I smile every day. I laugh. I tickle armpits and smother the kids in hugs and kisses. I flirt with my husband. I grocery shop. I make good food for my family. Maybe not as often as I used to, but I still do it. I wash the dishes and fold the clothes. I pull myself together to look halfway decent when we leave the house. I organize and coordinate. I take pictures and blog. Sometimes I even cloth diaper and make my own baby food.
I am myself. Or a replica of myself. A version of myself. But I don't feel at all like myself.
Because every day I also feel doomed to this new life. Yes, doom. Even though I know there is nothing doom-worthy about two beautiful children and a loving husband and enough money and a thousand other great things. But all the self-talk in the world doesn't get the message in to my core that my life is good. There is such a disconnect. I'm feeling so scared that I will never stop feeling this depleted. Overwhelmed. Exhausted. Beaten down. Miserable. And most mornings the first thing I want to do is cry.
So let's make it official: I have postpartum depression with a side of anxiety.
The sense of treading water has been with me for so many months now and I was sure that it would ease up with the better weather, with the thrush going away, more sleep, with the passage of time, with x, y and z. But my load is technically lighter now and the sun is shining and I only wake once or twice a night most nights and I'm still finding myself weary down to my bones and having to try to convince myself all day about how good I have it. Something isn't right.
There are two song lyrics that pop up in my head, with a frustrating frequency. The first is "I'm half alive, but I feel mostly dead" by Jewel. This absolutely not a suicidal type thought, please know that, but it shows how dark I feel. I don't even like that song, but it's what I think of when I try to name my exhaustion. And then there is a line from an Ingrid Michaelson song that is with me all the time: "All I can do is keep breathing." It repeats in my head all day. Because that's all I feel capable of right now. To just keep surviving and waiting for it to get easier. Why isn't this easier yet? Should two kids really be this hard? Shouldn't I have had more than 6 good days since Oliver was born over 8 months ago? I want to do more than "just breathe." I want to feel light and more like I used to and not so goddamn bogged down.
Something got depleted and off long ago during my tough pregnancy with Oliver and everything that has happened since has plunged me down to the point I'm at now. I cannot access perspective and hope no matter how hard I try. And then I berate myself for not being able to appreciate how good I have it and it all circles around and around. That's the anxiety piece.
Those weekly parenting posts for Project 52 really clarified how crappy I've been feeling. Each Sunday I sit down to write it and feel stuck. Because the first thing that comes to mind when I think of parenting is hardly the stuff I want documented for life. Once I reject the first 5 thoughts ("Parenting sucks" usually goes right into the reject pile) I can come up with the happy parts of parenting, or at least something with more grace. But once again - it shouldn't be this hard. Week after week, it shouldn't be this hard.
I'm not so far gone, obviously, when it comes to being depressed. This is not the scary, cautionary tale you hear about - the ones that make you gasp, they seem so awful for everyone involved. It's hard to think of myself as having postpartum depression and anxiety because I'm not an extreme example. I feel bonded to Oliver and haven't had any disturbing thoughts about him getting hurt/me hurting him. I'm still very connected to Bella and Husband and the world at large. So I'm not so far gone. Not yet. And it's that "not yet" that pushes me to do something more. Surely there will be a point where I can no longer muster up that last lingering bit of energy to keep treading water. Plus, I need to consider that I'm only half-living and it's already been weeks and months of that. This could go on a long time. And this is not a time I can get back.
I've started on Zoloft. I'm hoping that the medication combined with weekly therapy sessions will be enough to restore me back to my old self. Back to a place where I have perspective and hope and all those things that let you float on your back instead of treading water. I want to be able to revel in this good life that I am living rather than fearing and rejecting it. I want to be in a place where I can do a whole lot more than just keep breathing.
* * * * *
And back to now. I am feeling light years better than I did when I wrote this post. The medicine was exactly what I needed. Once the chemical imbalance was fixed, I suddenly felt like myself. I have had days and days that I would consider good days. After months of having only a handful of those kind of days, having weeks of them feels like such a gift.
A few of you suggested to me in gentle and kind terms over the past several months that maybe I should consider medication or therapy or similar things. I wasn't quite open to taking in those messages at the time - I just wasn't ready to face the reality of it - but you planted a seed and that was important.
Maybe someone else can recognize themselves in this post a bit and maybe it will plant a seed that there might be a way to feel better. I don't think medication is necessary for everyone, and certainly I was resistant to it for quite some time, but it's out there and I think we need to remember that. I prefer a non-medicated and more natural approach (hence freaky placenta eating!), but sometimes that is not enough. I needed/need that Zoloft to bring me to a place where I could begin to access the benefits of my regular approaches to ward off depression (exercise, yoga, omega 3s, vitamin D, etc.)
Once again those weekly parenting posts have served as a barometer for how I'm feeling. I am struck by how easily my brain throws out 10 different ideas about parenting each week - and all of them are positive. Now I would have to dig below those positive examples to find the negative ones. It all still exists - the positive and the negative - but things have flipped. I'm quicker to feel positive, happy, light, and spacious instead of the opposite. I'm blinking back tears as I write that last sentence. This is maybe all coming across as very sappy, but I felt so very low for so long. My life and energy and joy is back. I'm grateful. To be connected to my great life, instead of feeling like a spectator, is worth everything in the world.