Do you see it in my eyes? The emptiness? The effort it takes to engage in even the most simple, everyday tasks? Even a short conversation has the potential to completely deplete my energy stores. Some days I have nothing left to give.
I do my best to hide it. To keep the monster in my mind in a dark corner where he won’t be seen. But he’s there. Always watching, listening, preying, waiting. Even on my good days. After 14 years, I’ve learned he’ll never disappear. Not completely.
It starts with the exhaustion. The lack of sleep. The feeling that there just isn’t enough time in the day. When I’m exhausted, my mind becomes weak and the monster crawls into my neurons and begins firing signals that set me in this cycle.
Anxiety comes next. The constant worrying about the things I need or want to do puts me on edge until I can’t breathe and I become a mass of irritability. I want to do and be everything for my family but these desires just add to the never-ending list of things I can’t find the time or energy to do.
That leads to the guilt. I expend my energy to be the best mother I am capable of being but I’m only working with so much. I will never be enough. I try to find “me” time to build my energy reserves back up but the “me” time leads to more guilt because it takes time away from the hundreds of other things I should be doing.
I am worthless.
Once my monster has planted that seed, I am caged. The sadness takes over. It is amplified every time my mind interprets the words or actions of others negatively, further convincing me of my worthlessness.
I withdraw because it’s safer that way. Less confirmation of just how terrible I am. But I am lonely inside of this cage. My monster brings me no comfort. He likes me isolated because I’m easier to control. It gives him more power.
Still, my monster is obliging. He gives me good days. Days of freedom. Days when I glimpse the light. Days when my chest doesn’t feel like exploding. My monster is manipulative that way. I’m less likely to seek help if I tell myself that I “just had a few bad days” but I’m feeling “better now.”
This recognition is the first step in diminishing my monster’s power. In seeking help, in breaking free from my isolation, I give his voice less authority. In knowing he will always linger in the grooves of my brain, waiting for his opportunity to take hold of my thought patterns, I know to keep my guard up.
My monster placed shackles around my ankles at the age of 14, pulling me toward him and exerting dominion over me while allowing me occasional freedom to walk in the light. But even when I was “free,” those shackles were always there. They still are. My role is resistance.
I am the 1 in 7 women with postpartum depression and I am fighting. Speak out. Seek help. Break the stigma. You are not alone. Let’s break out of these cages together.
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