The school holidays are almost here with us, and for most parents, this poses a challenge as far as parenting is concerned. As a Postpartum Depression (PPD) survivor and work-at-home mom, this presents a unique set of challenges. I have shared my story previously on how I struggled in the early days of motherhood here, how anger held me back from been able to bond with my son in this post as well as starting therapy and the lessons I have taken with me from that.
Recently, I had a moment that scared me and brought to surface fears I have harbored at the back of my mind for a long while. See, here is the thing with PPD (and I want to believe, depression in general): once you are on the road to recovery, there will always be those sneaky thoughts in your head, waiting on you… waiting on your progress.
And when you have a bad day (because the bad days will come), the thoughts become more intense, the voices louder. Asking you, “What makes you think you were out of the red zone?” Loud voices that seek to drown every form of reason, all the while asking “what made you think you made it?” Voices that scream, “it is a relapse! You are inching further away from your recovery, and into the black hole that postpartum depression is.”
It is often a confusing phase because one minute it is a good day, and you keep reminding yourself, complete with the flexing emoji: “I got this, I have made steps forward, nothing’s going to pull me down.” Then seemingly out of nowhere, BAM! something happens and it brings you crushing down, all the way to “I can’t do this again. I am a total failure and a wreck to think I got this covered”. These were the very thoughts I had when, in a moment of uncontrolled anger last week, I lashed out at my son. It is hard admitting this, because to a great extent, it is shining a spotlight on one’s failures.
Right after lashing out at him, he ran downstairs, curled into fetal position and slept amid heavy sobs. I was crushed on the inside, because deep down, it brought all those ugly memories from his first years when all I did was run on fumes. I felt like I had let myself, and him down. We were making such good progress, but here we are, again. Then the voices started screaming, “It is a damn relapse!!” I started to wonder whether I had really made it through, whether I had really been ‘cured’, because that’s what those condescending voices wanted me to think.
On such days, I collapse into a heap of hot tears, messy hair and toxic self-talk. Days when I think I cannot deal with motherhood any longer, 5 years on. I have moments when the horror film of depression is on replay…
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But here’s what I am learning: The postpartum journey is incredibly different for moms across the world. Some moms, after receiving help, are able to work out and resolve their issues quickly. For some however, it takes time to work through the intertwined aspects of their postpartum journey, and that is okay. The most important thing to note is that even after therapy and recovery, the possibility of a relapse is real. Specific triggers make it easy to slide back to the throes of depression, and as such, it is important to know what these triggers are. In many cases, new stressors (new pregnancy, moving homes, changing jobs, a divorce, a terminal illness among others) trigger depressive episodes.
Even in this phase, it is okay to be, and to ask for help.