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Ask The Band: Depression and Writing

Dear The Band,

ask band depression writing

I’m a writer.

Or, at least, I think I am. I’d like to think I am. I think about writing all the time – and then I feel ashamed of myself because I’m not writing. I think about all of the stories I could be writing – I think about the text file of ideas for stories on my desktop – and then I get even more depressed because I’m not writing.

The great thing is that I’m not writing because I’m depressed, because I have no job, no friends, am 1300 miles away from all support systems, except for my wonderful soon-to-be husband, and I spend most of my time in an insecure, anxious ball feeling sorry for myself.

Self-loathing much?

I keep seeing over and over again, on Twitter and Facebook and in my MFA program’s forum this statement: “if you don’t write, you aren’t a writer, and you probably shouldn’t be. To be a writer, you must need to write like it’s the way you breathe.” So I second-guess myself; I don’t need that. But I need to need that, if that makes sense.

I miss the feeling of excitement when I pull off a great scene. I miss feeling proud of myself. I miss the sense of self-esteem writing gives me. But right now, depression is taking it away.

I just don’t know how to push through the overwhelming apathy and shame to start writing again. And everyone who tells me to shit or get off the pot – to just start writing regardless – really isn’t helping.

How do I get through this loneliness, depression, anxiety and shame to find myself again?

I’m not sure where I went, but it’d be damn good to see myself again.

Dose of Happy: Anxious

With all the upheaval and negativity running rampant through our lives, it’s important to be able to stop, take stock of what’s important, and find some joy wherever we can.

At The Band Back Together Project, we like to take the time specifically to arrange a little happy boost for everyone.

You’re always welcome to share your story with us!

dose of happy

t dawns on me as I sit there, anxiety at an all time high, my left butt-cheek falling asleep, that I could be somewhere else eating a bagel. Like Paris. Or Detroit. Or learning the Swahili phrase for “pants are bullshit.” Or washing my car. Okay, maybe not washing my car. It was like -900 degrees out. Washing my car would be like that scene in the Terminator with the Nitrous Oxide and the robot.

I smile, imagining my car shattering in the car wash, until I remember I’m probably sitting on barf germs. I hate barf germs.

My iPhone isn’t getting any signal in here. Stupid AT&T. Should be named the iCAN’TPhone because I haven’t been able to make a phone call since I got the damn thing. Hm. I really could use some mindless interaction from The Twitter right about now. Or maybe a Vicodin-Chip cookie. Or some vodka. Because my heart feels like it’s going to pound right the fuck out of my chest.

When the hell did this HAPPEN?

When did I start feeling stretched as taut as an over-tuned violin string? Why did I feel like the pressure to do more; to be more, to constantly outdo myself was omnipresent? Like I couldn’t ever possibly manage to live up to my own unrealistic expectations? Like I had to somehow be everything to everyone. Like if I didn’t constantly prove myself, I would cease to matter. I would cease to exist.

When did this start? And moreover: how could I make this stop?

dose of happy anxious

These anxious racing thoughts; this anxiety, this had to stop.

Admitting that I had a problem the first step, I know from Al-Anon, and doing something about it was important. Hence the bagel-craving and the barf-germ-coated chair in my doctor’s waiting room. And, of course, the urge to flee so that I could learn Portuguese or Mandarin or really anything but admit that I had a problem.

I’m so tired of problems. I’m so tired of having something wrong that I barely want to admit to myself that I have a problem. Between migraines and my lazy-ass missing-in-action thyroid and insomnia, I can hardly stand to be in the same room with myself anymore without wanting to punch myself in the teeth. Problems are bullshit. I hate problems. Maybe I can make a “Problems Are Bullshit” shirt. Because they are. Bullshit, that is.

Maybe this isn’t ACTUALLY a problem. Maybe I can just ignore it and it’ll get better on it’s own.

Except it hasn’t. Because that’s what I’ve been doing. And it’s not working. Clearly.

Before I could do anything, though, the nurse poked her head into the waiting room, “Becky?” she trilled calmly, clearly unaware of my churning guts.

