The Face of Postpartum Depression
Here are some tidbits from my life lately: "I love this picture of Graeme. But Graeme does not suffer from postpartum depression on a daily basis. If she did, she would not be the amazing mother that she is. Graeme is one of the best and most nurturing mothers I know!! Happy Birthday Grammy!"
One of my sisters left that comment on a post that my mom put up on Facebook where she mentioned that I suffer from PPD.
"I didn't know you had PPD. I've heard of the condition but don't know the details. What is your experience with it?"
That is part of a text I got from a friend of mine after she read the Facebook post.
I have to admit that the first statement was a slap in the face. I felt it and I felt that so many other women could have read it and felt the same way. 1 in 7 women will deal with some form of Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and/or Psychosis. 1 IN 7. If you know more than 7 mothers chances are that you know a woman who is dealing with this disease.
As much as the first statement hurt the second was a balm for my soul. Would you believe that no one in my family has ever asked me that question? Well, they haven't. Not my mother, not my father, not my sisters. Adam doesn't have to - he gets it all dumped on him regularly.
Actually it isn't an easy question to answer.
What has been my experience? It changes every day.
There has been a soul crushing numbness. A ten foot thick concrete wall that inched down between me and the rest of the world. I couldn't hear them, I could reach them and after beating my head against the wall for a time I stopped trying because it hurt.
Some days you wake up to the feeling of a million tiny weights that have been attached to your body overnight. You cannot shake them - you have NO strength.
Some days everything is too much - you are an exposed nerve and the slightest breath of air is excruciating.
Some days there are multiple panic attacks, agoraphobia and the certainty that you are the worst mother in the history of the universe.
Some days you think you're fine and that everything has been going well, until you realize that you have been crying for the past four hours.
These are the examples that come to mind right now. There are other things, I'm sure. My brain doesn't work as quickly as it used to and part of my symptoms is light memory loss.
In short? It is hell. At what was supposed to be the happiest time of my life I was plunged directly into Hell and I have been clawing my way out ever since. I have recently come to the realization that I may never fully escape. I may live my life on the rim of the pit. Guess what else I've realized? I AM STRONG ENOUGH TO DO THAT.
What helps me: The love and joy with which my baby boy greets each day. The love of Adam. Loving them back. Zoloft. Every single day. Therapy. Every single week. Exercise - three to six times a week. Writing to you all. Knowing that you are reading. An amazing group of friends, both in real life and online, that make me laugh and give me unwavering support.
My experience is, I'm sure, both extremely familiar to and radically different from the experiences of every other mother who deals with this disease. The things that help me may not help someone else. This is an intensely personal and baffling war to wage.
When I started this blog I needed somewhere I could 'sound my barbaric yawp' in the world. Screaming in my head wasn't very productive. Then I wanted to reach out to other families affected by PPD/A/P. I never wanted to be the face of this disease. I never wanted to be the spokesperson or to have my identity consumed by it.
And yet... there is so much ignorance and misinformation out there surrounding mental illness and motherhood. I cannot stay silent. It isn't who I am. I am the best mother for my child. He is thriving and happy. There is nothing about my disease that makes me a bad mother. Making statements that imply otherwise does a serious disservice to every person with a mental health illness on this planet.