I had been harboring a secret for a month or so. Only a few close friends knew and my family obviously. I don’t know why I hadn’t said anything about it or why I was hiding it. The truth was that about seven weeks after my youngest daughter came into the world I started slipping back into my depression.
It was after my six week doctor’s appointment and things were fine. I was still feeling that motherhood high: looking at my darling daughter sleeping and I swear I could cry I loved her so much. Sure, things were a little crazy and chaotic having two older kids but I was fine. I felt fine.
Fine’s a funny word isn’t it? Most people use the word fine as a way to appease the questioner. “How’s life with three kids?” I was asked by an acquaintance. “Oh it’s fine,” I replied, “Busy but fine.” I thought it was fine. It was chaotic and loud and definitely a juggling act bouncing from one child to the next but I was fine. And slowly but surely the fines started spilling out of me as a way of telling myself it would be fine.
I felt lonely; like I didn’t have a friend in the world. I was fine though.
I felt like my husband didn’t understand what I was going through with the addition of another child into our family; I felt like he didn’t care at all. I was fine with that.
My life consisted of giving everything to everybody and gaining nothing in return; not even a “thank you.” I. am. fine.
I decided was just going plow through this time of my life; when my children are little needy, greedy people. I would grin and bear it and make it to elementary school and then, surely then, I’d start to see some of the fruits of my selfless acts of love. After all, I was fine.
The days moved on in this slow yet steady pace and I kept drifting further and further away from reality. I lived inside of my head most days. Thinking about how no one was reaching out to me and how my husband couldn’t love me because of my post-baby body. My children didn’t really need me for anything more than a cook and maid. My baby would get by if I wasn’t there. I was short-tempered and easily annoyed with life. I felt hopeless and the downward spiral began like the water draining from a bath. It was quick and there was no stopping it.
Until one evening something clicked inside of my head and I thought for a second that maybe life wasn’t as terrible as I thought it was. Maybe just maybe I should reach out for help? It was a fleeting thought and I had done a good job of telling myself that I was fine so clearly I didn’t need help. My mom and sister thought otherwise.
You see, after my first bout of postpartum depression when my son was born my mom took it upon herself to be my guardian from afar. Watching closely after each birth for the signs that something wasn’t working in my brain:
- Easily irritated
- Complaining about my husband
- Letting my house go
- Not cooking dinner or even caring about making any meals
I’m sure there are more things that she looks for; those are just the things I know are signs for me.
My mom took the job of calling me to chat about how I was just fine but not really fine. My sister took on the job of calling my husband to see if he noticed that things were off.
Again, in a moment of clarity, divine intervention, I listened and heard what my mother was telling me. I needed help. I agreed. And just like that the problem was remedied.
You see, depression is like that pesky leach that attaches itself to your back when you’re sitting in the shallow part of a lake. Minding your own business you play in the water and enjoy the summer day; meanwhile, that leach creeps up on you and attaches itself to the middle of your back. If you’re by yourself there’s no way you’re going to see it. You can’t feel it either; after all you’re fine with life and all is dandy. If you continue the day by yourself the leach has his all you can eat buffet on your back, it’s slowly sucking the life out of you. If, however, you aren’t by yourself and you’ve allowed a loved one to tag along with you on your leisurely swim, your friend will see the leach. She will tell you and you will be able to remove it from your back thus “saving” your life.
The same is true of depression: you can’t see it. It hides itself in your mind in such a way that it slowly sucks the life out of you. That’s why allowing yourself to be vulnerable, sharing your depression with another person, is so important for you to share this part of your life with someone. It doesn’t have to be the world or even two people but it needs to be one person. Someone who knows you well and can recognize when something is “off.”
Depression has taken too many lives because of the shame it’s masked itself in. The most brilliant people can so easily harbor this secret and that’s when depression wins. Don’t let it. Speak up. If you had cancer you would tell someone. Depression is a disease, don’t let it claim your life or the life you are meant to live.
If you — or someone you know — need help, please call 1-800-273-8255 for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. If you are outside of the U.S., please visit the International Association for Suicide Prevention for a database of international resources.
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