I’ve been trying to find a way to make PPD (postpartum depression) and PTSD funny. Or at least find one funny thing about them. I’ve got some bad news, they are not particularly funny. In fact, they are so unfunny that it’s not even funny. That’s right.
PPD is so unfunny that I wouldn’t be surprised to see Thorin Oakenshield and a bunch of dwarves sitting around a fire singing a long, sad ballad about it. If you aren’t here to try and figure out Hobbit references, then I apologize. You may want to leave now.
And it’s not just the depression part. In fact, I just read somewhere (already forgot where) that someone did a study and found that Postpartum Anxiety is probably more common than PPD. When I saw that, I said to myself, “It took a freakin’ study to figure this out?” Most new parents have a mild case of Postpartum Anxiety. All new parents spend the first few weeks of baby’s life not sleeping because they are spending the entire night watching the baby and constantly checking to make sure if baby is breathing. I think we can all agree that it is out of hand if this is still going on when the baby is two.
For me, it still went on with baby number two. I’d be lying if I said that were all in the past tense. It’s still going on. It never actually went away after baby number one. It feels like this: lonely, hopeless, exhausted, angry, frustrated¸ frazzled, frayed, worn, muddy, cruddy, small, and yucky. It hurts all the time.
Everyone deals with it differently. I dealt by not dealing. I hid in the house with two children for months. I felt triumphant if we went somewhere besides my parents. I would sweep the floor and take care of the children’s needs and I had no energy for anything else. The house was always destroyed. My whole life felt destroyed. It’s not that I wasn’t grateful for the wonderful. I was. I am. But it is hard to be on a roller coaster of emotions and exhaustion all the time. I really wanted to get off but I had no idea how.
Why am I writing about this? Because every single mother that has this feels alone. Most mothers feel alone, I imagine. Which considering how many of us exist, is kind of ridiculous.
I have been really touched and supported by some dear friends who also struggled incredibly with PPD. A dear friend shared her fears with me one day and it hit me like a ton of bricks. “Oh my God, I’m not the only one.” I’m not the only one who can’t sleep because they are terrified something might happen. I’m not the only one who has crazy and horrible thoughts that are so scary, I feel dizzy and desperate. No. There are lots of us out there. Hey, S. I love and miss you.
You might be one of us. It’s ok if you are. Because knowing that there are a bunch of us helps you not feel so alone. I recently confessed to a group of people that I had a monster case of PPD. Know what? Five women came up to me after to tell me that they’d had it too. It was wonderful to feel so much support.
Some support is misguided. There are people out there, well-meaning people who love you, that will tell you things like:
“Just get outside and take a walk. You’ll feel better!”
Oh no, they didn’t just say that! Yes. Yes, they did. While we can all agree that walking is an excellent idea, you might be so crippled with depression that “just getting outside” is more than you can manage.
“You need to eat a perfect diet that does not include soda or M&Ms.”
Ha. HA HAHAHAHAHAHAHA. I promise to eat kale twice a day but chocolate is as good for a person as kale. *I am not a nutritionist and I make up most of my facts.
“You need to go back to work.”
Yes, someone told me that. You know, I should shush people more.
“Try some supplements. They really helped me when I was feeling depressed.”
You don’t even understand PPD if you say this out loud. Yes, these things can help but only in conjunction with lots of other things.
There is absolutely no shame in having PPD, PPA, or PTSD. NONE! We ask women to juggle work, home, family, life, laundry, other moms, playdates, school, an unpaid job that has no benefits and requires you to work 24 hours per day, and the state of the world and then we can’t figure out why they can’t do it. Throw in hormones and you have a recipe for a big, fat disaster. Throw in a toddler and breastfeeding around the clock and not fitting into any of your clothes and you have complete chaos.
But it doesn’t last forever. I can even look at my children now without being terrified that some freak accident might take them away from me. I protect myself as much as I can from upsetting stuff, which is pretty difficult considering the world we live in.
There is no one thing that instantly cures PPD. There is no cure. But there are things to do including the things that well-intentioned people suggest. Walking helps. Taking supplements and a good diet help. Chocolate helps. Yoga helps. So does singing, creativity, reading (nice things!), dance parties, baths, naps (thank you, Husband, for letting me sleep), and there are lots more. Radical self-care helps. Learning to love yourself helps a lot. New clothes help. Forgiving yourself helps and forgiving other people helps too.
One morning, my best friend called. She called when I was lying in the bed, unable to get out. I was lying in bed staring at the wall. It was one of the worst days. I had completely shut myself off from my friends and I didn’t want to let anyone in but I let myself be vulnerable and I told her what was wrong. And she listened and listened. She let me cry and she was there. I had to let her be there too.
I understand now that my family and friends want to help and I have to let them. If I shut them out, they can’t get in. Opening myself up to the world again was so hard. I was so afraid that the world would hurt me. The world has only given me good things back though. Thanks universe. I needed that.
Things are better now. I have a laundry list of things to do on the daily to keep things stable. Radical self-care is a major priority. I write a lot and that helps too. If I don’t have a creative outlet, I implode. I am grateful and I try to stay that way. I do a lot of affirmations and I don’t overdo it. If I feel rushed and overwhelmed, I stop, back up and reconnect. I keep beautiful things around me and stay far away from the news (unless there is some major event and then I relapse into being a newsaholic…but I’m trying always).
The thing that helped the most? The understanding that I am only required to get through the moment that I am in right now. I don’t need to freak out about what is going to happen in five minutes. I just have to get through RIGHT NOW. Thank God. I can do that. I can do right now.
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
― Rainer Maria Rilke