Almost before I even began writing this, I heard the voice tell me, “Don’t write that. Something bad could happen.”
Something bad could happen.
If there were ever a principle I’ve lived by—if there has ever a sentence that could summarize the messages I receive in my head daily from a myriad of foreign voices—it would be this:
Something bad could happen.
One and a half months ago, something wonderful happened. I gave birth to my second baby. My entire world. My heart wrapped up in a little pink fleece blanket in a cozy sleeper and green binkie.
Doctors talk a lot about post partum depression. It’s like they all read the same script in medical school. Do you want to harm yourself? Do you want to harm others? Are you crying? How do you feel?
How do you feel?
Now, I just want to point out that I’ve always been at war with the demons in my head. Depression, anxiety, hallucinations—you name it, I’ve taken up my metaphorical sword against it and raged holy war.
This is what they don’t tell you about post-partum “depression.” Sometimes it’s not depression at all. Sometimes it’s depression turned inside out. Instead of wanting to harm your babies, you see a replay in your head of all the terrible things that could possibly happen to them. It’s like the image is being projected on your inner eyelids. It never stops, like a din at a festival. A loud, annoying din that doesn’t communicate anything to you yet still drives you crazy.
The doctors always asked me, “do you feel like harming yourself or someone else?”
And of course I would answer “no.” But the other part of me wanted to scream. Another part of me wanted to scream out “no. I would never hurt my babies. I lie awake at night scared something will happen to my babies. I stop breathing during the middle of the night because I want to be sure I can hear my own baby’s breathing over mine. I have nightmares that they’ve died.I have nightmares that they’ve fallen out of their crib, stopped breathing, had an object fall on them—it all plays out like an endless horror movie.”
But I don’t. I stay quiet, because, after all, they didn’t ask about that did they? They asked if I was sad.
I’m not sad. Not in the way that makes me want to hurt my babies. I’m sad in a way that makes me hurt myself. Why? Because I can’t silence the voices or block out the images long enough to enjoy my children. Obsessed with a desperate need to anticipate and prevent any harm that may come to them, I deprive myself of sleep, joy, and sanity.
Sometimes post-partum depression isn’t wanting to harm your children. Sometimes it’s killing yourself worrying about them.
Sometimes post partum depression isn’t tears of sadness—it’s tears of exhaustion after lying awake all night listening to your baby breathe, because you’re scared they’ll die of SIDS. Scared that somehow it would have been your fault.
Sometimes post partum depression isn’t wanting to harm others—it’s wanting to protect them from all the things that could ever happen to them. All these horrible things, played over and over and over in your head until they are as real as the pillow you’ve buried your face in to try to block out the images.
Sometimes post-partum depression isn’t depression at all.