I want to be the face of postpartum depression.
Not because it is glamourous.
Or because it will bring me fame and fortune.
I want to be the face of postpartum depression (PPD) because I needed to see me when I was in the thick of it.
I needed to see how this could happen to me.
I needed to see someone like me, reflected back to me.
Who could reach me through the thick cobwebs, down the dank rabbit hole I had fallen into.
Does she survive?
Does she come out the other side?
Is she still funny?
Does she laugh?
Does she go outside?
Will I ever find myself again?
I’m used to being good at things.
And that’s not a humblebrag.
Or an actual brag.
I have, throughout my lifetime, been fueled by anxiety and a quest for self-worth that has sometimes bordered on obsession.
I have three graduate degrees and one of those I did after I had my daughter, I think, in an effort to prove to myself that I’m still smart.
After postpartum depression and anxiety (PPD&A).
But, here’s the catch: There is no “after.”
Yes, thank god that there is an after in the sense that you regain your senses, get on meds, do rigorous counseling, seek the support of those you love.
There is an after to the very worst of it.
But that does not mean that you are not somehow forever changed.
There are other parts of “after” PPD&A that are less anticipated.
Like, for example, I am the fiercest and bravest that I have ever been.
And I still suffer from PPD&A.
Recently, I changed my medication in hopes that I could easily wean myself off and be “myself” again.
It was a horrible disaster.
The thing about being changed is that you always long to go back.
To times that you thought were easier and simpler.
But the reality is, there are times that are difficult, and then they are easier, and then difficult, and on and on again.
I remember in the first few weeks of my daughter’s life, struggling to breastfeed, sleep-deprived, crazed, sad, lonely, fearful, when I started thinking about Brooke Shields.
I thought, I’m Brooke Shields.
I have what she had.
And then I convinced myself that I didn’t because my foggy memory of her story and her book and her morning show interview was that she felt compelled to hurt her baby.
I thought I had to want to hurt my baby or be fearful of hurting my baby to have postpartum depression.
And I didn’t.
I just wanted to exit my life.
Go to Jamaica.
Fall down the stairs.
And, in a particularly dark moment, take my life.
Just to make it stop.
The repetition – the monotony of my new life.
Feed. Change. Nap. Feed, Change. Nap. Feed. Change. Nap.
The level of fear and anxiety that I was at was almost always at a constant fever pitch.
I had never been so terrified and sad and exhausted in all my life.
And the worst part?
The worst part was that everyone expected me to be happy.
To smile and tell them how much I enjoyed having a new baby.
To tell them how in love I was.
It was excruciating.
And I was convinced that my lack of happiness was going to ruin my daughter.
Ruin our relationship.
Ruin her life as I turned to dust before her eyes.
As I broke apart into a million pieces.
Every time I looked at her with tear-filled eyes, I saw failure.
My failure as a mother.
Because I wasn’t feeling the things I was “supposed” to feel.
I wasn’t elated.
I was devastated.
How do you tell everyone that your life is over, ruined, unsalvageable, when they are so happy for you?
And it’s a horrible, shameful secret.
Six and a half weeks after my daughter was born, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and my relief was visceral.
Thank god, I thought.
Thank god I’m not a monster.
Fast forward four years and some days later.
I am here.
My life is good.
My life is full of love and wonder and powerful truth.
That truth is that I became a mother and lost who I was.
I became a mother and was brought to my knees.
I brought forth life and wished for death.
And what I learned is that there no right way to be a mother.
And what I learned is that the world is not always a hospitable place for mothers.
And what I learned is that motherhood can be oppressive and overwhelming and suffocating.
And the worst thing I learned is that women experience all kinds of difficulty as mothers that they are discouraged from speaking about for fear that it will label them “bad mothers.”
And it often does.
This has to stop.
Mothers have to be supported and encouraged in speaking their truths, no matter how inconvenient and unpleasant they are for others to hear.
Mothers deserve voices and platforms and reconfigured pedestals.
I don’t need to be worshipped as a martyr of selflessness and maternal sacrifice.
I need support.
Familial. Social. Systemic.
I am a mother who cannot do it alone.
We are all mothers who cannot do it alone.
Where is our village?
Where is our voice?
I want to be the face of postpartum depression so that not one other mother feels the shame and pain of thinking that they are alone in their struggle like I did.
I want the truth of mothers’ experiences to set them free.
I want us to be stronger together.
I want the secrecy and the shame to end.
I want to disrupt motherhood so that women can occupy it more bravery and more comfortably.
Those women who are raising the future deserve as much and so much more.