There are a million reasons I had postpartum depression (PPD). In fact, there were so many reasons that I quickly became overwhelmed.
I was afraid I wouldn’t have the strength to even try and fix it all, so instead, I resorted to withering away. How long does it take to recover from postpartum depression was a question I will later ask. But every time I refused to face my problems head-on, I only gave them more power over me.
My fear only intensified and my resentment grew deeper.
- I turned away. I disassociated in every sense possible. I went completely blank — my mind, my body, my emotions. I didn’t respond to my child’s cries for comfort because all systems inside me had shut down. I saw nothing. I heard nothing. I felt nothing.
- There were times I couldn’t stand to be present in the moment. To experience. To feel. To breathe. So I just didn’t. I stared into space. I’d walk away. I became a completely useless parent.
- Unchecked I allowed the pain from my postpartum depression to continue to run through the vicious cycle only allowing it to grow. Pain. Dissociation. More pain. More dissociation and so on.
I acknowledge now that I allowed my PPD to become so bad because of my refusal to feel the pain that I feared so deeply.
Simultaneous to feeling completely dead inside, I became more hyper-alive than ever before. The resentment I built up created a never-ending yearn to rage against the machine.
With the passion of any scorned woman, I rejected my decision to simply accept this new life.
It was not okay to simply lie down and take it.
If I was hurting inside, I damn well better stand up and fix it. Why the hell was I numbing myself every day refusing to live the life I was given?
I’d become completely consumed by blinding rage not directed at anything specific but also directed at everything. This rage often blinded me into exploding into uncontrollable anger over every single thing. Every action is taken (or not taken), said (or not said) by anyone (including myself) became a trigger.
My overall resentment levels just continued to grow.
So again, I wouldn’t call my PPD sad per se instead I had also developed one of the lesser-known, but also terrifying symptoms of PPD: postpartum rage.
I had created quite a chaotic world for myself. My emotions and thoughts pulling in opposite directions. Total subordination to complete anarchist and back again.
No matter how I try, I will never be able to fully describe the inner turmoil I felt during those years. The intensity of the emotions I felt (or I guess at times even refused to feel).
But as you can see, that was no life to live.
How long does it take to recover from postpartum depression?
Then miracle happened
It was not overnight, but I know it happened. Because I went from months of despair, crying, numb, detached, screaming, anguish — into feeling real genuine happiness.
I was made whole again. My life was changed, and I have no idea how or why. Only explanation was it was a miracle. There was no other way to describe it. Something changed within me and I could finally breathe again.
So we’re good here right?
Postpartum depression and postpartum rage — Fixed. Let’s call this a win and move on.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t that simple. I knew I deserved content after all that turmoil. But my memory of the pain still coursed through my veins. Because I am unsure of how I managed to stumble upon this new life, I still lived in fear of my past.
Am I here for good or is this just a short detour? Be careful not to misstep and fall back down the rabbit hole. You know how horrible it is to live in a prison of your own making.
I feared my happiness would not last
Though the sunshine of happiness shined brightly on me today, I could feel the darkness of my postpartum depression and postpartum rage, still lurking in the shadows. Patiently waiting for its turn.
So even if my PPD was ‘over’, clearly my intense fear of my PPD was still in full throttle.
For the longest time, I was convinced it was the pain I had feared.
My PPD had cut me so deep that I didn’t know if I could ever survive another round of it. I convinced myself that I’d be too fragile if it ever returned.
With the strength and distance of perspective on my side, I wanted to fight my PPD. Attack it from every angle. Conquer it.
I tried that for a while. Legit — thought it was a solid plan. I convinced myself that I could systematically tackle each issue that leads to my postpartum depression. With my analytical mind, I assumed this exhaustive post-processing would eliminate the darkness of my past.
To recover from postpartum depression is not as simple as I thought
One-by-one. I sought to understand a million reasons behind my PPD. How and why did I allow my depression to overcome me? So I did whatever it took.
- Self-help books.
- Ted talks.
- Life coaching.
- Mom support groups.
- Practicing mindfulness and intentionality.
- Social media purges.
