Monday, July 28, 2014

No, Really, Everyone has it.

At about this time last year I was on the verge of just totally losing my mind. I had a 6 month old who just WOULD. NOT. STOP. CRYING. The only thing that could make her stop was to have my boob in her mouth and I was pretty much breastfeeding her around the clock, even at night, to the point where she just started sleeping in my bed suckling all night, which is like, the absolute biggest safety no-no in modern-mama land. When I wasn't completely immobilized by the Very Hungry Caterpillar in human form, her sensitive older brother, smack dab in the middle of the his "terrible twos" spent his time demanding my attention/making me feel totally guilty by systematically destroying the house in a quest for personal development that I felt like I should be providing.

About a million (non-doctor) people told me me that I should give the baby formula because my milk wasn't "good enough" for her and that I must be leaving her hungry, implying that I was starving my (very healthy) child and torturing myself in some self-righteous hippie-love-natural-mammalian quest to advocate breastfeeding. Against my better instincts I gave in and gave her formula, which made her vomit profusely and subsequently she began refusing all bottles from that point on, including ones of my own milk, which meant that I couldn't be away from her for more than an hour at a time without her having a complete hunger meltdown/sleep strike/hour long screaming session. I tried to leave her with my mom so I could go see a friend play music at a coffee shop, my mom called me, sobbing, asking could I please come get the baby? She won't stop stop screaming. 

On top of all of this my husband's job started going downhill in a bad, bad way. His hours were slashed to almost nothing, and it was clear that a lay-off was imminent. Did I mention that I left a very good job, where I was doing relatively well, working my way up through management, and making enough money to provide nicely for the family, just so that I could stay home with the kids? 

All of this lead me to be permanently encamped on the couch, baby at the boob, Daniel Tiger booming in the background, furiously focused on my iPhone, obsessing over breastfeeding/2-year-old development/hydro-geology jobs/everyone on facebook is happier than me. 

I was plagued by a constant narrative loop in my head: "I can't do this. We have no money. What if I am starving her? Why did I leave my job? I will never work again. I thought I was supposed to be smart? I'm never ever going to do anything important with my life.  I am bored. This is the best time my life, I'm an asshole for being bored. The first three years of life are the most important. The first three years of life are the most important. I only have three years. There's only half a year left for Luke. Is half a  year enough time to undo all the damage I've already done? I AM DOING SOMETHING WRONG. I am doing everything wrong. What is that smell? This house is a disaster. I need to weigh the baby right now. Nobody understands me. Nobody supports me. Everyone thinks I'm an idiot. I am an idiot. I need to be more engaged. I need to be more friendly. How did I get so fat?  If someone comes to check out this house right now I'd have the kids taken away. I have to be a better housekeeper. I have to be a better mom. I can't do this. I need to stop looking at my phone. I need to get into shape. Oh god, I am bored. There is so much laundry. I am so bad at this. I have no friends. I am bored because I am boring. He shouldn't be eating so much sugar. Why am I so addicted to sugar? I am a terrible example. I'm messing them up, eating sugar in front of them. I only have three years to get it right. I am a horrible mother." And repeat. 

While a lot of people tip-toed around the issue nobody came out and just said it, I had figure out for myself that I was seriously, dangerously depressed. I finally decided to get help when I was sobbing in the the kitchen, binge eating a block of cheese and a loaf of bread, wanting to just run away from all of it, trying to figure out if I had enough money in my bank account to do so, and I knew that I just couldn't keep living that way. 

The thing about depression is that it doesn't exactly look like how you think it would look.  I remember in the 90's when Zoloft first started advertising heavily and the commercials featured a sad little egg, going around the with a permanent raincloud over his head, hiding in a cave, until someone gave him some Zoloft and the sun just came out.

Maybe, for some people, it really is just a matter of being gloomy in the need of a little sunshine, but for me it was so so much more.  I had a very predictable cycle: self-hatred led to binge eating which led to guilt which lead to anger which lead to tears which led to more guilt and more self-hatred, and I was completely immobilized by the crushing amount of guilt. I didn't want to leave the house because I was so ashamed of, well just everything. I was constantly angry. I was glued to my phone. I was so lost. I was so hurt. I hated myself so much, and I was sure that I was deserving of all the misery because I was a terrible person. I felt trapped. In prison: in my head, in my living room, in my body.

I hated everything but I want to be clear that I didn't hate my children. No, my love for them was, is and always will be infinite. What I did hate was myself, for not being good enough, for not deserving these beautiful creatures. The sure one thing about  having kids, for me, was the the knowledge the I was truly the only person in the world who could raise them correctly. The only thing holding them back from absolute perfection was me, the lazy asshole who couldn't access the power within, couldn't find the motivation, didn't have the resources, to be what they needed. There was nobody in the world good enough to to raise my children except my most perfect version of myself, and because I was unable to produce that perfection I was failing them in the worst way.

I'm feeling very vulnerable even writing this blog now. I'm doing my very best to resist the urge to delete everything I've just written. I don't want people to think I'm crazy. I don't want people to laugh at me. I didn't want to admit that I was depressed, I don't want to admit that I am capable of depression. 

The one thing that is motivating me to go ahead and publish this is the knowledge that, depression, especially postpartum depression, often goes unnoticed and he people who do seek help are stigmatized for it. The thing is, a lot of people have it. Like really, a lot.  My doctor said that ALL women get it after having a baby, as there is a literal depression in the hormones in your body. He said that pregnancy is like puberty and breastfeeding is like menopause, and so having a baby is like going from one extreme to the other - in a matter of hours. 

Seeking help was not easy. I seriously procrastinated. I canceled doctor's appointments for stupid reasons. Eventually I made it  the half-mile to my doctor's office and my treatment plan included going on Zoloft (ha ha) and seeing a therapist. I approached therapy with a kind of ironic half-assedness trying to convince myself that I really didn't need it. I wasn't crazy. I was just tired...

I started to casually mention my therapist to people and often I'd see a look of relief cross their faces and they'd confess that they too, were in therapy. We're a secret society of pretty much everybody, unified in the fact that sometimes, we just cant do it on our own.

And things started to get better. I got back on track eating healthily and working out. I stopped wearing the same dirty pair of yoga pants everyday. It was a slow, painful journey, and it had it's many setbacks. I'm still on it. 

So here I am, trying to be brave. Trying to put it all out there so that maybe somebody else, who was suffering like I was won't feel so bad, that I can take a little of the shame away. Because there is nothing to be ashamed of. More people are depressed than you will ever know. Being a mom is hard. Being HUMAN is hard. There are so many THINGS and PRESSURE in our society. It's ok. It happens. We can't do it all. And there is hope.

I know, because I can look back a year ago and I can see how dark things were, if only because they are in such stark contrast to how they are now. I am so grateful that I got help. I can't say that I'm a perpetually sunny zoloft egg, because I'm still human, things still happen, life is still stressful, but at least now, I am ok with the fact that I am indeed, just a human, it makes all the difference. 


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