I sighed, put my iDON’TWORKPhone back into my purse and followed her back.

“What seems to be the problem?” she asked kindly.

“Well,” I started, looking at my hands, ashamed to be admitting this to anyone but the people who live inside my computer. “It’s sorta like this…”

Reprinted with permission from the original author, Becky Sherrick Harks, or Aunt Becky of Mommy Wants Vodka from March 8, 2001.

Jack

Jack

Birth: 16 Apr 2004

Jack The Dog

Death: 23 Jan 2019

“My dog does this amazing thing where he just exists and makes my whole life better because of it.”

– Unknown

Chihuahua. So not a breed of dog that I would ever have thought I would ever own. I’ve always been more into the working breeds, (ie: GSD, Dobermans, Boxers, Rotties, etc.) But way back in 2004, my ex (who wasn’t an ex at the time) and I stopped at a pet store. (Ok, please don’t yell at me about buying a pet store dog. I now know all about puppy mills and stuff. I know, I know. But back then I didn’t really know, or didn’t think about it, or whatever. If I ever get another dog it will be a rescue. Please don’t yell at me.)

Honestly we were just out enjoying the day when we decided to go in and look around. It was something to do.

I said “No dogs”, but somehow we walked out with a dog, who we ended up naming Jack. This dog went across country with us a few times; he was a great traveling companion. But I always told people he wasn’t MY dog. I mean my ex was the one that talked me into getting him. And they seemed pretty attached to each other.

Fast forward to 2013.

We had moved from Florida to Minnesota in 2010 to be closer to her family after I got laid off work. Then in March of 2013, My ex and I split. I was devastated. Don’t get me wrong, there were things wrong on both sides. I take my fair share of the blame there. But when she was preparing to move out, I was informed that I got to take the dog, she was taking the cat. (Um, what? He’s not my dog, but ok.)

I was now keeping the dog.

It’s probably a good thing I got him. You see I have PTSD, it’s probably actually CPTSD but that’s just now becoming a thing. And along with PTSD, I get a side of anxiety (with panic attacks) and depression.

Woohoo….I have a trifecta of mental crap! Yay! Go team me! /end sarcasm.

But the one living being who helped me through all of the break up and mental stuff was Jack, my little chi.

He was there when no one else was.

He laid next to me when I cried.

Back when I was in therapy, I’d come home and talk to him about it. Jack was the one I celebrated with when I got my first degree black belt. He celebrated birthdays with me, and helped me when I was down.

Because no matter how much I wanted to just hide from everyone and not get out of bed, I had to get up.

Jack needed me, to go out, or to be fed, or whatever. I could not neglect him just because I was a mess.

I had to keep going because this little sweet soul needed me. Even when I felt like no one really needed me for anything, Jack did. He depended on me for food, shelter and companionship.

As much as he needed me, I ended up needing him as well. I needed someone to get excited to see me. I’d come home from work and he was so glad I was home. Jack was the one thing in my life who wanted me there.

It was he and I against the world.

I took him to parks, we went on drives together. He heard me rant about stuff and listened to all my stories. If I was anxious he came and sat in my lap so I would pet him. We were best buds.

Late last year I was beginning to suspect that something was going on with him. There was nothing I could pinpoint and say, that’s it.

So I just kept an eye on him.

He was still the same loving dog he was just slowing down a bit; he WAS 14 years old, not a young kid anymore.

So I just kept an eye on him.

Then in January of this year, he took a turn.

I’m not going into it all but I did get him to the vet. They did blood work to start because we didn’t know what was going on. This was a place to start trying to figure it out. His blood work came back all normal. She said according to his blood work he was healthy.

The vet said the next step was getting some imagining done to see if there was tumors or something else.

But we didn’t get that far. His blood work came back on a Tuesday afternoon and Jack died in my arms the next day.

It was Wednesday the 23rd of January at about 8pm.

I don’t know what happened to him.

But I do know a part of me died that day.

He might not have been a trained emotional support dog, but that’s the job he fell into, he was there for me through some dark times. I’ve cried more over the death of this dog then I have over anyone else, human or animal.

