Note: I recently came across an article about the depiction of postpartum psychosis on the show Private Practice. I didn't see the show, but read the synopsis and have read enough to feel that they did so many women an injustice in perpetuating myths and stereotypes about the illness of postpartum depression, obsessive compulsive disorders, and psychosis. I wanted to write something, even though I know it isn't a fun topic. It certainly isn't an easy one. I have also never experienced severe PPD and it's related ilnesses, but while the following story is not intended to be autobiographical, I will say that it's something I can easily imagine from where I'm currently standing.
For further information regarding PPD and other post and mental illnesses, please visit www.postpartumprogress.typepad.com.
No one likes to admit that they're crazy. Not to themselves. Not to the people that love them. Curled up into a ball on the couch, snuggling with her baby in a soft, yellow blanket, and resting her forehead softly against her son's soft hair, she had to admit it to herself: she was afraid she was losing her mind.
She hadn't thought of it. Hadn't seen it for what it was. Every time her son cried, she walked into his room and greeted him with a smile on her face. Even at three in the morning. She gave him baths while singing "I'm a little teapot" as he gurgled and laughed. She made spaghetti dinner for her husband in the small kitchen of their apartment, and kept things tidy. Every afternoon, she bundled her baby up in his soft green snuggly and went for walks in the hilly suburbs around their town.
She spoke to no one of wanting to climb back into her bed every morning. She tried to ignore the little things, escaping to long, hot showers several times a day. Closing her eyes to sleep at night, she could hear her baby crying, even when he wasn't. She would pull her pillow over her head, turn on her fan, and try to sleep.
But the strangest thing, the thing she couldn't ignore. It had occured as an idea, and become an obsession. She had cancer. Her mind kept trying to tell her that. On her best days, she would sit and remind herself that she felt fine. There was not a single ache. Not so much as one symptom. But then a hard day would come, and she would find herself believing that she didn't have much time to live. Her imagination would run wild, until she was planning her own funeral in her mind and crying over the thought of leaving her husband and her sweet little boy.
She thought about this as she burrowed her face into the soft downy baby hair. She wished she knew what to do. She wished she knew someone to talk to. She wondered if other moms felt this way. A couple times, she'd almost asked her downstairs neighbor, who also had a baby, if she ever felt lonely. If she ever felt bored. Afraid. Stifled. Trapped. But she couldn't quite bring herself to ask, and so they talked, instead, about bottle feeding versus nursing, gross motor development, and different kinds of birth control.
The weeks and months of his baby days were slowly passing. She felt a sadness at not being able to enjoy them with all her heart. She wished that she knew how to feel more like herself again. How to shake the invisible pebbles from her shoes and the cobwebs from her mind. Sighing, she sang her son a song, "You are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy when skies are gray. You'll never know, dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my sunshine away."