I have learned to go easy on myself; I have learned how to slow down. I have learned how to celebrate baby steps in my day to day. I have learned that finding the time to make a cup of tea before I have to get the kids out of the house in the morning is cause for celebration. I have learned to say “so what?” to the fact that I wear a daily uniform of jeans and a t-shirt. I have finally just given up on making excuses as to why I don’t wear make-up. I have learned to allow the laundry to go another day, and I now believe that if breakfast is “the most important meal of the day,” then I am doing my children a service by giving it to them for dinner too. I have learned so much in the past three and a half years.
This past September, I wrote about a spectacular morning I had experienced. I was able to drop Number One and Number Two off at school, and then headed to the food store with Number Three, just two months old at the time. I headed home, put the groceries away, and then swung by the park for some exercise before picking up the older girls from school for lunch. I know it doesn’t seem like much, but for me it was a very big deal. I’ve learned to be proud of myself for having days like that because three years ago, I would have not been able to do any of that. In fact, if I even thought about doing any of that, I would have had a massive anxiety attack that would probably have taken most of the day to overcome. I know how much strength it takes to just get out of bed in the morning when you are suffering from depression.
I had been crying in bed for about 90 minutes when I finally managed to get sweet Number Two to sleep after another cluster-feeding marathon. I somehow managed to make my way to the living room, sleeping newborn in one arm, squirming 16-month-old in the other, tears still streaming down my face. I remember I was wearing my favorite pair of black yoga pants and a black nursing tank top. I sat cross-legged on the floor with my back against the couch. The room was hot from the early morning sun shining in. Number Two was swaddled tight and nestled into something by my side – pillows? The swing? I can’t remember now. She would only sleep in my arms, so I’m sure I had her snuggled into something soft and warm. Number One was occupied. TV? Snack? Playing in a box? Whatever she was doing, it probably involved watching something animated.
I don’t know what made me do it, but I picked up the phone and called my husband. I had been alone with the girls for 2 hours that morning, and all I could think was, “Lord, please don’t leave me alone like this any longer. Please. I just can’t do it. I won’t make it.” When my husband picked up his phone, I couldn’t get more than one word out, I was crying so hard. I just sat there in the same yoga pants that I’d been wearing for the past three days, crying. With every tear, I was begging him to do something to help me.
One of the side affects of my depression was memory loss, so what happened following that call, along with the next four to six months from when I picked up the phone, is pretty vague. I do know, however, that my husband was home with me within an hour after that phone call. He picked me up off of the floor, pulled me in close to him, and told me it was going to be ok.
At that time, I had a lot of people telling me that it would be ok, that things would get better. That was really hard for me to listen to, because how could they know that? They couldn’t! There was no way that they knew that I would be ok. That we would get through it. I’m glad that I had a steady stream of reassurance coming at me, even if at the time it made me furious. I would think, “Great, some day things will be ok. That is fine, but what about right now? I want to be ok now.” I had a lot of frustration and anger, especially since it took months for the antidepressants to kick in, not weeks like I had been told. Every now and then, I would dream about an “ok time.” Those dreams were fleeting, but having faith and hope, no matter how faint and delicate, were something for me to think about instead of the feelings of sadness, loss, and anger that were taking over my life. I felt like such a failure, and was filled with dread and hopelessness. I had to take my days, literally, one minute at a time. I could not think about anything that would happen in the next hour or beyond without panicking. But having my support system tell me that “at some point” things will be ok again, that “someday” I wouldn’t be completely debilitated, and that they would be there with me until “that time” was reassuring.
No matter where you are in your postpartum journey, whether you have just been diagnosed, you are considering asking for help, you are working minute by minute to break out of the fog, or you are maintaining your recovery, you need to know that you will not feel like this forever.
It will get better.
You will not feel like this forever.
Meg Fahrenbach is a full time mom, wife, and fun haver. All of her “extra” time is spent as a professional photographer, quilter, cook, blogger, and avid reader. Her dreams consist of traveling to Paris, as well as having her images and writings published. She believes that we all have the power to make our dreams come true.