Two months after Grady was born, after weeks of tears and yelling and distorted thinking, I was diagnosed with postpartum anxiety with a side of postpartum depression and just a dash of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder. Though I did manage to skip the compulsions part of the ppocd (lucky me?)
The doctor who delivered Grady was the person who got me the help I needed. When I saw her for my followup appointment, she saw that I wasn't coping. She referred me to a psychiatrist at a reproductive mental health clinic. She also referred me to a counsellor specialising in cognitive behavioural therapy. For weeks after taking the first step of getting help, I felt so positive that I was making the right changes. I dove headfirst into therapy. I was going to earn straight A's in therapy. My psychiatrist and counsellor were going to be amazed at how hard I was going to rock therapy. I was going to get one hundred therapy gold stars.
Which is something they warn you about when you start cbt. They told me to take it slow. To work at it gradually and consistently so that I didn't have a huge high followed by a huge low. I don't listen well, though. I'm stubborn. I was going to show them.
For a while it worked. The obsessive thoughts that plagued me since Grady's birth disappeared almost completely. I no longer had a panic attack when I walked within six feet of the patio guardrail because I no longer saw, in graphic detail, my baby sailing over the side and falling fifty feet onto the concrete below. I could walk by the kitchen counter and not shudder because I no longer imagined my baby rolling off and landing on the ceramic tile underneath. My disturbing, illogical (I don't put the baby on the counter, I never would put the baby on the counter, and yet every day, a hundred times a day, I would picture my baby (who can't even roll yet) rolling off the counter) thoughts were gone.
My anxiety lessened. With the urging of my counsellor, I joined a yoga studio. Once a week, I'd leave Grady with Shawn for almost two hours and go to yoga. Coming home to a happy baby and a condo that hadn't turned into a disaster zone in my absence helped to reassure me that Grady doesn't need me all day every day. I can still have my life and it can be a little bit separate from my baby.
My anxiety didn't disappear completely, though. I got very good at tamping it down. I focused on my victories (I joined a yoga studio and continue to go to yoga weekly even though I am complete rubbish at it! My kid is giggly and smart and happy! After a rocky start, I now breastfeed like a motherfucking champ!) while completely disregarding the nagging anxiety and depression at the back of my mind. I blamed my daily meltdowns and crying jags on my grandma's passing. I refused to acknowledge that I was slipping. I couldn't accept that I wasn't winning at therapy.
My depression consists of a lot of guilt. Guilt that I'm sad even though I have a healthy, happy, beautiful baby. Guilt that Grady has me - fucked up me - for a mom. Guilt that there are so many people who would give anything to be in my position. Guilt is a useless emotion. I know that my feeling guilty serves no one and fixes nothing. Yet here I wallow.
This week was a low point for me. Maybe the lowest since the early hormone-addled days. In hindsight, there were a few weeks of build up. I was crying a lot, forgetting things, not sleeping well even when Grady was asleep. I crashed in a spectacular blaze of crazy this week. I thought of the meanest things I could possible say to Shawn. And then I said them. I spent a lot of time lying on the bathroom floor, crying. I declared war on Christmas, friendly grocery clerks, and kind strangers because they all obviously exist to highlight my own failures and make me feel bad about myself.
Tuesday is therapy day. I'm holding on until Tuesday. I'm taking deep breaths and relishing the feeling of clarity that comes after I have a meltdown. The dam broke but I am not broken.
I need to write this for me. I need to be able to look at this in a few weeks or a few months and see that I was so low but I found my way out. More importantly, I need to remember this feeling just in case it rears its bastard head again.