The baby turned two months old this week, and all I can say is: it has been a hard week. Depression has been chasing me, and I have done my best to stay ahead of it, even though I am only a few footsteps ahead at all times. It’s exhausting to pace yourself like this. I know I have reasons to be happy. And I know it’s okay to be sad too.
I’ve replaced meals with donuts and cupcakes or nothing even though I did the hard work of making a meal plan and getting the groceries… I just couldn’t bring myself to actually cook the food. One “good” night, I had a Lean Cuisine by myself on the couch. What a lovely sight to see.
Tears have been lurking behind my eyes all week like an eager understudy waiting behind the curtain- ready and willing to showcase themselves if I let them. I’m already on an antidepressant, so I find myself googling things like “signs you should increase your dosage” or “postpartum depression versus baby blues.”
This week, I felt like a bullhorn was shouting at me about all the problems in my life that haven’t yet been solved and my shame from not being able to solve them was the figure holding the bullhorn. I know this to be true because I have done the same 1,000 piece puzzle four times since Christmas.
When the real life problems I am facing are too much for me, I turn to puzzles because it’s something tangible I can fix, put back together, see made whole. This week, Ari was sleeping in the rock-and-play next to me as I was finishing the puzzle. At the end, I noticed one piece was missing. I bent down to look for it under the table, found it, and ultimately laid down under the table holding it in my hand- not ready to get back up. I found myself thinking about how likely it would be for the table to just collapse on me. It’s such a fleeting thought of self-harm or death or pain that I almost didn’t even notice it. But then it happened again…
On my way to Target, I found myself braking on a bridge over Highway 100 waiting for a traffic light to turn green. I thought about the bridge falling and taking my car with me in it down, down, down…
Such tiny, fleeting thoughts. But admitting them seems horrifying.
While I was out, three different people mentioned showering to me. I got back from the Target trip to realize that I had forgotten to refrigerate eight ounces of breastmilk that I had pumped that morning and it had sat out all day. I also came home to realize that my bra wasn’t even attached all the way the whole time I was gone. My leggings were stained with breast milk and I considered changing them, only to remember that none of my pants fit me right now.
Ben kept making comments about how much Ari was smiling for him. Shame kept telling me “He doesn’t smile that much for you.”
Also this week, someone had assumed that I was unmarried with a baby because I haven’t worn my wedding ring in months because it won’t slide past my swollen finger, even though I try it on every few days then put it back in my underwear drawer. I lost count of how many diapers I changed, hardly able to see anything through teary-blurred eyes. I thought about calling so many friends, but I kept thinking “No- don’t bother them. They’re busy. They’re dealing with their own stuff.” It took every last ounce of vulnerability to work up the courage to finally call my mother-in-law, text a friend who also has a newborn, and let Ben read these thoughts I’ve been feeling because ultimately, I feel strongly that I should be able to “handle” everything that happened this week.
I even locked Zadie in the car by accident. We got a new van last month- I’m still learning how to use it- the dang thing is too secure. So as I scraped snow off, it auto locked with her buckled into her carseat, and I just stared at her through the window apologizing while we waited for help. The thing is, I know I am going to disappoint my kids- it’s inevitable to some extent, right? But this incident was the guiltiest I have ever felt as a mom, even though it was completely accidental and she was fine! I kept hearing this slimy voice in my head all day that said, “Don’t disappoint them as much as you have been disappointed. They deserve a good childhood.” It was ridiculous and so much pressure to put on my sleep-deprived, anxious self.
The good news is I was actually able to laugh- after our roadside assistance told us it would be 90 minutes before they could come unlock the car, we called 911 and two of my former students drove up in a cop car to save the day. They saw me. I saw them. We couldn’t help but laugh. But the shame didn’t let me laugh very long.
I think self-harm for me lately has looked like scrolling past pages and pages of pointless nonsense on social media instead of sleeping, committing to things without writing them down, giving other people “better” energy than I even give to myself… it all added up, and it really tortured me this week. It didn’t help that Ben was (thankfully) busy this week with all sorts of cool music opportunities.
One of the things I am most irritated with about my depression is that it takes resources from me that I want to give to others… I truly believe I can be generous with my time and energy and heart for others, and it seems wasted when I have to give it to myself instead. I shouldn’t have to remind myself of my teaching mantra: “I can’t give what I don’t have.”
And so, I’ve been praying that my kids won’t need to validate me their whole lives, I’ve been cancelling plans so that I can just be home, I’ve given myself windows to think, write, and process.
If you’ve seen the movie Tully, then you’ll understand what I mean when I say this week has felt like a string of Tully days back to back to back, and I’m ready for some breakthrough.
I suppose writing this is an honest attempt to name and acknowledge what I’ve experienced this week so that I can get some breakthrough. I have learned time and time again that I can’t heal from anything I’m pretending doesn’t exist.
So, I guess what I’ve learned this week is that two of my favorite quotes are true: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle” (Ian Maclaren) and “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated” (Maya Angelou).
Shame is sneaky, but as Brene Brown has taught me, vulnerability is the only medicine that seems to combat it. So maybe some of you, like me, need that message this week. Take the risk of calling a friend or naming your sadness to yourself. And maybe some of you need a reminder that many of us are doing the best we can, and we keep falling short despite the best of our intentions. And that’s okay. Maybe this will give you a lens to look through to see who in your life needs an extra dose of encouragement.
Here’s to hoping for fewer Tully days while simultaneously accepting that they happen.