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I Am Digging Myself Out of the Grave




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My ongoing battle with post-partum depression


Each day I awoke to a gray existence — gray walls, gray skin, gray food. I looked out the windshield each day on my drive to work and was greeted with gray skies. It came quickly and unexpectedly. Honestly, I don’t think I could tell you exactly when it happened. I just know that each day the colors started to disappear, the songs from the radio gradually became muted, and I just ceased to….feel.

I’ve always been hyper empathetic. I feel so deeply — the pain, sadness, or joy. I also absorb those feelings from others and take them on myself. But, humans are adaptable. I figured out how to shut off the hurt that hurts so bad. I figured out to turn it on and off. I figured out how to adapt.

But, time has a way of changing things. Several years ago I finally allowed myself to open up to those feelings. I laughed more, I cried (a lot), I felt scared, joy, and I fell in love. Emotional connections and experiences help you feel alive. Why had I allowed myself to be disconnected for so long? That knowledge of the connection between hyper empaths and stress that I discovered so long ago just disappeared. I forgot. I just didn’t need it anymore.

That was, until four years ago (end of 2015). It didn’t happen quickly. It crept. I didn’t even realize it. I had my son in August 2015. He was 6 weeks premature due to my preeclampsia. I had an emergency c-section and was unable to see him until the next day. My recovery was slow. His was slower. I was out of the hospital in 9 days, but it took him 17 grueling days.

Needless to say, it was…stressful. My thoughts were on him, but I also had my own issues to worry with. My blood pressure would not regulate. He wouldn’t eat. He had spells where his breathing would stop. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t produce enough milk, and he wouldn’t latch, so I couldn’t breastfeed.

Not to mention, we were planning a move from Virginia back to Charleston, SC.

It was simply too much for me to process. I was able to live normally and process effectively for a while, but that all changed approximately three months in.

Postpartum depression hit.

I think it was my body going into defense mode. It defaulted back to my “feel no feelings and protect myself” mode. I shut down so my body could keep going.

I guess we aren’t quite as adaptable as you grow older.

I was drowning in layers upon layers of uncertainty and searching for something, anything to bring me peace. No, I didn’t overtly consider suicide, but I felt like I was slowly digging my grave — I felt like I was just fading away. I felt nothing. No, that’s not really true. I felt dead inside, which was strange because I knew there were, or should be, a million different feelings swarming. But, I was a mom to a newborn. I quashed them. All of them. And I did a good job at it, too. After all, I had practice. I just forgot how to manage it. Or, the hormones just wouldn’t let me.

I felt so much nothing that I thought it would be okay if I just swerved off the road into the open field. Why not, right? I’m nothing now. Everyone would be okay. They won’t miss nothing. Something in my being told me everything would just be okay if I was gone. It didn’t make sense, but I believed it. It wasn’t my heart. It was just my brain. My hormone crazy, confused brain.

I was a leaf, slowly dying on the branch of an old oak tree, falling slowly until hitting the ground and becoming covered in snow, buried in snow.

I still remember it all in shades of gray.

There was a breaking point. There is always a breaking point. At this point, I had already thought so many scary, terrible, and inexcusable thoughts. I forget what it was that clicked, but I was riding over the Ravenel Bridge in Charleston, SC headed to my nephew’s birthday party. My husband made a comment. I don’t remember what he said because I was likely just in a daze, but something soaked in and set off a fire. I started crying, and I couldn’t stop. I felt again. And, I decided then to talk about it.

Up until this point I had not said a word about my thoughts. My son was now around one and a half. Yes, it took that long. But, I finally told my husband the darkest secrets that had existed in the deepest nadirs of my own personal hell. I felt so ashamed to speak it. It was so difficult to form the sentences out loud. After all, I am supposed to be a loving, caring mother. Somehow saying it would mean I meant it. But, I didn’t. It was fear. I let it all out.

I was beginning my dig out of the grave.

I felt immensely better! The concrete was lifted from my chest. The burden was lifted from my heart.

At that moment I finally decided I didn’t want to exist like this. So, slowly, I started doing whatever helped me feel lighter. I tried so many different things:

I ran. A lot.I wrote. This helped me to understand my feelings.I played. Well, I started tinkering in gardening and working on home improvement projects.I set goals, and checked them off.I talked about it.

By far, I think the one thing that saved me the most was talking about it. I’ve had a couple of breakdowns since the first, but that’s the journey you have to take. It isn’t easy, but it is necessary.

The first happened while lying on the gyno chair, naked as a jaybird, with only a paper sheet covering me. The doc asked how I was, and, well, I broke down and cried the entire appointment and after. She was wonderful, though. She let me talk, through sobs. The glorious thing? She had gone through the same thing. Talking to someone who has experienced this makes it so much easier to spill the words you might have held back otherwise.

The second time I was in a coworker’s office. She could tell I was having an off day. She asked. She cared. I trusted her, so I let it spill and spill and spill. She didn’t stop me. She just listened, and it was magnificent.

I just kept talking about it, because that was my release. I write about it because it does the same thing. I have to let it out, or it will fester, grow, and kill me like a cancer. I’m not afraid to talk about it anymore. I need to be a better wife, mom, sister, and daughter. And more.

I’m still digging myself out of that grave. I don’t think you really ever fully escape from the deepest of the darkest in your life. It becomes a permanent piece of you and plays a part in every decision you make after.

The biggest takeaway, though? You have to decide you want to live a better life and commit, if not for you, for the other wonderful people in your life.

Tell me your story. Remember, just allowing yourself to let those words escape can change your life and set you free.

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