A friend of mine on Facebook just linked this blog post about dealing with postpartum depression: Postpartum Rage. After reading it, I decided I have a story to share too... except it feels more like a confession. We'll get to that later.
When I first found out that my friend had been dealing with postpartum depression, my reaction was, "Oh, that's too bad." Sophia was three months old and amazing; she was happy or sleeping. Emma, at 21 months, was a bit more challenging, but we were having fun. Friends and acquaintances had marveled at how together my life was and how well I was managing the transition to being a mother of two.
And then I started taking birth control pills. Almost immediately my outlook on life changed. Five days after starting the progesterone-only pills, I was a wreck. I couldn't handle my children, I couldn't speak up for myself, and I was angry and sad and - depressed. Just like that. In five days I went from "Life is perfect!" to "I may as well kill myself." Honestly.
At one point I locked myself in the bathroom with the lights out, ran a bath, and put my head underwater, chanting "no, no, no." I couldn't handle life at all. Every little thing set me off. Luckily, Matt & I made the connection with the birth control and I went off it (after discussing with my midwife, who said that, yes, the pills could have started this). Within a week I was feeling better. I no longer wanted to kill myself. Within two weeks life was wonderful again. I was fine.
Except I wasn't. Everything came back full force soon. Full force and more. I dipped into a depression again. It was scary and a lot like the depression I'd experienced as a teenager. That was a dark cloud that sometimes turned black. That was cutting myself and trying to figure out how to kill myself and hiding in my room and pretending life was ok while at school and with friends and family. This time, I had some of those same feelings. I hid at home with my girls for a week or two, using naptime as an excuse to stay home. As I walked past my kitchen knives, I remembered that cutting was a great way to make the inward pain have an outward expression. I even picked up a knife and held it to my wrist for a bit. I thought regularly about the razor blades in the basement. I looked for a way out of the dark cloud - could I kill myself? (No, the girls wouldn't have a mom...) Could I kill them? (Never - although it's scary that it even crossed my mind.) Could I run away and leave Matt? (How would that fix things - I'd have to bring the girls with me, and they were the problem...) Could I leave the girls? (No - Fia's nursing and needs me.)
So I started talking with Matt about it, seeing my therapist twice a month, contemplating taking meds...
But the thing is, I wasn't being honest with everyone. Yes, there was the black cloud of depression, but I could (mostly) hold that at bay. The scary part, the part I still don't want to tell anyone, is the red cloud of rage. Postpartum rage. Red stabbing rage, uncontrollable, sneaking into my life. I could no longer contain my impulses. I yelled at Emma. Correction, I stood towering over her, pointing my finger down at her while she cried in her bed, yelling for her to "SHUT UP AND GO TO SLEEP!" I channeled my father in his worst alcohol-and-depression-fueled rage. I worked hard not to hit, because I didn't want to be someone who hits (spanks) her children. So I held tight. Squeezed so hard Emma would cry. Wondered later if the bruises on her body were from being a little girl or from me. Maybe they were from me. And then I would cry and apologize and try to be better. Once I bit her. Ohmygod, I bit her. I cannot believe it. And I pulled her hair another time. So juvenile, but my primal impulses reigned.
The thing is, no one knows about this. About me in particular, but about postpartum rage in general. Moms will NEVER admit that they are hurting their children. We love our children, and we want them in our lives. Admitting this - what I've just said up there - is so scary because what if someone reads this, reports me, and takes the girls away from me??? There are moments in the day when it would be better if someone else were taking care of them, but they are fleeting. They don't even add up to an hour. And I'm with them 24 hours a day.
These days, my life is getting better. I'm working out five days a week - at least - and the endorphins are just as good (if not better) than any prescription. I'm still seeing my therapist. I'm honest with her, with Matt, and with my family and friends. But I've come to realize that PPD and PPD rage need to be discussed more openly. We need to get rid of the stigma, so that women will know that postpartum depression is possible, that it can present months after having the baby, and that there are others dealing with the same thing. Probably more of us than you know. And it's probably worse than they let on.
Next time, I'm seriously looking into ingesting my placenta. (Serious ick factor, I know... but it's supposed to help with PPD.) I don't know that I could actually swallow it - whether in a smoothie, cooked, or a pill. But if it could prevent me from feeling this way.... maybe.