- Seeing more of my friends. Seeing less of my friends.
- The infamous self-care.
- Even investigating new religions and life philosophies.
You name it. I tried it. After all knowledge is power. And I wanted to take back the power I had so easily given away. So I sought to understand it all.
My goal was to find to have so much newfound introspection that my soul would shine much too brightly for any darkness to overpower me again. And then finally — my miracle happiness could be enjoyed in peace.
Lofty goal. But I was determined.
Well, as you probably guessed — that didn’t happen. Unfortunately, everything isn’t as simple as ‘declare you will conquer something, and it will be so’.
Arrogantly, I thought my few months of soul searching would help cleanse me of my painful past. Not to mention, this approach of trying to understand and ultimately control the contributing factors to my PPD completely ignores that most of the reasons were psychological factors that were completely beyond my control.
Luckily I can still breathe easy. Because I’ve decided that I doesn’t matter that I didn’t complete my terrible plan.
In coming to the defeating realization that my PPD pain cannot be conquered
I’ve decided that the pain itself really isn’t what I was afraid of anymore anyway. The fears I have today are not the same type of fears I had before.
I thought my fear of my PPD was a symptom of the fear of my pain returning. But through my patchwork introspection journey, I learned that was a fear of my past. The fear in the throes of experiencing the PPD in real-time.
Instead, my fear of today was the return of my reaction to the pain. My complete and total loss of control of my life.
Or to quote the same annoying recycled advice by every therapist ever:
It’s not what happens to you, but how you react to it that matters.
As a woman typically in control of everything, I cannot believe I ever allowed my world to become that chaotic.
There’s no denying that the pain itself was unbearable. But I never could control the pain that would come. According to this advice, I was always able to control my reaction.
My postpartum reaction of choice: Disassociate and let the problem fester.
But was that reaction ever really my choice?
Those psychological factors were completely beyond my control well they were the key factors into my chaotic unhealthy decision-making that first year.
It is unfair to put the blame entirely on me.
I know we all jest that parents don’t get enough sleep, but it’s truly awful. The physiological exhaustion will bring anyone to their breaking point. My brain went on autopilot to simply survive. So my disassociation was a survival instinct.
And if that’s not enough.
Any woman who has endured pregnancy, postpartum, and possibly breastfeeding will endure life-altering body chemistry changes to both her body and mind. It’s a scientific fact I would prefer to deny.
Zombie body choices
It feels un-feminist to claim motherhood would change me fundamentally as a person. My professional guard goes up and immediately I want to claim that a woman should be treated no different than a man who has had a child. But guess what, my brain was actually kind of screwed up. And I was not making decisions the same way I normally would.
So that disassociation reaction — that wasn’t ever my choice.
It was my zombie body’s choice.
Deep down, I always knew it was the wrong approach. Why else would I of had so much postpartum rage?
Luckily my lack of sleep and uncontrollable hormones hadn’t overpowered me completely. I was still in there. And my ever-burning, unpredictable rage would never allow me to forget that.
Here I am: A Year+ Postpartum
I am well rested (sort of)and no more hormone surges. Do I have a fighting chance at following that advice? Can I control my reaction to my pain?
I’d love to say I’m now armed with a newfound mindfulness approach to life. My disassociation tendencies to my pain have reduced tenfold. Rather than withdrawing from life when things become unpleasant, I am learning to allow myself to fully feel and appreciate each emotion for what it is in the moment. Breathing, feeling, crying. Isn’t that beautiful.
But uh, no…. Unfortunately, I don’t have a beautiful bow to tie my introspection journey up. Instead, I have the dissatisfying truth of reality.
My world isn’t fixed yet. My rage, my terror — while slightly tempered, are still there. I do want to try and change my reaction to fully feeling the emotion rather than denying it. Allow my sadness, my anger, my stress to ebb and flow as easily as my miracle happiness has come to me. I do want these things.
But again — I cannot ‘declare I will conquer something, and it will be so’.
Instead, I’ll just continue to try to improve. Work on regaining my control and composure. Because I know what happens when I’ve just given up on trying altogether. And I never want to return to that again.