Perspective. Can you have perspective on an issue when you are in the middle of it? I have struggled with the answer to this for several weeks. This is why I haven't posted. I kept hoping I would emerge and then I could look back and discuss with all of you how it was. But, sadly, I am still stuck.
Where am I stuck you ask? Somewhere between a fabulously productive mom of two under two and a depressed and anxiety filled woman struggling to keep it all together. I am almost 3 months postpartum and it is clear that this isn't just going to "go away".
I am working on it though. I am seeing a therapist, a psychiatrist, and doing some daily work at home. But these are the details that don't seem right to share right now. What if the work I am doing now doesn't help? What if someone reads this post and thinks this is the right way to go about dealing with depression and anxiety and really I am way off base? (I don't think I am, but I hope you understand my concern.)
So what should I write about then? Do I put on a happy face and write about all the cool things that Superman and Mr. T are doing? Sure, I think this would be good for me. I have almost posted so many things on my Facebook wall, but then think, "This isn't me. This doesn't represent who I am right now." It all just seems fake.
Fake. I am a faker. That saying, "fake it till you make it" seems really appropriate for me right now. The people that I am around most of the time would have no idea that I am suffering if I hadn't told them (and the people I hardly know certainly don't know anything is wrong). I put on a smile and go on with my life. I am productive. I am finding joy in life. I am living. But it takes everything I have to make it through the day.
So maybe the best, most helpful thing to write about would be how I feel right now.
This depression threw me for a loop. I was expecting the postpartum anxiety because I had it postpartum with Superman. I was not expecting to be so exhausted that I wanted to sleep or lie on the couch all the time. I was not expecting to be so short-tempered and impatient that I felt like I was going to lose it if I didn't step away. I began to believe that my toddler was intentionally making my life difficult. That he was getting back at me for leaving him with my mom or sending him to daycare or just not being there for him. It wasn't till I started attaching these very grown-up actions and emotions to him that I realized that maybe something else was going on.
I just want to pause here and say that (believe it or not), my past depression came in handy here. I was able to recognize that my toddler can't have these adult emotions and that I was attaching this emotion to him AND it wasn't real.
As I found myself wanting/needing a lot more sleep than might be expected, I began to worry that if I gave into that sleep, I would start falling into a deeper depression. To be honest, I suppose I still feel this way.
In order to stop myself from "slipping" I forced myself to get out of the house. We had something to do outside of the house every morning. We would go to the grocery store a lot. We had more play dates than we used to. We'd do anything I could think of to avoid spending any extended time at the house. The more I did this though, the bigger the fear became that if I stay home, my world as I know it would crumble away. I would lose it all.
Then one day, about 2 weeks ago, Superman woke up from his nap and we went into the playroom to play while I fed Mr. T. He began playing independently and the next thing I knew it was almost dinner time. We had survived. The next several days were the same. We played at the house and I stopped feeling the strong urge to run from the house as soon as the boys were awake.
Problem solved, right? Nope. Now I hate leaving the house. I just don't have the energy to deal with it all. It is so much work and I am worried that the kids are going to lose it in the middle of the store or that I am going not be able to meet their needs out and about. It all feels too overwhelming. In fact I have needed to get to the store for a week and I keep making up excuses for why I haven't gone. I can't even blame the kids. My in-laws were here this past week and I still only ran part of the errands I needed to run because I just couldn't do it. I couldn't get out the door.
I think a lot of people think depression is all about not stop crying and hopelessness. For many, this may be exactly what it is. But for me, I have moments of clarity where I can see things somewhat logically, almost as if I am looking in on the situation from the outside. Sometimes, I do have enough perspective to see the whole picture. Because of this, I don't feel hopeless most of the time. Sure sometimes I feel like I will never pull myself together and get passed this, but I know that this is not the case. History tells me that this is not the case. (Part of my therapy is about challenging my beliefs by looking at what history tells me. Does history support my fear? Do I have evidence that this will happen?)
As far as the crying goes, well I envy those that can cry. I am so afraid that if I start crying that I might never stop (sure I will stop, I know that I will, but I am still fearful of it). I am afraid that I will be viewed as weak, as incompetent, as unable to take care of my children. I am afraid that I will have to go on stronger meds and not be able to breastfeed. I am afraid that my life as I know it will be taken from me against my will. I am working on reminding myself that I am not anywhere close to having any of these things happen. I tell myself that it is okay to be afraid, but history shows me that these things aren't likely. So I have begun to let the tears sneak out. I figure the more times I cry and then stop crying, the more reinforcement I will have that I will be okay.
In the beginning, as I became more aware of my depression, I was grateful that I had been spared the postpartum anxiety. Unfortunately, aspects of my depression lent themselves to cause my anxiety to reemerge (being afraid of leaving the home and crying as two examples). In part 2 I will talk about the anxiety that I am dealing with.
Note: I hope this helpful to someone. I hope that someone reads this and says, "hey, someone else feels like this too?" and knows that they are not alone. If you know someone that might be suffering, reach out to them, not in judgement, but in love. Help them understand that not only is there a great support system out there for people dealing with depression and anxiety, but it will not last forever. Thank you.
Postpartum Support International
Six Things You Should Avoid If You Have Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
Six Stages of Postpartum Depression
(The webpage associated with the last two links seems to have some great articles that are worth reading.)