the anxious darkness | PPD

i have post-partum depression and anxiety.

if you only knew how hard that was to type. how desperately i wish i could press the backspace button and clear all memories of PPD anxiety out of my life.

instead. instead, i will share. because no one should be alone, and other people’s stories helped me finally realize the bleakness that plagued my every waking and sleeping moment and stole the joy from my life.

it started after the birth of Jarvis. my first, long-awaited child. at the time, I didn’t recognize it. we had been living in north dakota for only a couple of months and i didn’t have a strong support group, and i was miles and miles from my family. i thought my feelings, my experience was just normal. having a baby is hard. it’s normal to cry all day, right? ah, no, apparently not for months and months. i fretted over everything. i worried, i couldn’t do anything right. i hated leaving my house and pushed away family when we visited because i was so worried about messing everything up. i felt like i would never sleep again and i was terrified to create bad habits. i had to control every single thing or i would lose it all. breastfeeding completely bombed with the words ‘failure to thrive’ at just 6 weeks old. my sweet boy lost all of his hair and was a frail little old man who was starving. i had failed. i felt lost and caught and ached so deeply all the time. he didn’t sleep, he cried so much and I doubted every single decision. 

and then, just 4 months after we welcomed Jarvis into the world, in the midst of all that chaos, I was bounding down the stairs to happily show my husband those two little pink lines. we were pregnant, again! after struggling to conceive Jarvis for two years, we were unbelievably thrilled. they would be 13 months apart and we didn’t care one bit. but my hormones, oh dear. still in the trenches of unrecognized PPD, and now experiencing pregnancy again, my anxiety and stress levels skyrocketed. my happiness slowly ebbed into all-consuming fear. how, how would i do it??

finally, the second trimester hit and i started to see the light, my hormones began to even out on their own, and for the first time in nearly 6 months, i was happy. i could do it, we would figure it out.

and then came one of the worst days of my life. 

‘i’m so sorry, there’s no heartbeat.’ 

and in that moment, my life changed forever. just over 24 hours later I gave birth again. 8 months after we welcomed a screaming, breathing Jarvis into the world, I tearfully held my still, silent second-born, Job. 

and then four months later, i heard the same words again.

the next six was a mess of emotions. i can’t tell you now what was grief and what was PPD and anxiety. i don’t even know. all i know, i was not in a good place. instead of acknowledging it and reaching out for help, i retreated. i did what i knew best and hid. i was not the mother i wanted to be to my precious 1 year old. i didn’t know how to be. i felt empty and bleak and hopeless. it seemed like nothing could ever be good again. even looking at my eldest made my heart ache as i grieved for what we had lost and what might never be. i put on a happy face, but the emptiness remained. i wanted these children so badly, but i could barely take care of the one i did have.

a few months later, we once again saw those two pink lines, but i couldn’t let myself hope. but after 8 ultrasounds in a row with no heart tones, we finally saw some… two actually. 

my pregnancy with the twins was not as anxious as I would have anticipated. i focused on the pregnancy, month by month, day by day. so much so that i never really thought much about how it would be afterwards. how i was going to handle 3 kids under 2. it took an hour after my c-section before i was brought back up the room and allowed to see and hold my babies. and as i held my babies, my dearly wanted and loved children, i felt my anxiety level rise with every hour.

by the time they were 2 weeks old, breastfeeding was bombing again and i was watching my babies not gaining. and every day inched closer to the inevitable. being alone. with three kids. i dreaded my babies waking up, all i wanted to do was sleep. i didn’t want to hold them. everyday the anxiety got more and more crippling and everything seemed more and more dark. i’m not really sure what the tipping point was. when i realized i couldn’t go on like i was anymore. after many, tearful conversations with my husband, i decided, for him and my kids, to text a friend and ask for a name and number. except it took me three days to actually send that text message.

within in a week i was in an office, sobbing, telling my story, and realizing that the anxiety I felt was a manifestation of PPD. and after 3 weeks of a low-dose medicine, i finally began to see glimmers of light. i felt like i could breathe, like i could possibly leave my house, like things WOULD be alright. all of the sudden, all of those irrational fears, the inability to stop my brain from spiraling out of control analyzing every could or should be.

but. i didn’t tell anyone. not even my closest friends. why? partially beause i didn’t understand what was going on, and there was no way to describe it to anyone. i just didn’t have the words. and partially from shame. shame that no matter how much i loved my children, sometimes i just wanted to curl in a ball and ignore them all. i know what it’s like to desperately want children and have that negative test every month. i know what it’s like to hold your lost child. i couldn’t believe that i was so blessed with my children, yet still unable to shed this darkness. 

but that’s the thing. i can’t control it. i didn’t choose it. i didn’t do anything to cause it. i have always been an anxious person, and dealt with my anxiety by over-managing. but after i give birth. i lose control of my ability to rein in the anxiousness. i suffer from severe, crippling postpartum anxiety and depression.

my babies are 4 months old, and i am still on my low-dose meds. how long will i take them? i’m not sure. do i like that i can’t deal with my anxiety without the meds, no. but do they allow my brain to relax enough to be the best mother and wife i can be? right now, yes. they allow me to breathe and to live in the moment instead of being consumed with the what-ifs. the downsides… weight gain, and a dip in my ability to multitask and plan. are they worth it? yes, right now.

PPD has been shown to get worse with each pregnancy, and we are not done. i let PPD steal a good chunk of Jarvis’ first year, but i refuse to let it bury me with the twins and subsequent pregnancies. they have begun to show that PPD manifests itself differently in every person. mine is not typical depression but a depression born out of an overwhelming anxiety. my friends still don’t know. they will learn of it when i post this blog. i still can’t seem to find the words or situation to say it out loud. PPD doesn’t mean that you don’t love your children, or appreciate and want them. if you feel out of control or unable to cope, please, talk to someone. no one should have to live with that darkness.