Every day I edit stories at work about people who have it far worse than me. Like the one about a teenage mother in Afghanistan whose much older husband killed her 3-year-old son in front of her, then beat her so badly with a rock that she only has six teeth left. Then he cut off her nose and ears. Why? She went out in public without permission. And because disobeying your husband is a crime, she is the one in jail. Where she just gave birth to a daughter she has to care for in a cell.
I have too much knowledge about the world around me to allow myself to be depressed. It would just be a slap in the face to people who have every right to be. Like the spoiled rich kid throwing a temper tantrum over a toy because it's the wrong color.
Besides, depression is an angry, isolated place. I've been there before.
I remember days when I intentionally cut myself and couldn't feel the pain. I remember thinking no one would even care if I died. I remember not being able to laugh, not wanting to get out of bed and feeling alone and empty.
And what would falling back into that now say about my daughter? That she's not what I expected? That the challenge is too great? That I'm not strong enough? Not capable?
After everything I went through to have her?
There are women all around the world who would love to be in my position. Who struggle every month to conceive and spend thousands of dollars on ovulation kits, hormone therapy and embryo implanting procedures. What would my being depressed say to them?
But the truth is, a small voice inside kept telling me there might actually be some substance behind the concept of postpartum depression, and that I shouldn't automatically dismiss it.
It was a big step just to Google the words. It was like I was validating it. Giving something merit I didn't want to believe in.
I almost couldn't believe what I found. A bulleted list on a government-run site was like looking at my worries in print:
- Feeling overwhelmed with a new baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.
- Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be "super mom" or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress.
- Having feelings of loss — loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby, loss of control.
- Having less free time and less control over time. Having less time to spend with your partner and loved ones.
And the symptoms? Lets just say I can relate.
- Feeling restless or irritable
- Feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
- Having no energy or motivation
- Eating too little or too much
- Sleeping too little or too much
- Trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions
- Feeling worthless and guilty
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
Maybe it's denial, but I still don't think I have it. Sure, I'm overwhelmed and stressed, have trouble maintaining focus and keeping up my energy, but I'm completely and thoroughly sleep deprived.
Besides, I still feel indescribable joy and fulfillment every time I look at my daughter. Her smile is like a contact high. And seeing her and Jerry together? My heart rate nearly doubles.
Even so, I forced myself to scroll through the rest of the information on the web page. I'm going to try to stop putting pressure on myself to do everything. To hell with the Easter decorations -- they made it to the attic steps and that's where they'll stay.
The "helpful tips" list also advises talking about it and joining a support group.