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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.


story3girl said...

Oh sweetie. You are so brave to write this, and I am so cheering for you guys to find your new normal and make it through this. i know it hurts, but you are doing great.

SandyS125 said...

Thank you. It is heart breaking to go through, even harder to admit. We both knew we were drifting apart but the first focus was me getting better. Now it's time to get back to being 'us' again. You're cheering will help heaps!

Glasgow_mummy said...

What a brave post to write. I think I suffered from PND... I had such a tough time of it. But unfortunately instead of being supportive my husband had an affair and I'm now on my own. You're doing so well... I hope you continue to make such good progress and that you get back to how you were before.

Mawsjourney said...

Auch powerful words.. Its often hard for people to verbalise and tell others how they feel but you have certainly achieved that in this post.FANTASTIC& BRAVE!

Tina said...

I totally relate to your post. My husband and I just started counseling. PPD and PPP have really put a strain on our marriage. But you are right, we will be a strong team again, too. My illnesses did what it could to tear us apart, too. Hang in there!

Jennifer Gaskell said...

My husband and I struggled with reconnecting and to have him trust me again that I could handle being with the girls all by myself for an entire day. Healing does take time. I am so glad that you wrote about this. This resonated with me so much. You'll be that team again.

mouse said...

I want to say a brilliant post, but it is a sad subject to write so well about. But a great post! It's not fair so many people have struggled with PND. I have been struggling with depression, but as a single parent. I often feel that in some ways, having been single since my daughter was born was a blessing. Yes, I've to do a lot on my own, but I haven't had what you so eloquently described. Like you said, it's testament to a great relationship that I'm sure will heal in time and be better than before, it just sucks having to wait until you get to that point. Keep fighting x

Robin @ Farewell Stranger said...

Bravo. We need more posts about how PPD affects relationships because you're absolutely right - the husbands have to survive it too.

Jenn Fox said...

This post is amazing. Your husband is amazing. My husband is amazing. The strength they have shown through all of this is nothing short of a miracle. Big squishy virtual hugs for both of you!

Deb @ home life simplified said...

This is my story too. I have been recovered for about 5 years now but my marriage has never returned to what we had before. Like you, after the 2 years of hell I was starting to reach out again, but then I was the one being rejected and pushed away. We have spent the last 5 years taking 2 steps forward and 1 back, the only reason we are still married is that outpacing of the 2:1.

SandyS125 said...

I am heartbroken that you think you may have had PND and the support was not there for you. You are fantastically brave and strong to have won that battle on your own. x

SandyS125 said...

Thank you. It has taken a long time to be willing to put it in writing but these comments have reminded me why I press that publish posts that are so hard to write.

SandyS125 said...

Yes, we will get there! My husband said recognising he had changed and had been affected by the battle was one of his first steps towards us healing. He is certain this strain on relationships is as common as some of the symptoms we have had to battle with. Best wishes to both of you as you find your way back to being a team too!

SandyS125 said...

I can totally relate. A lot of our arguments in the beginning were because I felt he no longer saw me as an equal, like I was now someone to protect rather than work with. You two will be a team as well, I know it.

SandyS125 said...

Thank you for this. It has been heartbreaking to watch us grow apart and to know that I had to wait until I was well enough to address it. You deserve great big hugs for tackling motherhood and depression on your own, and then taking time to lend your support to me (and others!). I know you must be an amazing mom. x

SandyS125 said...

Thank you.

SandyS125 said...

You and your husband are amazing. Yes, mine is pretty damn awesome too. We've made it through the big fight so we know we can make it. Big hugs right back at ya!

Kimberly said...

This hit home for me. I get this...I really do.
I've been fighting for 4 years...
Facing another medication change...and my husband said "I hope this works, because I haven't seen you for 4 years."
But he's held my hand through it all and I am so very thankful.
It's a work in progress.
Thank you so much for baring your sould like that. xo

SandyS125 said...

I hope for both of you that you reconnect again.Recognising we have both changed and realising we won't be what we were seems to have been one of the hardest steps for us to make. I'm just hoping we can be something great again.

SandyS125 said...

You are amazing and I know from your posts how amazing your husband is too but it is so so hard, isn't it? I have "teetered" on the edge a few times recently. The last time, my husband broke down and said "I can't lose you again." heartbreaking.