My postpartum depression story
I don't know if I picked the right title for this blog. Maybe it should be "Why Robin Williams' Death Matters to ME." At any rate, my feelings surrounding his passing have a lot to do with my journey as a mother. According to media reports, Williams took his own life after years of battling depression. So many people out there don't really understand depression or how anyone could get to a point where they would feel like ending their own life. I didn't understand it. Not until I went to that dark place. So here's my story.
I was a single mother of two kids. I met this awesome guy. He was good to me, good to my kids. He ended up moving 10 hours away for his dream job. But we liked each other. A lot. So we stayed together and maintained a long distance relationship.
Then I got pregnant. Then some of his friends and family cautioned him to be careful, because ya know - he was living 10 hours away and maybe it wasn't his baby. Then we postponed our wedding (I could tell he was having reservations and I sure didn't want to go through a 2nd divorce). Then I had a huge falling out with my mother. I felt alone. I was depressed.
The whole pregnancy was terrible. I was stressed about everything. I was engaged. I was graduating from college. I was having a baby. I had all of these wonderful things going on - I couldn't get over the fact that I SHOULD have been experiencing tons of happiness, but everything that was happy in my life was being overshadowed by negative external factors.
Before the baby was to be born, we went to court to see if a judge would let me move with my other two children so that I could be with my fiancé. So that I wouldn’t feel so alone. The judge said no. I had the baby and a few days later, my fiancé went back to his job 10 hours away – a job we couldn’t financially afford for him to leave. I was alone again. He came to visit once a month, but I still felt alone. I had a cousin and an aunt who pitched in and helped where they could. But I still felt alone. We got married and had a beautiful wedding, but the next day my new husband had to go back to his job 10 hours away. So I was alone. Again.
I felt like no one understood what I was going through. Family and co-workers were supportive and encouraged me to look at the positive things I had going on. I just couldn't see the positive things. I felt so alone. And no one understood. I had postpartum depression.
How could I ever explain to them that I wanted to die every day? How could I ever explain to anyone that the only reason I hadn’t ended my own life was because I couldn’t figure out a way to do it where my kids wouldn’t be the ones to find me? How could anyone possibly understand when I didn’t even understand it myself? I was ashamed.
From the outside looking in, I'm sure it sounds pathetic to some. But the pain was real and it consumed my soul. I called my OB and she called in a prescription for some pills. I didn't end up taking them. I was still trying to convince myself that I wasn't the crazy person who was living in my head. And I didn't want anyone to know the severity of my depression. What if they wanted to take my kids away? I didn't want people to think I was a lunatic who was going to cut her baby's arms off with butcher knife. I had to keep my feelings a secret.
I felt alone and I needed to NOT feel alone. I started going to church with my cousin who had been helping me out. I hadn't been to church since high school. It was refreshing and cleansing. It gave me hope and courage to pull myself out of the pit... but it was going to take sacrifice.
I decided I was going to let my oldest two kids go live with their dad. It was a painful decision. I love them more than I love myself, though, and it was not healthy for any of us to remain in a situation that fed my depression. Once the school year had ended, we were going to start the process of moving my oldest children with their father and I was going to go live with my husband where I wouldn't feel alone. I prayed a lot and placed it all at God's feet. I let go and handed the reigns over to Him. Maybe that doesn’t work for everyone, but it was what I needed to do.
A couple of weeks into the summer, a miracle happened. It was divine intervention, at least in my book. My husband was being transferred to an office not far from where my ex-husband lived. I could maintain custody of my babies and get the help and companionship I had needed so desperately.
The depression didn't immediately go away, but with time, with God, with the support of my husband and with the elimination of the major stress factors I had going on, I was finally able to pull myself out of that pit.
I know some people think that depression is just in a person's head - it is. And it is also in the chemicals and hormones flowing through their bodies, in and out of their hearts and piercing their souls.
If you believe someone in your life is suffering from depression, talk to them. Love on them. Ask them to go to church with you. Let them know that many people go through similar experiences. Help them understand there is no shame in contacting their doctor for help. Be a friend to them. Don't let them suffer in silence. Don't let them think the only way to stop the pain is to end their life.
Robin Williams' death matters to me. Depression should matter to all moms.