The Circle of PPD

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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  1. Love. What a great description.

  2. I've never been able to capture in words how my PPD affects me. Thanks for doing what I couldn't.

    • MamaRobinJ says:

      Thanks, Lizzy. I've been thinking for a long time about how to capture what this feels like to me. That's as close as I can get.

  3. I'm two years into this horrid circle which you describe so well. The forgetting really hit me yesterday. My 11 year old is doing a project where he's drawing a timeline of his life and he's been asking about specific events in certain years. I can't recall any of it. I remember that the events took place but only when my mind is shaken a bit, and forget about remembering WHEN they happened. I used to forget things like where I go next, or taking dinner out of the freezer for cooking, or forgetting to buy things from the store even if they're on my list. But this is bigger. I'm forgetting major aspects of my life. Like you, I forget to ask how my husband is. Last night, our toddler hit his head, HARD. He has a golfball size knot on his head. Thank God my husband took control because all I knew how to do was cry and yell at the other two kids who were supposed to be looking after him. He remembered to ice the bump and to nudge me to call the doctor and to check his pupils for dilation. I'm sick of living like this. I can't plan ahead. I'll forget what I planned! I didn't mean to hijack your post, just wanted you to remember that there's a lot of us who feel this way. I think I'm finally transitioning from that "flat feeling" into being a somewhat feeling human again. But how long will it last this time?

    • MamaRobinJ says:

      Oh Pamela. Don't worry about hijacking – that's why I pour my sad self onto these pages. Just know that you're not the only one.

  4. That is a brilliant description. It's describes those moments of despair perfectly. Not just moments but large chunks of time sometimes. This description is true of a broader definition of depression. I so wish I/we could find a way to support you and I mean all of your community here. XOXO

  5. Thank you for describing what you are going / have been through in this bold and unfiltered way. You will soon be outside the circle and into the full and brilliant light!!

  6. Sending you strength.

  7. Very new way of seeing what you see. I think that if people could only see things through others eyes no matter what they will understand better and not assume or critisize as much.

  8. Great description and visual. I am sending you lots of peace and light during your tough times.

  9. Great post. Visiting form comment hour

  10. You are so brave for putting yourself out here like this. I can only imagine what you're going through and wish I could give you a huge hug right now.

  11. Visiting from Comment Hour. Great post. My heart goes out to you. I know that it's a very long battle. Sending hugs & good thoughts your way.

  12. Being a mom of three young kids, I know the feeling at time when I'm overwhelmed but I've never suffered PPD…so thank you for a little glimpse into what it's like. I'm sure even the words you put don't come near to describing it fully but it helps. It's good to see you have a support system. I'm sure that is one thing that really helps!

    Stopping by from the @SITS #commenthour

  13. I have not personally experienced PPD, but have a very close friend who did. Your description is priceless for those of us on the "outside". Thank you for having the grace and courage to share it.

  14. Stopping by from #commenthour to say hello.

  15. I don't know what to say. I don't know much about what you are going through, but I hope blogging about it gives you strength and a circle of friends to support you.

  16. JDaniel4's Mom says:

    I love the visual of chipping away to see the light.

  17. Wow, I know that “What’s the point?” feeling all too well. I remember thinking how the feelings I had were all normal, so normal. I didn't believe I needed help, but I did. May brighter days be around the corner for you!

  18. I realized that I was suffering PPD when it felt like my legs had turned to jello every time I needed to do something for the baby or leave the house; I really appreciate this post and your honesty because PPD effects every woman differently; on the physical, mental and emotional level.

    Thanks again.


  19. What a strong and brave post. Visiting from SITS comment hour.

  20. wishing you peace and comfort! I related…I suffered from a 'weakness' for years ~if only I had the will-power to do________??? then I would be okay! Finally, about a year ago I sought help for depression and learned about PPD ~I am so grateful that I did…

  21. What a way to describe something! I think it helps people see clearly what you feel at times. When I am at my worst in the Depression (without the PP part), I seem to only see black and white and not the brilliant colours around me. Perhaps it's my mind's overdramatization of the wintery mountains, trees and snow that usually surround me at the time, but sometimes there seems to be nothing bright and I long for brilliant, bright colours to fill my life again.

