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Thursday, 21 June 2012

So We Meet Again: Reconnecting after Postpartum Depression

It’s January and my husband and I have had yet another argument. They have been coming fast in furious for several months and this has been one for the books. One that starts with snide comments from both parties, escalating to insults and accusations. One with an intermission where he swears under his breath as he picks up his phone, I stomp out of the room and cry.  One where by the end we hugging each other, apologizing for our hurtful words, emotionally and physically exhausted, feeling absolutely no relief from airing our grievances. We have figured out the problem.

We just have no idea how to fix it. 

Postpartum depression has been hell. It has messed with my husband’s world as much as it has mine.  As he put it, the day we came home with our newborn baby, I returned with a stranger. He returned with two.

Imagine it. 

You find someone to spend your life with. It isn’t always perfect, you don’t always see eye to eye, but you get each other. You decide to have a baby together. You go into it knowing it’s going to be hard work but you are ready because you’ll be doing it together.

But this mom is not your partner in crime. She looks the same, but only if you look past the slouched posture, the empty eyes, the plastic smile.  She almost sounds the same, but her intonation has been replaced with emotionless monotone. You look hard to find her in there but she just isn’t the person you entered into this with.

You discover it’s an illness and feel almost relieved. There’s a reason for this change and there is a way to recover. So you do everything in your power to make sure she can concentrate on getting better.

She can’t bring herself to cook more than ramen noodles and cup a soup…
So you do the meal planning, the grocery shopping, and the cooking.

Thinking about money practically cripples her with panic…
So you take over the budget and paying the bills.

She is too anxious to even think about leaving the house…
So you decline friends’ invitations and stay at home with her.

She needs to live moment by moment…
So you accept it and do the required planning ahead.

She needs to work through how she is feeling.
You listen to as much as you can handle before you tell her you’ll give her the space and time it takes, but that she must tell someone else.

You are heartbroken, angry, and confused. You are scared and frustrated but you can’t tell the one person you usually turn to. So you seal your feelings off and continue to work.

You continue to do.

You keep busy.

You move forward.

Then, after what seems like an eternity, she seems like herself again. Each day, a little more of her comes back. She makes jokes that make you laugh and her smiles reach her eyes.

She plans the weekend away without begging you to make the final decisions.

She gets pissed off when you plan something without consulting her. Then gets even more furious when you do it again. She wants to know about the things that you’d grown accustomed to doing alone because, for so long, she wasn’t healthy enough to handle it.

She is hurt that you come home and busy yourself on the computer, the phone, or the TV. She wonders why you are so insular.

This is about the point when the big one started. He lost it and shouted. “Because you have been shut off for more than two years.”

He wasn’t wrong. I fought back the urge to apologise and he stopped me as I began to utter “I’m sorry.” We both know it’s PPD that made me detached and anxious.

But it still sucked. For both of us. We did what we could to get through it. We weathered the storm in the best way we knew how. 

Now that I’m feeling again, I don’t want him to live as though he is on his own. Now that he sees me reaching out, he is unsure how to let down his guard.

I am finally finding the old me again but he isn’t the old him anymore. He’s been through this battle too. Only he’s been through it wide awake, without the fog of depression to fade his memories or cloud his days.

We both want to get back to being as close as we used to be but it has been tremendously hard work.

We are not there yet.

It cuts me to the core to write that.

In my heart of hearts I know it’s a testament to the strength of our relationship that has got us through this hell and not a sign of weakness that we have pieces to pick up. We have fun together and even managed it some in the midst of my depression. But in the moments when we run out of things to say to each other, the hurt comes flooding in. 

In those hard moments I remind myself how much we have been through and that healing takes time.

I know that impatience won’t speed up this process but will only cause heartache while we are working through it. I do my best to remember that we love each other, even if PPD did its damndest to rip us apart.

We are trying and we will get there.

In order to survive this illness, we had to live as individuals but we will be that strong team again.