I’m crying right now typing this.

I don’t even feel like I’m putting into the proper words what this dog meant to me.

I’m still not over his death and I’m not sure I ever will be. I’m still grieving seven months later.

I still talk to his ashes and tell him mamma loves him.

When I make popcorn I still put a piece or two by his ashes. He loved popcorn.

I have a couple of wonderful friends who had a book made for me, one of those Shutterfly ones.

One of my friends works in marketing (she’s a graphic designer) so she swiped the photos from my Facebook. My other friend, who is my TKD instructor, found the quotes.

So they made me a book of my Jack.

It’s probably the greatest gift I’ve been given. I have a shelf with a couple of photos of him and one of our other dog Abbie. The book is there too.

Jack’s ashes are there along with a clay heart with Jack’s paw prints. I call it my shrine.

I miss him…

every

single

day.

I fell back into my depression and my anxiety has been worse. It’s been a rough year.

But I’m slowly trying to pull myself out of it. I’ve been trying to make myself get out of the apartment more. I’ve been trying to take walks in the park near here.

It’s the one Jack and I went to the most in his last 6 months before he passed. It took me several months to even drive back into that park. I still haven’t been able to bring myself to clean the inside of the windows in my van, his nose prints are still on them.

But I’m trying to do more, to get out.

But it’s hard. So very hard.

Jack’s ashes are in a small box inside of a velvet bag with embroidery. It says, “Until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge.”

Ask the Band: How Do I Handle Childhood Anxiety?

Got a burning question that you need to crowdsource? Look no further than The Band. Click here to add your question.
Now it’s time to help this woman with her daughter’s anxiety: 
 

ask the band childhood anxiety

Hey The Band,

Does anyone in the group have a child with anxiety? My daughter is six and we are trying to get her back in with a child therapist to see what is going on and how to help her best manage her anxiety.

I am stressed about it all and I would love to hear from someone who has been through it.

Thank you!

 

 

Reminiscence

Child abuse lasts long after a child has grown.

This is his story:

It’s the type of thing you hope you can forget someday…then spend half your life thinking about it. It’s always in the back of your mind – like a song that stays with you after you turn off the radio; no matter what, the song repeats itself in a loop in the back of your mind.

Recently, I was asked a question, and while thinking about the answer, I was suddenly overtaken by the memory of that day. It came upon me like a hungry tiger tearing me to shreds and leaving me a disemboweled lump of myself where only moments before I was a thinking, feeling, functioning man.

Cotton candy.

The smell of it floating through the air, sweetening each breath. This, in no small part, is making the day better. What else could I ask for? Not only did I get to ride The Bullet this year (a big kid ride if there ever was one), but I also got to walk in the parade, too!

I am eight years old, and my father and a group of his “friends”(other men who lived their lives in the bottom of a bottle) are members of a Veterans group for people who saw combat in Viet Nam. They have been asked to bring their families to walk in this year’s parade during the regional Franco-American festival.

We have known about this for weeks so I hardly slept last night. We each have on a little t-shirt with the logo of the Veteran’s group on the front. I couldn’t be more proud. Some of us have little flags while others pass out bumper stickers, but we’re are all having fun. There is something about everyone looking at me, waving, and just generally having a good time that puts a smile on my soul.

Next, I’ll run for Senate and become an Astronaut. I am on top of the world.

Now, we are being addressed by the Governor of Maine. He is speaking of things I can’t and have no interest in understanding. I have better things to think about at my age: baseball cards, my next birthday, how to stop that stupid girl at school from pulling my hair everyday. I start to imagine pushing her down the next time she does. My imagination runs wild while the speech continues.

I wish Knight Rider would come out next.

That would make this day complete.

In the middle of my fanciful daydreaming, my father taps me on the shoulder and says, “Let’s go.” I don’t know where we are going and I have little time to ask before he starts walking.

Walking with him is always hard. He walks with fast, long strides that eat up the ground in front of him in big gulps. Today is especially hard because there are people everywhere, milling lazily around looking at the trinkets being sold by the vendors and watching the children on the Merry-Go-Round. I am small and not exactly built to push my way through a crowd.

