Thursday, July 15, 2010

What's the Word for. . .

being happy for someone that their life is going well but wishing, just a bit, that they were falling apart because then you'd have some company?

See, I'm still doing well. Really well! And I'm so relieved. I was talking with my psychiatrist and we both agreed that at this point I seem to be out of the woods mental health wise. And while she cautioned me against overdoing it and stressing myself out we both breathed a sigh of relief. Postpartum depression can strike any time during the first year so I'll be seeing my psychiatrist every so often to keep an eye on things, but I'm, well, happy.

It probably helps that the Little Cannoli is a much more even-tempered baby than my other ones. She already sleeps better than her older brother. She smiles and coos when she sees me. She's only two months old and already I feel like she's been part of the family forever. These swelling, happy feelings inside me must be what other new moms feel all the time!

But, to be honest, this happiness makes me a little jealous and a little sad about what I've missed with my other babies. How wonderful it could have been.

That little bit of jealousy and that little bit of sadness are familiar. See, after my second baby when I really started talking about my PPD experiences a few of my other mommy friends would say, "Yeah, it was like that for me too. I was so depressed." Relief would flood through my mind and I would feel like I wasn't alone. Like maybe I wasn't as screwed up as I thought I was. Like all of this struggle had a purpose. Like maybe there was hope for me.

But then none of them ever had more than one PPD episode. I was (am) the only one to have gone through it over and over again. I was (am) the only one whose life is constantly affected by a mood disorder. They all got over it and moved on. I never did.

Hope evaporated. Purpose was lost. And with those two things went perspective. I gave up on thinking I was ever going to be in a place where I could roll with the punches. I accepted that I was a little tweaky and tried to find ways to make the tweaky-ness work for me.

But now I feel like I'm approaching the elusive non-tweaky state of normal. So naturally (hah!) I'm relieved and a little suspicious. There's a part of me that is always looking for warning signs that I'm on another downturn. There's part of me that thinks I must be in some sort of magic state of denial. And there's a huge part of me that feels like I've betrayed my former self. I see women around me all the time who I think might be suffering from this and I want them to know they aren't alone. I want them to know that PPD is hard but it doesn't have to destroy you. I want to be there with them and support them on their journey.

But I know that when you are really down having someone tell you that you'll get over it someday isn't all that helpful. I know that hearing another woman crow about how good it feels to not be hurting doesn't do much good. What does help is having someone sit with you and accept you even when all the protective layers are ripped away. Having someone inhabit that emotionally elemental existence with you--even just for a little while--does more to clear the head and heal the heart than any amount of platitudes and well wishes ever will.

And I'm worried that my current happiness makes it so I can't sit with another woman and share her experience. That was a kind of loss I never expected. Normal is nice--convenient, really--but I never want to forget that don't have to be normal to be a good mom. Just being where you are and take care of yourself and your babies is good enough. Just because some of people are finding normal doesn't mean you've been left behind. Depressed and okay can coexist. Depressed and happy do work together.


Dianna said...

I love this post and identify with it even though I am not dealing with PPD. Regular clinical depression comes with similar feelings, I guess. I am enjoying a calm in my life right now and it seems as if the medication is all figured out, but part of me is waiting for the next shoe to drop and looking over my shoulder for the black monster to rear its ugly head again. Thanks for your publishing your insights.

Anonymous said...

I experienced the same thing when having my second child!

I had my second in Dec '07 and it was so much nicer than when I had my first, in 2003, and got knocked down HARD by the PPD monster. It was a nightmare and after having my daughter, it was so different. It was actually pleasant! I was happy, of course, but I realized even moreso just how much I had been robbed of it when I'd had my son.

As far as being relatable, I think that having gone through it at some point in your life, you are still a great support. I don't think it has to be a current struggle to be able to relate.

Like I could relate right now to something you said, even though I'm not going through PPD right now. Make sense?

Sorry to ramble...

queensister said...

You wouldn't know just how sweet this newborn experience is if you hadn't had some bitter ones! (I'm not sure I actually believe that statement! I would have done nicely without PPD.)
There's an empathy you've gained that you will never lose. It will help you to read the pain and despair in another mom's face. When someone I know has a baby now, I'm happy for them, but I'm also so--not sad, I feel some deep, compassionate emotion for possibility of struggle. Above all, my mood disorder had taught me that I have no idea what another person might have going on inside their head--judging just isn't and option now.
I'm so glad you are enjoying stability--thanks again for your openness.