When a Friend Told Me 'You Don't Have Time for Postpartum Depression'
So I am currently seven months into my second bout of postpartum depression. The first four months were pretty much hell. The past three months have been OK with waves.
I will never forget around the fourth month postpartum — when people thought I was “completely recovered” — I was on the phone with someone. I do not even remember what we were talking about, but I referenced my postpartum depression, and do you know what the person said to me? They said, and I quote, “We don’t have time for postpartum depression! You don’t have time for postpartum depression! Enough is enough!” Those who know me know I am impulsive. So at that moment, I did not respond. I hung up the phone instead and switched my phone to airplane mode. I did not turn it back on for quite some time, but you can bet when I did I informed that person if they felt that way, just imagine how I felt? Me, the “super” mom who was now clad with postpartum depression. Let’s just say I shut that person down and have never heard another snide remark from her since.
However, the other day it happened like it happens with a lot of us. I was fine, or so I thought, and then out of nowhere I had a major panic/anxiety attack. I write both those words because I had never experienced them before postpartum depression, so I am not sure what it is: panic or anxiety or both. At that moment, I knew what I had to do besides the obvious: either calm myself down and/or pop a much-dreaded Xanax. After an hour lying on the bed staring at the ceiling with the exact same sucky feeling I always get, I was fine. However, I knew what had led up to the moment. I was doing too much, being too much — so I had to stop a little. I cancelled my plans for the following day. The one set of plans I could not cancel was company. However, with this set of company, I knew I couldn’t know when they were going to arrive no matter what time they said, so I told my husband at 12:15 p.m. I was going to take a nap. It sounded like a reasonable request since two of my nine kids (under the age of 11) woke up at 5:45 a.m. that day. Combine that with my insomnia and yeah, I did not regret asking for a nap on the only day of the week I could. My husband was encouraging and told me he would handle our guests should they arrive before I got up.
In the old days, my house would be immaculate, and I would never take a nap before or during visitors. But I have learned with postpartum depression if you don’t stop, if you don’t rest, you basically screw yourself and your family because you end up worse off. So my house was only semi-straightened when I went for my nap, but my husband graciously made it look great. God bless him. We put the little kids to bed for a nap and then me, too. Because I am meticulous, I woke up at 1:21 to see if they had arrived. I looked at the window and saw no car. I went back to sleep. I woke up at 1:51 and saw their car so I went downstairs. I arrived and gave hugs and kisses to all.
There was one person I did not expect to see, but it was fine that she came. Fast-forward a few hours, and she decides to sit on my couch and tell me to “Wake up! You sleep too much!” And trust me when I say she meant it, and meant it for and about postpartum depression and maybe even in general. As a friendly reminder, I was only asleep for one hour or less when they were here. She proceeded on with this long conversation, and I just listened and nodded. I hugged her and them all goodbye and then vented to my husband who said I don’t sleep enough.
I was not hurt by what she said. I was hurt by the fact she and so many seem to think and really believe you can shut off, turn off mental illness — whatever illness that is (postpartum or otherwise). You cannot! If only you could!
After thinking about it long and hard that night (when I couldn’t sleep because I felt somewhat guilty for “sleeping too much”), I was able to visualize how I felt right then. Imagine a bathroom sink with a leaky faucet. It’s a pain in the a** because it leaks… but it is not a “life-threatening” issue, right? No, not unless the stopper was pulled up, correct? Because what would happen? Well, naturally over time, maybe even months or longer, that water from the leak would accumulate and overflow, causing a lot of damage. That is how I feel right before a panic attack sets in. In my case, I can go months or weeks without one, but all of that stuff builds up for whatever reason, and one day when it becomes too much — boom. I am knocked off my horse. And until that darn “stopper” is pushed down to let the “water” out, I am stuck in that sinking feeling. I can drown if there is no relief. But, thank God, there is relief — whatever it is you and I do, holistic or not. The relief comes, and we survive. But there are others who get no relief. And why is that? Because they may not know how to ask for help? Because society has a stigma around mental illness? Or because they simply are overcome by it without even fully grasping its (dangerous) presence.
Look, I get it. I used to judge. But mental illness is serious business. For this, I am grateful I understand it now. I am not grateful I have it; I am grateful I understand it. No matter what you think or what anyone tells you, mental illness cannot be shut off like a faucet. Your loved one cannot control it. You cannot control it. So for all of the people out there who are battling this beast with me, know that I have your back. My plan is to forever try to break the stigma around mental illness.
Image via Thinkstock.
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