This past weekend I went to visit my grandmother and my parents for the day while Chris was working. Bean and I had a great afternoon with my Grandma and mom and after we said goodbye to my Grandma, we headed over to my Mom’s house to pick up a few things and then Bean and I were going to get on the road back home. My mom and I were sitting in her living room chatting about this and that and for whatever reason, I started crying. And I don’t think I stopped until Sunday afternoon. A lot of people would blame a sudden onset of emotion like that on being pregnant, but I’ve been using that excuse for things for the past couple months and this weekend I finally hung up that excuse and started taking responsibility.
The truth is that Chris has been right. I’m struggling a bit with depression, or rather anxiety, at the moment. And while I have tried everything I can to pass off what’s been going on as just being a pregnant, full-time working mother of a toddler, the whole truth is that it is much deeper than that. Pregnancy hormones have certainly contributed and I’m sure they have made some things harder to get over, but deep down I have known that this is more than just hormonal.
Before I go any further, you should know these two things about me, if you don’t already:
1. I am a people pleaser. In the worst sense.
2. I have incredibly high expectations for myself. As in, incredibly UNREALISTIC expectations for myself.
I’ve always been this way and at times it is exhausting to me, but it has never before caused problems for me, necessarily. But right now those two qualities are drowning me, one high expectation at a time.
What I discovered this weekend after talking through some things with my parents is that I have been carrying around an incredible amount of guilt ever since our move. I joke occasionally about having the guilt that all mothers feel about things, but this is different. It was such a deep guilt that I didn’t really even recognize it in myself. It almost needs another word to describe this kind of guilt.
Since our move to Florida, I have had this weight of guilt because I blamed myself for all the struggles we were having. I’m the one, after all, who asked Chris to move to Florida. And then we got here and things just fell apart. Our financial situation was so overwhelming and dark that it just seemed uncontrollable. I couldn’t get a job. I got pregnant. My student loans doubled (thanks to a repayment plan that we now can’t afford). Our house was broken into. We didn’t have health insurance. I mean, it’s been rough. And every step of the way, I blamed myself. I kept telling myself, “This wouldn’t have happened if we had stayed in Connecticut,” and what I left unspoken was the next thought, “And the only reason we aren’t in Connecticut anymore is because of me.”
Because of that guilt and my irrational need to please people, I started ignoring the problems we had facing us in an effort to pretend like everything was okay. I didn’t tell Chris exactly how bad our finances were. I stopped writing anything other than my blog, including turning down a book contract and telling my agent that I wanted to put the book on hold. I stopped taking care of things like trying to find us medical coverage and working through problems I had on a daily basis.
In short, I just shut down.
One of the biggest challenges in the middle of all of this became my lack of sleep. Because I wouldn’t face these problems on a day-to-day basis, I couldn’t hide from myself and so I found I was laying in bed all night long, wide awake, worrying. I was getting maybe three or four hours of sleep a night. The next day, I’d work all day, and by the time I got home from work I was so exhausted that I didn’t want to deal with anything when I got home either. And so, I’d go to sleep. But it was more than just a pregnant woman taking a little nap. I would come home and physically could not get myself off the couch. I wouldn’t cook dinner, I wouldn’t give Bean a bath, I wouldn’t put Bean to bed. Chris did it all and I just laid on the couch or in our bed, sleeping.
I’m certainly not saying that excessive sleep automatically means it’s depression – especially when you’re pregnant! But I know myself and I know my pregnancy and I know that the sleep wasn’t sleep from tiredness. It was sleep to avoid problems. It was a place to go where I didn’t have to deal with anything, even if that meant I wasn’t supporting my husband or spending time with my son.
And, of course, this led to MORE feelings of guilt.
It was a cycle that I just couldn’t get out of. It was Chris who finally called it what it was. He had approached the topic with me before, casually. I even did a Bellycast where we talked about depressions vs. pregnancy and it was a funny and fun conversation. But when I sat down and talked to my parents this weekend, I finally put all of this into words for the first time and saying it out loud made me realize that Chris had actually been right the whole time.
When I came home Sunday from my parent’s, I told Chris everything that I had spoken to them about. And I told him that I thought he might have been right. He told me there were two things he had noticed about me over the past several months that really bothered him. First, I seem to have lost that desire to work through anything. When things happened before, I was always optimistic. I was always sure there was a solution and that that we just had to work through things to find it. Now though I just shut down when a problem came up. I stopped answering emails, I stopped writing, I stopped opening the mail, I stopped talking to people. I literally just shut down. And I know why. We have been through so much in the past seven months that I have just run out of sunshine and hope. Isn’t that sad? I have had so many things in the past few months fall through and get worse and upset me that now I don’t even want to try to make things better.
The second thing Chris had noticed about me was a change in my faith. I have always been a believer that things happen as part of God’s plan.
“And in the past few months,” Chris told me, “I don’t hear that faith in your voice anymore. It’s like you’re just floating along when the wind blows and you can’t find your bearings.”
I couldn’t have said it any better myself, really. That’s exactly how I feel. I still have faith in my good and powerful God, but I’ve lost the faith that He will provide for us or that this is part of His plan because for the past seven months I have felt so ALONE. I have tried to stop and listen to Him speak to me through all of this and I have heard Him and seen Him in glimpses, but right now, to be honest with you, I’m just too tired to make the effort to listen to Him anymore. I still pray and I still go to church and I still serve a mighty God, but right now it feels more like I’m just watching Him work around me but that I’m not actively involved in that process. And that makes me feel far away from God. And lonely.
To talk to me, I doubt you’d even notice something was off. I’m not crying in corners or wearing black every day (though I am wearing an adorable black maternity dress at the moment…). But I know something is wrong and, thankfully, my husband and family know me well enough and love me strongly enough to call attention to what’s going on. After this weekend, I talked to both my parents and Chris and we all came up with several different plans of action. Some were to help Chris and I get through some tough financial hurdles we have and some were to help me get myself in a better place. One of those things, actually, was writing this. Chris suggested that I write about it because I use writing to think things through and even if I don’t ever end up publishing this post, at least I will have worked through it enough in my head to write it down. And one of those things is to talk to my doctor. About how I feel now, yes, but mostly about how to avoid and yet prepare for postpartum depression, in case I go through this again after I have the baby.
I’m still not sure if I’m going to publish this post. It is really hard for me to admit to myself that this is the place I am in right now, so saying it out loud is a little intimidating. But if I do post it, it will be because admitting all of these things is the first step in dealing with them. I’ve recognized them and now I’m acknowledging them. And then I’ll be able to begin working through them. And, thankfully, I’ll be able to do that with a strong family and a good husband standing beside me.
On Saturday in the middle of my 24 hour break down, my mom and dad asked me if, given all that had happened and all that was going on in my life right now, was there anyone in the world that I would trade places with? And instantly, honestly, I answered, “Absolutely not.” Life is hard. And sometimes it just doesn’t seem to get any easier. But life is still good. MY life is still good. And I’m looking forward to getting back to a place where I can appreciate that every day.