My Mental Illness Has Robbed Me Of The Family I Always Wanted

My Mental Illness Has Robbed Me Of The Family I Always Wanted

Lonely woman sitting in room
Jasmin Merdan/Getty

Trigger warning: suicide ideation

I want more kids. I’m grateful for the two I have, but I can’t help daydreaming about what a third or fourth child would be like.

But I can’t have any more. Postpartum depression ravaged me after I had my son, who’s now four. I was an emotional wreck and started abusing my anxiety medication to escape the pain. I was taking three to four times the prescribed dose and couldn’t get out of bed most days. I’d wake up, get the kids ready and drive them to preschool, then go back to bed until I picked them up at two o’clock.

I began putting them in afternoon care because I couldn’t handle being around them that long. That’s hard to admit. Along with postpartum depression, I had awful anxiety that would manifest as rage. It made me sensitive to loud noises, putting me on edge and making me irritated when the kids would play.

I started faking migraines so my mother-in-law or husband would take care of the kids. It felt terrible and made me extremely guilty. I felt like an unfit mom.

I became suicidal. When I talked to my (former) doctor, he told me I had treatment-resistant depression and that most meds wouldn’t work for me. In my eyes, he had quit on me. I was lost and scared. One Friday, I went to the emergency room because I was suicidal. I was hospitalized for the weekend then released.

A couple of months later, I confessed to my husband how bad my depression and anxiety was. I was hospitalized for six weeks at a psychiatric hospital, where I got the help I needed.

It has been two years, but I didn’t walk out of that hospital cured. I was doing electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) every four to six weeks. I had to go to weekly therapy as well. I had to be perfect with my medications and learn how to cope with my anxiety. I can’t slip up, not once. It was (and still is) hard work.

I’m just now getting to a place where I feel in control over my disorders. I feel, dare I say, “normal”?

It’s bittersweet celebrating that because I think I’ve missed my chance to get pregnant again. I’m only 37, there’s still time, but I can’t justify having another baby when I went through so much with the other two. I easily could’ve died by suicide last time, and I don’t think I can handle feeling that way again. I know my husband can’t. I can’t tell if wanting more kids is a biological urge or that I feel something has been taken from me.

Maybe both.

I have so much, and I’m so thankful. I celebrate my family, but I can’t help but feel betrayed by this body of mine and my obstinate brain.

I think of cradling a newborn to my chest, smelling his head and breastfeeding. I think about the baby blankets I could sew to match the others. Hearing his first word, taking his first steps. I think of us as a big, bustling family and how much fun we’d have. But I must stop there.

Instead I cling to memories of my kids. I will remember how much we laugh, how fun it is to build forts out of couch cushions. I will think of their hugs and kisses and all the “I love yous.” I will ponder about all the advice I have to give (probably to be ignored) and all the holidays to celebrate. I will look for the good in each day and cherish it.

I lovingly release the thoughts that could’ve been and focus on what I have, which is more than enough.

My family is complete, and I am, too.