I hate when she surfaces. Most times, I don’t even see her coming. She rears her ugly head and takes over in a hot second before I can fend her off. The moment is hers and the guilt, mine. Sometimes it’s like I’m having an out-of-body experience. I see her, parenting my child, and it hurts to watch. It hurts even more to know that it is me.
It’s not a secret I hold from anyone. I’ve let others in and shared bits and pieces of my experience with post-partum depression/anxiety. I’d say it began as PPD and morphed over time to anxiety. I’m not sure where to go back and draw that line, but it doesn’t even matter. It hurts me to even write the word depression down. I used to think I was above it. I pitied those who suffered, but quietly reassured myself that it wouldn’t happen to me. I’m a happy person. I’ve always been a happy person. I’m blessed in so many ways and I would never EVER have anything to be sad about, ESPECIALLY when getting to love on my newborn son. Needless to say, I was blindsided and flattened by the profound impact a slight chemical, hormonal imbalance would have on my life. This chapter of my life stripped me of everything I once knew myself to be.
I couldn’t tell up form down on certain days. I drove myself mad digging for bits and pieces of the “old Molly” so that I could cling to something and slowly work my way back. It took a long, long time to learn what my trigger was (is). It is Sleep.
Sleep deprivation is no joke. Ask someone who’s been through a military grade survival school, a deployment, a colicky newborn…it’s no joke. I turn into a very ugly version of myself after days of insufficient sleep. I assure you that I can actually hang on pretty well with the bare minimum on a day to day basis. It’s what I do. What I am talking about here though, is seven, eight, nine days where all you have had are a couple naps between feedings, fevers, and crying. I’m talking about running on fumes and still holding down the fort. It wears on you. It wears on me in a really problematic way. I turn into her and I hate it.
As a military wife, I have a hard time being completely alone. The weight of it all, the worrying, the crying, the falling half asleep only to be wakened again…the needing, the wanting, the helplessness…It turns me into her. It turns me into the mom who loses her cool with her three year old who is being fresh. Afterwards, I can step back and acknowledge that it's more about me than him, but in those moments I see red.
I say the things I want to take back later. I shake and I cry and I let him see me in a way that I promise myself each time I’ll never reveal to him again. What does he do? He shakes and cries too. I'm crying even now as I type this...These moments are not what I want for my sweet boy, even when he’s not being sweet. I hate that she takes over so quickly and so fiercely. I go days, weeks, months without seeing her and then she rears her ugly head. I surrender to my cycle and beg God for forgiveness, asking for help, asking for a change, and then the next moment is upon me and I often fall short. Way short. What is wrong with me? I’ve tried to blame it on hormones, birth control, life situations, the works. SLEEP. I HATE that it’s sleep. I hate myself when I ask my son, my three year old son, to forgive me for yelling and he looks at me with the BIGGEST love in his eyes and smile on his face and tells me it’s OK and he loves me. The guilt is SO heavy in those moments that I almost cannot bear it.
When we know better we do better, so here I sit before you all giving you that much needed "me too" that we all need from time to time. The guilt gets us nowhere. I do know better, but sometimes, I don't do better and that has to be OK. It has to be OK that I am human and that I mess up. The trick is recognize your triggers and set up a system that works so that I can be the best mom and woman I know how to be. The trick is extending ourselves grace during this phase of our lives and its learning to treat ourselves as we would a friend. Motherhood is so hard. It's full of wonder and love and gratitude, but it is so damn hard. It's hard and it is OK that it is hard.
We just have to keep going knowing that this too will pass. One foot in front of the other, one day at a time, things will get easier. We just have to keep showing up. We just have to keep trying.