We walk only a few short blocks when we come to this house. It looks like every other apartment house in Lewiston. Run down and begging for paint; sheets in more of the windows than the shades that are popular now. There are huge chunks of the asbestos siding gone to the years of harsh winters with bitter cold. There is a bicycle chained in front that is missing both tires, and the chain has discolored the concrete of the sidewalk from years of sitting there rusting. The body of the house is yellow with a dark brown on the windows and one door that once had glass in the top third of it. A condemned sign wouldn’t look out of place here.

My father knocks on the first door we come to after entering the building. We enter after a yell from inside. I know already what is in store for the rest of the day. I can smell the distinct odor of old beer that has been sitting in the can and getting hot and stale, a smell I loathe.

I see that the room holds the men from the Veterans’ group, and I can also tell within moments that few, if any, had stayed as long as we did after the parade. The slurring of their words, apparent in their voices, says that they have had a few drinks already. Five, maybe six, men and a woman who must be one of their wives. They are sitting around a glass-topped table with legs made of what looks like bent pipe – four separate pieces, connected, shaped like a large squarish C. The walls are dirty from years of cigarette smoke and not being cleaned, making what should be white look as though it were river mud; yellowish brown with hints of green.

In the adjoining room there are two other kids, so my brother and I know that these are our friends for the day, and we run off to see what games are currently afoot. This room is the same color, but much smaller, containing a couch which I am sure has come from the side of the road. The smell of cigarette smoke and body odor lingers everywhere, and I know it is safest not being seen or heard for the next few hours if we can help it.

The afternoon progresses like most of this nature; there are beer runs and arguments, the voices get louder as the hours pass by, and the thoughts get less coherent. I have been in this situation as often as I have been in a room with a window, so I am playing and not really paying attention when it happens.

Why? To what end? Have I looked too much like I am having fun? Was there an instant where I looked too much like my mother? I do not know. What I do know is there isn’t a warning – no loud crash or even an instant where I can feel the malevolence building. One second, I am playing happily, waiting for word to get ready for the few miles home with my father weaving on the sidewalk, and the next there is a hand on the back of my neck and it is squeezing. Hard.

I instinctively try to duck and run, but it’s too late. I have been caught unawares, and the fear grips me like a blanket wrapped around me in a restless sleep, getting tighter with each attempt at escape.

“Come ‘ere, I wan-na show you summten.”

His breath hits me in the face, and my stomach turns, making the terror that has settled in me even worse. It smells of cheap beer, Marlboro reds, and the not-unfamiliar stench of hate. It’s a seething anger that I know well; he had it rough, and I was ungrateful for all his sacrifices. I am just a spoiled little brat that doesn’t know how to be a good little boy – stupid and too much of a sissy-boy for his tastes, in need of a little mettle in my blood.

As I am being dragged across the floor, trying to wrestle myself from his grip, and getting nowhere, nobody seems to notice. There is no apparent lull in conversation. No people crying out for my father to release me; nothing out of the ordinary going on here at all.

“If you don’t quit squirming you little mother fucker…” the threat left open, allowing me poetic license to finish as I see fit. The things that my brain offer are no less frightening than anything he would have managed.

Where, I don’t know, but from somewhere there appears a set of handcuffs. The metal ones, not exactly police issue, but not the cheap ones with a lever that will unlock them if you can manage to get your finger on it. He reaches down, seizes me by the wrist, and clicks the first bracelet on me before I see what he has. The other people in the room have stopped talking. They have all noticed that something is happening and are transfixed by the spectacle of a man dragging his son across the room. They watch, fascinated as it unfolds; rubber-neckers to the car wreck that is in front of them.

Before he clicks the other bracelet in place, he runs it under the leg of the table so my wrists are together with the three inch chain under a leg of the table. Had he been compassionate and put the other bracelet around the leg, I would have had some movement. He is desperate to blame someone or something for the ruin that is his existence, and it is my turn.

