Or: That Which didn’t Kill Me Made Me Stronger
On Getting Through Three Weeks of Postpartum Depression
My baby was only four days old when I knew that I was getting depressed. How did I know? Basically I was crying ALL the time. The tears started on Christmas Eve (I was very disappointed in how the gift-giving played out) and didn’t stop, really, until I saw my doctor and asked for help.
It came in the form of medication: 20 mg. of Prozac which I take daily.
It came at a time when I needed it most.
“What you are going through isn’t pleasant,” my doctor told me, “But it is understandable.” My husband’s unemployment & our consequent pregnancy; the demands of home schooling & drudgery of housework; the birth of Nicholas & its stress on my body…it all factored into my emotional spiral.
Emotionally, I just couldn’t cope.
“Why even bother?” I asked myself. “What’s it worth?”
“This is all just WAY TOO MUCH.”
My family could see that I wasn’t handling life well—Hello?! My wife/our mom is crying again!—but try as they might, they just couldn’t help me. In my mind, my life was larger than life. I was frustrated and discouraged by all the To-Do’s I couldn’t get to—this is very much a postpartum emotion, by the way, for depressed mothers and otherwise—and consequently I kept trying to control everyone around me.
Guess what? I found out that people do not like being controlled.
Least of all, those full-grown men.
Depression is as hard on the family as it is on the person who has it. Maybe not as hard, but they do suffer. I know mine did; between the tears and the arguments between my husband & me (I’d push; he’d push back), everyone knew something was horribly wrong.
One night my son had a basketball game, and my husband asked that I stay home. This was the night of Nicholas’ baptism, by the way, and I had been an emotional wreck all day. Yet, I was so angry to be refused like that—shocked, and angry—that I called my dear friend in Alaska to talk it through.
She has a very soft shoulder, my friend Sarah. She listened quietly, without judgement, then suggested…perhaps…that I might be depressed.
I took an online test that very evening. I took two online tests, and I failed them BOTH.
People react differently to being treated for depression but I was better, thank God & St. Dymphna, within a day of starting the Prozac. I think, in part, it was just knowing that I had sought help and been given it, but emotionally? It was like night and day.
It’s never easy to admit something’s wrong, least of all that something’s wrong with us. That is why I’m talking about this. If someone knows that I have been there, then maybe they won’t feel so alone. Perhaps the weight won’t be as heavy; perhaps they’ll reach out and get the help they need. I’ve never been suicidal nor have I wanted to hurt my baby, but I know how quickly the dark one can move in. In the words of Mrs. Hughes to Mrs. Patmore, “If you must pay money, better to a doctor than an undertaker.”
(Forgive me. I couldn’t resist quoting Downton Abbey.)
It’s been three weeks since I saw my doctor and I haven’t broken down since. My life’s no less perfect—not me, nor the people in it—but the big difference is: I can cope. The little snafus of the day don’t upset me. Well, they do…sometimes…but they don’t set me off.
My life’s no longer overwhelming.
(Please God,) I can handle the cradle and the cross.