I’ve tip-toed dangerously close to the edge of the depression pool for years, dipping my toes in from time to time. I somehow managed to never fall in, despite having risk factors such as family history, family dysfunction, family history of alcoholism, being a woman, and self-esteem issues. I always wore emotional make-up to hide the way I was really feeling. Each new layer of make-up that was applied caused me to dance closer and closer to the edge of the dark cesspool that is depression.
What finally set me over the edge was being on bed rest with my daughter in 2009. It was a lonely time for me and each day that passed caused me to slip deeper and deeper into the dark recesses of the pool I had danced around for so long. During each visit with my doctor when the time came for me to tell her that I was sad, emotional, and uninterested in…anything, I just couldn’t do it. I have always had a tendency to minimize my feelings and health issues and this was no exception. The truth is that I was unable to do anything but sit on my sofa and cry. I couldn’t work effectively (I was working from home at the time), I couldn’t complete my college courses (I went from having a 3.86 cumulative GPA to literally failing out of all of my classes), I couldn’t eek out a smile or even pretend to laugh. I thought it would all go away once Madilyn was born.
Boy was I wrong.
After she was born, the depression stuck around. I didn’t see it right away but I did know that I wasn’t myself. I couldn’t find joy in anything, being around anyone but myself made me feel like I was being rubbed up against a cheese grater, I couldn’t finish even the most simple of tasks, I didn’t have the drive or desire to do ANYTHING. Even my most favorite activities sounded absolutely dreadful. I had to wind myself up in the morning just to get dressed, let alone leave my house. We had recently moved and I honestly didn’t enjoy the women that I had met. It wasn’t personal I’m sure, but I am/was not the same person that I used to be. I didn’t know who I was. I didn’t know how to be myself so how could I very well meet people and be authentic with them, or enjoy their company? Heck, I hadn’t enjoyed ANYTHING in so long that I didn’t even know if the word “enjoy” was still in my vocabulary.
The lightbulb went off in November of 2010, 14 months after Madilyn was born. I was also about 5 months pregnant. It took me nearly a month to talk to my doctor about what was going on. I felt like a hypochondriac. Surely this just had to be some nasty side-effect of pregnancy, right? When I realized that I wasn’t reacting to my husband the same and that I hadn’t laughed, truly laughed in over a year, I knew that something was seriously wrong. When I did talk to my doctor, she suggested counseling.
As such, I have begun the journey out of the dark waters of depression. I know that it will be a long road. I wish I hadn’t waited so long to face my problems. I wish I had been honest with myself, my husband, and my doctor about what I was feeling. When you haven’t been honest with anyone in years, it takes a long time to face the truth. Every day is a learning experience, complete with new choreography. Every day I feel a little more strengthened and am ready to make my way to the edge of the pool where hopefully I will someday dance, far away from the edge.
In the meantime, I expect to face obstacles. I expect to meet people who are like sandpaper, or who are incapable of standing by me as I become the person I was meant to be. I don’t expect to never cry again, or to pretend anymore that my life was ever, or will ever be perfect. What is “perfect” anyways? I don’t hope for overnight transformation, but for a slow evolution of myself. Once a seed has been planted, it takes years for a tree to blossom and grow steadily where the seed once lay. I know that I’ll get there. And I appreciate everyone who has been by my side, or who will be by my side on this journey.
I am going to talk much more about my dance with PPD in the weeks and months to come. I expect to hurt some people on the way but my truth, my life, my past is full of hurt and it has to come out. Not only for me, but for other women struggling with the same problems. You are not alone, WE are not alone. And we can do this together. Living with PPD, or any form of depression for that matter is real. And it is absolutely not shameful. So hold my hand, and together we’ll begin taking off the emotional make-up that we’ve worn for so long.