Again.

My struggles to free myself prove fruitless very quickly, and I start to cry. Not a whining wail or a screech – just tears, silent and accusing, dripping from my chin, streaming down my face and washing streaks of red into the pale color of my face.

“Whassamatter, crybaby?” he asks, bringing laughter from the other men in the room.

I am too young to tell if this is uncomfortable laughter or if the hate has spread to the others through osmosis.

I get tired fast, and my struggles start to come in spurts. I sit and try to find a comfortable way to position myself in order to rest between attempts to free myself. I try everything. Picking up the table. Pulling helplessly against the pipe. I am just too small and weak to get anything accomplished. My father insults me and pushes me down with his foot while the other men laugh at his words and even a chuckle or two at my tears.

It always makes these type of men feel better to see someone suffer and writhe in pain. It makes them forget that they are miserable human beings, each lost in their own tragedy.

After I have been sufficiently humiliated and defeated, I become boring, and they lose interest. They resume the conversation as though I am not even here. The woman that is here waits until it is obvious that she will suffer no ill will for doing so and gets up to find the keys. I have been under this glass table for almost an hour, and the men are no longer even glancing through the glass to get a look at the kid trapped down there. The woman comes back with a bobby pin, because there are no keys in evidence, and says something about how mean they are. This is greeted with some vulgarity and a warning to mind her business lest she finds herself locked there in my stead.

My wrists are hurting from all the pulling and moving about, red and scraped from the cheap metal of the handcuffs. My shoulders are burning from the struggle with my father as well as the exercise of trying to lift the table.

The woman manages to free one hand and looks at me with what little compassion a woman resigned to such a life can muster and whispers, “Go in the other room, sweetie, and I’ll try to get the other one.”

I run into the living room where I was playing so quietly only an hour before. There will be no more playing for me. Not today. Not for a few days. Once again, I have been reminded of my station in life and the reality of it all.

The woman comes in behind me and eventually does release me from the other bracelet of the cuffs. It takes her a few minutes, and the men start calling to her to forget it, get it later. Eventually, she tires of their remarks and risks their wrath by saying something back. I do not hear it against the thunder in my eardrums that is my heartbeat. I internally beg her to stop. Scared that her mouth will make this day worse for me.

I watch as she walks away after freeing me from the second bracelet. She sets the handcuffs on the table and grabs the beer she left there to help me. She sits down and tries to steer the conversation away from herself by saying something light and funny.

I sit on the couch, scared to move for fear of being noticed again. The tears are slowing, now but a trickle down my face as if they’re not sure I am finished needing them. Each one releases more of the emotions I have paralyzing me where I sit – washing away the pity and the anger that consumes me.

This time when it happens, I hear his chair. It drags across the floor ever so briefly. It sounds like nails on a chalkboard – not fingernails, but nails. I am afraid to hope he is going to the bathroom. Too frightened to turn my whole head and watch him, I try to use my peripherals to see, but the question is answered when I hear the clink of the handcuffs as he picks them up. I try to make myself smaller. Try to climb into the couch as if I were really the cockroach he makes me feel like.

The tears start afresh as his shadow comes near me. This time the sobs over take me. They are so powerful and deep, the world swims around the edges from oxygen deficiency. I do not fight him this time. Years of life with him taught me to know that I am better off not resisting him too often. It doesn’t matter, though; his grip is a vice around my wrist and the nape of my neck.

He is saying something that I can’t hear. The anxiety and fear have deafened me to anything other than my thoughts. I wonder why he hates me; why his love always hurts. What I do hear is the click of those handcuffs as he starts putting them on me again. Snatching me around like a doll to put me under the table once again. This time he puts them on so tight I think they are cutting into me.

I don’t hear the second one click. I hear my innocence being severed from my eight-year old soul. I hear my sanity as it grips the edge of the cliff and struggles not to fall into the darkness that awaits it. I hear the sobs of the little boy that I once was as I enter a maturity I won’t catch up with for almost twenty years. One I still struggle to keep in front of me.

