October 2, 2012

Don't Cry

The thing about depression is that it's only invisible when you're outside of it.  When you're inside the depression bubble, it's more than visible- it's tangible.  It's a cloying, noxious cloud of mud.

Everything that you see, you're seeing through that depression.

I know, because I have a lot of experience with it.  I was seriously depressed from the time I was eight until I was in my twenties.  I also didn't sleep.  I began contemplating suicide at eight and a half.  I tried once, at fourteen.  Nearly succeeded, too.

Depression?  It comes in a million different flavors, and they are not mutually exclusive.

So when I realized that I had been feeling depressed- truly, genuinely, severely depressed- I did my best to explain it away.  To come up with reasons that I wasn't depressed, I was just... something-else-not-nearly-so-bad.

And I had lots of convenient scapegoats.  The best of which was a little something called D-MER.

D-MER is, for me anyway, a pretty severe problem I'm experiencing but had never heard of until recently.  That acronym stands for "Disphoric Milk Ejection Reflex."

Basically, every time I'm about to have a let-down, I have a panic attack.  A crying, panting, sweating, freaking-out panic attack.

Every. single. time.

And, as other nursing mothers of three months old know, that means that I'm having all-out panic attacks as often as ten or twelve times a day.

They're blessedly brief, all things considered, but it's made life more than a bit hellish.  Every few hours, a panic attack.  And then the adrenaline rush wears off, and I'm exhausted.  Or antsy.  Or both.

I coped with it pretty well for about six weeks.  And then, the depression kicked in.

I have a confession to make.  It was so bad, one of those dancing videos I put up?  I edited out a bit where I stopped dancing with my daughters to just sit down and weep.

It was awful.  Their concern, their fear, their sadness, that all made it worse.  But when they would ignore my crying and go about their business, that just made it worse too.

I felt constantly judged but other mothers.  By comments about how being a mom is the greatest job in the world, about how lucky we mothers are, about how we chose to have children, about how some women would give anything to be in our shoes.  I was overwhelmed by guilt at feeling so completely trapped, and I did feel trapped.

I found myself thinking awful things, I realized how close I was to actually considering (not causing, but considering) some sort of self inflicted harm.

And I know that this is probably going to sound totally implausible, but I'm doing much better now.  You know, one week later.

I can tell you what shook me out of it, too.  It was Ani Difranco.  At her show, she sang "Joyful Girl," and it was like I heard the lyrics for the very first time.  Or like she was actually talking directly to me.  In the song, she's talking to her reflection in the mirror, and says, "Would you prefer the easy way? No, well okay then, don't cry."

How can I have been listening to that song for more than fifteen years without really hearing that one line?  Those last two words?  I swear, I had never heard Ani sing those last two words to me before.  And for some reason, it worked.

The fact of the matter is, life is hard.  And parenthood is hard.

And you know what?  Parenthood isn't what you expect it to be.  And life isn't what you expect it to be.

I always knew I wanted to be a mom.  I always knew I wanted to have children.  But in my head, they were always... older.  Between three and eight.  Those magic years when they're still so young that much of the world is an amazing place, but old enough that you can talk to them about it.

And children don't emerge from the womb ready to play make-believe and visit the zoo.

When I was pregnant with the twins, I prepared myself for what I thought would be six months of purgatory. Six months of wee little babies.  And I wasn't particularly fond of babies.  But I was pleasantly surprised- I actually enjoyed them as babies.  I actually enjoyed cleaning all the poo and nursing and rocking them to sleep.

And now they've reached that stage, that dream age I always wanted my children to be, and they are every bit as wonderful as I could have hoped.  But I wasn't happy.

And here I was, with another baby.  An amazing baby.  Big, healthy, and easy.  Good lord is that kid easy.  She'll just lay swaddled under her mobile, smiling at the little owls, and put herself to sleep.

I'd watch my incredibly wonderful children playing together, and I'd feel an intense sadness.  A hurt so strong, and so deep, it was a physical pain.

I was depressed.  And, for now, I've sort of snapped out of it.

I'm still not back at 100%, but I'm finding joy in my day to day again.  I'm not just dragging myself from chore to chore, I'm making priorities and actually enjoying myself.  Pretty much every day.

Just like that, one day I woke up ready to crawl into a hole and never again.

And last week I woke up, ready to try to be me again.

