Trying To Forgive Myself For Postpartum Depression

Forgiving myself for postpartum depressionI’m sure like many other people, I have a love/hate relationship with Timehop. While I delight in seeing pictures and updates that take me back to incredibly fun times (the beginning of my relationship with my husband, funny stories with friends from college, etc.) I sometimes find the app a nuisance, rubbing my face in times of my life I’d rather forget.

The most complicated part of having Timehop? Most of my favorite updates also happen to come from a time period I sometimes can’t stand reliving: My son’s infancy.

Postpartum depression is kind of a bitch like that.

Postpartum Depression frustrationRecently a coworker and I oohed and awwed over pictures from three years ago, showing my tiny son in newborn jammies with the sweetest look on his face. But the next morning upon opening the app I was greeted with a different, less pleasant memory. The juxtaposition is painfully clear. Just one day after I had posted that picture of my newborn son sporting his ducky pjs I posted a status update stating “I am losing my mind. Nothing left but a hollowed out empty shell.”

I remember that day. Or rather, I remember THOSE days. At the time all I could think of was how helpless I felt, how angry I was that I couldn’t enjoy this little miracle we created and how I so badly I wanted that little miracle as far away from me as possible. It was the perfect storm of a high-needs baby and postpartum depression. It was, without a doubt, the darkest period I’ve experienced in my adult life.

Unable to cope with the responsibilities of a life I had wished for.

Losing my ability to rationalize normal human interactions.

Becoming incredibly paranoid, and operating with hair trigger patience.

My husband – the person I loved above all others and who I excitedly made this family with – found me an unrecognizable shadow of the woman he’d previously known. I cried constantly, yelled constantly and never slept. I put off returning my friend’s texts and calls. I alienated myself from family, feeling enraged and indignant as they gently explained just how much they did understand what I was going through.

The worst part? I had known all of this was coming. Depression and anxiety run in my family, and I’ve experienced both for as long as I can remember. I am no stranger to counseling, and even before my pregnancy was never ashamed to admit that therapy did great things for me. At a lucid seven months pregnant I had sat my husband down and told him “I know I’m at risk for PPD. I won’t be able to see it, but you will. If it gets bad, tell me. Get me to therapy. I’ll deny it, but tell me to go anyway.”

He did.

I refused.

Angrily, bitterly and fiercely refused. There was nothing he could do.

It wasn’t until 11 months after my son was born that I finally went to counseling. She half-listened, nodded politely and jotted things down in a notebook. Afterwards she prescribed me medication along with group therapy. Now I’m not knocking medication for PPD, but I needed this woman to treat me as an individual. I had already explained my history with counseling, saying “I know what’s going on, I just need to talk to someone who can help me reevaluate and establish coping mechanisms.” Instead, her course of treatment involved medication (which I didn’t want to take while nursing) and group therapy (which would have terrified me at that stage in my life – the opposite of helpful). Upset by the experience, I didn’t go back to counseling (with a different doctor) until four months later.

I have a very hard time accepting all of this, and probably always will. My husband says I haven’t forgiven myself yet, and maybe he’s right. I haven’t. Should I? Is this something people can ask forgiveness for? Can I request mercy for a time in my life where I was, quite literally, a different person? Can I ask for patience as I slowly go through the process of putting myself back together?

PPD postpartum depression angerI should probably apologize to my friends and family for my behavior, and to some of them I have. I can continue to apologize to my husband for what he has endured because of this. I could maybe go find that Target worker I yelled at over a $12 rug and explain that it wasn’t her, it was my PPD. (OK, to be fair, maybe that was a little her. )

I could apologize to my son. I could try to rationalize for him all the times that he sobbed hysterically while I walked out of the room, all of the times I could have comfort nursed him but chose not to because I couldn’t stand to have him touching me anymore, and all of the times I sobbed right along with him shouting “I don’t know what to do for you!”

But then again, maybe I won’t. Because at three years old this sweet little boy is thriving. He’s loving, goofy, bright and not the least bit jaded. And though it often didn’t feel like it, even during that postpartum fog I cared for him and nurtured him almost obsessively. To him Mama is the healer of all wounds and the champion of snuggles. My toddler seems to know only a mother who loves him dearly, and desperately wishes he’d eat some more green beans.

So maybe I did OK. Maybe that’s all that matters. Maybe the only person left who hasn’t forgiven me is myself.

 

 

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with postpartum depression, please don’t hesitate to get help. PPD is a very real, very hard thing to overcome. This does not make you a bad mother. It will pass, but there is no shame in asking for help. There are websites dedicated to helping postpartum parents, with helpful information and resources. Make an appointment. Take a friend or loved one with you. Start to heal. You’re not alone. 

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