There’s a new button over there –>
It’s pretty colourful, you can’t miss it. It stems from this post by Toy With Me.
Ending the stigma on mental illnesses is a big thing for me. I have now been dealing with clinical depression for half my life. Sixteen years of ups and downs, sometimes sleeping all day, suicidal thoughts on a few occasions, lots of tears and self-blame and pain.
I’ve talked about here before. I’ve talked about my postpartum depression here before.
Mental illness has been a big part of my life, fighting it has been a focus. It’s been a long, long time.
I use this picture to remind me.
The very worst times of my life are those times when I have sat with my baby girl in my lap, weeping and apologizing to her.
It has happened three or four times, when I’m at the end of my rope and everything seems to be going wrong.
I cry and cry and can’t stop myself, and I apologize to her because she shouldn’t have to see me like that, she shouldn’t think at any point that she’s the one making me sad.
There has been no worse time in my life than when I go to see my baby girl because she is the one person that can make me happy all the time, no matter what, and when I sit with her I can’t help but cry because life is overwhelming me.
Some of my very worst moments are sitting in the dark holding my baby girl while she cries and cries and I can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. I hold her in my eyes and try everything I can think of to calm her but nothing works. I think of how tired I am and what I’m going to do if I can’t get her to stop.
Some of my very best moments are just sitting and watching my baby girl. Some of my very best moments are lying in bed and listening to her talk to herself or sing to herself over the monitor.
Some of my very best moments are when she calls for me and I can make it better.
I love my daughter more than I can ever describe. She’s smart and beautiful and she’s curious and she gives the world’s best hugs. I love her and I love being with her.
And there are nights like tonight when I just want her to go to sleep. I want to put her to bed and have her fall asleep and have time to myself, with quiet.
And the guilt washes over me.
I sit and listen to her and wait to see if she’ll wake up so I can go in and see her and prove that I do love her and I do want to take care of her. And I want to cry.
Life used to be easier. It didn’t matter if I stay up late on the weekend, or if Joe had to go out of town. It didn’t matter if one or the other of us had plans. It didn’t matter because we didn’t have this little person to think about – who is going to get up with her, who will take care of her, who will pick her up.
And I think of going back to the life we had before her, when things were simpler, less confusing and convoluted and my heart aches at the thought of not seeing her, not hugging her or talking to her or watching her. She is my whole being. Without her I would be less than half the person I was before her.
How is it possible to want to be with someone and away from them at the same time? Is this motherhood? This feeling torn in half all the time? No one told me about this. No one told me that so many of the tears would be mine.
I’m sad. I’m so sad right now that even a great big hug from two chubby little arms that feels better than any hug you’ve ever had can’t even break this mood.
I think this sadness stems from being tired. Even during nights that the kid doesn’t wake up I still do.
I feel teary. Little things affect me more than they should – Listening to my husband trying to convince the baby to just go to sleep, the fact that we were out of milk this morning. Two days ago I wound up sobbing because the baby was refusing to go to sleep, standing in her crib screaming and I just couldn’t go in to see her.
I’m frustrated and tired and sad.
It’s not just tired, it’s tired of feeling this way. It’s angry that after a few days of doing things maybe not right but better I feel so worn out. It’s been a week since I had a pop, I’ve only eaten homemade cookies in terms of sweets this week, I’ve been taking the stairs at work at least once a day. I’ve gotten on the treadmill a couple of times. I’ve worked my way through a to do list. I started a book that I’m really enjoying. I’ve been writing more and extending myself in ways I wouldn’t have been comfortable with in the past.
But when I sit and it’s just me and my brain and my body I don’t feel much good about anything.
Today, while driving out of the parking lot at Ikea, I had a flash of something. It wasn’t memory, it wasn’t real, it was something that my brain decided to show me – a possibility, a fear, something.
I was driving out of the Ikea parking lot with my daughter in the back seat, driving like we do all the time together, and my subconscious decided to show me something, decided to make me think about something. I pictured myself not looking the right way, I pictured a car backing out of a space too quickly, neither of us looking, I pictured it backing straight into the driver’s side of my car. I picture myself, slowly dying while my daughter screamed in the backseat. My brain forced me to think about my daughter, alone, crying, confused. My husband getting that phone call. Who would take care of her until he could get to her? Who would tell her everything was okay. No one can make her feel better the way I can. Mommy hugs, that’s all it takes.
It’s been a long time since I’ve had a flash like this. It was one of the first things I talked about with my doctor when I went to ask her to please, please put me back on my anti-depressants. I sat there in her office with my daughter, a newborn, in her bucket on the floor and I cried and begged for something to help me take better care of this little person. I didn’t even realize how much I loved her at that point, but I knew that all the people around me did, and I knew she was important.
Now she is my life, and this flash was infinitely more upsetting – because of the message it brought to me, and because it was so unexpected and unwelcome. I thought I was past this. I don’t want to go back to that place. As strange as it seems, I think it would be harder for me to handle it now, because then, at the start of it all, it was expected. I knew, going in, that I was going to have PPD. People surrounded me with care and worry. I was ready to ask for help.
