Every year, I try my best to write about my personal struggle with postpartum depression. It was such a huge part in the turning of chapters in my life, and I feel obligated to share with other mommas who may be experiencing, or could experience, the same hell I lived in for several months of my life. PPD is left largely undiscussed. No one really talks about the post-natal depression because it still widely viewed as “taboo” or a “non-issue”. Hell, the “baby blues” are barely mentioned. That fact has left me gobsmacked ever since Gabe’s arrival six years ago. In fact, the longer I think about, the more ludicrous it’s absence in every-day talk seems to me.
Even knowing my family’s history of varied mental illnesses and depression, my OB/GYN at the time didn’t even warn me of the possibility that I might develop the problem. I was very young — twenty at the time — and might have heard of PPD in passing, but never at length, and never from the one person who could have filled me in. I don’t blame him in particular — I blame society, mostly. A society that is in no way, shape, or form idyllic has these contorted views of what the “ideal” mother should be. I’m telling you right now — the society that runs the world today should have no say in what an “ideal” mother is. Plain and simple.
But backing off blame, I’m here to urge anyone who might have this problem or knows someone who might have this problem to seek help — NOW. Asking for help is not embarrassing. It does not make you a bad mother. It does not take away from your parenting abilities. IGNORING the problem, however, will absolutely emphasize the problem not only for the mother, but also for the people that surround her — including her child(ren).
I have found that opening up a bit about my own conflict with PPD has helped a few women seek help and counsel regarding their own struggles. It is still somewhat difficult for me to come forward with my own story, but it is something I am more than willing to do to spare anyone of the terror that went on inside of my own head. So, here goes:
My Gabe was born on August 20th, 2009. As luck would have it, my heart truly began beating on that day. I, however, wouldn’t have that feeling of pride and warmth for several months after the fact. All my life I’ve been told of these miraculous stories of “adoration at first sight” upon a mother holding her baby for the very first time. That this feeling of pure bliss just soaks down into very fiber of their being without question and without exception. A love that, as I’ve said before, is nearly nauseating. I didn’t have those feelings. In fact, I was very nearly numb to everything — except terror and the unknown. The unknown of what I was experiencing; the surprising terror of being petrified — of an infant. I couldn’t wrap my head around it and I was certain no one else would be able to, either. So I kept quiet. I kept quiet for nearly a year.
I’ll go to grave believing that a plethora of factors contributed to my depression; family mental illness, being overweight and in an unhappy relationship, working three jobs from sun-up to sun-down… I believe all these things contributed to my issues. Add to that a rash of unstable post-natal hormones? I was just waiting for someone to put me in a padded cell. My attitude towards everyone, not just myself, was deplorable. I couldn’t not cry — any and everything made me bawl. I was living with my parents at the time and refused to be left alone with my own child — I was out of control on a downward spiral. I needed help and I knew it. But, due to my fear and hardheadedness, I decided to wait. I waited almost too long.
For months, I would climb into my grandpa’s old leather chair when my parents would settle down for the night. So every night from 10:30 to 4:30 the next morning, I would sit there, in my “safe place” — forcing myself to stay awake. I feared that if I slept, I would hurt Gabe. He slept soundly every night in my arms — never suspecting; trusting me fully. He didn’t know that the person he trusted the most had no faith whatsoever in herself. One day after a long night, I couldn’t tell if I was awake or dreaming. Awful thoughts and fears poured into my mind as though someone had removed the top portion of my head only to fill it with fright. Horrified and feeling monstrous, I finally sought help. Adding to the fear of losing my mind, was the new thought that I could feasibly lose my child. That the possibility of having my son taken from me could lie in whomever I sought counsel. Sitting in the counselor’s office didn’t help any — waiting alone, wondering what would be said… what would be thought. Finally, after what seemed like hours, my name was called. I was led to another smaller office where I waited once more. I considered running — I considered calling the appointment off under the guise of a “reschedule”. What little common sense I felt I had at the time finally took course and I stayed, anxious and alone. And then someone with the kindest eyes came in. She held my hand. She listened. She let me express every fear I had, no matter how silly or unreal. I talked until I was out of words and cried until my face was sore. And after all was said and done, she hugged me the tightest hug I’d ever been given. She assured me that I was not crazy and that everything would be fine; no one was going to take Gabe and no one wanted to. To this day, I have not experienced the kind of relief that I did in that room.
We continued to meet for quite some time. I was prescribed a strong antidepressant that gradually became less and less. The last day of that prescription, I enrolled in a local college — I had been given two new reasons to live my life fully. I finally had my little boy, even though I was never physically absent… and I’d been given my life back ten-fold. It became my wish from that point to today to educate and spread the word regarding postpartum depression in its every form. I hope you will do the same if you took anything away from this post.
Postpartum depression is real and horrifying. But there is help and hope. For more information on PPD, follow this link. If you or anyone you know is suffering from or could suffer from this problem, please seek help and encouragement.