Returning From the Dead

Friday, August 5, 2016

It's surreal to think that I haven't written here since a "Merry Christmas" post last year.  To be honest, I can't tell you how I even managed the few posts I've written since Lucas was born.  There's so much to say and I don't know that I even have the voice to say it, the words to tell you that I've been dead inside and am, only now, coming back from the dead.  It's as though I've been in a pit- a deep, dank, dark pit, with dirt on the ground, a hint of light from the top to let me know that there is, indeed, a way out, with walls of stone that have the tiniest sliver of ledge.  For a while, I just lay in the pit, the cool dirt numbing some of the fear and the pain, before it became viscous, thick mud that covered me and weighed me down.  At times, I tried to climb the wall.  Sometimes I went nowhere.  Other times, I made it a few feet off the ground before slipping and stumbling backwards to rock bottom.  Once, I thought I would make it to the top, before my bloody, broken fingers could no longer hold the weight of my grief and, with  a sickening scraping of flesh against rock, I fell.  And I hit the ground, hard.

So hard.

So painfully, achingly hard.

I thought I would die.  I wanted to.  I could no longer breathe.  I could no longer find the will and I thought the sky was black.  That there was no light.  No way out.

But, the night sky is never truly black.  Pinpricks of light, millions upon millions of miles away, peek through the velvet blackness like little rays of hope, telling us that there is light somewhere, that there is a way out.  That we are not alone.  That we are not dead.

After Michael was born, I had the "baby blues".  I never thought much of life post Bobby and Maya, because I was in a haze of NICU PTSD, where I was just happy to have living babies, at home.  When they were babies, I rediscovered my joy in running, and life was good.  Really good.  I got pregnant with Michael, I was shocked, I was running, and things were still good.  And then he was born.

I was tired.  I was overweight.  I couldn't really run as much as I wanted, although I still did.  The blues waxed and waned.  Sometimes, I felt really down, but a lot of the time was just 'okay'.  I was tired.  I was homeschooling.  I was coaching.  I was writing.  I was just really busy.

And then I got pregnant with Lucas.

My response to Michael was "Whoa!!!  There are 2 lines!"  My response to Lucas was shock and, then, I cried.  I loved him, no doubt of that.  I was happy that my body was working.  But I was also, in spite of refusing to acknowledge it, going through the start of prenatal/antenatal depression.  Because I did have some lingering "blues" from Michael's pregnancy, I think that it was easy to just think that I was tired and overwhelmed.  Even as a doula and childbirth educator- even knowing the signs- I made excuse after excuse. 

When Lucas was born, I remember feeling like I had to show that I was strong, that I had overcome.  C-Section on a Monday afternoon, home on Wednesday morning.  Superwoman.  I've got this!  I'm an old hat at this baby business!

And then came the nursing... The nonstop feeding frenzy that left me broken and bleeding and tired.

And then the lack of sleep (that still continues) that left me in a fog.

The teething (At 10 months old, he has 6 teeth and 2 on the way... Sweet Lord, have mercy!) that made it feel I could do nothing to ease his pain (or my own).

Things were rough at Christmas and, in January, after Peter had begged and all but ordered me to have tests run or, at the least to call my doctor, I had blood work that showed rheumatoid factor.  My joints had been swelling and hurting to the point that I could barely move at times; the doctor warned me that RA or lupus could be to blame and, I suppose, I won the lottery in that it was "only" RA.  Because of my age and other factors, I opted to try a gluten and dairy free diet to try and eliminate inflammation over drugs.  I told myself that if, in 6 months, I still felt awful and was still battling what I refused to admit was postpartum depression, I would reevaluate.

But it wasn't just feeling physically like death warmed over.  Emotionally, things were all over the place, and they were usually awful.  Living with a child on the autism spectrum has its struggles.  Living with a child who has some anxiety issues (like her mom) has its struggles.  The terrible 2s that have moved into the terrible 3s have struggles.  Life with a baby is full of struggles.  Add in homeschooling, when you barely have a grasp on dishes and meals, and it feels monumental.

I wasn't running.

I wasn't writing.

I, simply, wasn't.

And one day, on the day before Lucas would turn 8 months old, on May 27th, when I'd felt like I had been climbing out of the pit, I suddenly was flat on my back.  I can't even remember what the final straw was, but I was done.

