Let me preface: I love my daughter.
I have loved her since Day 1 (however you might measure that). I'm continually amazed at all the things about her - from the way she stared at everything so intently the moment she was born to all the shifts and changes as she's become a different person over the last nine months. She's incredible and studious and smart and adorable and (yes) perfect.
I thought (hoped) it was just hormones at first. Then I thought it was just trouble adjusting to this big life change. Then I called it by its true name (at least, in my head) and tried to ignore it, and then hoped it would go away on its own. I'm sure many other mothers do this too.
I felt so guilty for having postpartum depression. I also felt angry for so many reasons: I couldn't figure out how to do it right (because surely I was doing it wrong). Spousal Unit had (still has) a different parenting style than me and we had trouble compromising (largely because of the depression and hormones). I was also angry because I love being a mom (!) so much more than I thought I would, and I felt like my entire life had been re-written with Tickle (i.e., Child Unit) as the focus ... and I was okay with it. I felt like that made me a bad feminist, or like I was betraying my old self.
It was a complete 180 from who I once was. Because becoming a mother made me a different person. Is making me a different person. And it's been tough coming to grips with the facts that (a) I would completely give up everything I am in a heartbeat for my daughter, and (b) it's better for both of us if I don't, because I'm a better parent when I take proper care of myself - in all ways.
Medication and therapy have helped a lot. So have Spousal Unit's incredible patience and understanding. So has learning about PPD; it turns out that anger is one of its main symptoms. I had a hard time deciding to start taking meds back in July, but I realized that taking them was, for me, the best way to continue being a positive force in Tickle's life. Taking them was part of being a good parent. The way I felt before and after they kicked in was night and day, and it's noticeable even in pictures.
|Before - June 2015, 2 1/2 months|
|After - September 2015, five months|
It was like stepping into the wonderful technicolor land of Oz. And hearing Nessun Dorma's triumphant climax for the first time. And catching a whiff of that amazing dish your mom used to make when you were a kid, bringing beautiful memories to life before you.
All at once.
I had forgotten it was possible to feel so good. Best of all, I was still capable of feeling a normal amount of sad or angry when appropriate - a big difference from my last experience with antidepressants, 12 years ago. For several months, life was still difficult sometimes (usually due to lack of sleep), but a thousand times more wonderful. I can't imagine what it would have been like to go back to work while feeling like I did before.
While my mood isn't nearly as bad as it used to be, I've had more trouble since winter began and the days shortened. I've dealt with seasonal affective disorder in the past, and apparently having PPD doesn't give me a pass on it this time around. I've had to remind myself again that taking care of myself is taking care of my family.
Lately this means renewed diligence with taking the meds (because they're still important, damnit) and making time for my SAD light. It's hard to remember that it's okay to put myself first - when I feel like myself, I tend to give away the last cookie, do five "quick" errands before bed, and forget for an hour at a time that I wanted a glass of water. (Really - when I get caught up in something, I even forget that I'm hungry.) I need to remember that feeling well doesn't mean I can slack off on taking care of myself.
When I feel like a shadow-cloaked beast has taken hold of my soul, showering is a victory. Recognizing that the words I want to say are fueled by depression - and then holding them back - is a triumph. Through all of this - despite all of this - I have loved Tickle and Spousal Unit immensely. Even when I felt suicidal, my warped brain felt that course was the best thing for my family (again, I'm no longer feeling like this, but I still have rough days). I'm emphasizing this because of how often PPD is misunderstood. I want to be transparent about it so that others know that feeling like this doesn't make you broken. It doesn't make you terrible. And asking for help doesn't make you weak.
I almost didn't write this post because I don't want Tickle to ever think that my PPD and other depression means I didn't love her during those times. I don't want her to think she isn't enough or that anything other than my biology was to blame. But not talking about it is the easy thing, and I don't want her to think that the easy thing is the right thing. I don't want her to be shy away from doing difficult things or having complicated discussions.
I don't want her to feel embarrassed by or scared of her own feelings.