    When you think about all the people in your life and what they are doing for you, don't forget that you have done much for them as well. You talked a sister through a scary experience after a car accident on the world's tallest bridge. You kept a fantastic woman company during chemo treatments. You have done so much more as well. Don't forget that. They help you when you need it and you help them just as much.

    You'll make it through the circle and together we'll probably see bright lights from every angle and every shade of the rainbow that we ever desired to see! xo forever

  22. This is beautiful. I haven't experienced this so I can't imagine the lonesomeness and pain, but I feel I have beautiful insight into this and what you are feeling and have felt. Glad you are getting help and I think you're very brave for writing these posts.

  23. Wow, what a tough way to have the day be in front of you. Blanket therapy. It is hard when it is unseen by others yet feels so real. Brooke Shield. Take care of you

    Stopping by from sits


  24. visiting from SITS comment hour.

    This is a very interesting post. i have never heard ppd explained with a photo such as the one you used. It give me more clarity of what people are going through.

  25. hello from #commenthour

  26. I don't have any experience with PPD, but I am going through grief and your description of your feelings really felt familiar to me. Seems as though there is a lot of similarities between PPD and grief. I feel as though I am trying to chip away at the lens too. Little by little. Piece by piece. What else is there can we do? It's that or give in to it and I refuse to do that. Hang in there girl.

    • MamaRobinJ says:

      I hear you, Tiffany. I can understand how grief would be similar (and my heart aches for you in your situation). Keep chipping!

  27. Thanks for having the courage to discuss PPD and to share your insights. I have a friend who tried to take her life 2 months after her son was born. No one wanted to admit that she was suffering from PPD, and she IS a healthcare professional. I am happy to say that was over 12 years ago, and that now she and her family are happy and thriving.

    Glad to find your blog via #Commenthour

    • MamaRobinJ says:

      Great to hear that she got past it. The further I get into blogging about this the more I wonder why we don't talk about it. It's okay to need help with this. Just trying to do my part…

  28. PPD is suffocating.

    It makes you feel like the world is closing in on you.


    There is a light at the end of the tunnel.

    A light worth fighting for.

    Keep fighting.

    You are doing great.

    We're here for you, anytime.

    You're writing is keeping others strong and surviving.

    Others like me.

  29. I love this. It's such an accurate description of the tunnel that is PPD. I feel like I am seeing life through a dirty windshield at times. I can sort of tell what's coming at me, but not in time to full prepare or react.

    I'm sending you good vibes. support and calmness. PPD warriors stick together.

  30. Mired in Mommy Muck is a fabulous expression- so telling.

    Thanks for linking up and sharing this.

  31. "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?

    This part stuck out so much to me. This is exactly how I feel. It's the lingering 'What's the point' feeling that I now get. Rationally, I know what the point is, but it doesn't feel that way at times. I can't wait for the day that goes away. I know and believe with all of my heart that day is coming for both of us!

  32. Yup nodding my head through the entire post. It is so incredibly hard to put into words how we feel and even then to someone who has never experienced it won't fully understand how deep and dark that circle is.

    There will be setbacks in this journey but each time you get a little stronger and a little wiser and you'll know what to do.

    I'm 2 years PP and still fight. Although this may be a thing I just ha e to get used to (mental illness runs in family)

    Big hugs to you

  33. Big hugs to you! Recovering from PPD is a really difficult journey. But when you're free, it's so amazing. Even the setbacks, and relapses. You know there's something good to get to. You've had it.

  34. Thanks for describing this. I’m starting to ask myself about my own depression (and to actually give it that name) and it helps to see others talking about it.

    • Depression is a tough thing to recognize sometimes, and a hard thing to accept especially given the stigma. My experience evolved after this once I switched medications and I went much deeper into what is considered more typical depression. There are so many sides to this, but I\’m glad you found reading this helpful. That is exactly why I write about it :)


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