Now, I feel as though I should be past this. It’s enough already. Look at this beautiful, vibrant, smart, funny, outgoing little girl I have in my life. She looks to me for everything, she loves me and I love her and enough with the bad stuff already. Can’t I have a little while just to enjoy us together?
I’ve been under stress lately – I’ve been sick for over a week now, Joe went away and I haven’t been sleeping well (and neither has the Baby Girl), there are a lot of things I’ve been wanting to do but just haven’t been able to, what with being sick and alone with the baby, who is starting to walk and get into even more mischief.
I’ve been having mood swings. I feel okay most of the time but I can get very angry or sometimes I feel like bursting into tears. I’ve been forgetting things and losing things.
I feel as though I’m going crazy.
And that feeling makes everything a little bit worse because I need to have control over something.
Lord knows I can’t control the baby. I can’t control the dog. I try to control the level of cleanliness in the house but I can’t stay on top of everything. I try to control my diet but that doesn’t work all the time, especially when I’m in moods like this.
Life is made all the more complicated by the fact that I am no longer on maternity leave – as of today I am officially on vacation instead of leave. I’ve started thinking about Christmas travel, which is rapidly approaching (and I’ve been doing my shopping), and when we get back from celebrating Christmas it will be the new year, and then one week of transitioning the baby to daycare and then back to work I go.
I’ve been off work for a year and it seems I remember so little of that time. It just doesn’t make any sense. My baby is almost a year old, and that just doesn’t make sense.
More importantly, we have so little time left just the two of us like this, and that just doesn’t make sense.
I’m so excited for her to be in daycare. She’s going to prosper spending time with another woman who can teach her different things, and three other kids all day who she can play with and learn from. At the same time I dread my transition from full time mom who gets to share all these great experiences with my daughter, I am excited about going back to work.
I’m excited to be doing something that engages different parts of my brain. I am excited to have people to talk to without have to plan specific times and places for play dates (but oh how I’m going to miss those play dates and the wonderful women I’ve met!). I’m excited at the possibility of new challenges.
And then there’s the guilt.
I never wanted to be a stay-at-home mom. Never. In fact, Joe and I talked about him taking paternity leave at one point so that I could keep working. The fact is that I haven’t loved every minute that I’ve spent with her this year, but the good has outweighed the bad in so many ways – it’s not even close. I can’t imagine having missed this time. I can’t imagine having not made these connections.
And maybe it will just teach me to relish every moment and remind myself, even in the times of whining and crankiness, that she’s something special and everything I do is for her.
There is a switch inside of me that gets flipped without me even realizing what happened.
It’s as though I hit just that point of tired or hungry or frustrated or sad or all of the above and I transform like the Hulk.
I hear myself getting angry. I hear myself saying things that aren’t completely true. I hear all of my frustration from hours or days flowing out of me in a mean, sometimes incomprehensible way.
It shakes me. I don’t always recognize myself and I rarely know where exactly it comes from. Often the true cause of today’s explosion comes out somewhere in the middle of things. It’s almost like an out of body experience.
The rain. The rain makes everything worse. I can’t take the baby or the dog for even a short walk. I’m getting no exercise at all right now and that makes it worse. The stress relief I might get from exercise is coming from spending money I don’t need to and eating things that are bad for me.
I make a lot of excuses, still, and on days lime today I don’t feel bad about it. I’m hurting myself. I have a page in my notebook full of reasons to give up sugar, not the least of which is the way it affects my mood. I know I feel better when I eat better, when I cut down on caffeine, when I drink tea instead of coffee, when I get some exercise. Then why don’t I? Because it’s hard and on days like today I can’t handle hard. So much is hard already.
I’m a sabotage. I sabotage myself and my life, I think ill of myself and assume what others think of me. I assume that there are some things that I just won’t get right. If I were doing this for someone else it would be done in plenty of time, but for me? That goes on the back-burner.
And when I put myself on the back-burner I get days like this – days when I’m too tired to handle small stresses and everything spirals out of control.
Once again I need to pause, step back, and regain control. Deep breaths.
The past few days have been some of the hardest I’ve ever been through. It really honestly felt like we were being punished for something we didn’t know we had done, and the one facing the brunt of it was our innocent little Schnauzer.
(If you want to know what happened, it’s all here)
This morning Joe let me sleep in, and went in to the office late only to pick up his computer and talk to his bosses about working from home for the next few days so I’m not alone with an 8 month old and an immobile dog who doesn’t respect his current limitations. I was very glad of this plan when I tried to take the baby upstairs for her nap while he was away and the dog jumped of his chair and tried to follow me upstairs. I couldn’t put the baby down to stop the dog from hurting himself because she might hurt herself.
Then the baby fell asleep and I went to lie down with the puppy and everything felt good, until it all fell apart. She woke up, almost immediately, and proceeded to cry and scream and slap and punch, and bite and pinch, and beat me up in every way possible for almost an hour. Finally I had to put her down and step back. This is only the second or third time I’ve felt myself on the brink of losing it with her.
And when Joe came home she calmed for him, leaving me to feel even worse about my mothering skills. But I napped, and I felt better when I woke up, and Joe had a businesses call to make so I decided to take her to the library so she wouldn’t be making noise in the background, but first I had to change her.
