I couldn’t smile back at my baby when she smiled at me today. And now I am locked in the bathroom, in tears, writing this. I’m not entirely sure why I need or want to write this – maybe it’s to get the hurt out; maybe it’s in solidarity with others suffering through PND (postnatal depression); or maybe it’s to bring awareness to just what it feels like to be in this deep, dark hole. Probably it’s all of those things.
I just yelled at my toddler for bashing at the bathroom door. I yell a lot because I’m just so damn angry. All. The. Time. And then I’m angry at myself for being angry all the time. For yelling at my kids when they’re just being kids. And a new wave of tears flows both for my children and for myself. Because I don’t want to feel angry. I don’t want to rage.
And I cry harder re-reading what I’ve written so far. Because the image of holding my baby in front of me, with her gorgeous smile lighting up her whole face. It’s honestly one of the most magical things in the world. But it did nothing. I felt no swell of joy in my heart. No compulsion to smile back. That irresistible smile turning up the corners of my mouth, returning the warmth and love back to her….
Instead just…. nothing. And that hurts my heart so much. And worse is knowing that a depressed carer makes for a depressed baby. That smiling back – that’s important to a baby’s well-being. And I didn’t have it there. I handed her to my spouse and ran away to the bathroom. I don’t feel disgust at myself. Or anger. Or anything like that. Just a deep soulful, gut-wrenching sorrow that I have sunk so low into depression now, that I can’t smile back at my baby.
That’s today. Right now. Yesterday it was suicidal thoughts. I have a history, both personal and family, of suicide and depression. It’s not even the suicidal thoughts that disturb me. Although they are disturbing enough in themselves. It’s that they floated up out of my thoughts as I held my baby to me and cried. My baby. I could never, ever leave my children like that. I love them too much. It’s just those horrible thoughts invading my mind, harassing me, not leaving me alone. I love my children with all my heart and the thought of leaving them hurts my heart to a depth I never thought possible.
And then I feel angry again. Angry at these invasive, violating thoughts. Angry at myself for having them. Even though I know it’s not my fault. Angry at the universe for putting me in this position. Just angry.
And sad. So very, very, deeply sad.
I have to stop for a moment because I am sobbing uncontrollably again. I am shaking with grief and sorrow. Tears run in rivers down my cheeks and fall sticky and hot on my arms and legs. I wipe them away but they keep coming.
I’m not always like this. Most of the time I feel like a zombie, just going through the motions of life. Sometimes I can laugh at things and put on the mask of being happy. But mostly I’m just numb. Numb to my baby smiling. And numb to her crying most of the time too. She has reflux and despite my efforts to find the cause and help, she still has it and still cries a lot. None of my other children really cried. Usually only if they were hurt. I feel like such a failure for not responding to her cries as I want to. Sometimes I’m so numb, I don’t even notice that she’s crying. I consciously know I’m not a “failure”, but I feel like one.
I want to be responsive to her. I love being responsive and caring and nurturing. But I feel like I am dragging that nurturing feeling through a thick haze of treacle. It’s not natural this time round. It’s not instinctive. I have to work and work hard to illicit that response.
And I love her so terribly much. Fiercely love her.
I’m sobbing again.
This feels so grossly unfair to both me and my baby. I feel robbed. Utterly robbed. Robbed because a stupid ill-timed house move has taken away the babymoon I needed. Robbed because this PND makes it so hard to think and remember. Robbed because I feel like the tiny newborn stage has been taken away from me. And it’s so fucking unfair.
I’m privileged to have my spouse at home with me. Privileged that I’m not taking care of a house by myself. I want to feel grateful for that. I guess some part of me is. Mostly I just feel like it’s still not enough.
I have had some oh so amazing help from friends. I can’t help but feel like I’ve somehow let them down as well. They did all this work for me or spent money on helping me. But my depression has just gotten worse. Again, I know that’s not my fault. And stupid cultural messages telling me I should be able to just snap out of it or should get better with the help I’ve gotten or blah blah blah blah blah blah… But I know more that it’s because I need more help.
I need to help myself, I need my spouse to help more (but then worry if my spouse is also suffering in silence), I need my friends.
But what do I do when help, when my self-care allows all the hurt to well up and out again because I am present for once. Present in my body and own self instead of zombied out on Facebook or TV. What do I do when something as simple as taking a bath results in overwhelming hurt and uncontrollable sobbing and the reminder that as much as I want to cover over the hurt, the pain is still there, the pain is still waiting to be released.
I don’t know how to give up that pain.
I’m crying again.
And now life is calling me to stuff down the pain. Bottle it up for now. I have to be a spouse and a parent. I don’t have time for tears right now.
I’m crying inside.