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My Postpartum Depression Turned Into Depression

I'm a parent of two, but I also suffer from severe depression. I've had it for about five years now and will probably have it for the rest of my life. I found out after my son, my second child, was born that I was suffering from postpartum depression.

The child that is my mini-me, who can't fall asleep without nuzzling me, wakes up every morning excited to kiss me. If I leave him home with his sister and dad, he falls apart. I adore him and agree with his father when he tells me that I coddle him. Our bond is special, I think most mamas of boys would say the same.

Yet there was a time where I felt no attachment to, or admiration for, my son.

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I knew I was suppose to love him, but I'm not sure I did. I remember pretending in front of people that I was enamored by him, as opposed to feeling indifferent. It was so different than the first time, when my daughter was born. I couldn't get enough of her new baby smell, of cuddling her. The day after she was born, while I lay in the hospital bed, I turned to my husband and said, "Let's do this again." And I meant it.

While holding my son I thought, "What have we done? Who is this? Why are you here?" The guilt I felt was so large, I know that I felt disorientated and overwhelmed by the arrival of this new baby. I began compulsively cleaning my house and cooking extravagant meals everyday. I rarely left the house, because I was fearful of it getting dirty. I dreaded breastfeeding, so I pumped as much as possible, so I could stop breastfeeding sooner rather than later. Everyone kept saying, "You have a boy now! Are you so happy? When can we come see you? I bet you're loving it."

The first thing I asked my therapist was if I would still be a good parent.

I wasn't. I felt confused and stuck. Why wasn't I in love with my baby?

Eventually I stumbled upon a blog post about postpartum depression and realized that I was most likely suffering from it as well. I began researching it, learning as much as I could—finally finding comfort in the fact that I was not alone, nor was I a mean mother. I read that it wouldn't last forever, so I settled into breastfeeding my son and learned to love it. I cleaned a little less, and took my children out.

I was clinging to the idea that this depression would soon lift, and I would go back to my normal content self. I waited. While I waited, I fell in love with my baby boy. He was calm and smiley. He rarely cried. And the way his face lit up when he would see me. It still does.

Even while falling in love with my baby boy, my depression seemed to linger. So I continued to wait. I was still depressed. Some days I couldn't get out of bed; what normally brought me joy didn't. It felt dark, even though I knew there was no reason for me to feel that darkness.

I wasn't sad. No, it wasn't sadness. Yet, I couldn't recall what happy felt like. Even amidst the people that made me feel the most loved, I never really felt happy.

Growing up in a religious household, therapy was always frowned upon. There was this stigma attached to it: If you go to therapy, you're crazy and can't fix yourself on your own. I was resistant to therapy at first, because I knew what my family would think. But, eventually, I went to a therapist, and it was the best decision I've ever made.

Within my first session I learned I had severe depression. I was completely devastated. Mental illness was something that affected other people but not me, because my life was full of all that was good. Why didn't my brain realize this? I will say that while I was devastated, I think there was a tiny bit of relief that came over me. Knowing that the reason I was sad, and not the kind of sadness where something awful has happened to you, but a sadness you can't put your finger on, wasn't because of my surroundings. It was because of my brain chemistry.

For some reason that gave me a sense of comfort, the fact that it was inside of me, something I didn't have complete control over.

The first thing I asked my therapist was if I would still be a good parent. She answered with, "Well, you are loving and taking care of your children. And you have been for almost three years. I think you're going to continue to be a great parent. I'll give you the tools to help you cope with the rough bouts."

I now view my depression as gift. Which seems a bit ridiculous when you first hear that.

From there, we worked on coping methods. The idea of medicine was a last result that I still believe is helpful yet haven't embarked on that journey yet.

After learning about my depression, I didn't really talk to anyone about it. Especially to my fellow parents. Everyone seemed like they had it all figured out, and I was the only one struggling to exist while caring for two tiny people. But feeling alone when you're suffering with an illness can get lonely. And it did. I felt isolated, and ashamed. I wanted so badly to be able to talk about how hard it was, how somedays seemed so much harder than others. I wanted to talk about how a good day felt like I was invincible, like the fog had rolled away finally, and I could breath again. Who could I talk to though? I finally posted a status on Facebook, as silly as that may sound, about how hard depression was. I left it there, feeling a bit liberated in the fact that I had shared something so intimate about myself. When I came back a few hours later, so many comments had been left. Some simply said, "Yes!" Others thanked me for sharing that detail. I received messages from friends about how they also struggled with depression and had been needing a way to talk about it.

That is the moment I knew I wasn't alone.

Just that experience made it easier and easier to share with others that I suffer from depression. How people responded is a whole other story. But being able to be honest with myself and others helped me accept my depression. I knew it didn't define me, but there was no denying that it was, indeed, part of my makeup.

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I now view my depression as gift. Which seems a bit ridiculous when you first hear that. It's made me much more appreciative of life and especially of being a parent. Things often seem so heavy, but when I come out of a bout of depression, everything seems brand new and more beautiful than before. My children, throughout this whole process, have only ever seen me as whole and have continually trusted me, been patient and loved me. There are moments when I just stare at them in awe, that I get to raise and guide these little people who hold more love in their small bodies than some adults do.

They remind me daily that despite my disease, I am enough. I am good enough.

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Image by Margaret Jacobsen

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