Always Fighting To See The Light: My Battle With Depression and Postpartum Depression
depression |dəˈpreSH(ə)n| noun
1 feelings of severe despondency and dejection. self-doubt creeps in and that swiftly turns to depression.
This is a subject that is very personal to me, and very hard for me to discuss with just anyone, let alone everyone. My fear of rejection, judgement, and water cooler whispers have stopped me from sharing my story in the past, but it is also what is driving me to post this now. It has taken me thirty-three years to get here, but I’ve finally reached the “take it or leave it,” part of my life. So, I’m hoping that someone will find comfort in my battles and pain and focus on the light that is always trying to find its way through the cracks. For those of you lucky enough to have made it through life without truly feeling depressed, I hope that you too can benefit from my words. Use this as a beginner’s guide to understanding that certain someone in your life that needs your support today, and every day. Here goes nothing, here goes everything…
Everyone who has battles with depression has had to figure out what it means to them and how it will effect their lives on their own terms. I feel like there isn’t one clear definition or meaning of what depression truly is. The textbook definition does not do it justice, and it makes it harder for people who have never felt it, to sympathize with the people who have. It isn’t something you can touch, hold in your hands or buy, it is something that just takes over your entire body with little to no consent. It comes in all shades and colors and it does not discriminate on gender, race, religion, sexuality or nationality. It finds a host and latches on to your hopes, dreams, rationality and self-esteem and feeds on it like a predator to its prey. Everyone who has felt the heaviness of depression knows that it is also something that doesn’t have one clear remedy. Each individual needs to find out which “prescription” will work best for their case and finding what works for you is another battle in itself. I have struggled with depression my entire life. For most of my family members and friends, this is the first time you are hearing about this. It’s not something that I use as a conversation starter or introduction, and I typically leave my depression pin at home in a box with my other secrets. So, if this is coming to you as a surprise, don’t worry; take a breath, keep reading, we’ll get through this one together.
Throughout my life I’ve tried to talk to some people about my issues, but since I’m considered “high functioning” I don’t think people truly took it as seriously as they probably should have. I always felt like my immediate family members just assumed I was a “bitchy” female, and that could be a clear assumption considering I was called a moody bitch throughout my entire childhood. I lost count to the number of times I was asked why I had a “Cara de Mierda” by my Mother. Which literally translates to, “Why do you have a shit face?” My shit face has gotten me into a lot of trouble with my family members in the past, because it comes off as bitchy, snobby, thoughtless, unbothered, annoyed and overall shitty I suppose. The truth is folks, I was fuckin’ depressed! I was just trying to go through the motions on a daily basis without getting into trouble for just feeling the way I did. It was so difficult growing up having these feelings, in a family where depression was thought of as a joke, an excuse or simply just laziness. Now that I’m somewhat of an adult, I can see why it is so hard for my family to truly understand me. It is hard to understand something you don’t believe in. It isn’t that they didn’t believe in me, well at least I hope that isn’t the case. They just don’t believe in depression. Just like people don’t believe in global warming, scientific theories, and religion, my family does not believe in depression. I’ve heard comments from my family members specifically describing people with postpartum depression as being a “fake disease.” “She’s just being lazy and doesn’t want to take care of her kids.” or “It’s ridiculous, she needs to just get over it.” For someone who has been depressed or has gone through postpartum depression those comments are deafening. How can I explain to my own family how I’m feeling when they think its just a joke? So, I did my best to just get out alive; I went to school, did my extracurriculars, laughed and smiled for photo-ops, and handled my feelings as best as I could. If my own family wouldn’t understand, why would anyone else? It took me going away to college to really understand how different I was compared to my family. I was raised by a group of people who are so irrationally confident, that there was no room for someone like me. It’s like the gene pool was exhausted in shelling out exaggerated confidence for everyone who came before me, that when it finally came to me there was none left to give. They are the kind of people who will tell you to “Just get over it!” Not realizing that most times, that wasn’t an option for me. I wasn’t like them and I never will be, and thats okay.
