This is the post that almost wasn’t, because it’s the post that I never wanted to write. Still, I think it’s important that I do—both for me but also for my mommy friends that have been following my journey after their own experiences with PPD.
I can’t say that I’ve been PPD-free this time anymore.
Do you know how hard that was for me to admit? How hard it was for me to reach out for help after I had done so well for so long? How disheartening it was to feel everything slip out of control four months postpartum, when things were supposed to only go up from there?
That’s the thing about PPD. There is no “supposed to.”
On Labor Day, the night before Hannah’s first day of school, I had trouble sleeping. Lizzy had just finished her four-month-growth spurt and I had survived it without so much as a hiccup. It was easy to assume that I had trouble sleeping out of nervous excitement. My first baby was going off to school, after all!
But one night of poor sleep turned into a week, and a week turned into two weeks. The Saturday after Labor Day was my 30th birthday, and I spent the morning in the shower sobbing. How could this happen now? It wasn’t supposed to be this way.
On Labor Day, I was fine. The next morning I was not. That same week, my hair began to fall out in fistfuls and my previously flawless skin began to break out all over the place. That four-month growth spurt must have triggered… something. And I’ve been clawing my way out ever since.
After an entire month of denial (“I’m just tired.” “I’m just overwhelmed by the school schedule.” “I just need to _____.”), I finally called my psych and maxed out my Wellbutrin.
This episode has come with the usual crisis of faith. Keeping my marriage strong has been one of the primary prongs in PPD prevention this time around, because depression always strikes at the heart of my marriage. I am immediately plunged into regret that I “let” Chris marry me, that he is stuck in this miserable marriage with this miserable person who is making his life… well, miserable.
Now, I don’t know if I would call this the voice of God exactly (or maybe it is), but there are times in prayer when I have these moments of clarity—an aha! moment—that can only come from God. I finally had that breakthrough moment just the other day.
“God, why is this happening? Chris and I were doing so, so well. We’ve never been stronger. So why do we have to go through this again?”
“Because you still haven’t learned how to do this well!”
Yep. That’s why I’m here. I still have not learned how to “do” marriage with depression. I still shut Chris out. To spare him the pain, I tell myself. I still give in to the lie that I am the enemy in my marriage; I am the bad guy.
The thing is, I’m not, really. I am not the bad guy. My depression is the enemy, not me.
I’ve always hated it when people compare depression to a physical malady like diabetes or a broken leg. It’s nothing like those things, in my opinion. But for once, that analogy helped me. If I had a broken leg, would I shut Chris out? Would I refuse to lean on him as I limp along because I don’t want to weigh on him? Of course not. I wouldn’t think twice about reaching out for his hand.
This is why the phrase “in sickness and in health” appears in wedding vows. Because sickness will come. Bad times will come. And it is so destructive to wish that I had not made those vows because I despise being the source of those hardships in my marriage.
It is what it is. Depression is my battle. And this probably won’t be the last time that depression puts strain on my marriage. So Chris and I had better learn how to do this well.
I am trying to lean into him instead of pulling away from him, to focus what little energy I have to fight this outside enemy—the depression—instead of fighting myself. This depression can create a wedge between us, or it can draw us closer together. I am trying to choose the latter.
I’m still not entirely sure what that looks like.
After a two weeks on my new dose of Wellbutrin, things are improving. Things still feel heavy, and I still feel a bit lost. I don’t think I’ve figured out yet who I am as a mother of three. And that will take some time.
But I have peace knowing at least one reason why I find myself in this place. Again. It’s good practice.
We’ve done this before, and we will probably do this again. But it’s always temporary. And when it’s over, we usually don’t want to go back to things the way they were.
So I am choosing to trust that—just like last time—this will be worth it.