Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

Nearly four months ago I had a baby. I’ve had a mostly amazing postpartum since then. I was showered with food and visitors and well wishers and helpers in the early days. I fixed my low milk supply issues with Euphoric Herbals galactagogue blends and by correcting baby May’s posterior tongue and upper lip ties. I maintained a positive attitude and continued regular therapy and my SSRI medication. I assumed I was in the clear from postpartum mood disorders. I assumed wrong.

It’s been coming on slowly, in little bits here and there. My patience with my older children is nonexistent. I yell. I rage. It takes almost nothing to set me off. I find myself wishing that I could just leave.

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Loud noise triggers my anxiety and rage like nothing else. When the decibel level in our home climbs up and off the charts due to the screaming, the crying, the barking, the DinoTrux theme song on TV, the banging of toys and beeping of oven timers… When this happens, my head feels like it’s on fire. My palms sweat, my ears ring, my heart starts jumping over itself and beats in skippy flip-flops. That’s when Mama loses it. Says mean things. Bad, mean things. Breaks little spirits, slams doors, wishes it would all go away.

At first I handled things okay. I have a high-needs baby who won’t sit in a bouncy seat for longer than 10 minutes, who flat-out refuses the swing and the playmat, who needs to nurse almost constantly. I estimate that I hold her about 50 out of every 60 minutes each day.

So I’m on the couch a lot. Holding the baby. Nursing the baby. This is how she sleeps. She’ll sleep in a carrier while being worn, too, but she’ll nap for much longer if she’s on me on the couch, not moving.

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I pass these immobile, boring hours by snacking. In the beginning, I tried to stick to apples and carrots and bananas and coconut yogurt and nuts. But cravings are powerful stuff, lemme tell ya. And when the three year-old makes frequent trips to the pantry for himself it’s easy to just piggyback on his snacks. Handfuls of Goldfish crackers here, a chocolate chip granola bar there. Animal crackers, Chex mix. Cookies.

Before I knew it, the “just one won’t hurt” mentality became my regular diet. I now binge eat multiple times a day until I’m physically sick. My gallbladder — wrecked by the pregnancy and cholestasis — aches almost constantly. When I saw my GP the other day she recommended surgery to remove it without even a HIDA scan since that test (the gold standard for confirming a low-functioning gallbladder) is contraindicated for breastfeeding.

So I eat and I sit on the couch and I can’t/don’t want to exercise. I’ve avoided writing anything in this space because I used to be the girl who lost 72 pounds because she fell in love with fitness and healthful food. I started a blog about my success and my journey. And now I’m a fraud. I’ve gained back 35 pounds since the baby was born just four months ago. I’m ashamed. I’m sick. And I’m depressed.

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My oldest daughter took this photo, and all I can see is how big I've gotten.

I catch myself thinking dark thoughts. Ugly thoughts. I am not suicidal, but I’ll see quick flashes and visions throughout the day of what’s known as Intrusive Thoughts, or ITs. I have to literally shake my head as if to shake the thought away. It’s like an itch. I have no control over it coming on and I have to get rid of it immediately.

I’m having nightmares. I’m exhausted. I’m weary. I feel trapped.

I have postpartum depression.

I’m not drowning, but I’m treading water. My therapist — who I saw today — agreed that we’re catching it early this time. So it will be okay. I know that. I believe that. I kind of just wish we could fast forward to the “feel better” part and skip the part where I have to fight to get myself back. I feel too tired to do this again. I don’t want to get up off the couch. I don’t want to take care of myself. I just want to sleep and eat and wait for it to go away.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. From someone — a Mama who Lost It — who’s done a bunch of half marathons and a triathlon and a crapload of workouts before, during, and after them, I know that the only way to get to the end of something is to fight your way through it.

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I ran for the first time in 6 weeks. I hated it and returned home to pig out and loaf around afterwards.

I’m struggling to close this entry. I want to conclude with an uplifting rally cry, an inspiring quote, a promise that I’m ready for the challenge and up to the task. But I keep typing and deleting because none of that stuff feels genuine. I’m a bit stuck right now, in my life and on the page. I will share updates on the un-sticking process as it unfolds.