We are all incredible people, no matter what our journey is with postpartum depression.
Some women who end up with postpartum depression have battled mental illness their whole lives. Some may have gone through a depressed period as a teenager or following some tragedy in their lives. Maybe they’ve witnessed a family member deal with it, or experienced some kind of childhood trauma. PTSD can contribute significantly to depression and other postpartum mental health disorders.
But others, like myself, have never faced a childhood trauma or battle with mental illness prior to becoming a mother.
To go from living the “perfect” life to experiencing the darkness that is depression in such a sudden way feels like being buried alive. While I no longer struggle with depression on a daily basis, it’s effects remain permanently. I will forever mourn the loss of the incredible person that I was before postpartum depression took it all away from me.
I used to be an incredible person.
I had a really great childhood, with parents who loved me and loved each other.
My sister was my best friend and confidant.
Even as an awkward, mixed-race, home-schooled teenager, I never felt depressed or self-conscious.
I embraced my differences, stood up for others and voiced my opinions.
I loved to take care of people and when I started working, I delivered the type of customer service that got rave reviews.
I worked jobs that I loved and was successful at them.
I almost married the wrong man, but then met and fell in love with the right one and had a fairy tale wedding, just like a cliche romantic movie.
We renovated a house in the perfect neighborhood and got a couple of dogs before a baby soon followed.
Life wasn’t always perfect but it was pretty darn close to what I imagined “happily ever after” would be.
Most of these things haven’t changed.
I still have an amazing husband and a family who love and support me.
I still have the perfect house with the two dogs and three kids.
I still have success doing work that I find rewarding.
Except that now, I have postpartum depression.
It’s been 7 years so I doubt it’s even considered “postpartum” anymore, but I will always refer to it as that. Because until I got pregnant with my second child, I was anything but depressed.
For the past 7 years, I’ve had to fight every single day to be the happy, incredible person I was my entire life.
Things that came so naturally to me, such as talking to people or taking care of myself – are now things that I avoid at all costs.
Shopping dates and salon appointments were something I looked forward to doing with my friends. I loved fashion and beauty to the point of vanity. But these days, I feel zero motivation to get dressed in the morning, so I wear the same sweat pants and stained T-shirt all week long.
And when I do dress up, I criticize everything about myself. I count out grey hairs and wrinkles. I pinch the rolls of skin on my stomach and make disgusted faces in the mirror.
Instead of styling my hair, I fantasize about shaving it all off.
I can’t look people in the eye anymore, or make small talk with cashiers and servers.
When I talk to someone on the phone I stutter and stumble and forget what I was supposed to say.
I silence my phone when it rings because I need to work up the courage to take the call first.
And if I see someone I know out in public, I duck and hide and hope they don’t notice me.
I’ve never felt as much hatred for myself as I do now and I’ve lost all my confidence to postpartum depression.
I feel sorry for the people who have come into my life only after the postpartum depression because they never got the chance to meet the real me.
The fun me, who was hilarious and clever and the life of the party.
The powerful me, who loved to debate about controversial topics.
The competitive me, who hosted game nights and Rock Band showdowns.
The inspiring me, who gave the best pep talks and listened to everyone’s problems with empathy.
Those people will say that I’m still like that, but oh, if they only knew.
Those who did know me before, walk on eggshells around me now, afraid of what might offend me or set me off.
I make people uncomfortable with my presence, because no one is ever sure what to say to someone with a mental illness.
I’ve forgotten how to break that awkward silence with pleasant conversation.
Friends that used to come to me for advice just feel sorry for me now.
They look at me and think I’ve let myself go… that I’ve given up.
But what they don’t see is that I’m fighting a mental battle every single day just to survive.
I loved who I was before postpartum depression.
I was happy and fulfilled and determined before postpartum depression.
I was a people-person, a social butterfly, an extrovert before postpartum depression.
And now, I am merely a shell.
I look the same on the outside, but inside I am hollow and empty. The amazing person that used to live in here is all shriveled up now, unable to move or grow.
Life pushes me along like waves on the ocean, slowly rolling through the days and the months and the years.
I try to stop it, try not to move forward, but there is nothing to hold onto. I am simply grasping at water.
I want to stay still, I want to press pause.
I wish I could live in a glass box so I can watch life happen around me, without having to actually be part of it.
Participating in my own life is exhausting.
I don’t want it to end because there is a tiny glimmer of hope still inside of me.
I hope that someday I will feel the desire to live again and then I can come out of my glass box.