It amazes me how colors can affect and describe a person’s mood. We wear black to funerals to match the darkness of our grief. We wear brightly colored rain coats to add a little life and joy to a dreary weather day. We paint our walls to create a certain ambiance in our home. We dye our hair, paint our nails, match our ties, the list goes on.
My walls are painted bright bluish-greens to allow a fresh, beachy vibe to splash in. My nails remain unpainted because I like natural cleanliness. My closet consists of mostly salmon and navy colored shirts for a sweet and quiet look. And, as of late, my eyes have seen the world through a gray, foggy lense.
It is hard and humbling for my perfectionist self to admit, but I have been dealing with postpartum anxiety and depression.
My son is almost 10 months old and I just reached out to my doctor yesterday for help. I waited too long. My son has an ever growing list of health concerns and diagnoses, so I have simply attributed my emotions to his issues. I rationalized that he would get better next month and then I would feel better. But those “next months” just kept going by with no progress for him while I felt worse and worse. And while his issues are definitely one part of it, I now have to accept the fact that I cannot control my serotonin levels and that having a baby has altered my body in both visible and hidden ways.
Gray. The only color that I have been able to fit into since my “baby bird” entered the world. First, let me state that I love him-like crazy! He is a blessing and will no doubt be the greatest catalyst for growth in my life. But that doesn’t mean it’s all perfect.
Anxiety: I worry about him constantly. I don’t sleep at night; if he’s awake, I’m awake. He still can’t grab objects or pull things to his mouth, yet I still worry that his blanket will end up over his nose. He can’t sit up, yet I’m paranoid that he’ll somehow flip over the rail of his crib. Every thud from the dog makes my heart race in fear that I’ll find my baby on the floor. I don’t trust family to watch him. The couple times I did leave him with someone for an hour, I obsessively thought about if he was ok, if he was eating, and if he would get a rash from their perfume. The gray-ness deepens.
Depression: Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a crier. I can watch a heart wrenching, gut clutching movie with friends that has all of their faces soaked by the end and I just sit there without any tears as external proof of how moved I was. I didn’t cry much, until I had my son. Now, I cry when I drop a fork. 4 out of 7 days I feel miserable. I’m so exhausted that my eyes hurt. My son’s cry makes by blood pressure rise and makes me want to retreat into myself; he cries a lot. I get angry, no, furious at the drop of a pacifier and feel completely out of control of it. I dread bedtime because I know I’ll sleep badly. I dread the morning because I know he’ll give me a hard time eating. I dread naps because I know that they’ll only last 30 minutes. I dread weekend visitors because I know he will eat and sleep even worse while they’re here and I’ll have to explain over and over again why he can’t do _________ and what his latest doctors appointment revealed. And worse, I dread his birthday because I don’t want to be heartbroken over all the gifts he’ll get that he won’t be able to do anything with since he is so delayed developmentally. The gray takes over.
BUT…thank you God for allowing humans the knowledge and resources to prescribe medicine that can balance my hormones and get me on track to feeling better! Today was my first dose and, poetically, today the rain that visited all weekend through Monday has finally moved out to allow the sunshine to come through the windows again. Today, I’m still seeing everything through that foggy, confused, out of control, gray lense, but I am finally able to peek through all of that mess to see the restoration that lies ahead. It will take time, but my hope has been restored. The gray will not win!
I am battling through postpartum anxiety and depression and I will (try to) not be ashamed of it. Do you know someone who has dealt with this or is at risk for it? Offer encouragement (not necessarily help) and be patient with them. It takes some of us longer than others to let go and accept.
“Hear my prayer, O Lord; listen to my plea! Answer me because you are faithful and righteous…I am losing all hope; I am paralyzed with fear. I remember the days of old. I ponder all your great works and think about what you have done. I lift my hands to you in prayer. I thirst for you as parched land thirsts for rain. Come quickly, Lord, and answer me, for my depression deepens. Don’t turn away from me, or I will die. Let me hear of your unfailing love each morning, for I am trusting you. Show me where to walk, for I give myself to you.”
Psalms 143:1, 4-8 NLT