Postpartum Depression: Will I Ever Truly Feel Like "Me" Again?Morgan Shanahan
Usually, when someone asks me how long it took me to recover from the postpartum depression and anxiety I tangled with after my daughter was born in 2009, I say “two and a half years.” There were the undiagnosed months — those were the worst, the ones where I truly thought I would feel that way forever. Then there was the relief of diagnosis, but that was the only relief, because the emotional pain, which is so acute it feels physical, wasn’t going to magically disappear just because it had a name. I couldn’t get ahead of it. I felt like I was screaming under water all the time.
About ten months in, I had a crossover moment — I heard depression described as “your mind lying to you,” and just like that my depression and anxiety weren’t all of me anymore. There was essentially a voice in my head, and I was under no obligation to listen to it. There was slightly more relief in that realization, because for the first time, I felt like I wasn’t going to float numbly and slowly through the rest of my life. But that only marked the beginning of the real healing process for me.
I spent a lot of time in isolation, thinking about my dark thoughts, staring at my computer screen, working as much as I could, but never as hard as I could because it still required a lot of effort to keep the pain at bay. I’d feed and bathe my daughter, but not myself. It was as if I could only take care of one human at a time.
Finally, about 30 months in, I re-entered society. If I’d known how key it would’ve been, I’d have done it years earlier, but I was just so overwhelmed by the existing thought that being around other people was too much to bear. For me, the re-introduction of regularity and routine and *GASP* human adults into my life was the kick in the pants I needed to start to find ways to enjoy life as this new version of myself. This quieter, more uncertain, more empathetic, and perhaps a little wiser version of myself, but a version of myself all the same.
By Dee’s third birthday, I felt like I’d hit my stride, and while this past year has had its ups and downs, I’ve finally felt like my feet are planted firmly on the ground again and can see that life is a beautiful thing. But I’ve never fully regained my ability to live in the moment.
I miss it, life without interruption. I miss enjoying the sight of a bouquet on my table or the smell of a dinner we’ve worked hard on. I don’t ever stop and enjoy the moments anymore, because there’s always an undercurrent of future uncertainty and overwhelming sense of responsibility that I can’t seem to get used to. Or maybe that’s just parenthood.
Lately my anxiety has been slowly creeping back in. It was always a more formidable foe than the depression for me. For a good while there I felt like despite my distracted mind, the systemic anxiety was under control. I was getting closer to living in the now than I had in years. But lately I’m getting that climbing-the -walls feeling that completely overtakes everything else. Focus becomes increasingly difficult. The second I sit down I’m getting up again, because dear Lord I can’t possibly think straight knowing that that book I borrowed is still sitting on my nightstand instead of by my purse in the entry way.
And I can’t help but wonder — will it be like this forever now? Will I ever return to the me I knew? And if I did, would I even recognize her anymore?