Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Surviving Depression

If you know me well, you know that I have a hard time opening up about myself. I'm not one to share personal things, sometimes even with the people closest to me. It's tough. It makes me feel vulnerable. I hate being vulnerable. I don't even know why. I wish I had some profound reason for it but I don't. I like being independent, strong, and confident. I like not needing people.

I'm about to admit something that I've never openly said to anyone beyond my husband and maybe a few close friends:
I'm a survivor of postpartum depression

Sounds dramatic right? I always picture that it sounds too dramatic to say. That this very statement would make people roll their eyes and move on. "Postpartum Depression? That's just a thing that happens to new mothers. Stop being so melodramatic." My preconceived views of how people would react to that statement is the very reason I hid it from everyone.

I struggled a bit with my firstborn but it was WAY worse with my second baby. After a few months, my husband confronted me. He told me to see my doctor. I was scaring him (this is where I feel like I'm being dramatic again). At this point in my life, I was just unhappy. I was a tired mom and felt like I couldn't cope with life. I felt sad. Constantly. I failed. Constantly. I was NEVER good enough. I was in a dark place. So when he told me to see my doctor, I did. I just wished it had a happier ending, that my pain was acknowledged and I got the help I needed, but I didn't

Like I mentioned before, I'm not an open person. I HATE being vulnerable. It took me over five years of marriage to finally open up to my husband. So the idea of talking to my doctor about my struggles terrified me. But I had promised my husband I would talk to her, so I made the call. I remember sitting in that little room waiting for her to come in and see me. I repeated what I was going to say over and over in my head, determined that I would share my struggles with her. She came in. Sat down. And politely asked me how I was doing. I looked her in the eye and told her that I think I had postpartum depression. I was struggling and my husband was worried and wanted me to come see her. I looked at her, expecting her to help me. Instead she asked me if I wanted to hurt myself. I said no. At that point, it hadn't crossed my mind. She asked if I wanted to hurt my baby. Again no. That wasn't the problem. Then she told me that being a new mother is often demeaning. Especially since I was in a career beforehand. That it's hard to find purpose in being a mother when previously I was fulfilled by a job. That a lot of moms struggle with finding meaning and I need to work to find that. That being a mom is hard and she can empathize with me. Then she asked if there was anything else she could help me with. That was it. End of discussion

I left that office telling myself that this was normal. 

That I was in a demeaning position and I just needed to accept that.

There was nothing wrong with me.

Time went on and things got worse. I was in a demeaning position. I had no fulfillment in what I did in life and that's what made me sad. There was nothing wrong with me. Over time I began to resent my children for placing me in this position. I resented other parents who liked staying at home because there was nothing wrong with me. I was in a demeaning position and people who liked this kind of thing just don't have any purpose left in their lives. My kids had taken my life away from me. There was nothing wrong with me.

That kept playing over and over in my head. I couldn't figure out why people became parents if this is how it felt. I watched other parents be happy with their kids and deep down knew what I was feeling wasn't normal. But I was so scared to talk about it. I was scared I would be accused of not loving my kids and they would be taken away. I was scared of being seen as weak. I was scared being open about my struggles would cost my husband his job, so I pressed on. Eventually my resentment turned inward

When asked how I was doing, my husband and I would both express that I was having a hard time coping with being a mom of two. Unfortunately this led to a lot of highly opinionated people wanting to solve my problem in the way they thought was best. I was told to volunteer, spend more time around moms, get involved in different church programs, to stop being a recluse, get out more, let it go, and so on and so on. But I couldn't. I couldn't get past my own brain. I remember one woman from our church calling me up and asking to come for a visit. A few days later she sat in my living room and told me that "people" were talking. That I wasn't doing my job as a Pastor's wife. That "people" were expecting more from me and were disappointed in my lack of involvement. She left and I broke down and cried. Now the pressure of outside people ate away at me too. I was doing it wrong. I was parenting wrong. I was being a mom wrong. I wasn't a good Pastor's wife. Something was wrong with me. I was wrong. I was the problem. I hated myself for it.

