My struggle with postpartum depression
*warning: I say shit a lot
I wasn't sure I would ever open up about my mental health struggles. I'm a very reserved person and I rarely let people get even a glimpse into the darker parts of my personality. Call it insecurities, shyness, introversion...whatever. I'm a pretty private person and I prefer to do my suffering alone. I was a teenager in the 90's-we perfected the art of the silent brood, before there was social media or even blogs to publicize everything that was going on in our heads.
As my son's first birthday approaches, there is a glaring reality facing me. I missed it. AGAIN. I missed my child's first year. Again. Dammit. I was gone. I mean, physically I was there. But mentally I checked out right around the 6 week mark. I remember because some really awful things happened to me right around that point and I had the wind knocked out of me. And it was like a switch. I just checked out. The clouds rolled in and I felt that familiar suffocating feeling I knew all too well.
I went into this pregnancy knowing this was a possibility. I had struggled with my firstborn, Rayne, 12 years ago. Spent months wishing I was dead. Visualizing driving off cliffs, jumping out of windows with her in my arms, crashing into walls....it's a dark, scary place. I never wanted to revisit it. I recovered. I got strong. I overcame and pushed past.
In the early stages of my pregnancy with Lennox, I was open with my husband about my struggles before. I was open with my midwife. I planned a birth that was the total opposite of my previous induced hospital birth. I thought maybe I'd bond more with my baby if I had him at home, in the water....where I could experience birth in a whole new way. I would insist on nursing him since I bottle fed his sister. I had frequent open conversations with my husband about warning signs, how to help me and how to support me. I thought I was taking all the steps towards having a happy healthy relationship with my baby.
I should have known it wasn't that easy.
I should have known that all the planning in the world can't stop the mind from doing what it's predisposed to do.
The main difference this time around was that I was the sole income provider for my family. I had to function. I had to run a business. And I couldn't. I honestly don't know how I did. I would go days and days without opening my computer. Scared of angry clients that have waited too long for their pictures. Inquiries that had gone unnoticed. Orders that hadn't been placed. It was too much for me. I was suffocating.
And then there's my friends. I knew what they were saying about me. I'm a flake. I always cancel. It's true. I even spent $900 on a photo conference and I didn't go. Because I could barely leave the house to go the 7 miles to my studio, much less hop on a plane and fly across the country. My anxiety was debilitating. I cancel plans all the time. Because my depression is triggered so easily. I can be having a fine day and suddenly I'm in a ball of tears for seemingly no reason.
I've been a shitty friend. I've been a shitty sister. I've been a shitty business owner. I've been a shitty mom and wife.
And it's a cycle. I'm shitty because I'm depressed. But then I get depressed because I realize how shitty I am being. And it repeats and repeats.
This illness turns me into a horrible version of myself.
So here I am. My son turns one year old tomorrow. And I'm barely starting to feel the clouds lift. I'm starting to emerge from the shell that has been me for the last year. And I'm sad. Sad to have missed so much while I was drowning.
That's the cruel thing about time. It keeps going even when you're frozen.
But I can move forward from here. And love him as much as I'm able to right now. And maybe it's not as much as all the other moms out there. I'm not baking him homemade gluten free, sugar free "made with love" cupcakes for his big day. I didn't Pinterest all the ways to throw the perfect first birthday bash. Shit, in all honesty....he's not even getting a birthday party.
But I will celebrate him. And I'll celebrate me. Because he's here. And I'm still here with him. I can't wait to get to know him. I know I have catching up to do. And I'm looking forward to it.
To everyone who has been patient with me this past year while I struggled...I'm so thankful for you.