As a preface to the words that follow I’d like to say, I wrote this in the moments of descent. The plunging into something that I’m all too familiar with.
So many women suffer each day with postpartum depression and live in shame about it. So many women are patted on the head by loved ones and told, ‘it’s just hormones, you’ll be fine.’ The problem is, it’s not fine, it won’t be fine and women need to help each other. The day after I wrote this I called my psychiatrist of nearly 10 years and asked for the usual. Yes, I even used those words.
I didn’t ask for help after my first child. I toughed it out because people closest to me patted my head. I don’t fault them but in hind sight I think we all thought it was just a little baby blues and then it just wasn’t. I lost the first six months of that child’s life to darkness. I only have pictures of the perfection. I don’t honestly have memories of those times that don’t involve tears.
My second and third babies I was armed and ready. I had done enough reading to know what I was up against. I waited for the darkness to fall and then, made a call to my doctor. Within days I was new, fresh and happy. It doesn’t work like that for some. I get that. I am fortunate.
I share this as an example of just how dreary and alone it can feel. I read it now and know the progression of it and that I sit here, well and together and sad for that woman. She is me but I am not her.
This is for all who suffer. I see you.
Hello Darkness, My Old Friend
Tomorrow will mark one week since I went into active labor. The wee hours of Friday will be a week since my youngest child was born. This is said to be a happy place. The glow and sparkle of that all too magical experience of birth, fading and the newborn smell ever under my nose… These are the golden hours. The days that will blur and fade and I’ll strain to remember each detail, snapping as many pictures as I can just to hold on to the already slipping bits of reality.
The darkness descends. It comes down and fills up and closes in. This sinking feeling in my heart pleads for anyone, someone to save me. Throw me a rope, a life ring, give me their hand. But, it wouldn’t matter. I felt it coming. I saw the first signs yesterday and woke in the night to the fear that I would lose myself to it once again. As I stayed in my bed, motionless, aware of the ache in my pelvis where only days ago a child dwelled, aware of the adult diaper filling with blood and tissue that cradled a life, aware of my heart pounding to pump life around my flabby body, I felt hot tears streaming down my face.
I honestly had hoped to escape it. To pretend I could smile my way through it this time. I hoped I could get one baby, one precious baby that would save me from the blackness that steals my sunny joy and replaces it with sticky guilt and lingering doubt. I ran. In my mind at least. I thought that reading more about it or being pro-awareness would earn me points. Instead, I’m about a week and a half ahead of schedule.
Tears. I don’t know where they come from or how I haven’t run out already and it’s only been a little over a day. The feared quicksand of childhood has crept into this adult moment and is already crushing my chest. Only no one can see and I’m grasping for sticks and grass and hands. So many hands. So many people that would offer a hand if only a hand would do anything to pull me out.
I wasn’t going to share. I wasn’t going to write. I had planned to go it in silence this time and share my weight loss and eating journey instead. But, I sit hear, tears still streaming and deadlines for other projects I’ve already been paid to write, piling up, and I’m thinking, fuck it. Other people suffer. Other women choke in the sand pits and their hands just freeze there, eventually lifeless and empty, waiting for someone to grasp it, if only for a little warmth.
I see you.
I may be hunkered down in my hole of wretched stinking life sucking postpartum depression but I still see you and I know that when you text your friend that you’re sad, you really mean you feel like your heart is dying. I see you.
I know that when you cry and they say, ‘it’s ok, it’ll get better.’ you want to believe them but you can’t even believe you’ll take your next breathe. I see you.
I know that when you hear, ‘just be positive,’ inside you want to punch those words in the face because you are deep enough in it that positive doesn’t even look the same anymore. I see you.
I also see you, knowing that all of these feelings are just feelings. I see you fighting with everything in your power to not make it mean anything about you and to just let it be what it is. I see you not wanting to give it power or control, just rolling with it, knowing there is an end, even if you can’t see it yet. I see that too because I’m there with you.