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Something very bad has happened to my email inbox. It is full of stuff. Lots of stuff.
This morning I looked down and saw there were well over 300 emails in my inbox. Now that seems like a lot of emails to any rational human being who isn’t dealing with a major job or extraordinary crisis. It was time for a spring cleaning.
I started at the top and worked my way down. In the process I came across an update I sent to friends and extended family after Tres turned one. And I ended up crying.
Generally I try to keep things lighthearted around here, that’s what Stealing Faith is all about… but I think all of us know that sometimes life isn’t as lighthearted as we might prefer. And today, well, it just seemed like the right time to share a bit of personal experience with you.
I should warn you it’s a bit raw. And it’s really scary for me to put it out there. But I’m going to throw this into the winds of the internet because maybe, just maybe, there’s one person out there who needs to know right now… this minute… you’re not alone. Here goes:
“I know you’re not supposed to have favorites, but, Tres’ first year has been my favorite “first year” of all our kids!
With Uno I was way too ridiculous about what a mom should do. Dos was way too colicky and we had just moved to a new place and I was too lonely to spend a lot of time in enjoyment! But Tres? She’s been a bright ray of sunshine. She laughs, she interacts, she has a sense of humor. We get a lot out of her for an infant!
(In a weird sort of way it makes me want to have about 16 more kids because with her I feel like I’ve finally “come into my own” as a mother!)
What all but about 10 people DON’T know is this precious little body of sunshine that is Tres was also the instigator for some challenging experiences for me, personally.
Here’s what I wrote in September, when Tres was 5 months old:
“Today, in the whole day, I had two times of maybe a minute each where I thought, “oh, here I am! I forgot what this looked like!”
They were moments free of feeling overwhelmed, stressed, exhausted, angry, frustrated, hopeless, insane. Moments where my head wasn’t spinning in circles and my over-riding conscious thought wasn’t, “Normal… What is real here? React to what is real, not what you feel…”
Yesterday I went to my OB/Gyn and found out that I have a very easily diagnosed case of postpartum depression. He reassured me that I’m not going crazy, I’m not weak, this is real and that no matter how much I try to control it I can’t.
“It would be of tremendous benefit to you and your family if you were to take medication for 3-6 months to help your neurotransmitters stabilize,” he recommended.
I think that’s what he said. What I actually processed was:
“Blah, blah, blah, FAILURE, blah, blah, FREAK, blah, blah, blah, ADDICT-TO-BE, blah, blah EMBARRASSMENT.“
So, I agreed to take a drug. I’m scared to death of it and incredibly ashamed, but this morning I took the pill.
And this evening… For two moments… I felt a release of the pressure. I was getting milk for Uno and Dos talked to me and I didn’t have a heart palpitation from trying to concentrate on more than one thing and their little girl voices didn’t rub me raw and make my brain twitch.
I didn’t know it had been that bad until I had a moment that suddenly felt ok.
If I can take my melodramatic perceptions and lay them out, I feel like I’ve been standing next to the Grand Canyon. I’m right on the edge, where every once in awhile my foot slips and sends rocks hurtling down. I’m scared of that canyon because I know if I go down there I’ll just be… Gone.
As much as it terrifies me, there’s also a little part of me that wants to fling myself over and GO.
Just fall, fall, fall and never, ever resurface.
That part of me has a constant voice in my head chanting: “Sucks as a mom, sucks as a wife, sucks as a professional, sucks as a daughter, sucks as a sister, will never live up, will never get it right, never, never, never, useless, useless, useless.”
I suspect maybe everyone is standing next to the Grand Canyon in their insides. But maybe most people are farther from the edge and have a safety fence that makes it so they don’t even realize that there’s a gaping hole available for them to drop into.
I don’t know. Maybe.
My feelings and knowledge of reality are almost always separate right now. Instead of a good angel and bad devil on my shoulders I have the Id, Ego, Superego, whatever, running commentary on what I’m SUPPOSED to be doing and thinking right now in order to function appropriately for my life.
That voice fights constantly for attention with the other one inside. When other people talk to me it’s sometimes hard to listen or even hear what they’re saying.
I haven’t been able to control it. I haven’t been able to remember what anyone tells me. I haven’t been able to enjoy my children or my family. I haven’t been able to let go of an irrational fear that we’re not going to have food to feed our family, or that I’m actually insane.
So that’s the long and short of it. The thick and skinny.
I’m terrified. I’m ashamed. I’m humiliated and I am internally convinced I’m a failure.
I’m hoping there’s hope, though. Because for two moments today the noise inside of me stopped.
And that’s enough to give me hope for tomorrow.”
Just reading this makes me cringe inside. It’s absolutely terrifying to even put this piece of writing out into the real world.
So, why would I bring you in when I’ve been quiet about it for so many months?
Well, for a couple of reasons:
1. It’s Tres’ birthday. Her birth sent my hormones into the crazy tango and yet, she was the only think that I would smile about during the dark months. Even knowing how the hormones affected me, I would have her again. She’s been that incredibly awesome.
2. I still find the concept of postpartum depression shameful. And yet, I experienced it, I was treated for it, it is real. Maybe if I speak up someone else won’t feel as ashamed as I did because they know it’s not the end.
3. I took the medication and it was worth it. Against my own personal belief that you shouldn’t take medication unless absolutely necessary, I followed my doctor’s recommendation and took it. Those two moments I wrote about above turned into a life this past fall where I rediscovered how to laugh! I was so scared I would lose that when I stopped taking the medication… And I didn’t! Now that I’m drug-free (yay!) I can say with assurance I haven’t forgotten how to laugh, I enjoy my children more, I’m a healthy participant in my marriage, and I’m excited about living each day! That’s all good stuff.”
Maybe one of the worst things about going through a hard time is you lose the ability to think that things can’t actually get that bad.
For example, early in our marriage someone close to us committed suicide. It’s a long story but the upshot is that act and event changed us. It changed our marriage, our parenting, our view of life. We suddenly realized how bad things could feel. And how precious life is that how deep the web of relationships go.
Once the damage was done, we realized a few things: One, life can be grim. Painfully grim. Two, you can make it through. One step at a time, one day at a time, and sometimes it’s about accepting help as it comes.
And then there’s the day you find yourself laughing and realize it’s been a long, long time since your belly hurt because of joy. And you feel alive.
Today my overwhelming thought is to encourage people don’t give up. Even when it looks dark and overwhelming, find the little spark that makes you step away from the ledge.
I’d love to hear your responses to this post… and actually, I’d also love to see some things that help us smile. So… please! Post your favorite corny jokes in the comments. Or good jokes. Totally up to you. I’ll award a gold star to the comment that makes me laugh out loud! Ha!
This post was originally published February 6, 2012 and is being recycled as part of the “I’ve Been Around” summer! Hope you enjoyed it and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!