There are moments that I remember more than anything. The chronology isn’t clear. I don’t have a cohesive story to share. But I do have these moments.
I remember the moment I called my husband at work and asked him if he could come home for lunch. He had a meeting that day and could not. And I remember turning my daughter’s bouncy seat so that she could not see me as I cried so hard that I could not breathe solely because I didn’t have someone to meet me for lunch. And if I didn’t have a lunch date, that meant that the day would continue on, torturous in its longevity with just me and my thoughts, those dreaded, scary, intrusive, abusive thoughts.
I remember the moments that I would drive onto campus two nights a week to teach a class. I would pull onto the tree-lined drive praying that the time would go by slowly because I knew that for those two hours, I would be distracted. I would be able to forget my thoughts for just a moment.
And I remember the first time that it didn’t work. As I stood in front of the class, leading it, trying to engage the students, I was struggling with coherency (at least in my own mind) because I couldn’t calm my thoughts and put off the feelings of dread. The panic overtook me as I realized that what had often been my place of solace was now being infected as well.
I remember it being the beginning of winter. I had taken the baby to a mall in my hometown. I walked through praying I wouldn’t see anyone I used to know while in my ratted sweats with my hair all a mess. And as I made my way through the mall, I realized that the baby would have a birthday in six months. I realized I could plan it. And for the first time, I realized that a tomorrow would come. A tomorrow that wasn’t cold and dreary and winter. A tomorrow where my car wasn’t broken leaving me stranded in my house four or five days a week. A tomorrow where there would be people and companionship and a better day, and I wouldn’t be locked up in my little corner of the Earth alone all day every day.
Constantly I remember and am haunted by all of those nights laying in bed, asking myself, “what if this doesn’t go away?” And I remember being terrified of the answer. I remember that this question would not leave me along, and I could barely open my mouth to confide it to anyone.
I remember the moment when I realized I would need medication. I remember the guilt. The overwhelming guilt. I heard all the voices in my head.
- “Just be stronger.”
- “Get over yourself.”
- “Just go take a walk. It will help.”
- “You are just being weak.”
- “Vitamins, fruit, sun, sleep, yoga, meditation... will all help just as much as medication.”
And I remember knowing that they simply were not true. Might those things have helped? Possibly. But was I able to do even one of those things? Not at all. Not one single bit.
And finally I remember the moment when I felt my first glimmer of hope. It was quite possibly the worst day of my life. My husband had come home early so I could go see the therapist I had been seeing because I was sinking deeper and deeper into this depression that just wouldn’t lift.
It was a sunny day. It was brisk outside. Early fall probably.
I walked through the doors of the office, and everything seemed a faded grey. Every sound seemed far away, every sight, muted.
I had spent the last couple of hours laying on my couch, staring at the wall, too dazed to either sleep or stay awake. I knew that this was my moment. If I was to get better, it had to be now. It felt pivotal. It felt torturous. It felt like the moment I would either have to find it within myself to stand back up or crumble forever into a ball of broken remains.
All I remember is the sun shining in that room over the bushes outside, and I remember staring at the dry erase board that showed all of the negative thoughts that I had been telling myself for months. I saw the poison of those thoughts going into my hand drawn stick figure head. I wanted so bad for something to get through to me, some sort of life raft to be thrown to me as I struggled in the deep, and I was praying this would be the moment.
But I didn’t have an exact moment in that day. It was more of a shift.
What I found was a fortitude born in the belief that I was not alone in it. That I wouldn’t be allowed to fall, to break, or to crumble. That I had my husband, and my doctors, and my medications, and that the combination of the three would somehow find me my way out. I was not alone.
As I said at the beginning, I can’t give you a clear time line of these activities. It’s all a blur. At best I can give you the seasons as I did. Because postpartum depression changes the way you think. It changes the way you feel, the way you see yourself in the world, the way you interact with the world. It changes who you are.
Luckily, I learned the very hard way that these changes don’t have to be permanent. They were reality at a point, but they weren’t my destiny. What had changed could be changed back. Or at least for the most part. Because when you go through battle, scars do remain, but they can fortify us rather than destroy or define us.
I’m still living out my story. When I have a down day, it’s hard not to go into a spiral of “what if” concerning those feelings coming back. When I get pregnant, I worry about a repeat. When I see people I care about getting pregnant, I want to take them and shake them and tell them to stay strong even if things get rough.
And I think in the future I am going to remember this moment. The moment I really broke my silence. When I was going through the worst of my journey, I remember repeatedly asking myself “Why? Why me? Why does this have to happen?” And the answer would always float to me as if on a cloud -- “Why you? Because you have a voice. Because you can share your story. Because you can take a risk and share what others can’t share so that others won’t feel so alone.”
And that is why today, many years later, will live in my memory. The day I took all of that and used it for something more. The day I was able to reach out and say, you are not alone. I was there too. I was at the brink, and I fought my way back. There is hope.
Image courtesy of [stockimages] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Amanda Knapp writes about her experiences as a stay at home mom on her blog, Indisposable Mama.