Doesn't 'Baby Blues' seem like a fluffy name for something that doesn't feel nice and fluffy?
It sounds like: "Oh, just getting through some Baby Blues", she says with an eye roll and a smile on her face.
It's anything but an eye roll and a smile. It's messy. It's ugly. It's dark. It's hard.
And even moms who've been there can sometimes forget all-to-soon.
You push yourself to move on and be happy, and sooner or later you trick yourself in to believing it. You then comfort your new-mom friends saying that 'it will pass' and 'just keep a close support network' and 'call me anytime'.
While these are all meant-well sentiments, we forget what it feels like to BE that person.
When depression sets in you don't even see the possibility of 'it will pass'.
There is no 'better day tomorrow'.
Each second your baby screams at 2am feels like an eternity. Each excruciating mis-latch or duct-clog is the end of your world.
You feel guilty wanting to call the call-me-anytime-friend at 3am, not wanting to burden anyone else with your misery. Your 'close support network' all have lives of their own and you know you can't ask them to sit with you 24/7 just to talk with words that aren't one syllable in length, and just so you're not alone in the symphony of screeches. You get invited out to meals, but don't really enjoy it because you know you have to go home eventually.
Some people make it through by saying things like "It's all worth it just for that smile" or "the love in their eyes is enough to pull me along". And those people get better. And that's wonderful.
But there are some, like myself, who are hit so hard that we can't even love them back.
It took me a long time to be able to look baby-Toby in the face and say I Love You.
Even then it sounded weird and I wasn't sure if I meant it. Reading the book The Second Nine Months by Vicki Glembocki helped me feel less alone since all other resources I had at the time told me that Bonding was GREAT, and that my loving mother-instinct would prevail!
I remember numbly holding screamy baby and just thinking 'I hate this...I hate you...' and then trying to push those feelings deep down inside because I felt so guilty for even thinking them. Constantly feeling guilty for being sad when so many others so desperately want babies or have lost babies.
The guilt makes you put on a mask and file away your emotions just so you can get through the day.
When Toby was old enough to interact with me I began to have more fun, and smile, and even laugh at the things he would do or say. We'd go on backyard adventures, short day trips to a museum or park, and cook together in the kitchen.
I felt human again.
I was finally over my long bout of un-diagnosed post-partum depression.
But then Toby got older again. And developed more of a personality.
All the tantrums and quirks, that I was assured 'were a phase' by multiple people, just seemed to get worse.
If you know us, you know we try very hard to have a mindful, loving, respectful atmosphere in our house. If you know Toby at all, you know that 'typical' discipline tactics don't work on him. Instead we talk and we compromise and we reason, and sometimes it takes a while, but it works.
But somehow this intense anger and anxiety began to rise in him. Tantrums would erupt over the simplest of things and last for over an hour. Suddenly he can't put on socks because he's afraid they will fall down in his boots and the anticipation of that discomfort is enough to reduce him to a puddle on the floor and we now can't leave the house.
Most recently, he is terrified of all bugs after walking in to a wasp nest over the summer, and now refuses to go outside at all, except for the short path from the door to the car. 'But there's no bugs in the winter!' I hear you all say.... yes, but going outside now would involve putting on snowpants... and boots... and mitts... and a heavy coat....the collar of which would touch his hat...
I try to talk to him about the 'big feelings' he's having, and how to express himself properly, and that we have to at least TRY to do things before we give up. But bringing it up again and again pushes him further inside himself. If I talk about trying to not be afraid of bees, he will remember he is afraid of bees and continue to be afraid of bees. He was never afraid of the dark until he read a book about being afraid of the dark and he thought that the dark was now something he SHOULD be afraid of. So I try not to mention it. I try not to mention anything.
So once again I feel these familiar fireworks inside me. Explosions of emotion that I'm not allowed to express for fear of making everything worse. Intense guilt at the thought that me being depressed while pregnant somehow altered his physical make-up to make him this way now. Guilt stemming from the fact that I spent most of his first year of life crying instead of singing songs and laughing. Guilt over not trying harder to get out and socialize the both of us more so maybe our lives could be more 'normal' now.
I've been told I worry too much.
I've been told I'm over-sensitive.
I've been told that pain makes you stronger and tougher.
But being hurt just makes me feel weak. Trying not to worry about things makes me worry more.
Many people treat mental illness like a bad mood.
You'll grow out of it.
Just think happy thoughts.
It's healthy to have some down-days.
Have some 'me-time'!
Give it a few days, you'll feel better.
I find myself thinking these thoughts towards Toby. I tell him to focus on things that make him happy. I tell him not to worry about things too far ahead to see.
I tell myself he'll grow out of it.
And then I step back and realize how much I hate it when people say those things to me.
Believe me, if there was an Off switch for this, I'd be more than happy to pull it.
I'm not proud of the fact that I cried myself to sleep the other night just because a movie I watched didn't live up to my expectations and I felt cheated out of two hours of my life.
I don't like never having the energy to play with Toby when he asks me to, and then when I do have some energy, he turns me down.
I don't like holding grudges with my son over situations and emotions that are beyond our control.
Again, if it were as easy as 'getting a good night sleep' or 'walking it off' I would do it.
But it's like telling someone with cancer to just get over it. Just take a walk, you'll feel better tomorrow.
People with depression just can't.
And as a result we start to lose the people that we need closest to us.
Friends get bored because you can't make conversation.
You can feel the small amounts of love you're able to emit just go un-reciprocated.
Things that used to make you happy are now mundane.
Once again I feel the 'baby blues' creeping in. Even though my son is far from being a baby, I still feel my sadness stemming from everything surrounding him. My inability to deal with his anxiety…wanting to be spontaneous and adventurous in my own life, and not being able to because I can't leave him with anyone, and he doesn't want to come with me... the complete dread I feel at the prospect of attempting to get him in clothing and out of the house to possibly go see a child psychologist… knowing that even if I succeed, if it's the wrong experience he'll never go back. Wanting desperately to go on day trips and play outside knowing it will make ME happier, but not wanting to disappoint myself by trying too hard.
I often feel like I complain a lot... like I only have negative things to say... both in blogs and in person.
I'm not asking for sympathy.
I'm not complaining for attention.
I just need to vent. I need an outlet where I can sort out my head so I can let go a little bit.
I write so that maybe the one person who is in tears reading this because it's all too real knows they're not alone.
But it feels like it.
There is a stigma about posting depressing status updates on facebook, but sometimes you just need to scream to the world I'M NOT OK and leave it at that.
I don't need pats on the back and 'keep-your-chin-up's.
I just need you to know that if I seem distant and quiet, it's just that maybe I'm enjoying the peace.
If I don't talk much, it's maybe because I'm afraid I'll drive you away with negativity, or start crying.
If you are depressed, find an outlet.
Write, journal, find an online forum with like-minded people.
Read their stories and share your own.
Reach out to people in similar situations.
Talk to a therapist if you can.
Tell your family you need help.
And even though you really really want to, never give up.