Waking up at 4:30 a.m. leaves me with a lot of extra time to think. Sure, I could do something productive, like dishes, or laundry, or organizing my pantry, but really? It’s bad enough that I’m awake. I’m not going to make it worse by doing chores that I don’t enjoy even when well rested and fully caffeinated.
Instead, I build myself a nest of pillows on the couch, turn on the Christmas tree (which will most likely not get taken down till Valentine’s Day) and drift. Sometimes I think about good things, fun things, like painting the baby’s room or gardening projects. But more often than not, those quiet hours before dawn are when the nasty little thoughts I keep locked up during the day come out to play.
I worry about lots of things, but as my due date looms ever closer, I find myself dwelling on the specter of postpartum depression. I’m sure every mom-to-be worries about this scary condition, but as someone who has had to fight her way back from the soul sucking black hole that is clinical depression, I am terrified.
For those of you who have never been through it (and I do hope that’s most of you), there’s no real way to describe the devastation that depression causes. When it strikes, it’s like all the light goes out of the world. And as it leaves, the light takes everything that makes life worth living with it. All the hope. All the joy. All my plans for the future. Everything.
Without all the good things, I become a bitter, hollow thing. I hate myself. And everyone around me. I can see no reason for anyone to love me. And so those who do earn my scorn.
Although over the years I’ve gotten good at hiding the pain, at continuing to smile and acting as though everything’s okay, inside, I’m screaming bloody murder. Just one long endless howl.
The last time it happened, I told my husband that I felt like I needed to just rip off my skin and fly away. That that was the only way I could escape the horror that had become my world. And I think that’s the closest I’ve ever come to explaining what depression is like. At least for me.
So when I think about the possibility of that happening again – of feeling that way while trying to care for another person who’s completely dependent on me, I feel sick. I can say now, while still in complete control of my brain, that it won’t happen. That I’ll recognize the signs and get help before it becomes a problem. But I can’t be sure.
So I’m scared. And while I struggled mightily with the decision to write this post (it’s been in the works for weeks), staying silent about my fears felt like lying.
So there it is. It’s part of my pregnancy experience – my life experience – and I’ll continue to write about it as I feel the need. Hopefully, you’ll never hear anything other than “phew, glad I was wrong about that one.” Hopefully.
And if I’m right about my chances of getting PPD? Well, it’ll make for some interesting reading anyway.