In my emptiness, I had a plan.  I put Lucas and Michael to nap.  Peter got ready to take the kids to the pool.  And, as soon as he left, I found the bottle of pain medication from my C-section.  I wrote a note.  I decided to take the bottle, and then lay down with Lucas.  He would stay asleep, I reasoned, if I was next to him, and Michael would definitely sleep until Peter came home.  Even if he didn't, his MO was to come into our bed, so he would just come to me until then.  I went to the kitchen and got a glass of water.  My hands shook so badly that water spilled and I had to clean it up.  Then, I couldn't get the child safety off.  When I finally did, the door opened and Peter came in.  He'd forgotten the goggles for the twins.

I threw the bottle in a bag, lest I get caught in the act.  I actually remember telling him goodbye and, in a way, it was almost like he knew... Like he didn't want to leave.

But he did leave.

And I fished the painkillers out of the bag.  Throwing them in had caused the child safety lid to reset, but before I could open it, Lucas cried.

I immediately went to him and tried to soothe him back to sleep, but no amount of singing, kissing, or nursing did the job.  He was awake.  He was happy and smiling and laughing.  He looked at me with his big, blue eyes, and I just broke down into sobs.  I'm surprised I didn't wake Michael. 

I almost missed seeing those eyes again.... Kissing those cheeks again... Hearing his laugh again.  

I almost missed Michael's sweet little voice when he sings

or Maya's sense of wonder when she discovers something new

or Bobby's never failing ability to snuggle you just when you need it most. 

I almost missed all of those things.

My postpartum depression never presented as hurting the children; if anything, it was the opposite.  They were on the pedestal and I just wasn't good enough.  I could never be good enough.  No matter what I did, I always fell too short.  Peter was a better parent.  Hell, anyone was a better parent.  I was just a space filler.  I sucked at motherhood.  I was a terrible teacher.  I was an awful runner (could I even use that word anymore?)  I was unhealthy.  Unworthy.

This battle was ongoing, even though most people on the outside had no idea.  I was still volunteering for this and that, doing this and that, hosting this gathering or that.  No one knew that I was barely hanging on.  No one knew just how low I was.  And I couldn't tell them.  I couldn't tell them just how bad it was.  I was afraid and I don't even know what of.  Of being considered weak?  Of being considered the failure that I thought I was?

When Peter got home, I told him what I'd done.  In typical fashion, there was no guilt; he simply took the pills.  I don't know where they are; I don't even know where the Advil is.  We sat and talked.  I cried.  I confessed how awful of a mother I was, how terrible of a wife I was, how I didn't deserve my family and that the world would be better without me.  I told him that I was still battling my eating disorder and that it had a hold of me in a way that felt worse than before.  I told him that I was broken and scared.  And he held me while I cried.  He didn't try to tell me that I was wrong or tell me all the ways that the world would be different without me.  Instead, he just told me that he loved me and asked me what I needed.

I'd like to tell you that, immediately, things became 1950s sitcom perfect, but they didn't.  Yet, they've gotten better.  One day at a time. 

Three weeks ago, I started running daily again.  After 5 months of being GF/DF, my joints aren't swollen and there isn't the intense pain that I'd had for months before.  Running feels good again.  Tonight, after my 2 mile speed run in anticipation of my 7 mile long run tomorrow, I sit here feeling good.  Feeling brave. 

I'm eating better.  I'm finally in a place where, although all of my decisions aren't the right ones, I can see the choices in food and can weigh out the right answer (even if I don't always take it).  I'm making sure to make time to run every day, whether it is a short "speed" run, an average 3-5 mile run, or my weekly long run.  I'm training for a race again.  I've dropped some things and started some new projects, and they are things dear to my heart.  I'm writing again.  Homeschooling (or Unschooling, as it were) is back on track and I'm able to focus on the kids.  I'm not perfect.  I still make mistakes.  But I'm trying to view them as learning opportunities for all of us. 

I'm talking to people who understand: Peter, my BFF, folks who "get it" or understand what I'm feeling and can offer advice or support.  I'm asking for help.  For the summer, a friend's daughter is "mother helping" twice a week most weeks to give me time to just sit and get some writing done or make sure Lucas gets a nap (he's a crappy sleeper and a horrendous napper) or just mop the floor without little feet showing up while it's wet. 