When I think about it now, I can’t remember how long I was locked there the second time or how I got out. I can’t remember going home or if my father tried to be nice to me later. I can’t remember anything after the snap. If you ever ask me what I once wanted to be when I grew up, you will see me think about it, but I won’t remember. I can’t. I don’t remember ever wanting to grow up. I can’t remember anything about that child – who he was or what he dreamed about. He is a far away little boy that couldn’t be invisible.

Couldn’t not look like his mother. Couldn’t find love in a world he never asked for and never wanted.

That little boy is still handcuffed to that table. Still struggles to free himself. Still hasn’t hated himself. Still doesn’t think of death when he wakes up in the morning. He still hasn’t found the release of drugs and alcohol. He will never be mean to someone because he thinks that is how to deal with disappointment. He will never love anyone, ever again. That little boy still sobs in my heart late at night as I try to fall asleep and reminds me that I deserve what I got coming.

That little boy will never hurt anyone because that little boy is trapped in a room somewhere in Lewiston, Maine.

My First Motherhood

By the time my first baby was born, I had been in therapy for about a year and a half. When I started therapy, I had reached a point where I knew I needed help, and the risk of reaching out for help was outweighed by the burden of sitting alone with the darkness I felt any longer. Therapy helped me a ton and I was in a much better spot when I became pregnant. My husband and I had been married for two years, and though the pregnancy was unplanned, I desperately wanted a baby.

Pregnancy was a roller coaster of emotions, with lots of vomiting. The last couple of months were good, and I felt strong and ready for childbirth, but still unsure of motherhood. My labor was not typical and there were a stressful three days and 20ish hours of active labor that led up to the birth of my daughter. By the time she was born, I was exhausted. The first thought I remember having when my husband placed my baby on my chest was “I don’t know how to do this,” followed by apologizing that she was crying and that I had been too loud during labor. I felt ashamed, like I somehow didn’t do it right. Then I felt doubly ashamed for commenting about the baby crying, because obviously babies are supposed to cry.  And what kind of mother would think there is something wrong with her baby crying right after she’s born? No one was putting this on me or making me feel this way. There was also joy and a deep cozy feeling when cuddling my new babe but, mostly, I was scared, tired, and feeling completely unqualified.

The nurse let me “rest” for a few hours after the birth, during which my husband and baby took a nap, and I ate and took a shower. Then the nurse came back in to give me a bunch of instructions on baby care before sending me home with an hours-old extremely delicate creature who completely depended on me for survival. I told the nurse that I was too tired to remember anything and I wasn’t sure I was qualified to care for a newborn. She told me that newborns were made for new parents (which was oddly reassuring) and to set an alarm to go off every two hours all night long, so that I could wake up to feed the baby. She emphasized how important it was that I feed the baby every two hours and wake her up to feed if she was sleeping.

The first night was hard. I remember my husband waking me up because I didn’t hear the alarm going off under my pillow. I don’t remember if the baby was awake, too, in the cosleeper beside our bed, but I do remember that every time I tried to nurse her, she would fall right back to sleep. The next day, I called the nursing support line and they told me she was a “sleepy nurser,” and gave me some tips on how to wake her up to nurse. My mom stayed with us for about three days to help out and my grandparents came to meet the new baby. After about five days, my husband went back to work and I was very much alone at home.

I remember worrying about a lot of things and wanting to do everything right. I remember her gazing into my face as I rocked and nursed her, looking into her big dark eyes and feeling like I was falling down a very deep tunnel. Then weird thoughts would flash through my mind:  “What if she can’t breathe while she is nursing, what if she knows I have no idea what I am doing, what if she is a demon? I am not emotionally stable enough to be a mother; what if someone finds out and takes her away from me?” This scared me to the point that I avoided looking into her eyes.  I never wanted to hurt my child, but I was afraid of the things going through my mind.

I was especially scared of trimming her fingernails. They were so tiny and her fingers were so precious. I worried that I would snip them with the trimmers by accident. Several people suggested that it was easier to chew baby nails than to trim them, but every time I thought of this, a picture would flash into my mind of my sweet baby’s finger chewed to a bloody nub.  Sometimes those flashes would come when I was trimming her nails and I started trimming them only when I was feeling well rested, for fear of having one of those thoughts and freaking out.

