I think I'm dying, and I don't expect any of you to understand, I announced to my family as I entered the room.
In reality I said nothing, but my mind was teeming with hidden dramatics, ways to show them the sadness that was eating my soul; like ivy entangling itself around an already fragile house, this structure won't last.
There's no way to sugar coat it — depression during pregnancy is a cruel and loathsome master. Hours give way to days, and time becomes a blur of gray and static. This depression is unrelenting, and when you lay your head down to rest at night it whispers in your ear, I'm not done with you yet.
I came into my pregnancy with a past diagnosis of depression and expected a bit of a bumpy ride. I wanted to do everything right by my baby girl, and at the urging of my obstetrician, I had made the decision to go off of my antidepressant. I came to regret this decision wholeheartedly. I slept (and vomited) my way through the first month of pregnancy, and soon after began the descent into what was the loneliest, darkest time of my life.
It was early summer in Florida, the heat ripe and sticky-sweet, but my life was a cold dark room. I started isolating because it was easier to be alone and closed off to the world than pretend to be happy. I couldn’t stand one more person touching my belly, and I didn’t want to answer questions about what names I had picked out or when the baby shower was or if I planned to breastfeed. I mastered the art blowing people off and stopped answering my phone. I lost friendships as it grew increasingly more difficult for me to be in social settings. I didn't take pictures to celebrate months or trimesters, because my growing belly felt to me like a secret being exposed — the secret of my sadness — being shoved into the world's face the more it grew.
I had a favorite dress I wore over and over, washing and rewashing it, because I thought it made me look less pregnant. I thought that if I could hide myself, it would make my situation less real. The day came when it didn’t fit anymore and the zipper broke, and it made me cry.
I’ve never been comfortable expressing strong emotion. I don’t want to burden others, and I don’t want anyone to think I am weak by knowing when I’m hurting or what it is that hurts me. I dreamt of open fields, of places remote and forgotten that only I could access, where I could fall to my knees and weep and cry out about how utterly alone I felt. I wanted to be held and comforted, yet I didn’t want to be touched.
I never found pregnancy nirvana, but I did find a therapist that specialized in mood disorders during and after pregnancy. I took care of myself as best I could and tried to avoid anything unnecessarily stressful. I was aware that postpartum depression was highly likely and resumed taking a safe antidepressant under the guidance of a psychiatrist at the beginning of my third trimester. I moved closer to my family and opened up about my struggle. I wanted to lay the groundwork for a successful transition into motherhood and equip myself with as many tools as possible. I knew that life, cement-like and heavy, would hit me at 100 miles per hour when my daughter as born. We were both being thrust into each other’s existence, going in blindly but loving each other.
I still have bad days, and I know I’m not out of the woods yet. When I was in the thick of it and able to think clearly, I told myself that if I made it to the other side, I needed to reach out to women going through what I went through. I'm not sure what I'm hoping to accomplish in writing this, and I certainly won't deny myself the catharsis that it brings, but I feel it is my duty as your sister-in-arms to tell you that if you can resonate with what I'm saying, you are not alone. Your emotions are legitimate.
Despair is heavy work. You shouldn’t have to carry this burden on your own, and you are so worth helping. Although there is a silent chorus of women behind you who have dealt with, or are currently dealing with what you’re going through, we need to become much louder now. My experience is no more or less important than anyone else’s, but somebody needs to write about it, and talk about it, this unbearable aloneness of being.