When you suffer from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression, you walk around in a haze while trying to seem as normal as possible. You try to make yourself feel as connected as you can to your child and those around you. Perhaps your dearest friends and family can tell that you don’t seem like yourself, but then they just brush it off as normal baby blues. And you soldier on, trying to pretend—sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully—that everything is cool.
When my son was a little over two months old and I was in the throes of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder, I tried to host a ladies’ luncheon at my house. It was mid-December, and I guess I thought it would make me feel better to have a half-dozen women over and make them a nice little Christmas lunch. I decorated the house. I made goat cheese salad and butternut squash soup and little lemon tarts with sugared blueberries for dessert.
When the women came over, I’ll never forget having one of the oddest feelings I’ve ever had. I felt like I was inside of a bubble. Or like I was hovering over the party watching it but that my guests couldn’t see or hear me. I was shocked at how disconnected I felt from the world, and it seemed like it didn’t really matter whether I was there or not. I tried to make small talk, but it seemed like the sentences just didn’t come out right and that I wasn’t making any sense; it was almost like all the air had been replaced by water that blurred my vision and muffled my sound. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and they were chatting and eating away. I kept trying to connect with them, to feel present, but no matter what I did it didn’t work.
To this day, I don’t think they had any idea what I was thinking or feeling. They definitely didn’t know I had postpartum depression. They seemed to have a lovely time. After everyone left and my son went down for a nap, I remember laying down on the couch in my family room and sobbing. I had tried to do something to make myself feel better, to be a part of the world, and it had only broken my heart. I tried to be close to others and it only made me feel further apart.
One of the truly awful feelings you experience during postpartum depression or anxiety is that sense of disconnection from the world, from your friends and family, from your baby, and most of all, from yourself. I felt so deeply, deeply alone.
This is why it’s so hard for us to say anything. We’re ashamed, of course. But we’re also disconnected. I didn’t think anyone would hear me, or believe me, or perhaps even care. I didn’t even have myself to talk to anymore. Myself had up and left and this new person I had become was clearly NOT my friend. I had lost my ability to speak clearly and calmly and with reason. I felt like I couldn’t even communicate love to my own child. How could I have been expected to understandably explain THIS?
I hope the people we love can try to understand why it is so easy for moms with postpartum depression to turn away. It’s much easier to run and hide, or give up, than to try and speak through the cement wall that life just erected between us and the world. We try our best, but you may have to fill in the blanks for us until we find our words, and ourselves, again.