Talking about it felt like lighting a candle in a dark room.
A gift. In the form of a perfectly beautiful 9lb 9oz baby boy. Our third. Joy. Unimaginable joy. The feeling of accomplishing something that doesn’t seem humanly possible. A 40 week journey ending with the birth of a beautiful baby boy full of life. I’ve heard grace is defined as a gift you’ve received that you don’t deserve. And grace I’ve been given.
I’ve done this 3 times now. Each time has ended with the same intense joy and sense of accomplishment.
However, this time was different. It seemed like the joy disappeared a little quicker. Not long after his birth, things seemed to be more difficult than previous times. I mean, sure I now had 3 little people who needed me almost all of the time. But it just felt harder than it seemed it should. I was exhausted. But you almost never get a full night of sleep with a newborn in your home, so exhaustion should be expected, right? But this was different. It was so hard to pull myself out of bed and start my day. I would self-talk my way out from under the covers. “You have to do this, they need you”. But the thought of getting dressed was nearly impossible, so I would just stay in pajamas, and have the goal of showering and dressing by 5pm before my husband came home, so it looked like I had it together. I could do that. I could “look” like I had it together. I could “talk” like I had it together. 10 months later and this scenario was still like it was with a newborn. I could sleep for 10 hours and never feel rested.
“I just didn’t feel like me.” I said those words a lot in the beginning. Jayden and I would talk about mentioning something to the midwife. But as each appointment came, I would feel okay. More like me. So there was no need.
Life resumed. I would stand in front of my bed in the morning with all my clothes laying on my bed. Frozen. I’m typically a fairly decisive person. But I just couldn’t make a decision. Sure, I just had a baby, and my body doesn’t just bounce back to it’s pre-baby form, and my clothing options were a bit more limited. But it was more than that. I literally lost the ability to make decisions.
My husband started getting groceries more and more often until it became a regular item on his weekly to-do list. I was just so grateful to have one less thing to do. But it was the groceries that made me realize something was wrong. One day we needed groceries, and I said I could get them. But in reality, I couldn’t. 3 days. 3 days saying I would get them, trying to plan the trip in my mind, and finding random bits of food in the cupboards to create meals for my family. Planning how I could stretch it out one more day. The thought of grocery shopping might as well have been the thought of climbing Mount Everest. I wasn’t grateful that he was taking away one more thing from my to do list. I was grateful that I didn’t have to climb the mountain. I was grateful I could avoid the exhaustion, the intense weight this trip had become for me.
There were many times over the year that I would say the words, “I think I need to talk to someone”. Jayden would agree, and ask me if I would call the doctor the next day. The next day would come, and I would feel okay again and brush all those anxious feelings aside, until the next time all the little things became too much to bear.
One morning the boys had appointments which required the entire family packing up and heading out of the house early. I was angry. I didn’t say much. But anyone could have read my face. There was no hiding the rage. Jayden asked what was going on. I don’t think I answered. If I did, it would have been a quiet “nothing”. I know that my internal dialogue was searching for an answer. “What is wrong?, why are you so angry?, what is your problem?” I couldn’t find an answer. There didn’t seem to be one. There never. seems. to be one. We arrived home and he left for work. Telling me he was afraid to leave me alone. I assured him I was fine. I was fine because I have gotten so good at “faking it”. I would fake it all day, everyday with the boys. Singing songs, walking them to the park, playing, pretending I was happy. By the time Jayden came home from work, I was done. Ready to be real again. Angry. Exhausted to the point of being ready to turn in for the night at 5pm. That particular evening, I was sitting in the tub. He came in and asked in a ‘walking-on-eggshells’ manner, “What is going on with you?” I mumbled, “I don’t know”. I really had no idea. Coming up with words to describe how I felt seemed like an impossible feat. A single tear rolled down my cheek. He asked if I could talk to a friend. I mumbled, as if the very act of speaking hurt, in a monotone, “no, there’s no one to talk to. Everyone has their own stuff. I don’t want to burden anyone”. This voice in my head kept playing like a broken record, “You’re worthless. You suck at everything you do, why bother working towards anything. You have no one. You’re disgusting. You can’t do anything.” When at the very same time, I knew that a week ago, I was on top of the world dreaming up business plans, and plans for our future. What was wrong with me? I knew I just wasn’t me. But I had no idea.
Jayden placed his hand on my back. I sat emotionless with tears rolling down my cheeks. As if there was this girl inside me crying and begging for help, stuck inside a stone face. I was numb. Jayden placed his arms around me and prayed. He prayed and prayed and begged God to help me realize His love for me, begged God to help me find a friend to talk to.
The next day I met with a dear friend who I felt confident I could trust enough to share these feelings with. Talking about it felt like lighting a candle in a dark room. I felt better.
The next morning I made an appointment with my doctor and was diagnosed with Post-Partum Depression. She suspected I’ve been struggling with this for at least 10 months. Looking back, I think my entire family has been struggling with this for at least 10 months. I didn’t feel sad, or like I wanted to harm myself or my children. So I just kept brushing it aside.
I had no idea. The anxiety. The kind of anxiety that grips your throat all day long because you know you have to go somewhere that night. The kind of anxiety that forces you to create lists everyday because you don’t think you can get through a day without one, because the last time you didn’t live by a list, it was a bad day. The kind of anxiety that causes you to pace around your kitchen looking for something to eat, but not even your most favourite meal seems at all appealing. But you make that meal because you know you should eat, and you know it’s good for you. And then you take 2 bites of that delicious salad and just can’t stand to eat another bite. The kind of anxiety that throws you into compulsive organizing and reorganizing cupboards and drawers and spaces because you just. NEED. space.
Somehow having 3 kids became my excuse for calling all of this “normal”. I was under the impression that this was just “normal”. Meanwhile, my life as I knew it was on the brink of extinction. This disorder was effecting everything around me. Friendships, my marriage, my life with my precious children.
Jayden and I began assessing our year. 2014 had been a very difficult year. The greatest gift of 2014 was our beautiful boy. He was our silver lining. He brings me joy everyday. For that, I am so grateful. By God’s grace, my favourite part of each day is spending time with the boys. Teaching them, answering questions, giving and receiving hugs and cuddles and bedtime prayers.
I had no idea. I had no idea that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal. In Author Andrew Solomon’s TedTalk, he states that depression isn’t a loss of happiness, but a loss of vitality. How true. In 2014 I lost vitality. But my plan has been to light thousands of little candles and brighten the room in 2015 and take back what was stolen from me and my family. My healing journey began with seeking medical support. My healing became stronger with a cocktail of medication and psychotherapy. I feel like me again. And I feel strong enough now to share this journey, and to move forward and give each day moving forward the BEST of me.
I plan to share the keys to my personal healing journey in the following weeks and months. I do hope that you follow along, if not to bring strength to your own personal well-being, to at the very least be sensitive and supportive in the well-being of someone you may know.
Because where there is light. Darkness has to hide.