Depression is like having ants in your underwear drawer. No matter how thoroughly the foundation of a house is sprayed, August comes and they trickle in, choosing the most invasive places to pop up. Pantry, inside shoes, underwear drawer.
The depression I have dealt with has always had the same feeling of betrayal. I thought I was prepared to withstand such negativity, but no matter now I sprayed my foundation, they found a way in. I always imagined depression was like those commercials with the cartoon people who are slumped over, and everything is gray, and there is gloomy music playing in the background. Then they take the magic pills and everything is like sunshine and rainbows.
I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I have experienced two different kinds of heavy depression. The first kind was more due to the grief of loss. I have had three miscarriages. The first two were back-to-back, and then I had my first child. The birth of my baby girl felt like someone switched on a light that I didn’t realize had been off. It did take time to grieve, but once she was born, I felt a bit better. It was comforting to know that I could have children, and although grief for my lost babies was still there, having that ability allowed me to move past the really insidious part of my depression that I had unwittingly been wearing as a cloak for that time. I had another miscarriage after my daughter, and then I had my son. Basically, I have been pregnant for five years. My husband should get a gold medal in “how to deal with an overly moody wife.”
When I tell people about my miscarriages, the responses vary. Some people have been through them as well and get it a bit more. They just offer condolences for my loss. Other people ask what I did. They say things like, “I bet you were super busy,” or “you are such an active person,” or “you shouldn’t have done _________.” What these people don’t realize is that they are saying that I killed my babies. Think about it: if you are telling someone who has lost a baby that they did something to cause that loss, then logically you are telling them that they made it happen or could have prevented it. This is not an appropriate way to speak with someone grieving over a loss. Especially since as a mom with babies lost, I am already at a permanent state of blaming myself for losing them. No matter how many times I have talked to my doctor after one of our miscarriages and she has insisted that I am doing nothing to cause this, there will always be a part of me that takes on blame no matter what. Because even if you haven’t had a baby once you get pregnant, you are a mom, and moms take on the pain of their children as our own. So logically, I understand that I did nothing, and I try and keep that irrational blame part of me at bay as much as possible so that it doesn’t send more depression ants to my emotional picnic.
The second kind of depression I have confronted has been postpartum. When I was about to have my son, my husband and I were talking. I have never been great at acknowledging when I am having difficulties, and often that leads to larger, more-complicated issues, so in my now-medium age I wanted to try and head this off by talking to my husband about possible postpartum issues. He asked me if I had postpartum depression with our daughter and hadn’t told him about it. I told him that yes, I had a difficult time adjusting to parenthood at one point and put on a brave face because I didn’t want to seem incapable of being a mom, and I didn’t understand how something so good like the birth of a child can lead to such negative emotions. So I associated those emotions as being wrong and pushed them down.
He told me that that was dangerous and stupid. He said that I had to tell him when things were feeling weird or off or else he couldn’t help me. Duh. It’s good to be married to someone who isn’t afraid to tell me when I am being an idiot. After my son was born, I struggled a lot more with postpartum. He is such a happy baby, and some days it felt as though all of my happiness had gone into him. I had such a hard time connecting to him sometimes, and I felt like something was wrong with me. I didn’t realize that I was depressed until I started following through with my promise to husband by telling him about how weird I felt. It made me feel silly, as though what was bothering me wasn’t a big deal and I should just be able to move on, but I begrudgingly told him about it because I made a commitment to him to be forthcoming about this.
The more I talked the more I realized that depression had snuck up on me. Depression trickled in like those ants at the end of the summer. The more I talk about it, the easier it all is to work with. Although, like miscarriages, postpartum isn’t really talked about. It made me feel alone and broken, which in turn only worsened my infestation.
Our son is 7 months old now, and I feel a lot better. The depression ants are fewer, but they still sneak in at times. I wish that I had known how slowly depression can weigh you down until you actually are one of those cartoon people, slumped over and gray. For now, I will keep talking about it and hope that others find comfort in knowing that it isn’t your fault and you aren’t alone.