Sometimes I can tell from the moment I open my eyes that I am going to have a hard day.
Even with proactive strategies and treatment, Post-partum depression (PPD) has up and down days/times. For the most part, I am able to function at my best through the mood fluctuations. Sometimes I can shake the feelings right off. I can repeat to myself, “This isn’t who you are, this is how you are feeling. This isn’t what you’re doing, this is what’s happening to you. Find yourself; push through.” There is so much love and happiness in my life, sometimes it helps to run through the Rolodex of facts: I am healthy, we are all safe, I love my children, I’m a good mom, I’m a good partner, Amer is an amazing husband and father, I’m grateful to have them, I love them, I love myself, life is fun, the world is good, etc.
On the really bad days, which are thankfully rare, none of the usual affirmations help me at all. I know all the things, I say all the things, I can see them clearly. Yet I remain isolated. It’s like being behind a thick wall of glass. I press my hands; my face. I yell. I bang; sometimes I even have the strength to throw a chair. It is a really strange experience to be actively fighting against your own emotions- and losing. Today the wall holds strong, and I am relegated to observer.
With small children, with any interpersonal relationship- you must participate. A parent cannot last on an extended timeline as an observer. Kids needs things; and not just snacks and diaper changes; they need your support and engagement. So on days like this, I really have to fight.
I start strategizing; I decide right away: we are going somewhere. The girls are great at car rides, we sing and play games, they fall asleep easily on longer or nap-timed rides. I make the girls an easy breakfast and put some favorite stories on the tv. I busy myself tidying up from the night before, make Amer coffee, and I pack snacks and lunches for everyone. Meanwhile I’m fighting exhausting cry-laden emotions, and the guilt and frustration that comes along with feeling them. Before we leave, I take the girls to the playroom and give them the best 20 minutes I’ve got. We play, we laugh, and I think we all feel better after.
They sleep on the hour ride to Atlanta (to pick up family friend for some company and hang time) During our rainy drive around some beautiful Atlanta neighborhoods- we see a park right as the sun comes out. We park, we eat, we go. We all have a great time! Zara is so strong and brave, not to mention hilarious. Lela is sweet but so determined to do her own thing!! (Usually it’s taking off like a shot) I take beautiful pictures of them. I find a big stick to make a fairy door with when we get home. I feel more settled, more supported, and like my life and my feelings make more sense.
We go home, and the day becomes just another moment in the blur of growing up. We made it through, and everyone had a good time. Everything was ok. Everything is ok. The girls are ok. I am ok. I am grateful for my loved ones especially in their moments of support: from a phone call from family, to spending the day with a friend, to coming downstairs the morning and finding everything surprisingly clean and shiny. (Thanks, Amer)
Depression or other mental imbalances aside- Sometimes, your feelings are going to go against your actions, or vice versa. Sometimes you’ll be lost to the inertia of a mood or state of mind you don’t even want to be in. The best thing you can do in those moments is remind yourself of what is real, true, and constant- and focus on that. The guilt spiral of negative thoughts and feelings can take a sad moment to a full throttle meltdown.
I have learned the best way to adjust my behavior is by diminishing the power of anxiety and guilt. It’s easier on some days than others. Tomorrow is another day to try again. So after the rush of the initial downslide and panic, there are options. Take deep breaths and remember there are ways through it. Saying all this to myself- and to others- helps me to live it and truly integrate it into my life.
So, as I try to tell myself- and now you: Remember that you’re doing great, life is great, and we’re all in this together 💕
Hot tip: a police officer once told me driving emotional was the same as reckless driving.
If you are actively crying or otherwise emotionally agitated- it is unsafe to drive. Pull over and wait for it to pass, or don’t get in to start with. It may be nice to get away, but nothing is worth compromising your safety.