Two years ago, if anyone told me there’s light at the end of the tunnel that Postpartum Depression (PPD) is, I’d probably stare at them, and laugh hysterically, caustic sarcasm and all. The truth is, there isn’t a single formula for coursing through the treacherous path that depression is. It is not a one-size fits all, and for this reason, healing varies from one parent to another. I am extremely grateful for this space now, this place of healing as the fog of PPD slowly lifts.
Healing, I am learning, is a journey, not a destination. You don’t just wake up and voila! You are a-okay. It is many days of holding on, trudging, many times with weariness and loneliness for companionship. It is days of lapses, when, just as you are thinking the haze is lifting slowly, you are knocked over by triggers that threaten to suffocate any nuances or implications of healing. During these lapses, I’d slump into implacable sadness, and the guilt would wash over my heart like the ocean waves over the beach at dusk. Then, the cascade of thoughts about ‘bad mommy’ ‘you are never going to hack this’ ‘look, you are failing at been a good mom (Read this post on feeling like I am not good enough a mom)’… the cacophony of noise from this derailed mental train of thoughts would send me into a frenzy, and it’d then feel like making three steps forward, and thirty backwards.
Sometime this week, my uncle, after reading this post, asked whether my son still shouts. I replied that he doesn’t, and pleased, he replied that my son had become a good boy. I mulled over this for a while, and it dawned me, he was always a ‘good boy’; just that mom was depressed, and he only acted what he saw me do, which was shout like a crazed woman. Against this background, I started to think of the lessons I had learnt during healing after PPD, and I’d like to share them with you. In no particular order:
1) Monkey See, Monkey Do
This phrase best captures my conversation with my uncle. Kids do not learn from what we say; they learn from what we do. My son saw me flip when I was angry, he learnt that shouting is the way to go when stuff doesn’t go his way. Why? But mommy does it. More critically, kids in the toddler stage are in the formation stage, the moulding stage if you will. They absorb what they see and hear in their immediate environment like a sponge, which is why it is important to model the right stuff.
For parents with PPD, this is not as easy as it sounds on here. Under the haze that PPD is, you feel like you are losing control, spiraling downwards very fast. If you recognize yourself with any of these symptoms, you might need to seek help. Confide in someone, get someone to watch your baby when you feel overwhelmed, ultimately, seek help from a medical doctor since this is a mental health condition just like any other.
2) Kids are very perceptive.
When things feel like they are getting out of hand, kids are able to perceive this, even when they cannot tell exactly what’s going on. For parents with PPD, this is often, which is why medical professionals assert that depressed parents are predisposed to raising stressed kids. My son had gotten to a point where he could smell trouble coming, even when he did something that was typical of kids his age. He’d freeze, remain motionless, terror written all over his face just before the lashing would begin 🙁
It is hard to undo the damage done thanks to the monster that PPD is, but I learnt and continue to learn that each present moment is a good place to start afresh. To appreciate that I might have lapses and all, yet holding on in the healing journey is not always easy. Living in the present, embracing moments, because they are fleeting in their very nature.
3) It is important to spend quality time with kids.
Time flies, quite literally. To think just 3 ½ years ago I was holding him, just a little over 15 lbs, and now he is running all over the place, asking when Obama’s jet will land in Kenya again, and why his boobs are tinier than mine….
The point is, there’s only so much time to spend with the kids at any particular stage. PPD has the uncanny ability to steal these moments, leaving moms and dads frazzled, grasping with the reality that moments and opportunities to bond are lost. Healing is teaching me to enjoy these moments, to enjoy quality time, to find balance in the crazed days, to savor the thrill of bedtime reading and cuddles, and never to beat myself for a past that is gone.
Featured Image photo credits: Patricia Esteve