I would stare at myself in the mirror and wonder what was wrong. On the surface everything was good. My kids were well taken care of. Their clothes were clean, their tummies were full of healthy food, the house was tidy, I was physically present for both of them. But I was emotionally unattached. In my mind, I was wrong. There was something wrong with me and they deserved a better mom. I couldn't give them what they needed. Behind every smile I gave was an internal struggle. I told myself I had it together but I know that "people" noticed something had changed. One well meaning person wrote me a letter that was apparently from God. I can finally say that I'm 75% sure this wasn't actually from Him. Just their own personal view hidden behind religion. However, there will always be 25% of me that secretly believes that God hates me. Anyway, it basically said that I need to stop feeling sorry for myself. I'm not a victim. There's no one to blame but myself for my struggles and I need to own up to them. No one feels sorry for me, not even God. 

As I threw away the letter in anger, I secretly stored it in my heart. I was wrong. God thought I was wrong too. I'm not good enough. Even He doesn't think so. I was the problem. I hated myself for that. 

I sunk deeper into depression. I spent the days smiling and going through the routine. I would escape into games and books. When it came time to go to bed, I would start sobbing. It meant that I had to wake up in the morning and do it all over again. And I just couldn't. Every night I would hope that I wouldn't wake up in the morning. I would try and will myself to not wake up. I began staying up later and later to avoid bedtime.

I immersed myself further into virtual realities just to escape. I met some super awesome people online who loved me for who I am. They accepted me and never made me feel like I was wrong. They made me feel safe. They'll always have a place in my heart because they were one of the only links I had left to reality-- to life. I can honestly say that the friendships I built online are part of the reason I'm still here today. They made me laugh, smile, and surface for air while I was drowning. But each night, bed would come and I would start sobbing. 

A picture I put together to commemorate my love for Guild Wars 2

Sobbing turned into panic attacks. Panic attacks turned into self harm. But nothing changed. I was still wrong. I hated myself. People were talking. I couldn't do it. I needed to get over myself because God didn't feel sorry for me. God hated me. I spent most nights on my kitchen floor crying and trying to convince myself why I should live. In my mind, I was wrong. I didn't deserve to live. God hated me. My family deserved better. I needed to die because I was wrong and killing myself was the only way to solve this dilemma. It was the only way to stop the pain. Sometimes my husband would find me sitting on the floor and lead me back to bed and hold me. Other times I would sit outside in my underwear, willing the cold to kill me. 

Every night ended with me deciding to try life for one more day. I would look at my sleeping children and tell myself that I didn't want them to think that I gave up on them. I didn't want them to grow up thinking their mom didn't fight for them. I didn't want my husband to think I gave up on him. So I didn't. I kept fighting.

I still don't know how I made it. 

By all logic, I should have lost the struggle. 

But I didn't. 
I'm still here. 

And I'm getting better.

Today is the first time that I've thought back to my struggles and realized that I overcame. I still have hard days. I struggle with social anxiety. It's a byproduct of my depression and the experiences of my husband's former career. But I'm getting there. I no longer think I deserve death. I know I am meant to live. I've embraced myself and realize that I am a good mom. I fought for my family. I always made sure that they were taken care of despite my mental health. Last night I camped out in their room because my youngest wasn't feeling well. It was a sleepless night. I'm tired but I'm also happy that I was there for my son. That I can be his comfort and protection. I love my kids. I am a good mom. 

I'm thankful for a husband who kept fighting for me. Who was my strength when I didn't have any. Who constantly reassures me and reminds me of who I am when I doubt myself. Who would do anything for his family. I'm thankful for my kids who love me unconditionally even on my bad days. I'm thankful for parents, step-parents, a sister, and a close friend who always checked in with me. Who knew there was something wrong even when I wouldn't admit it to them. Without even realizing it, they helped me to choose life. 

If you're reading this and it sounds all too familiar; If you're struggling to choose life each day; If the "logical" side of your brain is telling you that you need to die, that's not normal. Please seek help. If they tell you you're fine, don't believe them. Reach out to someone else. 

You are not wrong. 

You deserve life. 

You are beautiful and your life is worth fighting for.


  1. Oh Larissa....I am so very very sorry. I had no idea what you went through. Struggling with so much emotional pain and PPD. How people let you down and hurt you. How the doctor told you lies. Big hugs and prayers for continued healing.

  2. It breaks my heart that people made you feel like life wasn't worth living. I'm so sorry that you have had to go through this, but I am also very grateful that you have had supports to help you through. You are loved and you are worth fighting for!

  3. I am so sorry you had to walk through this (and for all the false things you had to hear) and so thankful for those that came alongside you. You are a beautiful person, a beautiful mom and a creative soul. Thank you for sharing your pain to help others.