Even though more and more mothers are opening up about their experiences with postpartum depression (PPD), PPD continues to carry a lot of stigma. When I had my son six years ago, and was immediately thrown into the black hole of PPD, everyone thought I was sleep deprived and offered lots of "solutions" to help me overcome my "baby blues." There were so many things that didn't magically make my postpartum depression disappear, though, and no matter how many well-meaning suggestions were thrown my way.
One of the most surprising things about my experience with PPD was that I already had experience with depression and anxiety before. I had been diagnosed with depression a handful of times before, and had survived those experiences with the help of medications. I weaned myself off medication, with the help of doctors, before getting pregnant. So why was it such a shock when the usual symptoms started displaying themselves after the birth of my son? Why was I unable to recognize what was happening to my body even after it had happened so many times before, especially since these symptoms were far worse than any I had ever experienced?
The answers to these questions are still a mystery to me, much like the depression itself. The closest I can come to an answer is the realization that before I had a baby and I was depressed, that depression was a heightened state of being alone. No one could reach me, not even my partner. My baby, on the other hand, was always there and always a part of me. How could I be depressed with this other human attached to me? How could I truly be alone? If I was never really alone, could I actually be depressed? So maybe, I figured, I was having this other thing happen to me. Something else entirely, that was specific to motherhood but simultaneously unique to just me. Something that didn't have a name.
Whatever the reason for my inability to realize what I was experiencing did have a name, and that name was postpartum depression, the only things to fix my PPD was medication and talk therapy. All these other things were just child's play:
The Healing Powers Of Time
Some people told me that, over time, I would feel better and the feelings of despair I was describing would pass. People assumed that the trauma of having endured labor and childbirth would dissipate, and that slowly I'd go back to the normal me.
"The eff you talking 'bout?" was what I wanted to ask people. "Normal" me doesn't exist anymore. Do you see this squirming mass of adorableness in my arms who also happens to be sucking the life from me? "Normal" me did not have a zipper-like scar on her stomach that itched and throbbed day and night, but especially when it rained.
The Wonders Of A Good Night's Rest
Rest would have been nice, but when you have an infant it isn't possible to get a full night's sleep. Even when we got to the point when my son was able to take a bottle of pumped milk, I still had to get up to pump so that my boobs wouldn't explode. Since we don't live in a palace, even when my husband was on night duty I would lay awake during every feeding. More often than not, the baby ended up needing my assistance in finally going to sleep even after all of my husband's efforts.
Some people told me that if I only were to rest instead of constantly running around the house and cleaning during my baby's naps, I would probably feel a lot better. Yeah, sure. Let's blame my PPD on my freshly folded laundry and clean floors.
The Love And Support Of My Partner & Family
Even if my entire family surrounded me in a circle and clasped hands while chanting about their love for me, I still would have been depressed. My depression didn't have to do with my feelings of insecurity about my family's love. I knew I had everyone's love and support.
What I didn't have, however, was a will to leave the house or the ability to see the point in having had a baby in the first place. All I could feel was regret for having gone down this road, and a sense that I had made a serious mistake in having brought a child into my world. No amount of love would have changed that.
The Innocent Look In My Newborn Baby's Eyes
To everyone else, my baby was innocent, beautiful, and angelic. He had big blue eyes, a wide face, and a silly little grin. But when I had PPD, my baby was a jail warden, the person keeping me chained to that one spot on my couch, and the outliner among all of my friends' babies who seemed to adhere to regular two hour feeding schedules. He was the person keeping me awake all night, as his screams pierced the air exactly 42 minutes after I would finally put him down to sleep (an enterprise that took nearly two hours to begin with) every time.
One day, I looked at him and legit thought he was trying to kill me. I am not exaggerating. I really thought this was the reason he was on this Earth and that I was living a real life horror movie. Looking into the loving eyes of my son was not enough to help me "get over" my PPD. In fact, in my mind at the time, I was looking into the eyes o "the enemy."
Grit & Determination To Power Through It
The female heroines of many an action movie take adversity and push against it with all their force and might. One cannot battle postpartum depression this way. Postpartum depression will take your grit and throw it back into your face and make you cry because the sky is too blue and the flowers you are looking at are too pretty and you don't deserve pretty. You hate your life, you hate your baby, you hate motherhood, and for that, you deserve a black sky and dead flowers. Anyone who suggests you fight PPD with determination should get a bouquet of dead flowers.
The Sheer Will To Overcome It On My Own
If you feel like only a fragment of your former self, it is unlikely that you will have any will to overcome anything bigger than the slight hump in your mattress when you're getting out of bed in the morning. My will did not have a prayer in helping me overcome PPD in the least.
A Magical Manicure
When I had postpartum depression, it still wasn't a widely talked about thing on the internet. Crazy, right? This was just six years ago, but still. Might as well have been the Dark Ages. At the time, if a mom was feeling "down," a nice dose of "self-care" was in order. "Get a mani-pedi!" was often the chirpy go-to in a lot of the mom blogs and preggo-lady websites.
So, in the hopes that some me-time might help fight the "bury-me-handcuffed-in-a-deep-grave-from-which-I-won't-escape," I went and got some manis and pedis. And gosh darn it, not even with those drops of essential lavender in my foot bath oil was I cured of my postpartum depression!
A Glass Of Wine
I drank many glasses, not just one glass. This "cure" was ephemeral, and there was payback to be had the next day, in the form of a hangover. Hangovers while caring for infants are really miserable.