This post is 7th in a series on depression.
Megan Tietz writes at SortaCrunchy where she would love for you to stop by and pretend to be her neighbor. She is the co-author of Spirit-Led Parenting: From Fear to Freedom in Baby’s First Year, and she has been a regular contributor at The Art of Simple since 2009. She and her husband make their home in Oklahoma City with their four children: two beautiful daughters and ornery but sweet toddler twin boys.
No more than thirty minutes had passed since my blog post had published, and the texts and messages started rolling in. One of them, from a friend I met through blogging more than six years ago, simply said,
“You have PPD.”
I don’t think so, I texted back.
I grew up in a family that flamed with dysfunction, and at the heart of that fire was mental illness. I knew what depression looked like. Depression looked like not being able to get off the couch on a Saturday. Depression looked like a long season of mopey boredom. Depression looked like hopeless conversations spoken a little too loudly behind closed doors.
I knew depression in the third person, and I was not depressed.
More than that, I have been a fan of Katherine Stone’s work at Postpartum Progress for years. When we were writing our book, I spent hours reading articles on her site, trying to think about how to approach the topic with sensitivity since neither my co-author nor I had ever experienced PPD. I fully believed I knew what PPD was about, and I fully believed I did not have it.
And besides, the post I had published on my blog that day was about anger, not depression. I poured out my heart and my words to a community of strangers who loved me and cheered me on throughout my pregnancy with my twins, and who, on that day, listened with gentleness and compassion. I laid it out in front of God and everybody how angry I had been from the moment the twins were born right on through to that very day, so angry about things big and small.
And right there in the comments, there was confirmation of what my closest friends were telling me: anger was a sign of depression.
I just couldn’t reconcile the thought in my mind. I truly didn’t feel depressed. When things were good, they were very good! I was enjoying getting to know our new babies, my big girls were loving their role as the Big Sisters, spring was springing and we had the summer ahead of us. There were so many good moments.
But when things were bad, they were very, very bad. Dark storm clouds would roll over me out of nowhere and I would be tugged under the waves of anger and despair. Sometimes these dark moments would last only five minutes, but sometimes they would last for a few days. The anger made me feel like a complete stranger to myself, and in the midst of these dark moments, I truly believed I would never, ever, ever feel better, that I would never be myself again.
I texted my sister: Do you think I might have PPD?
Why do you think I call or text you every day to check on you? she texted back.
When my husband got home from work, I told him about the day, about how so many people were so insistent that I look at this differently, not that the anger was simply a sign of grieving the loss of the way things were before the twins were born, but that I look at it as postpartum depression.
Do you think I have it? I asked.
He paused, choosing his words carefully. In his eyes, I saw not just a little trepidation, but I also saw something else, something that looked like relief.
I think, yeah, there’s a pretty good chance you do.
In the weeks that followed, I saw my doctor, I had a few visits with a counselor, and I started a supplements routine that really helped bring balance to the storms inside me. There was no magic wand, however, no quick fix. The rest of the twins’ first year played out as a series of beautiful highs and devastating lows. However, having a name for what I was experiencing helped me immensely. It gave light to the dark moments, just the knowledge that I wasn’t changing into some rage-filled monster who was incapable of mothering her children. I took great comfort in knowing I wasn’t alone.
I’ve thought a lot about what might have happened if I hadn’t published that blog post that day, and it’s scary where that mental road leads. It’s hard to find words to express the gratitude I have for friends and strangers alike who didn’t just skim my words, for people who listened and helped me connect the dots.
I know now that depression manifests in different ways in different people. Even though it’s tempting to feel stupid that I had PPD and I was the last one to know, I’m resisting the shame and offering my story as a reminder to listen carefully to those who speak into your life — they may very well be throwing a life raft to you in the midst of the storm.
* * * *
This series is teaching me so much.
Mostly that depression has many faces. Many variants.
But always hope.
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with PPD, please show them love and grace and encourage them to seek help. Perhaps the first, most gentle step, would be to recommend Postpartum Progress to them. So they might find kindred souls and words that remind them of their turbulent insides.
And today, I would encourage you to give to the work Postpartum Progress does. Your neighbor might need that site someday. Or your sister. Or your daughter even.
Love you all friends.
We’re in this together.