When I was a teenager, my father was diagnosed with depression and eventually bipolar disorder. Depression was a new concept for me, I didn’t know much about it, how to talk about it, or how to help my dad. As I entered adulthood, I had some personal moments with what I could then identify as depression or anxiety, mostly when big change was coming. Therapy always helped and I wouldn’t say I was ever clinically depressed in those years, though it was confusing because I worried I had inherited depression from my dad.
It wasn’t until a few months after my first child was born that I felt the depths and horror that is true depression. My husband and I had tried for years to have a baby, and when it finally happened we were overjoyed. I was very aware of my risk for postpartum depression with my genetic predisposition and the fact that I had experienced mild bouts before. But when I survived the beginnings of motherhood and remained happy, I thought I was in the clear. As the months wore on however, I started to sink. Everything became hard and overwhelming, day-to-day life became a struggle. The defining moment for me was leaving the house in tears one day and telling my husband that something had to change, I couldn’t be a mother to this baby anymore, I wanted to send him back. It didn’t make any sense, this was the child we had prayed for and wanted so very much. I knew then that what needed to change was me, I needed help.
Recovery from depression is hard work. You don’t feel like you’re working, you feel like you’re failing, but showing up at your appointments and following through on small goals got me to a brighter place. Unfortunately, there is no quick fix, finding the right medication can take a few tries, and then it can take up to 6 weeks to level out in your system. Even after those 6 weeks, I still had lots of therapy and work to do before I felt like myself again. I journaled through a lot of this and will share some excerpts of those passages in the hopes that it can help someone else. Depression is a lonely place, but knowing someone else has been there and made it to the other side is often what gave me a sliver of hope in those difficult days.
11/22/11: It’s been a rough week, finally admitted that I wasn’t feeling right and saw the doctor. I’ve been feeling like everything got too difficult, I saw my day as a series of challenges instead of a day with my precious baby boy. I lost the joy and got stuck in the house and in my head.
11/26/11: I’m in rough shape, I’ve never felt so horrible and numb in my life. I can’t even cry, which is weird for me. I feel like I can’t take care of my baby and it’s horrible. I love him, but I feel like I can’t be a good mother to him right now and he deserves someone better. I’m panicked about him getting sick or teething, and not being able to deal. We have his 4-month appointment Monday and I don’t even know how I’ll get myself out the door. Yesterday I spent the day between bed and the couch, a pathetic excuse for a human being. I just don’t know how it got to this point and how I’ll ever climb out of this black hole.
12/4/11: Still lost, when will it end?
12/13/11: I’m definitely better than where I was, but still struggling every day. In the morning I have a pit in my stomach because I dread another day of anxiety. And then I get anxious about being anxious.
12/15/11: At 5 months, Matthew has changed so much and I’m angry that I missed things and can’t enjoy him. It’s hard not to feel like I caused this, or could have prevented it. Maybe I should have seen it coming with my family history and personal history of being overwhelmed and anxious. I had such high expectations after trying to get pregnant for so long. I feel guilty for being depressed. Or angry that I’m depressed when I should be happy. I know it takes time for the medication to work, but it’s hard to not be discouraged and impatient. I’m just not optimistic about my recovery.
12/26/11: Well we celebrated Matthew’s first Christmas, I felt much better than I did at thanksgiving and enjoyed the holiday for the most part.
12/30/11: Where is my power? I am so hard on myself. I feel like I’m weak, lazy, and unmotivated. People told me I was strong for getting help, for wanting to get better.
1/3/12: First day back to work, it was really hard. I’m a bit of a mess tonight because I don’t know if I can do it. This too shall pass? I hope so….
1/7/12: Not sure what to think anymore, I feel like I’ll never be happy again.
2/2/12: A week ago I felt like I had turned a corner, but today was bad. Felt anxious all day.
3/18/12: I feel great, like I really turned a corner in the past weeks. I don’t know if that’s why I feel like this is my favorite age with Matthew, but he is so cute and sweet right now.
Three months before that March entry, I couldn’t enjoy my baby. Four months before that March entry, I didn’t think I was the right mother for him. Three to four months seems like an eternity when you’re living with depression, I know; but looking back, it’s hard to believe I had a complete turn-around in a few short months. I went from faking it through the day like a stranger in my own body, to finding natural joy again.
That’s not to say it was all sunshine and roses after that, but I have yet to feel that same depth of despair. If you’ve read my previous two posts, you’d understand why I now see this experience as a blessing. The awareness and support I stored are helping me survive a very difficult year of loss.
I hope that my experience can help those caught in depression know that you can get to the other side. Make the appointments, show up, and keep at it no matter how discouraged you feel, there is hope.