Depression is awful.  Depression hurts, even physically.  It's something nearly impossible to explain.

But it does get better.  Knowing that I survived depression, once upon a time, helped me get through this bout.  Knowing that I've been through this, or something like it, before... it's not so much a comfort as it is a promise.

I know it's going to come back.  It always comes back.  I know I'll find myself weeping openly into unmatched socks, just wishing I wasn't so dreadfully alone.

But I did something really important, something new.  I saw that I was depressed, and I acknowledged it.  I let it be visible- I let my friends and my husband and my children know.  I didn't hide it.

Depression is like an abusive boyfriend, keeping you from your friends, and telling you that you need it.  And once it gets its claws in you like that...

I didn't let my depression become my secret addiction.  Not this time.

This time, I listened to Ani.

My loves
I didn't want my life to be easy, but what I wanted wasn't real.  What I wanted was a fantasy that only existed in my mind.  A fantasy where I played with my littles, and where I lived in the woods, and my life was totally impossible.

And the thing is, I knew that.  Of course I knew that.  But the desire to start a family is about more than wanting your genes to carry on, or wanting family pictures on the wall.

It's about moments.  Moments where your life is utterly full to the brim of meaning.  Where every little action seems to matter, but not to be full of dire consequence.

Moments like today, when I snuggled up with my three daughters on the bed and read No Roses for Harry.

I'm not better yet.  But I'm getting there.

Today was a good day.  Yesterday was a good day.

I'm pretty optimistic about tomorrow.


  1. "Depression is like an abusive boyfriend, keeping you from your friends, and telling you that you need it. And once it gets its claws in you like that..." Yes. This is one of the best descriptions of depression I've read. It is exactly like that for me, I immediately retreat when the cloud of depression comes to rest heavily about me.

    I love the hope you have here. Coming out of a particularly hard year myself, I can say that those good days are good! (even the hard ones that don't match up to the fairy tale)

    Here's to good days...and not crying. You can do this.

  2. With my mental health, my motto is never repeat the previous generations mistakes. I saw my mother OD on pills and looking back on it as a parent, that is something I think a child should never see. She came from that generation and culture that didn't agree with therapy. One of my relatives is bipolar and she was impressed by my breast feeding. When she asked my advice about whether to breastfeed or take the meds, I wholeheartedly said, take the meds - the baby won't care and I understand. I know that my mental health goes in phases, sometimes I need to go to weekly appointments and then won't need to go for months. I don't intend to hide it for all of my children's lives but in my head, anything under the age of 13/14, seems too soon to expose. Hope it improves and if it doesn't - please seek help.

  3. Oh it hurts me to read this. I am SO sorry to learn you are going through this! I have experienced depression and know the first and most important step is to admit it has it's ugly hold on you. You are brave to do so, and because you have I know you are going to be OK. But please know you don't have to go through it alone. You are never alone, even when you feel trapped in the darkness. Reach out for and accept help when you need it. Sending you much love.

  4. I'm so glad you are starting to feel better.

    As for those moms who are just talking about how great it all is- they are just waiting for someone else to admit how freaking hard it all can be.

  5. This brings tears to my eyes- of sadness and relief and having lived in the darkness before. Admitting it is so damn hard but maybe it will help. Your words perfectly capture what it feels like.

  6. Thinking of you and wishing you lived closer. Message me to Skype anytime :)

  7. Thinking of you... It is hard. So very hard.

  8. D-MER sounds like a very frustrating thing to have to deal with. It makes sense that you'd feel emotionally overwhelmed by it. I personally struggle with depression and posted about it recently. Sharing these feelings is not easy so I commend you for your bravery in sharing these thoughts and your confession about the video with us. Sometimes, we try to hide it, and sometimes it doesn't work. What's best is that you are working on making yourself better. Your mental health is so important when being a mommy. It's not all about the kids, as adorable as your daughters are, it's about you too!

    I wish you the best in your endeavors. ~Xiomara from Equis Place

  9. Wow. You truly never cease to blow me away with your words and thoughts. Keep fighting the good fight. Big hug.

  10. Yes, you said this so well. It does hurt so much you can physically feel it; I know what this is like. I am not alone, and neither are you. Hugs to you and wishes for advances in mental health care and compassion, so we can all feel like ourselves someday.



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