Through my twenties my battle was hard with depression, always barely keeping my head above water. To everyone on the outside I looked like the typical twenty-something maneuvering through life. That is what is different about the type of depression I have. I went to school, I went to work, I hung out with friends, I had boyfriends, and did “normal” things. High functioning. They didn’t know how much I cried when I was alone, they didn’t know that I couldn’t sleep at night thinking about how much of a disappointment I felt I was. They didn’t know that I tried to hurt myself to get my mind focused on another kind of pain or that I once held a gun in my hand… Through it all, fortunately, there was always a voice inside of me who was clearly on my side. Scaring me out of doing what I thought I wanted to do. Somehow I always managed to get through the dark days, and I made it here. In my late twenties I finally started snapping out of my funk a lot quicker than usual. Whether it was talking to friends, being away from my family and independent again or God, I finally got my emotions under control. Maybe it was just the fact that I was better acquainted with the animal inside me trying to ruin my life and I knew how to handle her, for the most part.
Now, I’m a wife, and a Mother and I’ve never felt happiness like I do now in my entire life. Still, there are days that I fight with myself to make sure that I don’t let myself drown. Months will go by and I’m perfectly normal, or my version of it. I have everything I could have ever hoped and dreamed for, and there are still some days when I get so down I don’t even want to get out of bed. If it weren’t for me having to take care of my little girl or go to work, I’d stay in bed all day. The biggest fear now is disappointing my husband or failing my daughter because of my depression. I had a rough pregnancy, and I had already felt the depression kicking in before I even gave birth. My doctor even recommended that I start taking medication a month or two before my little girl came out. Although the doctor and my research assured me that the baby would be fine, I didn’t want to take any chances. So, I did nothing. I took nothing. Every single day of my pregnancy I threw up. Sometimes just once, most days after every meal. I had so many issues and was in so much pain every day, towards the end I wasn’t even sure I wanted to be a Mother anymore. I was afraid that I wasn’t going to be able to love my daughter because of how miserable I felt and how down I had become. The last few weeks of my pregnancy was the roughest time of my life. Every day was a complete nightmare, and then I finally went into labor on Christmas day in 2015. I was in labor for 36 hours, got a fever, the baby got a fever, there was a panic, and I even threw up twenty minutes before she came out. My daughter finally made her debut on December 27th, and the second they put her in my arms nothing else mattered. Her warm, chubby little body, her cry, her fingers and tiny toes was everything that I ever needed.
A couple of days passed and I thought that I was fine, but underneath all the winter layers, the nursing, the photos, and infant struggles there was something brewing inside me. It is the killer of all dreams, and the reason for most of my issues, it was self-doubt. My self-doubt mixed in with the stress of being a new Mother turned into postpartum depression in a hurry. Now, coming from a family who judges women who struggle with postpartum depression you can understand why I was hesitant to share my story. Not only my family, but society judges women who don’t have rainbows coming out of their asses because they are now Mothers. We are expected to forget our old selves, smile, bounce back and be Mother of the year without a complaint. How can we be depressed if we just gave birth to our little bundles of joy? I love my daughter more than I could love anything, ever… She gives me so much love and happiness and I’m here to tell you that I can still get very depressed. This isn’t about how much we love or don’t love our babies or how grateful or ungrateful we are about our lives. This is about a light switch inside of us that just turns itself on and off, and we just do our best to keep it all together.
A woman’s life completely changes after having a baby. Her body, her health, her routine, her sanity. There are things that are happening in my head that I can’t even verbalize. My mind is going through a million and one things, and with every thought there is a new worry. Then add the responsibility of taking care of a child, working, taking care of your home, husband and every day adult responsibilities. For someone like me, who can easily get depressed it is a recipe for disaster. I find it interesting that we are all so obsessed with pregnant women, asking if they need anything, asking to carry things for them, touching them, showering them with gifts, support and love. We tell them that they look so beautiful, they are glowing, and are these amazing superheroes in human form. Then, as soon as she does the hardest thing she will ever have to do, labor… everyone could care less about what is going on with your emotions or lady parts, all they care about is the baby or why Mommy hasn’t shed the baby weight. Then, if you are lucky enough to have a halfway decent husband he’s all of the sudden Mother Freakin’ Theresa in male form to everyone you know. “Oh my God, he changes diapers? Give him a Nobel Peace Prize!” How about the woman whose bones and limbs literally just parted to give life? She’s all of the sudden supposed to snap back, smile, act like she’s just won the love lottery and her feelings and emotions don’t even matter. She must be happy, back in her old jeans, and screaming from the rooftops that she has a baby and her husband is helpful. Now, if a woman is feeling down, is getting overwhelmed with feelings of self doubt and is depressed she’s the worst freakin’ Mother on the face of the Earth. “She does’t even deserve a baby!” Actual quote that I’ve heard about a woman going through postpartum depression.