I'm not out of the pit yet.  But help came from the darkness and a rope was thrown down.  I'm still climbing.  It's a slow journey up, but I know I'll get out, and that's not something I knew before.

I feel like I've been sleepwalking for the last 10 months.  I've missed so much that I was present for.  It's only been the last few weeks that I feel like I'm really and truly awake. 

Every single day, I'm making the choice to continue to open my eyes.  Regardless of what happens, each moment is such a gift and I don't want to lose a second.

---
If you think that you might be suffering from postpartum depression or if you can't (or won't) put a name to how awful you are feeling, there are resources available.  You can find anonymous help at http://www.1800ppdmoms.org/ and http://www.postpartum.net/.  Many hospitals also have lines that you can call to speak with someone.  While my PPD didn't present as wanting to harm my children, if you feel that your children may be at risk, please reach out to a friend, neighbor, family member, or even your local police department, and find a safe place for your children until you are able to get help for yourself.  You are not just a mom; you are the  mom.  You are worth more than you know, and not just because you are an irreplaceable mother.  You are worthy in your own right; please seek out help if you need it.  Don't wait until it's too late.

9 comments:

Tanika said...

Michele,
Thank you for your transparency. Your struggle with PPD and your ability to give voice to it will change the lives of others.
You are beautiful.
You are brave.
You are needed.
You are appreciated.
And undoubtedly, you are LOVED unconditionally.

I appreciate you and I'm so glad God has purpose for your life.

Hugs and love to you!
Tanika

Tanika said...

Michele,
Thank you for your transparency and giving voice to your struggle with PPD. This will help others.

You are beautiful.
You are needed.
You are valuable.
You are loved....deeply loved by Peter and your beautiful family.

So thankful that your plans failed and love lifted you for the valley of death.
Continue to rise then soar!

Hugs and love to you.

schnitzelbank said...

I'm glad to see you pop up in my feed. I'm sorry you've had such a rough go of it. I have been suicidal in my life. I had untreated PPD with my first and crippling anxiety with my second. I still battle depression and anxiety. I feel for you. You're a lovely person! Keep on pushing!

Mina said...

You are so brave! We all need to take our own path, and our journey is not all laid out without us having a say. We can change the course, for better or worse. Sometimes dark finds us no matter what. I am happy for you that you found your way out of it. Michael and Bobby look so much alike! :-) I thought Michael WAS Bobby, but then I saw this grown up boy, and couldn't believe it.
I hopw to hear more good news from you soon.
Take care.

MrsSpock said...

Hugs to you, and hoping you continue to climb out of the darkness and into the light.

Queenie said...

I am so sorry you have been having such a rough time, and am glad you are getting help. When you weren't writing, I imagines you were busy in a happy, positive way. I'm so sorry that it has been so hard. I'm so glad you are reaching out and making your needs known. You matter! Take care of yourself. And cut yourself lots of slack, and let go of the myth of the "perfect mother"-- there isn't one, and nobody is doing a "better" job. This isn't the Olympics; we're not all in pursuit of a single gold medal. There are a million different ways to be a great mother. And it's okay if you need to restructure the way things function--hire someone to do chores, leave the house a little messy, enroll the kids in traditional school. Decisions have to work for everyone in the family, including you. And know that it will get better. It really, really will. I also Strongly recommend professional support as you go through this. The hardest part is finding the right person. Have someone else make the calls for you, if you don't feel able/feel overwhelmed by the task. It can help get you there faster.

Amelia said...

I have missed your words so, so, much. I am overjoyed to read them now, despite the pain they reveal. I am sending light and love to you, from my very soul. Thank you for letting us in.

Amy L. said...

Mama, you are amazing, and so, so brave. Thank you for sharing this so honestly. I just delivered my second rainbow and last child on Sunday at 34+3 due to severe preeclampsia. Having suffered from PPD and PTSD after losing my twins, and PPA after having my rainbow three years ago, and now having such an awful hospital stay/induction (although a beautiful preemie baby girl I am completely smitten with), I am watching myself like a hawk for signs of postpartum mood disorders. I missed it the first two times. I've been in pax.il for over a year, including through this pregnancy, but I'm not expecting a miracle.
<3

Debby@Just Breathe said...

Sending love your way.....((Hugs)) Thank you for sharing your story.