And she reacted as though I was torturing her. She wouldn’t stay still and she screeched every time I put her on her back so I could just get the diaper on, and I felt myself right on the verge again, but we got out the door and she calmed down in the car and I took a few deep breaths.
And when we came out of the library she refused to sit in her car seat properly and I had to fight to get her strapped in, with her screaming all the while. And I got in the driver’s seat and started on the way home and that’s when I saw a schnauzer on a walk, happily trotting away.
And that’s when the tears came. And that’s when I really started to wonder if we were being punished for something we didn’t know we had done. And that’s when I hit my lowest point, realizing for the second time that day that I just couldn’t handle this, and that it was just going to keep coming at me.
This morning I lay in bed, listening to the baby cry, and I just couldn’t get up and go to her. I didn’t know what she wanted and it seemed as though I was only making the situation worse by even trying. This morning I felt completely and totally useless as a mother. This morning I couldn’t handle it and I gave up trying for just a little while.
I have, once again, hit the lowest point and I don’t know when it’s going to stop feeling that way.
This afternoon we went to a coffee shop so the dog could rest at home and we could both get some work done, and she started being loud and I felt judged and helpless.
I’ve been helpless for the past two days and I need it to just stop.
I’m having one of my down moments. A moment that I know I’m not being entirely rational, but that doesn’t stop me from being sad.
I’ve said before that I’m not good at keeping in touch with people. I’m not good at keeping friends. I’ve never had a large group of friends and it can take me a long time to feel comfortable with people.
Now I’ve had a baby.
Before I had this baby, I hardly had any friends at all who were mothers. The two women in my circle who were mothers were new to it themselves.
Now I’m spending more time with a group of women who have been mothers much longer than I have. I love these women. I feel accepted by them. But I also feel like the rookie of the group. I’m the one who spends a lot of time asking questions and that does make me feel like a tag-along sometimes.
And then there are my friends who aren’t parents – Some of whom have no interest in being parents (not something I will ever judge them for – I can absolutely understand why you wouldn’t want to be a parent). I know that a person without children may have little interest in spending time with me and my kid. I know that it’s hard on people when I show up with her in tow. It’s rare that I can go out without her, and if Joe and I are going out together, she will definitely be coming along. We haven’t figured out the whole babysitter thing yet, and it may take us a while.
And I understand that people we know have lives that are much, much bigger than us.
But I can’t help but get a little lonely sometimes. I can’t help but grieve for the life I used to have, where we could make plans at the drop of a hat, stay out late without thinking twice about it, go to a restaurant without feeling rushed because the baby decided to get loud, go to a movie together.
I can’t help but love her with all my heart and hope that other people in my life love her too.
I’ve let it sit for two days that this women, a criminal profiler that should never have been portrayed as an expert on this case or on Post-Partum Depression or Post-Partum Psychosis, declared that my problems are not chemical, unless I’m one of those “rare cases.”
I’ve let it sit, but I still can’t help but take it personally. I don’t think there’s any way to not take it personally since I’ve been dealing with depression for 13 years of my life, I’ve been suicidal on more than one occasion, and apparently, according to this criminal profiler who has no experience working with women affected by PPD, I just need to suck it up and stop feeling sorry for myself.
What I can tell Ms. Pat Brown is that when I was in the depths of my depression I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself, I was feeling sorry for everyone around me. When I was suicidal it was because those around me didn’t deserve the burden. When I was in the depths of post-partum depression, I felt that my daughter would be much better off with Joe’s memory of me.
I didn’t ever have feelings of wanting to harm her. It was the first question my caretakers asked and the thing I paid the most attention to. Hurting her never entered my mind because, as I told my doctor through tears, I knew that she was not the problem, I was the problem, and I didn’t want her to inherit my problems by watching me. I specifically didn’t want her to suffer, but I did have anxiety.
Every time we left the house together I felt as though I was going to do something that would cause some sort of accident. I might trip while I was carrying her, or lose the stroller, or forget to check my blind spot, and then she would get hurt. In that way I felt as though I was a danger to her.
I worked with two midwives and a licensed doctor who all agreed that I was suffering from PPD and needed to be monitored and medicated. I was actually lucky to have been suffering from depression for that long because I know my own signs. I see the appetite changes, the mood swings, the sleep problems, the voice in my head that starts to point out my mistakes and all the ways I’m not quite good enough. I warned everyone that I was at risk for PPD and I told them what I was feeling.
I say lucky because another woman might not have known her signs, might not have had the clarity, that soon after giving birth to tell someone what she was feeling. Lucky because I can’t be embarrassed about it anymore. My depression is part of me and any stigma just floats away.
If one other woman who is suffering finds me and recognizes herself, I’ve done some good. If a woman sees Pat Brown’s comments and takes them to heart, something very, very bad could result.
If you don’t get help, you’re not going to get better, and this woman who decided she had the right to speak about something she knows nothing about, has the ability, because of the way she was represented in that article, to get into women’s heads and make them think they don’t need help because they’re just fundamentally flawed – And that will send them further into the darkness.