I am sensitive. I get that. Even before ever having children, my heart carried heavier burdens than it “should”. I’ve struggled with depression most of my life, and I’ve learned to be very careful what I allow myself to be exposed to because I can’t just “shake it off”. Unfortunately, when it comes to social media, that’s nearly impossible.
For example, in 2015 there was a very sad picture involving a migrant child in Europe circulating; in 2016, it was… well, it was really all of 2016. Recently, it’s been “awareness” videos involving small children unsupervised around water. Videos. Of small children. In peril. Not being rescued.
2016: the year of #iHate2016
2016 was a rough year for a girl with PPD. I went into it 2 months pregnant, so everything that happened during that year was viewed through sad, hormone-colored glasses. The long-awaited birth of my son was a brilliant bright spot of joy in a very dark year. It must have been hard to understand why I was so down-at a time of my life that should have been the most joyous. I had been waiting to become a mother for so long, and that goal was finally being achieved, just months before my 40th birthday. Why couldn’t I find joy?
Because tragedy suffered by good friends flowed into the loss of beloved pets. Scary moments in my pregnancy intertwined with bad news about my child’s physical body, only to add burdens on the notorious challenge that new motherhood brings. Every piece of bad news about favorite celebrities, from Alan Rickman to Carrie Fisher, all the social unrest and every bad political argument along the way, were like constant needling, reminding me of how sad and angry the world was. Every. Single. Time I scanned my Facebook feed or listened to the news.
The New Adventures of PPD
Pregnant or post-partum depression is different from regular depression, I have learned. If regular depression is a numb, tired, slog through a grey forest, PPD is a clawed hand squeezing your chest in a panicky grasp, digging claws into your heart and stopping your breath. PPD is fear and grief over things that haven’t even happened, competing for attention in your mind to show you the worst things they can dream up and shouting, “This could be US!”
Honestly, they had a lot to work with. Even scrolling through Facebook was dangerous for me. Every “awareness” video of child tragedy that I accidentally saw made me physically recoil. People around me, for some reason, felt the need to tell me the most awful story of things that could happen. They weren’t trying to be mean. But people who don’t experience depression don’t understand it any better than someone who’s lived their whole life in Hawaii can comprehend a New England winter.
Depression, in any form, is hard to talk about. It’s getting easier, as more of us are able to discuss it publicly, but it’s inevitably awkward and uncomfortable for all involved. In fact, I started writing this post 6 months ago, just as a wave of depression was about to hit hard. Depression steals your desires to do many things, including writing a blog post about depression.
PPD is particularly hard, because we are expected to be so happy as new moms. And we are. But motherhood is hard, even without a hormonal tsunami going on in your system. Even without traumatic birth events, like preterm labor, or unplanned c-sections, or babies born with disabilities. Motherhood is hard. And there is nothing-no nothing-that can adequately prepare you for it.
You’re doing a good job.
You are a good mom. You love your bab(ies). But please-allow yourself to admit when it’s hard. Feel all the feels; grieve the disappointments if birth didn’t go how you planned; take medicine if you need it. I promise you-you’ll be a better mom for it.
Take care of yourself. Your kids need you. We need you.