I had my daughter in the dead of winter. My maternity leave was cold, snowy, and dark. Days would go by and I wouldn’t even leave our bedroom. My husband brought up my meals, and I binge watched Netflix like it was my job, all while nursing and holding my little girl. I took photos of her every day and would send them to family and friends, but I was completely alone. We live states away from our family. We had little to no visitors, and my husband when he isn’t traveling is working out of his office downstairs. It was just me, the baby, the snoring dog and my wandering thoughts of failure, anxiety, and deep depression to keep me company. I couldn’t tell people the way I truly felt because I’d be labeled a bad mother. I’d be a “lazy” mom who didn’t want to do anything. There were days where I felt okay, it wasn’t all doom and gloom, but it was difficult for me to keep my head above water. My doctor didn’t even give me a choice, I had to go to therapy at least once a week, starting immediately. I went to three sessions and it turned out being the biggest waste of my time. Time I could have spent cuddling with my baby girl, at home, in my room, in my safe space. I got absolutely nothing out of it. I got more out of talking to a friend over the phone or sharing my feelings with my husband than spending almost $200 an hour for someone to tell me that they think I was a “high functioning manic depressive” who needed to be in therapy. The thing is my husband hasn’t had a depressing day in his life. It’s hard for him to understand it when I get down. He tries to “fix” it, when it is something he can’t fix. It is something inside of me that eventually I have to talk myself out of, and somehow I always do.
Throughout my life I’ve become so good at pretending I’m okay that at times I can trick myself. I can trick myself and feel like I deserve this life, I deserve him, and I deserve that beautiful little girl. Maybe it isn’t a trick, maybe I do find myself being “okay.” Then on bad days I wake up and automatically feel like they deserve better than what they got with me. Its a constant battle I go through and I don’t know if it will ever fully go away. There are days, sometimes months that go by and I get a surge of confidence and I forget about the animal inside me that feeds off my happiness and my self-worth. She falls dormant to the light in my life, I have so much light. Then someone will say something that triggers her. She wakes up and wreaks havoc on my emotions and my motivation and my will to live. It physically hurts, I feel sick, my stomach hurts, I feel all the weight of my failures on top of me all at once and my mind and heart start the battle with the animal inside me just trying to make it through the storm. On my bad days it doesn’t matter how much light is coming through the windows when my skin is too numb to feel its warmth. Then, at the end of the day, or week, or month I somehow wakeup and I can finally feel the light. With the only person knowing I even skipped a beat being my husband, until now.
Unfortunately, there is no moral to this story, other than the fact that I exist in this reality and that I am a good Mother, a good wife, and a good person. My depression and my demons don’t define me, no mater how hard they try to. The fact is, people like me exist. We aren’t a punchline, we aren’t lazy, and we aren’t seeking attention. We are just going through a battle you cannot see, and fighting with demons you cannot understand. When you start to judge a man or woman for being depressed because they are having a hard time, and for not being able to get over something as quickly as you do, think about the words I just placed in front of you. I’m your daughter, I’m your sister, I’m your niece, I’m your friend, I’m your co-worker, I’m your neighbor. Just because you may not understand what I go through doesn’t mean I don’t exist. Think about your words, and your judgements before you verbalize them. Everyones level of depression is different, and some may not be able to take your judgements and your lack of support. I am just fortunate enough to have this tiny voice inside of me pulling for me a little louder than the one who is constantly trying to tear me down. I am fortunate enough to have found a handful of people who do get me, and help me regain my confidence and my nerve. I am fortunate enough to have a husband who would move mountains for me, just to see me smile. I am however, most fortunate to have a little girl who thinks I’m hilarious, who thinks I’m her personal body pillow and jungle gym. A little girl who wants nothing more than to hold my hand, sit on my lap, and read her books all day long. She is the reason I force myself get out of that bed every day, when all I want to do is disappear. Everyone who struggles doesn’t always look like your definition of depression. Remember that the next time you are out in the world, and remember what Auntie Ellen says, “Be kind to one another.”