Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Love Letter

I saw a mamma in the grocery store the other day. She had two little boys; probably five and three. She looked wonderful from the back. I was admiring her fresh-looking outfit, thinking she made mommying and grocery shopping look effortless until she turned around. That's when I saw how she carefully avoided my eyes, like contact with one more person would be too much. Her voice was too quiet to hear as she interacted with her sons, but she was saying the necessary things and no more. Her exhaustion showed when her littlest began crying, not because she overreacted, but because she watched him melt down and picked him up with no change of expression. The blank, tired look stayed in place - she never flinched. It was the face of fierce dedication in the 11th hour. The person who would work until the work was done, even if it killed her. 

And indeed, her eyes were already quite dead, but I know what it's like to see out dead eyes. I've watched the world go by in a numbing blur. I can't be sure that this particular lady was actually in the state I was, or if she was just having a bad day, but she made me think of the others. All the ladies who do life without living, because they are depressed. I found out, there are a lot of them. When my husband took a class about suicide and self-mutilation, he came home with a statistic that the year before, forty percent of women who committed suicide in the United States had become depressed after experiencing postpartum depression. When I heard that, my heart got bigger, wanting to take in every last one of them. I also determined that I would continue my search until I found the help I needed, so my babies wouldn't have a mother that got so tired out, she died. 


So here's what I wish I could say to the women and men who are not on the other side yet. Who haven't found the help and are still fighting tooth and nail in the pitchy black. 



Friend, 

I'm so sorry your life hurts right now. I'm sorry it's hard for you to move yourself around the house and out the door and into the world. I'm sorry you feel overwhelmed when you think about brushing your teeth or worse yet, a whole shower. 

I know you feel lazy when tasks that look so easy on other people are hard for you. Or you skip them. I know you force yourself and get brave sometimes, hoping you'll feel better if you get out, only to show up and wonder if everything you say is funny or stupid. Since you can't tell, you vow to never say anything again and wish you could crawl in a hole to hide a minute. 

I remember choosing shoes because they were lightweight, because it felt like my feet were made of lead and all I did was drag them and two heavy babies around, back and forth, up and down, all day. I remember eating a favorite food and anticipating the rush of satisfaction I used to feel, only to hear myself saying, "You are having fun right now. You love this. Why aren't you having fun?" And I'd feel ungrateful. 

Not just for the dark chocolate I was eating, but my warm home, my kind husband, my healthy babies. How could a person so blessed be unhappy? I began to think of myself as lazy and ungrateful. Oh, and impatient. 

Under my calm exterior, bad feelings soaked deep. I wouldn't express feeling insanely angry when the cat tripped me. How would these precious babies feel if I started yelling? I thought it would scare them as much as my feelings scared me, so I absorbed the bad - all the badness of the day - until I was supposed to go to bed at night. Desperate to sleep and panicked by the thought that the kids would wake again, I faced the truth that I couldn't relax with all that bad inside me. I had to get it out, but I couldn't cry. I could only feel angry and I felt so angry I wanted to run until I couldn't run anymore, but it was after dark. I'd pound my mattress. Once, I took the little popper the kids liked to push around (I guess it's supposed to be a vacuum?) and smashed it against the floor as hard as I could because it made such a big sound. I thought it would be satisfying, but it wasn't. We'd try to talk it out too. Brian really tried, but after refusing to speak it all day, saying it at night didn't seem to help. He'd finally hold me tight and not let go and the crying would finally come. Big ol' sobs that poured out the pain and frustration of the days, which gave me enough relief to fall asleep.

Maybe your dark nights are darker than mine. Maybe you go past fantasizing about ceasing to exist and start to figure out how to make that happen. I did that once and it scared me so much I decided to take medicine. 

That's what happens when you can't enjoy anything anymore. Being someone who saw everything beautiful as a gift from God to me, I felt him in songs and paintings and sunsets. And close parking spaces when I was in a hurry, and grabbing my favorite butter knife without trying. It was all his warm hand print on my chest. It stopped me mid-spin and I'd smile, knowing he loved me. And then it was gone. I called my sister one day and said, "If I'm never going to feel Jesus again, I don't know if I can keep believing in him." The memory wasn't enough when it had been two years. I didn't know how long faith could hold on. 

I want to tell you that it all came back. The songs and parking spaces joy. I live with it now and don't take happiness for granted after missing it for years. For me, medicine was the answer. I'd been to therapy and figured out how to notice when I was telling myself lies and stop it, but when I was depressed, I could fight it all day long, but it would run me over by the end of the day. People talk about taking pills like it's so easy. If you've tried already, you know it's not. There's the stigma and the self-doubt that tells you you are crazy if you have to take a medicine to be okay. There's also the hurdle of feeling hopeless and exhausted so making appointments and keeping them is sheer determination, since you feel like it won't work anyway. And then you have to find the medicine that works with your body. 

But I wish this for you. That you would do the hard things like therapy and medicine so you can wake up to sunshine that reaches your soul. It doesn't have to be so hard. You are wonderful, even if it's been so long you've forgotten who you are. One day, I said something hurtful and Brian said, "That's just the depression talking. That's not you." I cried because I couldn't remember the old "me." 

I wish you this remembering too. It'll be like stepping into your softest shoes or a favorite song you haven't heard in decades. Your eyes will light up again and you'll know that some days, you'll even have a spring in your step. You won't have to lie when people ask how you are. You can look them in the eyes and say, "Just fine, thanks." Because you will be. 

And right now, before anything gets better, you are a hero. Your one foot in front of the other is amazing to me because I know how hard it is. And while you judge it, like I did, as not good enough for the ones you love, it is. You are stronger and braver than anybody who has it easy. I am cheering you on, in my heart, over here. I would scream til I passed out if this life was a marathon and I saw you trying. You're just that beautiful. 

All my love,









P.S. There was one song that reached all the way to my heart when I was depressed. That's the first one I'm sharing and the second is what I'd like to say to you. (As if the above wasn't enough!) 





6 comments:

  1. My dear Kendra, your letter makes me think you've read into my soul. That you've somehow seen a part of my life that you weren't even there for...that we've only briefly discussed. God has blessed you with an amazing gift to write down words that match feelings....feelings that are so dark and hard to face that they defy words. And you've given them light. Bless you. May God bless and keep you!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad to hear from my friends who've also experienced depression that this rings true! Thank you for letting me know. I treasure you and your experience even if our face to face time has been way too brief!

      Delete
  2. I remember people asking me, actually asking me if I was depressed after Mara was born and I wasn't. I was tired, I was overwhelmed at times, but had so much joy. Then I had Mark and it was different. I loved him, I loved my family, but so many things your wrote just described how I felt in the first 6 months or so. Then it gradually got a little better and finally about 3 months ago I started taking St Johns Wart and Mark started walking at 11 month old. Now I can honestly say life is better, the joy is back. I'm thankful for my fb Mommy Support group and for the power of prayer. Thanks for sharing and for your encouraging words.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm so glad you're feeling good again! I wrote this partly because I didn't know depression when it hit me. I'd stereotyped it as feeling obsessed with death and dark thoughts, etc. I want people to recognize it right away so they won't suffer so long.

      Delete
  3. Replies
    1. you're so welcome. Wishing you understanding people to surround you and relief. <3

      Delete