I have started and deleted probably ten blogs in the past few weeks. I haven’t been able to focus. Postpartum depression is really no joke. I can’t sleep (hence blogging at 2AM), I am either eating all day long or not eating until five in the evening, and I am either being perfectly patient with my kids or going off my rocker with them…there seems to be no in between for my brain right now. I’m either happy or so furious I can barely speak, or will be suddenly overcome with tears over something relatively inconsequential. Mixing my PPD with my PTSD and sleep deprivation is…interesting, to say the least.
In short, I’m a hot mess.
I’m blogging about this because more people need to be honest about the struggles with any and all types of mental illness. And postpartum depression, while temporary, is a type of mental illness. The stigma surrounding it needs to end, so that people will seek help sooner.
I thought I had it handled a few months back…I couldn’t have been more wrong.
These last few weeks in particular, I have felt like I was drowning in sadness. I walked around with this sadness that I could literally feel in my chest, like a twenty pound weight. Like someone had put a stone inside my rib cage to weigh me down. I could paste on a smile when I left the house, and try to play with my kids, and might even manage a genuine laugh here and there…but it was just these tiny flares of light in this deep, dark, black hole I had been sucked into. I haven’t felt this kind of depression since I was about 15 years old, and it was not a feeling that I had missed.
I knew that, having suffered from depression before, I was more prone to getting PPD. And I got it with my older daughter, but it passed fairly quickly and I didn’t really seek help. I just got over it. So this time, I thought I could just get over it, too. Take a few supplements, keep myself busy, it would pass.
Wrong. So wrong.
Have you ever felt like a passenger in your own body? Like, you’re watching yourself slip further and further down into this depressive state, and the sane and rational part of you is going “HEY! You’re falling! Get help!” But the part of you that’s falling is going “I’ve totally got this.”
And then one day soon, the sane and rational part of you is watching the insane part of you yell at your three year old over something stupid or have a panic attack driving down the freeway or sobbing on the floor of the shower while the water runs cold because you’ve been in there so long. The insane part of you picks fights with people and says mean things to friends and pretty soon, the insane part is sitting in the living room in her pajamas at four in the afternoon with all the curtains closed, letting the kids watch Daniel Tiger for the entire day, surviving off of your daughter’s goldfish crackers because, while you always make food for the kids, it seems like too much effort to make any for yourself.
And meanwhile, the sane part of you is screaming “I freaking told you to go get help! Now we are stuck down here in this hole and you are too depressed to get help for being depressed.”
I saw a meme the other day on Facebook that described depression perfectly. It said something like “What’s depression like? Depression is like drowning…only you can see everyone around you breathing.” You feel invisible. No one can see how much you’re struggling. If you had cancer or pneumonia or a broken arm, people would know you were sick, and they would want to help. But everyone believes the lie you have pasted on your face, and no one knows you can’t breathe. You share the happy moments on Facebook, the good pictures. It’s an instant life filter.
And then you hit rock bottom. You tell your friend you want to run away or die, and you don’t care which.
And you didn’t even realize you were feeling that way until the words come out of your mouth, and then you burst into tears, because you’re a mom, and you’re not supposed to think things like that, and it makes you feel like a terrible person and an awful mother, and you just feel…defeated. So defeated.
But somehow, putting it into words, realizing where you are at, lets the sane part of you reach the insane part. You pick up the phone, and you call to schedule an appointment with your doctor. You start talking to everyone.
You know that some people are going to think you’re doing it for attention, and in a way, they’re right, but not for the reasons they think. You’re doing it for attention, because you don’t want to disappear without anyone noticing. You don’t want to do anything you’ll regret later. You don’t want them to go, six months from now, “Whatever happened to…” You don’t want to be invisible anymore.
And, funny thing.
The good friends don’t judge you.
The good friends suddenly blow up your phone with text messages like “I had no idea you were struggling so much. What can I do?” Or “I want to get you out of the house, so lets take the kids out tomorrow.” Or “Lets have coffee next week.” One person sent me a text that said “I love you. I’m here for you. Don’t ever get so lost in your mind that you forget how many people feel the same way I do. You’re a good friend to so many people…let them be good friends to you, too.”
My favorite was this message from my best friend that lives out of state.
“Like a shattered mirror
Refracting the world around you in a dozen different ways.
You are perfectly imperfect, a chaotic storm of deepest reds and blues.
Your heart is huge, your emotions deeper than the oceans.
I don’t even have the words for you.
You’re more than I can describe.
A Disney freak to the highest degree, and loyal to a fault.
You carry the world on your shoulders, and pick yourself up when you shatter.
Stronger than you know, just remember, that I see you.
I know you.
And you are wonderful.”
I love the line, “You…pick yourself up when you shatter.”
I have talked to more people and been invited to more places in the last week than I have been in probably the last year put together. And I’m not blaming the people doing the inviting. It’s hard to get a depressed friend to want to do things with you, and even when you manage to make plans with them, there will be a lot of last minute cancellations. I’ve canceled a lot of plans in the last 9 months especially. I’m just mentioning it because it surprised me how many people cared enough to issue an invitation.
Just…if you have a friend with depression (whether PPD or otherwise), please don’t give up. Keep making plans. If they don’t want to go out, go to their house to watch bad movies and eat popcorn. Keep trying. Because the fact that you care enough about them to love them even when they aren’t necessarily a bundle of laughs means the absolute world to them. I promise.
My appointment is on Tuesday.
I am very nervous about it.
But I keep reminding myself, it’s a step toward feeling better. I want to feel like myself again.
I’ve been writing in my journal again every day. There have been three days this week where all I could bring myself to write were three words…but they’re pretty important.
“I’m still here.”