I wrote this several months ago, and never got around to posting. I have never really hidden the fact that I have struggled, sometimes more mightily than others, with depression. It has been a part of me for a long time. I try to focus my best on the positive on my social media and to other people, mostly not because I am ashamed of my depression, but I feel it combats those horrible thoughts when I try to focus on all the good I have around me.
But depression is incredibly draining. I have been focusing on my mental and physical health, and just keeping the day-to-day needs going (like caring for two children). So things, like this blog, have gone on the way side. I am hoping that I am turning a corner, that things will change, and I will be able to take joy again in my crafts and cooking and all those extra things. Since I have been focusing so much on my physical health, I think that has helped with my mental mindset a little. I am hoping that shift will continue to change towards the positive so I can be more active on here again.
Anyways, without futher ado, writing from the Elisabeth of 7 months ago:
As I sit here with a sweet, tiny, little baby boy on my chest, I have a dark secret. The soft puffs of my 4-week-old son’s baby breath tickle my neck, while my toddler sits on my lap, engaged by the TV. It’s a rare peaceful moment, a moment of beauty; the kind other mothers are constantly telling you to cherish because you’ll blink, and then suddenly the kids are off to college.
But it’s not always possible to enjoy and cherish every moment, especially with postpartum depression.
Today is a pretty good day so far. The depression is more of a haze. It lightly lingers in the air; you can see it is there, but it doesn’t dramatically alter your course. We will go play outside before it gets too hot, and then I will try a few other tricks to keep the toddler entertained until nap time. After nap time, it’s only a few more hours before my husband makes it home and I won’t be so alone anymore. I feel the haze in my impatience with my toddler; the ease which my irritability rises, but I can check it. I can recognize it for what it is.
It’s not always this good. Some days, it’s a thick, heavy fog. The kind of dark storm where you can hardly see your own fingers raised inches in front of your face. I have never personally tried swimming in syrup, but I image the sensation would be the same; the extra exertion just to move your limbs, desperation to keep your head afloat, while everything around you sticks to you and feels a hundred times heavier than they should. Every negative thing said to you in the last week reverberates through your skull, and you beat yourself up for every action you could have handled better.
Some days, as my baby cries, I sob right along with him. I apologize that my kids are stuck with ME. So flawed, so imperfect. I apologize that I just don’t know what else to do as they cry in my arms; how much better things would be if they had somebody, anyone, really, better than me to care for them.
Every thought is distorted and twisted so far that I truly feel like my family would be better off if I just disappeared, or stopped existing.
That’s ridiculous, of course. On a day like today, it’s easy to see. My family needs me. They want me here. They love me, despite all my flaws. My daughter doesn’t understand why Mommy is so sad, and does her best to deal with the emotions that emanate from me, even when I try so hard to hide them to protect her. My husband does understand, and tries to help where he can.
It hasn’t been such a shock like the first time; a time that according to the textbooks, the parenting websites, and Facebook, should be the happiest, was one of the darkest six months of my life as I dealt with a baby who hardly slept, and when she was awake, she screamed and cried endlessly, even with rocking, feeding, changing, swinging. (She happened to find the best time to do this was from about 10PM-2AM every night. For months.) Even with treatment for her acid reflux, she still was a very vocal baby. This was all on top of my own recovery, which did not go as smoothly as I would have hoped.
I’m lucky, in a way. I’ve suffered with depression and self-esteem issues for most of my life, so I knew I was a higher risk for PPD. Especially with my second baby, my husband and I have been taking extra precautions, extra care, trying extra natural solutions from early on to help fight back that heavy fog. This time, so far, this baby’s personality is much different, and I am getting more than a hour or two of sleep a day. It’s amazing how different their personalities are, and how much that has an affect on me (this time, making it a little easier).
PPD still lingers, though. You probably wouldn’t talk to me face to face and guess, unless you asked me outright. I know other moms that have suffered, and like me, they put on a good face to the world. They don’t want to force their pain on others, for whatever the reason may be.
You never know what trial another person is suffering as they try to go throughout their own day. You don’t know what sort of cross they have been asked to bear as they try to do the best they can for themselves and their loved ones.
So please, THINK. Be kind. Offer others the benefit of the doubt. Serve them with actions before words. It doesn’t have to be much. A kind smile, a treat, a hug, can be a huge blessing for somebody who is suffering from depression, just to let them know you remember them, that they matter in some way. The advice, or “words of wisdom” that you dish out to others may do more harm, cause more feelings of guilt for somebody who is already trying their best just to make it through a minute at a time.