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Dancing Through the Darkness of Postpartum Depression

My identity and gift to the world was my ability to create. I felt God had chosen me to be a storyteller be it though dance, acting, writing or simply weaving a fairytale while making daisy chains with my little girl. My mind saw meaning in little things, imagined backstories to strangers, added voices to animals and longed to help others see the wonder and depth within our world.

Then the depression hit.

The world was robbed of its color, tainted like a coffee stain on a crisp white page. It was if I was viewing everything through a filthy filter and the stories had been silenced. I could no longer soak in the richness of my mind, instead I was trapped there. Emptiness replaced animation, colors were muted and everything was shrouded in a thick, choking fog.

I prided myself on being a good mum. OK, I’ve always sucked at housework and me and cooking have never been friends but I was attentive, adoring and thrived on nurturing creativity and equipping and empowering little minds. It was during the pregnancy of my second child I started to notice a shift. I would find myself constantly zoning out, losing time and seeing apathy set in. The blackening spiral continued and I knew I needed help.

My husband, mother and mother-in-law were amazing. Constantly in the background ready to jump in whenever I needed them. To be honest though, I couldn’t appreciate them at the time because they were all just murky silhouettes in the fog. My warped perception never stopped them from reaching out, desperate to know how they could help. But I was numb. How was I meant to articulate what I needed when my mind was failing to comprehend how to get up in the morning?

I remember staring into the fridge and sobbing because I couldn’t figure out what went with what so I could make dinner. I couldn’t manage the normal day-to-day routines that had once been second nature and yet, as if desperate to cling to some solid kind of meaning, I could spend hours staring at a stain on the carpet as if the reason for this hell was hidden in the dirty fibers.

The vile visitor of depression continued to hang around once my son was born. I’m eternally gratefully the postpartum depression didn’t affect my ability to bond with him, but it still sadistically numbed my mind, played havoc with my emotions and massacred any ability to cope with the basic of tasks. My son was beautiful but battled with colic and was often in a lot of pain. He was a screaming baby. To add acid to the injury, I had to head back to hospital for some post birth complications and my husband was left having to carry a heavy load during what should have been a time of great celebration in our family.

I was seeing a psychiatrist once a week and placed on antidepressants. My mind was still surrounded by thorns callously daring an intelligent or rational thought to swell and pierce into the awaiting daggers. So instead my mind lay dormant, sinking further into the fog. I’d hate to think what it would have been like without the medication. There were dark times when I felt like hurting myself.

Strange how my sick mind couldn’t capture joy but was able to obsess over futile anxieties and self-loathing guilt.

Oh Lord, how much time do I have to endure this? How many friends will I lose? How much money are we going to pour into being “normal” again? How am I ever going to find myself? Will my husband leave? Will my children be scared? Why can’t you just take me now?

Hours would drain away, turning into days — days that would go on and on. There was a relief when the kids were in bed, but a hellish fear of knowing tomorrow I’d have to do it again and again and again.

Before my battle with the darkness I had always pictured depression to be full of negative thoughts, a mass hatred for the world and a selfish desire to let everybody know how hard life was. I was so wrong! For me, the hell lay in the vacancy of meaning, the emptiness of intellect and the numbing of joy. Any desires to escape the torment and end the struggle weren’t born out of selfishness but a firm belief that people would be freed from a burden when I was gone. Praise God I didn’t give into those lies!

I can’t tell you the exact day I was freed from the fog. Just like the deadly spiral into depression, so was the gradual climb out of it. Time did pass, healing set in and now I am well. Changed forever and internally scarred, but I am well.

Clarity and color champion me once more and my desire to story tell is stronger than ever. People need to know our stories! Families need to know they are not alone. Children need to know it’s not their fault. Survivors need to celebrate their victory. And we, the warriors who have conquered the darkness, are the voices that will loosen the chains.

Silence is deadly. Depression is common. People get through it and many of us are stronger for doing so. I don’t feel it has fully left me. It’s a gray cloud hovering a few paces behind but as long as I stay one step ahead of the cloud, I’m doing OK.

I am creating again! I am again wading through rich imagery and plunging into spectrums of color. I am deeply proud of my latest project with Eden Dance Company creating a piece about postpartum depression. Eden’s choreographers have created a beautifully raw, earnest and empathetic piece of dance theatre.

WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?” is an intimate and honest conversation through dance bringing dignity to the stories of those who have journeyed through postpartum depression and honoring the heroes who walk alongside them. “Flowers” embraces the truth behind the struggle and celebrates the beauty of bringing the color back.

If you have fought with depression then we pray to honor your story. If you’re struggling to articulate your journey please bring your friend, partner or work colleague and allow them to gain some insight. If you are a tireless supporter, we applaud you and invite you to travel with us.

I know “WHERE HAVE ALL THE FLOWERS GONE?” can have a massive impact for change, respect and healing and the audiences from our first season agree.

“Such a beautiful show. It provides an insight into a disease so many people still don’t understand and could be so beneficial to reducing the stigma around all mental health issues.”

“Your dancers were mesmerizing, your choreography so thoughtful, your music and spoken word so insightful. Thank you for being vulnerable and true. It was a beautiful gift to watch.”

“Whether you are interested in theatre, storytelling, dance, mental illness, parenthood or are simply curious, check it out.”

“Movement speaking more than words can say.”

“It’s not a sloppy ‘tear fest’ nor is it a happily-ever-after resolution. It is authentic, raw, vulnerable and insightful dance theatre.”

“So amazing from the beginning to the end. More people need to see this!”

Watch as we dance though the darkness. Come and help reduce the stigma and start some healthy conversations about mental health.

Cranbourne Community Theatre
Buy your ticket here  or call 0404 844 179

If you or a loved one is affected by postpartum depression or other postpartum disorders and need help, you can call Postpartum Support International’s hotline at 1-800-944-4773.

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Thinkstock photo via Eden Dance Facebook.