I’ve been awash in memories for the past week-or-so. And not the good kind. Thinking about it, however, not necessarily the bad kind either. Perhaps it’s the distance between myself and said memories; a bit of perspective making them easier to digest, process.
It is not a secret that I dealt with postpartum depression after the boys. I have talked in detail about how I was totally side-swiped after our oldest son was born. I have talked less, however, of the near incapacitation after our youngest son was born.
I couldn’t talk about it while I was going through it. I physically couldn’t type the words. I could barely acknowledge what I was going through emotionally. I was simply unable to explain what I was feeling, what I was feeling in the deep recesses of my mind, my soul. It was a scary spot to be in for me, someone who is usually good with the words.
Even after the dark veil lifted and I began participating in life again, I couldn’t bring myself to talk about what I had experienced in specific detail.
Because I judged myself. And I was embarrassed. And I was scared.
The summer between my junior and senior years of college, I found myself hospitalized. My eating disorder had hit it’s lowest point, and in some still blurry string of events, too many diet pills were consumed. I spent time in the ICU before spending a week in a place that still haunts me to this day. The things I saw are not things I care to remember.
And so, when I found myself considering driving into trees after my youngest son was born, I didn’t tell anyone. I didn’t tell my husband. I didn’t tell my mom. I didn’t tell the friends that I had met in the wake of my youngest’s birth. I didn’t even tell my therapist. No one.
But every time I drove past a tree or a pole or a brick wall, I thought about veering the vehicle off the road. Just a quick snap of the wrist and it would all be over. It would look like an accident. In an area prone to deer and other wildlife on even the most major of highways, no one would have thought differently. Maybe the car had malfunctioned. Or maybe I was distracted by a ringing phone. It would have been a mystery.
I’d like to tell you that I only had those feelings when the kids weren’t with me. Or, maybe even only when they were crying while I was driving. But it was every time I passed something solid. Every time I saw a tree, I wanted it to end. Every time I saw a roadside memorial cross, I wanted it to be mine. I just wanted it to end.
The fear. The anxiety. The black cloud of doom, worthlessness, nothingness. The self-loathing for my past choices. The all-consuming grief that left me sobbing in the shower in the middle of the night. The doubt; oh, the doubt that ate at me day and night. Every time I raised my voice to my older son, that doubt poked at my heart as a reminder. “You’re no good at this. See? No good at all.” Every time I felt touched out at the end of an all day breastfeeding frenzy when my youngest was going through a growth spurt, that doubt mocked me. “Annoyed by the touch of your own child? What kind of mom are you?” Every time I had the thought of driving into a tree… “See? Told you.”
The driving into tress phase didn’t last too long. It was the rock-bottom point of that bout of postpartum depression. I upped my therapy during that time, but I didn’t tell my therapist. I wanted to. I probably needed to. But I couldn’t.
That same doubt that poked and prodded at me kept me from seeking the full help I needed. I didn’t know if my therapist would recognize me as a sane woman experiencing severe depressive thoughts or if she would write me off and send me away. I didn’t know if being sent away would mean losing my children. Logically, I am aware that my husband would have had them in his care, but my thoughts were — obviously — not logical at the time. My biggest fear, to this day, is that I will lose my children in some way. An accident. An illness. A kidnapping. Or my having done something — or someone perceiving my having done something — that causes them to be removed. Admitting that I frequently thought of ramming my vehicle into trees didn’t seem safe.
And had my kids been taken away? I would have ended it. In seconds. I have no doubt.
I survived that dark, scary, absolutely mind-numbingly frightening time. By the grace of God and some other miracles still unknown. I have become, or, maybe rather, I always was an amazing mother to my boys. I don’t imagine that I love my children more than a mother who has not been through the depths of hell, but I do feel that I’m so very, very lucky to be here as their mom. There were days when I didn’t think I’d still be here, arguing with them over whether or not they have to finish their zucchini and re-tucking them in at night with little kisses and whispers of love. I feel so incredible grateful to be here, with them, now.
I have been writing this post for nearly two years. There are six or seven drafts of it in my account, all abandoned because of the shame, embarrassment and left over fear that still lingers when these nightmarish memories pop into my mind. I decided to schlub my way through this post, which took three days to get through, because I am honored and, dare I say, excited to be participating in a very cool thing at BlogHer ’10. Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress and Casey of Moosh In Indy are putting together a photo of PPD survivors. I will be there. With bells on. (Okay, no bells.) And if you have survived postpartum depression, even if you didn’t dream of driving into trees, I encourage you to be there too. Let’s show the world — and maybe even me — that we have nothing to be ashamed of.
This post originally appeared on my now defunct adoption blog, The Chronicles of Munchkin Land.