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Blowing the doors open

January 1, 2011

Deciding to publicly tell your story about postpartum depression sounds just dandy until someone you know finds you.

My biggest fear, as my husband will attest, is looking weak or foolish. I know, there are worse things. Like getting sick. Or losing someone you love. Or being forced to watch endless loops of Ke$ha videos. But, for me, admitting a genuine weakness tops the list. That’s a huge part of the reason I struggled with postpartum depression (PPD) for at least a full year before admitting that I needed help. Another big reason is that PPD is not something that’s talked about much, which is something I hope to help change by sharing my experience.

Having a baby=endless happiness, right? You feel that all the sleepless nights, crying, and poopslosions are worth it because your baby is so beautiful and you’re a mother.

Except when you happen not to feel that way.

An image that’s burned in my brain is driving down the road one day when I was on mat leave and passing a new development that had condos for sale. “I want to live there,” I thought. By myself. Not with my husband and child – by myself. I could picture it perfectly: a brand new, simply appointed little condo where I could sleep all I wanted and could find the parts of me that felt demolished by the realities of motherhood. I remember thinking that I had never wanted anything so badly, and it scared the shit out of me. By November 2009, when my son was 17 months old, I was so close to having to walk away – from my marriage, from my child – that the quiet condo seemed inevitable rather than just a daydream.

As it turned out, the quiet alone time wasn’t enough of a draw. After a couple of end-of-the road-type incidents I got some badly needed help (in the form of medication, which I’ll write more about) and my overwhelming desire to lock myself alone in a room started to recede.

It wasn’t a perfect solution, and this road to “recovery” (a term I hate, but there you go) has contained its share of speed bumps. Part of the road, for me anyway, has been admitting that this was an issue for me. (Is an issue for me? I’m still not sure. I still long for that condo sometimes, but I no longer think I may actually have to do it.) I’ve actually only told a handful of people about my struggle with PPD. It’s felt a little like a twelve-step program: “Hi, I’m Robin and I struggle with postpartum depression.” I told a few friends about my struggle last year, although at the time I hadn’t labelled it PPD. I talked to them partly because I was drowning and partly because they were close friends who had also struggled with similar issues (though not PPD) and I needed their advice to help inform my decision about medication.

I also told some colleagues last fall because I was really struggling at work and I needed them to know there was a reason. That was hard. Really hard. But it also helped a lot.

One of the people I told was my boss, someone I greatly respect and who I consider a friend as well as a boss. He has seen me in a couple of my very worst moments and has been nothing but supportive. He’s also a very astute sort of guy, and he has already found this blog. I know if I asked him not to read it he wouldn’t. But, as I’ve told him, that’s not the point. I could make this blog private. I could set it up so you don’t know who I am. I could make sure nothing here or on my related Twitter account is linked to my professional persona. I could write about this in a journal instead of putting it online. But I’ve chosen not to do that.

This experience with PPD has been an absolutely huge part of what has defined me over the last couple of years. It took me by surprise and flattened me in a way I could never have imagined. And it has to be okay to talk about that.

I’ll admit a couple of other things too. I set this blog up this morning in a lazy, New-Year’s, self-improvement sort of way. I’ve been thinking about this for months and today seemed as good a day as any to do it, but I hadn’t really thought about what it meant to actually begin the telling of this story. I know what my next steps are – I have a “care plan,” if you will – and I think by creating this space I’ve decided to share that journey with you. But to be honest, it freaks me out. I’m normally a big sharer, but even this is a leap for me. I also had a bit of a panic – heart-stopped, throat-constricted panic – when I found out someone I know had found this. But I want to write about this – need to write about this – and anyone who chooses to can follow along.

Deep breath and in we go.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rosemary permalink
    January 7, 2011 10:08 pm

    I think it’s amazing that you are sharing your story through this blog. You have come a long way dear friend. Every story is different. Thank you for including us in yours.

  2. Briegh permalink
    January 7, 2011 9:09 pm

    MamaR – you are one strong, strong woman. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Rich permalink
    January 3, 2011 1:33 pm

    I’m very proud of you for putting yourself out there and sharing your story so honestly. You are incredibly brave.

  4. January 3, 2011 12:08 pm

    I was so terrified to talk about it. It took me almost a full year to publish those words on my blog, knowing full well that friends, colleagues, family, everyone I know will have the opportunity to read it. And I’ve never felt better. Great post.

  5. Mom2HandR permalink
    January 2, 2011 9:00 pm

    Writing about your experience is a great idea. My experiences became more public than I had planned. My husband is a social worker, it’s a small town, and somehow I became the person people called when they had a friend who needed help. That’s when I realized it was OK if people knew I had PPD. Because I was able to help a few others. If I hadn’t been open, they would never have known.
    So write. Talk. It’s all good.

  6. Rue permalink
    January 2, 2011 6:00 pm

    I have always had a great deal of respect and affection for you, never more so than now. And I consider it a privilege to be your friend. Courage.

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