There were other things that I knew I weren’t right too. Anytime I saw one of those child safety tags they put on every piece of baby gear, I would visualize whatever horror they warned about happening to my baby. I would lay her in the Pack-n-Play, catch a glimpse of the warning label and have a flash of finding her suffocated. Same with the baby carrier, the stroller, and the baby bathtub.  She would cry when my husband tried to put her to sleep at night and I remember worrying that my husband was sexually abusing her, and wrestling with that being a totally crazy thought, but still feeling that I needed to protect her from him. (Please note my husband has never and would never do this. I think this just came up in my mind because my mother had been sexually abused by her father when she was a kid and I was just having really bizarre thoughts). Instead of resting, I would stay awake listening to them on the baby monitor, crying and worrying until she went to sleep. Once she was asleep, I would lay awake in bed thinking about all the horrible crap that could happen, plus my to-do list, and what a fucked-up person I was.

These thoughts were scary to me, but they weren’t entirely new. During the deepest part of my depression a few years earlier, I had similar gruesome flashes any time I saw my husband’s X-Acto knife. That gruesome image was always of the knife slicing my wrists, which is why I finally went into therapy, though I never told my therapist of my concerns about the knife. I was afraid that if I told her, she would have me committed or the have the baby taken away. I was not suicidal, did not use self harm, and absolutely did not want to kill myself.

When my maternity leave ended, I went back to work. I was incredibly sleep deprived because my baby would not take a bottle while I was gone and would nurse every two hours all night long. Her weight percentage had gone down and the doctor was concerned about her getting enough milk and gaining weight.  I kept up the night feedings, tried different things to get her weight up and worried about everything. The gruesome images and thoughts kept up for a while, too.  I can’t remember exactly when I stopped having them, but I remember having them when some friends came to visit when my baby was about six months old.

Around that time I attempted to handle my anxiety by smoking pot or drinking after I put the baby to bed at night. This helped me numb out a little but, ultimately, it added to my anxiety. Before becoming pregnant, I drank and smoked a lot, and it was too easy to fall back on those unhealthy coping mechanisms. I stayed in therapy for another year and a half for post-partum depression, and my therapist helped me “fact check” some of my irrational fears, like that my baby was going to starve to death or that my husband couldn’t adequately care for her while I was at work. She also helped me figure out what self care was, and generally made me feel loved and supported. Even though I never disclosed everything that I was experiencing, having her support was extremely helpful. I will forever be grateful for how kind she was to me and how much she helped me during this time.

Eventually, my husband and I decided that we were both worn too thin with our work schedules, and figured out how I could leave my job and stay home. When I left my job, I also lost the mental health care coverage I had through my insurance. My therapist and I made a self care and emergency plan in case the depression came back. When I ended therapy, I decided to stop smoking pot entirely. Facing shit without an easy numb-out was harder than I thought it would, and the first three days, everything felt very intense. Even though I didn’t smoke “that much,”  I knew it was important for me to quit and develop some healthier ways of being in the world.  I also joined a support group, took an online self care class for moms, started exercising, and found a really cool mental health video game that taught me about different aspects of self care.

When my second baby was born two years ago, I asked for more support from my family after the birth and I had a community of moms to talk with. I kept track of my two week timeline for depression and was more aware of how that looks in my own mind. Although there were things that I worried about and struggled with, I did not have any of the scary thoughts or gruesome flashes as the first time around. I did feel overwhelmingly joyful about gazing into his newborn eyes. It was a totally different and less scary experience. Having a completely different post-partum experience the second time has shown me how much of my experience was PPD and not just typical new motherhood.

I hope that my story will encourage other moms to get the support they need if they are experiencing PPD after the birth of a baby or depression years later. It can be hard to see the symptoms when you are in the fog of it, and it is worth seeking help if you aren’t sure about what you’re experiencing. Healing is worth it. You are worth it.