This photo is what PPD feels like to me. I’ve seen other descriptions – accurate, heartbreaking waterfalls of emotion describing what it’s like to deal with postpartum depression. But this is what it feels like to me.
To me, it’s actually a physical sensation. I feel it in my eyes, of all places. It seems to cut off my peripheral vision so that I can only see what’s right in front of me. And everything else goes black.
In my worst moments, it feels like the darkness is closing in. Like all the good and normal things in life have faded away and will soon disappear. In those moments, this circle of despair is all I can see.
Some days the dark disappears and I live in the light.
Recently I thought I was done with the darkness, but that, I see now, is not the case. Neither is it as simple as that – as being done, or being better. It’s not light and dark, good and bad, black and white.
Most days that circle is just there.
It’s ringed by darkness, true, but it’s not (thankfully) the horrible feeling that used to frame my existence, the one I still get, but only occasionally, that I never knew before – the one that appears as a question, unbidden: “What’s the point?”
That circle, now, limits me to what’s right in front of me. When I’m at work, I’m working and generally not thinking about what my husband and son are doing. When I’m at home, work fades entirely away and I can’t remember what’s on my to-do list for the next day. I can only remember my calendar a block at a time and have to sneak peeks at my BlackBerry during meetings to figure out where I’m supposed to be next.
When I’m mired in mommy muck, I can see only my existence and can’t – no matter how many times I’ve been told – see that others feel this way too. That I’m not the only one who finds it hard.
That circle makes me forget things that are important. Important generally, but also to me. I forget, sometimes, to ask how my husband is doing. He’s a tough cookie but I’m sure some of this is hard for him too.
Last month, I forgot a good friend’s son’s first birthday. I have missed the chance to acknowledge it the way I want to – to let her know that I love her and I love her family and I can’t believe he’s one already.
My circle scratches a boundary around my awareness like an old-fashioned compass, drawing a line around how much I feel able to act upon. (Some things (like four unpaid parking tickets) might be less about able and more about willing.)
My mom is doing her usual amazing job at supporting people and sending helpful links and phoning when she knows I need back-up and I have never, ever been as good as I’d like about making sure she’s getting what she needs, too.
I feel stuck in that circle.
This is not meant to sound like a pity party, nor another virtual self-flagellation.
It just is what it is. And it’s frustrating.
I want to rip that circle off – physically rip it off like the cap off the lens of a camera – and toss it aside. Some days I manage to do that, but it always comes back, tied to me with some sort of invisible safety cord making sure I can’t lose it for good.
I’m starting to think maybe trying to toss it aside isn’t the answer. Maybe I need to break it, slowly, like a chip in a windshield that spreads until it shatters, piercing the darkness so that all that’s left is light.
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