I took way too long to accept medical treatment that works. Thanks for this post, and happy 2023!
Love your always being real and sharing the beautiful essence of who you are. Happy for your support and love your modeling for us getting the support we need. Have a happy, healthy, and joyful year!