Writing about postpartum depression is weird for so many reasons. First, because it seems like such a personal problem, like some kind of weakness that I have been embarrassingly unable to conquer. And secondly, because I don't even feel like I struggle with it 99% of the time.
The truth is, I didn't know that I had depression until August was almost three months old. I wasn't listless, hopeless, or weepy. I wasn't depressed in the way that you picture. In fact, I was (and am!) generally really happy. I'd say 90% of the time, I am really happy.
I had a few other subtler symptoms, that I attributed to other things, like lack of sleep and a post-baby body.
First, I started to have really low self-esteem. I would see myself naked in the mirror and feel physically repulsed by my body. I had never had this problem before, despite extreme body changes from pregnancy with and nursing twins. But when I brought this up to other women, their advice was exactly the same, 100% of the time. They said, "Don't look at yourself naked in the mirror."
Like, "We know. It sucks. We all feel that way."
And since apparently every other woman in the world hated their body, and since I'd just had a baby and had saggy skin and giant, deformed milky breasts - I accepted this new body loathing and moved on.
I also had zero sex drive. Again, this is pretty normal right after a baby. Except that I had always wanted more kids, and now I found myself thinking "We'll just have to adopt, since I will never have sex again. Never ever." The very idea of possibly having sex again someday would give me a massive panic attack, and I would start hyperventilating and crying. "Never ever. I will never, ever, ever have sex again."
I even accidentally said those words out loud to Travis once, whose feelings were extremely hurt. So then, in addition to that low-body image and low-sex drive, I also felt some serious guilt creeping in.
But the real change, the quiet one that I didn't notice for several months- was that I was angry. I was so angry at my kids.
I've always been a pretty patient mom. I try really hard to let my kids be kids. Get messy, creative, be noisy, silly, crazy, and have fun.
If they want to use the hose to make a mud pit in the back yard and roll through it? Childhood!
They want to finger paint on each other's naked bodies and oops! they didn't use finger paint, but some other kind of paint that never comes off? Childhood!
The floors are lava and they need to jump from couch to couch all day? Childhood!
They can apparently only speak in silly voices and I need to sing everything I say? I will oblige, because Childhood!
But I started losing that patience. One of my children would whine, and instead of quietly asking them, "Can you think of a better way to ask me that?" I would snap.
"Everybody to bed. Right now. No whining in my house! Get out of here, get your little butt to your room."
Immediately. No second chances, no gentle reminders. I was through. I was finished with one tiny misstep.
Things that would have made me laugh and post a funny picture to Instagram (like a box of cereal being dumped out on the floor) would make me unbelievably angry.
Travis said, "I noticed that you're being really hard on the boys, Becky. You don't have a lot of patience these days."
And I was ready to kill him for that. OF COURSE, I didn't have patience! I have three children! One of whom wakes up every three hours to nurse! I haven't slept for more than four hours in a row for months. I'm exhausted. I just need everyone to be clean and quiet for a few days. Is that so much to ask?
But then one day, when Travis was out of town, Grey spilled his smoothie. On accident. And I was furious. I picked him up and carried him wordlessly to the bathroom. I set him in the tub. I told him to stay there and clean himself up. I went back to the kitchen and stared at that smoothie on the floor, feeling so angry I could hardly see. And you guys, that was an accident. I have accidentally spilled many things in my day. But I couldn't calm down. I just stared at that mess, fuming.
I eventually pulled myself together and cleaned it up, but I mentioned it to Travis. It was weird that I was so angry. It was unlike me. It felt foreign and unconquerable.
Two days later, I hit the fan and realized that something was wrong.
In an effort to better see the birds on our roof, Micah had overturned the bin of dirty cloth diapers onto the floor so he could use the bucket as a stool.
I came into my room and saw dirty diapers strewn around the corner. There was even a little speck of poop on one of my baseboards.
And I lost it. I started yelling, practically screaming at my poor, cowering little three year old.
I went and got him a rag and bottle of cleaner and made him put all the diapers back in the bucket, and clean up that poop speck, and while he cleaned- I yelled at him.
It was almost like watching myself make bad choices. This little part in the back of my brain was saying, "Becky. Stop. Calm down. You are over reacting. You need to stop yelling at him, it was an accident. He is three. He's trying to fix it. Stop yelling."
But the other, bigger part of my brain was too busy screaming, "BUT I AM SO ANGRY."
And I was. I was so, so unbelievably angry.
I finally locked myself in the bathroom and cried, and Googled things like, "Postpartum Anger."
I called my doctor, and -after assuring her that I didn't feel violent towards my children (only an insane desire to yell at them constantly)- she sent me to a therapist/MD for postpartum depression.
Turns out, Rage is actually a really common symptom of depression.
Three days after I started Deplin, I felt super awesome. I felt like a veil had been lifted. I could laugh at things again. I was the silly, song-singing, book-reading, play-acting Mama again instead of the insane monster that wanted to hide from her kids when they started whining. I didn't cringe when I saw myself in the mirror. I could contemplate sex without bursting into tears.
I couldn't believe that it had taken me three months to realize that something was wrong. I took Deplin every day for a few weeks, but then - it turns out- we're super poor. So I decided to just use the cheaper knock-off version, which is Methylfolate without any added anti-depressants.
And that worked just as well for me for over a month. I just needed that extra folate to help me regulate my mood. Until Travis left again.
I think when he travels for work, my depression and anxiety kick it up a notch. And my kids, who always act out when he leaves, become extra naughty.
So it turns out to be more than I can handle. And it's hard. It's weird that I don't immediately notice what's happening. Yesterday was the worst. THE WORST.
The last three days without Travis have been total hell. My kids have gotten naughtier, and naughtier, and I've gotten angrier and angrier. We just kept building it up and one-upping each other.
"Oh? You screamed at me for forty-five minutes because I bought you a donut but we went through the drive through instead of into the shop? Let's see how you like to sit on the couch and listen to a half-shouted half-hour lecture about right and wrong."
"Really, Mom? You wanted to yell at me about how it's wrong to yell? How do you feel about having milk poured on your floor, and sewing machine oil squirted on the couch? Does that make you angry? How about when I bite my brother, or throw tools at you while you're on the phone?"
YES. THOSE THINGS MAKE ME ANGRY.
And it wasn't until I was lying in bed at 4 am looking at all your sympathetic comments on Instagram that I realized that my depression was back. Duh. Why didn't I recognize it this time?
It's so hard and weird, because my feelings of anger are actually not that irrational and my emotions are valid, even if they are exaggerated and out of the ordinary. Right? But at the same time, I want to be able to teach my children with love and not threats. I want to be able to feel happy during the day instead of pissed off.
So today, I am going to call the pharmacy and pick up another order of my drugs. And I'm going to say a prayer for patience. And I'm going to take my kids to the zoo.
And I decided to write this blog post for you, because I wanted to share what I've been struggling with and say: it's okay to admit that something is wrong and that you're not yourself. I'm trying really hard not to sweep this under the rug as something embarrassing. Depression is a sickness. People aren't embarrassed to need medicine for pneumonia, right?
We just feel like our mind is our self, so much more than our body is our self. If I lose a leg, I'm still me! But if I lose my mind, who am I? So, let's raise our glasses to not losing our minds!
And if you wanna call me, I could probably use a friendly call today. And if you need a friend, I promise not to yell at you.