Disclaimer: The following article mentions the topic of suicide or other sensitive subjects, which may trigger negative thoughts and feelings for those currently suffering or still recovering from a mental or mood disorder. Reader discretion is advised.
Have you ever had a really vivid dream where you pondered your dream long after you woke up? As you considered your responses and reactions while you were in the dream, did you realize that they were wholly irrational and made no sense? While you were in the dream, of course, all of these actions, thoughts, and deeds were completely rational, right? That’s sort of what postpartum depression is like, only it’s not a vivid dream–it’s an unending, vivid nightmare.
Before I got pregnant, I never had a problem with mental health. In fact, it wasn’t until I finally got treated that I realized how bad the depression had been during my pregnancy and beyond. When I was pregnant, I was working on my master’s degree, working full-time, and stressed out to the max. I tend to compartmentalize, so I simply put off thinking about my baby. There wasn’t time. My stress increased a month before my due date, and my depression worsened. I was fatigued and bottoming out. In fact, I was fantasizing about ways that I could kill myself without hurting my baby.
I delivered my baby and made it through the first two months. But as time progressed, things got worse. I remember feeling my mom’s concern as I told her that I felt nothing for my baby. The anxiety got worse. I remember being panicked about the idea of leaving the house with my baby. I couldn’t even fathom attending a doctor’s appointment by myself.
I went back to work after 12 weeks and was grateful for the time away from my baby. I remember growing more and more depressed as I realized that I now hated weekends and evenings because of my anxiety around my baby.
The fatigue worsened, and my hopelessness was deep. Some days I couldn’t even get out of bed to go to work. I burned through vacation days, lying in my bed, unable to move. The suicidal thoughts were back. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either. I hoped and prayed for death. I knew that no one would miss me. But that’s how depression works. It lies. It tricks your mind into thinking that things are logical and normal . . . except you’re living in an alternate reality where up is down and right is left.
I started to feel relief when I thought about ways that I could end the eternal hell of living each day. It scared me. The darkness was pervasive. I got on medication, and I held on. When the medication finally worked, I woke up both literally and figuratively. I was myself. I had endless bounds of energy. The hopelessness slowly melted away. I finally felt like I could see the sunlight peeking through the darkness. It was cloudy, but the gentle light was there.
As I worked on recovery, my bond deepened with my son. The regret and ambivalence melted away in his bright, cheerful smile and chubby cheeks. Together, my son and my treatment plan chased the last of the clouds away so that my family can revel in the sunny goodness of recovery.