The Best Of Submommy

Remembering the Pain of Postpartum Depression

postpartum depressionRemembering Postpartum Depression

We were digging through a drawer looking for something in our bedroom this weekend, and underneath the junk in the junk drawer, a piece of paper with my handwriting on it caught my eye. I didn’t recognize the paper at first, so I couldn’t remember how it got there or what was written on it.

I pulled it out of the drawer and then sunk down to the bed when I saw the date: 8/1/03.

I knew exactly what was on it. A long-ago forgotten letter I had written to myself when our daughter was 11 months old. This was during the peak of my lingering bout of postpartum depression. All the feeling I poured out into this letter is totally foreign to me now. And yet, at the same time, achingly familiar.

“8/1/03

It’s been a really long time since I kept a journal. I started on my first journal (that were written in non-third grader complete sentences) here in 1986. I was 16. I kept them for several years – through college and even a little beyond, but stopped in about 1995. I just lost the desire to write about my life. When I look back on those journals, especially the early ones, I kind of laugh. It was pretty much all about boys. I wrote down poems that I liked, and song lyrics, too. Sometimes other writers could express the feelings that I was feeling.

A LOT has changed since I last kept a journal. It’s some of these changes that are compelling me to start again. I’m married to a wonderful man, and we have a little girl. She will be one in three weeks. To say that becoming a mother has changed our lives is probably the understatement of the century. I knew that I wanted a child, but I was unprepared for the rigors of what being a parent entails. It’s changed everything. I love my daughter more than anything. She is so beautiful and sweet natured. What I’m struggling with right now is that I feel somewhat like I’ve lost a sense of myself. I’m not working right now – I’ve taken the last year off. I’m finding that my days stretch out in front of me. As much as I hate to admit this, being with her is boring for me sometimes. I crave company.

Here’s the problem: I don’t have a job to focus on, I’m not a big hobby person, and I’m finding it difficult to NOT feel sort of lost. [My husband] has hobbies that take him away from home, like waterskiing, golf, etc. I don’t. I like to exercise, and want to focus on that, but I have to find childcare, which is a big pain. Juggling her schedule can be tough, too. I look at these obstacles and talk myself out of doing things that make me more ME. The weight of the responsibility feels very heavy.”

What I couldn’t find the words for, or maybe couldn’t handle seeing written on black and white, was the conflict I could feel tearing me apart inside. I had everything I had ever wanted, really. Why did I feel so trapped and heavy? Why did I feel so sad?

Shortly after writing this, I basically hit bottom. I went for several days either crying or nearly crying. I had intrusive thoughts about escaping. I knew I needed help, so I made an appointment with my doctor. I told her, weeping, “I have everything I’ve ever wanted. Why do I feel like this?” She handed me a tissue and told me, “Because you’re depressed, and it’s not your fault.” We talked some more, and then I agreed to start taking antidepressant medication and come back for follow-up.

Within a few weeks, the fog had begun to lift, and I started to make a plan. I realized that prior to the medication, I wasn’t even able to make a plan. I was stuck.

How did I get myself back? Medication, more exercise, a part-time job that involved doing something I used to love but had lost in the preceding years (singing) and that’s what started the slow but steady climb out. Looking back, I know that it was the combination of those things that began my rise out of the dark.

Thirteen years later, sitting on the edge of my bed remembering the pain in my words, I got a sense of just how far I had come. The next years weren’t without setbacks, to be sure, but I am healed. I may have times of sadness and depression again, but the difference today is that I know what to do about it: lean on my tribe. Take action. Ask for help. Reclaim something that I enjoy. Ignore the voice in my head lying to me, telling me “I can’t.”

I can. And I did.

If you’re reading this and think you may need some help, you’re not alone. Here is a link to resources. Please reach out. You are NOT “crazy” and there is help. 

Serve Humbly Where You Are

serve humbly where you areStanding by the sink, water running, dishes overflowing onto the counter, I felt physically sick. Not because of the dried up nasty that awaited, but because this household task was getting the better of me. My brain screamed, “I DO NOT WANT TO DO THIS AGAIN TODAY. OR TOMORROW.”

Serve humbly where you are.

Several years ago, I was working part time at a place where one of the full-time employees was really unhappy with the way things were going. She and I were talking, and she said “I just need to tell myself ‘serve humbly where you are.’ I have a job and a lot to be thankful for.”

It’s a simple statement that took root in my mind and altered my attitude toward tasks many consider drudgery, and situations that make a person feel trapped and stuck.

I will never, ever forget it. “Serve humbly where you are.” There is something about repeating it in my head that opens up a hole in the dark and lets light seep in; when I feel overwhelmed, when I have a burning desire to escape whatever task is waiting for me that I dread. I repeat it in my head when I begin to think to myself, “If I have to ______ one more time, I might implode.” I stop myself before I go reeling to the light-less place of self-pity and think: Serve humbly where you are.

The dishes are part of a bigger picture. The non-stop bickering of my kids is a link in a long chain. The bills, the yard, the mortgage, the car….they’re all part of a life we have built; a life that requires maintenance.

A beautiful life requires the ugly – but momentary – task of taking stinky garbage out to the curb and scrubbing the toilet. Because when I dig in and do what needs to be done, I’m providing my beautiful life the maintenance it requires.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave

One from my Random Thoughts blog. I still feel this way.

I *knew* when the church doors opened and the music started to play I was in the right place at the right time with the right person. The last 16 years hasn’t always been easy, but it’s always been worth every minute.

The Day I Knew He Wouldn’t Leave.

My Grandma died in 1997. I had been dating Capt. for less than a year.

At that point, we were still kind of tiptoeing around each other. Neither one of us were the “fall fast fall hard” types, and I wasn’t sure if I could REALLY honestly believe that he would be there when I needed him. I’d been disappointed so often before with others bailing out or making an excuse when I was having a hard time, I had trouble even contemplating he might be different. So, I kept asking him, “Are you coming with me?” And he would say, “Yes.”

Then he got sick. Like, barely lift his head off the pillow sick. The fear I was going to have to go through this incredibly emotional experience without him was growing. All I knew was I really wanted him there. We had only recently said, “I love you,” and I was hoping against hope he was the last man I would say it to.

I struggled with myself in the days leading up to the funeral. He had been passing all my little tests thus far. Tests like, “how will he do when he meets my parents?” And, “how will he do during my family Thanksgiving?” With flying colors.

So here we were. One of my most beloved grandparents was gone. I missed her terribly, and really wanted him to be there. I knew I felt stronger with him near me.

The morning of the funeral came, and he showed up at my apartment, wearing a suit, eyes watering, stuffy nose, miserable, and there for me.

It was a turning point for me. After that I really let my guard down with him and allowed myself to fully trust his word. He was there for me. He didn’t try to run when things got hard. No excuses why he couldn’t be there. He’s been there ever since, and I’m so thankful.