Some of the bigger posts on this blog have been a result of me experiencing something while I was pregnant or postpartum that I wished I had known more about before it happened. I usually felt like some of the harder or less pleasant experiences would have been made a little bit easier if I felt I had someone that could relate, or if I had more of an idea of what to expect. So, here we are again. I’d like to share the reason for my over one month long absence from writing.
Postpartum depression was not something that I realized could set in once you hit a certain point in your postpartum timeline. I don’t know what that point was, in my mind. But I felt like I had gotten far past it and was all in the clear. February was one of the best months I have had since August was born. I felt like I really knew my baby and that I had a pretty good handle on how to deal with the day-to-day of being a stay at home mom. I was also ON POINT with my diet and exercise. I was being active most nights a week and paying attention to what I was eating. I was seeing the results on the scale, in my clothes, and in my energy and strength levels. I felt productive, I felt accomplished, I felt confident, and I felt happy. February was fantastic.
Not far into March, all of this stopped. I stopped exercising, without much of a reason why. I stopped paying much attention to what I was eating. My sleep habits became very disrupted. I was waking up several times a night, worrying about things that 100% did not matter. Then I stopped doing the little things. I wasn’t making it out of the house very often. I was canceling plans and blaming a pretend stomach bug or headache or imaginary crazy day with an imaginary difficult baby. I started giving those same excuses to Adam when he would come home from work and I hadn’t changed out of my pajamas or brushed my teeth. I kept telling myself that it was my ADD, that I hadn’t been back on my medication since August was born and of course I was being lazy. It was just my inability to focus. But then the crying started.
There was a lot of crying. I would spend most of the day with a tight, anxious feeling in my chest. I was experiencing this bottomless sadness that would cause me to sob worse than I had in years. It was the kind of crying I had only experienced when a loved one died. And it would go on for hours. During all of this, I kept being afraid that I was going to have some kind of negative effect on August. I felt like it was inevitable that he was going to absorb some of this sadness. But at my worst, he would sit in my lap, smile at me, and hold his hand up at my face. And then I would cry harder, because this happy moment wasn’t giving me even a spark of happy feelings. I kept recognizing that I was experiencing happy things, but they weren’t giving me a happy feeling, or really any feeling at all. It became really difficult just to force the muscles in my face to smile back at my baby. I have never, in my entire life, felt such a flat, empty darkness.
My brain felt like it stopped functioning properly. Presented with a simple decision, like choosing between two restaurants for dinner, reduced me to tears in seconds. And it wasn’t even like I was having a hard time weighing my options. It felt like the two choices were coming from the person presenting them, flying towards my head, and hitting a wall. They couldn’t even make it in there for me to think about them. And I was having instances several times a day where I would be trying to complete a thought while speaking to someone, and completely lose track of what I was saying. And then more crying would happen because that gets really frustrating when it happens for the fifth time in one day. Doing almost anything took an enormous amount of effort. Just the thought of doing something as simple as getting dressed to leave the house would leave me sitting on the floor, feeling crushed under the weight of this simple task that wouldn’t take me more than five minutes if I actually got up to complete it.
Through all of this, I was still lucky. A lot of moms with PPD don’t have the will to do anything at all, including doing the basic things to take care of their baby. I did not experience that. August may have been in his pajamas with me, but he was always fed, changed, clean, and cared for. I wasn’t able to do much playing, but I could sit with him on the floor and change out his toys, shake a stuffed animal at him, or flip through a book. He never seemed distressed by the state I was in, and I am very, very grateful for that.
Another thing I am really glad that I was able to do, was that as soon as the ridiculous crying started, I made a lot of phone calls. I was sobbing hysterically, but I was dialing every person I thought could help me, because I knew this was absolutely not normal. I called my husband, my therapist, my mother, my sisters, and my doctor. My therapist and my doctor soon both diagnosed me with postpartum depression, and told me that PPD can set in as late as six months, and sometimes even later.
Then came trying to fix it. I could find Where’s Waldo in a sea of bespeckled hipsters in knit caps before I could find a psychiatrist that took insurance and could see me before May. Some couldn’t fit me in until July. And those were the ones that actually returned my calls. I would just like to raise a big, enormous, blinking-neon What In the Fuck about that for a moment. I knew that I needed medication, and wanted to start as soon as possible. I would have lit my hair on fire if I thought it would help me feel something good at this point. I’m still trying to find a doctor that can treat me, and may soon just tell my general practitioner to write me up some drugs because I don’t want to go through to all over again, ever.
But, just as my depression had faded in, it started to go away. I started to notice that on the days that I was able to get out of the house in the morning, I wouldn’t experience a big low for the rest of the day. So, I would push myself to make it out, even to just drive around with August during his morning nap. Before long, I was feeling happy feelings again. I wasn’t crying everyday. I was smiling back at my baby without having to think about it.
There’s not much else that I can write on this, beyond just my, in retrospect, very short experience. A lot of women experience much worse for much longer than I did. But this was a story I felt was important to share. Even if it isn’t a story that particularly reaches or helps anyone, it’s important to discuss. Postpartum depression is something I know that I should feel no shame over having gone through. But, it was a lot harder and scarier to write about than “Hey guys, I peed my pants again.” And, unlike all of my fluid stories, (those are great, I know) I want you to talk to me about this. If I know you in real life, if I have never met you, if you’re some weirdo that looks in my window to watch me put on socks. If you want to talk about it, I want to talk about it. I felt really lucky that I had a few people I could talk to openly. I really wish that wasn’t something to feel lucky about.