2017 is not a year that stands independent from the 4 previous years.
I bunch the past 5 1/2 years into a chunk of time in which real life hit me square between the eyes, and I do have to say i was unprepared for the blow.
Here is what I thought:
My life is great. I have nothing to complain about. I am a confident, competent person. I just have to wait until I snap out of it. I’ve never had depression. I can’t be depressed.
As the years crawled on I would look at other moms and wonder how and why they liked their kids. Why did they hold them, snuggle them, enjoy them? All I wanted was to constantly run away from my girls. Every night I didn’t want to go to sleep because I didn’t want to wake up and do it all again, every day, forever.
I recently took time away from social media to get un-addicted to everything. My phone. Social media. Checking out. I even try to make phone calls more than text these days. I did think unplugging would create moonbeams and unicorns and I would be happier being a mom and having my girls climb all over me and I would be full of love, peace, joy, and rejoicing but what I learned was, without wasting time doing the numbing scroll (as frequently or infrequently as it was) I was left to myself. I spent more time in stillness and consequently thinking about…everything...
I came to the conclusion that I needed more help than I would admit. I couldn’t keep going on by barely hanging on, pushing through, or waiting until (…fill in all the blanks).
The past 5 years were nothing how I imagined they should be, or how I wanted them to be, and I wasn’t getting better - it was a stark reality but I was getting worse.
“So many other women could do this better than me. Love them better than me. Have fun with them better than me” were the constant strands of thoughts rolling through my mind regarding my family.
I never slept. Every night I lay in bed for hours, my heart racing, unable to breathe deeply or slowly. I woke incessantly throughout the night and worried about everyone, every thing, past, present, and future. The next morning I would lie in bed until 11. The girls would scavenge cookies from the cupboards and dine on ice cream and cookies for breakfast.
I found myself in a hole of missed expectations and dark thoughts.
I wonder if postpartum depression lasts until you are finally able to rewrite your story, inserting yourself now as “mom.” Or, maybe until you are able to redefine yourself in this new role of “mom.”
Whatever the root, I kept thinking, “I’ll be me again when they go to preschool, to kindergarten, when they […..fill in the blank….]” But honestly it didn’t matter how long they were away. As soon as they were back with me simple daily tasks brought on an anxiety and hopelessness that devoured me.
(Almost 2 years ago I left my 2 year old and 1 year old with their grandparents while Tyler and I flew to Argentina for 16 DAYS! 16 DAYS! And we did not call, facetime, talk - nothing! In addition, I did not miss them until day 14; I did not miss my 2 year old or 1 year old for two weeks. In fact, I was living the dream and happier than I had been in a few years. There was something clearly wrong, but I didn't see it or accept it. Last year I went to California for some sunshine and told Tyler I would be back in a couple weeks. Every single week I asked, “Next week…?”
6 weeks had gone by. It took me six weeks to feel "like me" again.
I think this story began when I became pregnant with Annie. We moved to Seattle that winter; she was born in the spring. I held on through the summer, became pregnant again, had a 15 month old and a newborn in a small apartment in a city - not something I had ever done before. Winter again, endless coughs and colds are the never-ending name of the winter game. In addition to that the sun rises late and sets early, around 4pm. It’s overcast and rains quite a lot these winters. We stay inside a lot. It’s not a lifestyle conducive to my sanity. Each summer I would barely come up for air because we lived at the park every. single. day., only to find myself in a lower low the following winter.
I finally went to the doctor last week. I was honest - most importantly with myself but also with her. I’m usually honest with God (I have no problem shouting out my insecurities, complaints, problems, frustrations, with him - He is love and I know he doesn’t expect me to be something I am not; He sees who I am, who I will become.) I do think for a long time I wanted Him to fix it. He didn’t. He wanted me to be open with myself, communicate with my husband, and my doctor, and move my own feet toward help and improvement.
I guess every story doesn't have, or need, a miracle ending - maybe we wouldn’t learn the lessons that make us more empathetic, understanding, compassionate, forgiving, willing to listen to, and see, others.
I know all of this does not compare to other’s who have lived with depression and anxiety for longer, and on a much deeper level. I don’t know why I write this and put it out there. Maybe to say social media lives look pristine. I know I’ve posted so many “happy posts” which were real moments, real feelings, but were no more than brief instances. Happy was not an overarching feeling of my life in general.
I thought: maybe I need to get off social media, sleep more, do less. I did all of those things trying to “cure” myself. While those were moves I will continue, as they had positive outcomes, they did not change the emotions and feelings that dominated me.
Maybe I write this for anyone who can relate but who hasn’t yet put words to their thoughts or feelings, those who are still trying, by sheer grit, to press through.
No one need endure the misery, sadness, numbness, inability to function, until their circumstances change, especially not alone. Changing my circumstances certainly may change my brain, but there are some things I cannot change right now. I have had to accept and acknowledge that, and realize there are other steps I need to take to improve my situation right now. And I don’t need to feel guilty about them.
If you feel any of these feelings don’t let more time go by hoping for some other future to distill itself upon you. I let too many years go by. I haven’t found an answer yet, and have been allergic to both medications the doctor has given me, but I have hope again. While my body reacted negatively to them in one way, in other ways they did help me feel light again, feel like real happiness, real enjoyment is there! I was happy to wake up for a few mornings - something I haven't felt in years. I just have to work through some kinks to find it on a more consistent basis.
If you need someone to talk to or confide in or somewhere to go - I will do whatever I can to help you. You can have my cell number and call any time! You can come over! We can put a show on for the kids and just talk. If you need anything find someone you can confide in. You are not a burden.
Maybe I write this for myself. So I can remember what the up and down feels like in motherhood, in family. Sometimes things feel hopeless, but they never are.
My greatest thoughts are summed up perfectly in these words by Elder Bradley D. Foster, “It is my witness that our Heavenly Father loved us so much that He sent His Only Begotten Son to live the life of a mortal so that Jesus could say to us, ‘I’ve been where you are, I know what comes next, and I’ll help you through it.’”
Jeffrey R. Holland recounts a moment in his young fatherhood and ends with these words, "Don't you quit. You keep walking. You keep trying. There is help and happiness ahead. Some blessings come soon, some come late, and some don’t come until heaven; but...they come. It will be all right in the end. Trust God and believe in good things to come."
I could not move forward one inch without this knowledge.
I hope 2018 is different from past years. That I will notice and accept the things that are hard and do my best to patiently resolve them.
Happy New Year. Here is to good things to come.