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postpartum depression

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"I'll Never Be Happy Again."

Have you ever thought to yourself I'll never be happy again?

Did you accept your situation and regardless continue to work at the job you hated, stay in the marriage that became a prison, do nothing to change  the body you couldn't bear to look at?  Maybe you lost a loved one and felt that a piece of yourself died with them and didn't come back.

After months and years and more years of living in this way,we forget what happiness is altogether, and then we can no longer imagine it.  And if we can't imagine a thing, we can't attain it.

I remember a time when I had given up on happiness so completely that I was convinced happy people were faking it!  I used to think they are full of shit, why are they over there laughing, wtf? Nobody is THAT happy!

After my son was born I was miserable.  Not for lack of loving him or gratitude for my beautiful child, but because I felt so horrible in my body and mind. I had no idea how I was going to get through most days.  I would literally ask myself how am I going to get through this day?  I don't know how I did it, but I know I was very unhappy.

It's not the kind of unhappiness most people can notice in you, where you are happy today and then suddenly tomorrow you don't get out of bed.  It's a gradual overcast, a cumulative effect of dragging days, subtle losses, and little disappearing joys.  You don't even notice you are there, losing bits of yourself, until it is almost all the way gone.  And many of the people this happens to never really notice.  We have all met someone like this.

I spent the first two years of my my son's life just surviving, barely keeping my nose above the water line.  I knew it was postpartum depression deep down but I was scared out of my mind to take medicine or seek help from a doctor, (Iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, a not-so-pleasant after-effect of my Christian Science upbringing) so I tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, St. John's Wort, talk therapy, walking, jazzercise, skin brushing...you name it, I tried it.  I would feel a tad better for a little while and hope that I had found the answer but then the crushing defeat always returned.

Years passed while I tried to claw my way out of that hole.  Knowing as I did that my children deserved to see their mother happy, to feel the warmth of my true joy, I fought for it even though I truly doubted I would ever win.   I fought hardest to maintain my faith that happiness and joy were my birthright, and that I would one day own them again.

It has been almost six years since I was officially diagnosed with PPD.

I can honestly say today that I have never been happier.

So how did I get from misery to happiness?  Was it an epiphany?  A revelation?  Did I find Jesus or develop a drug habit?

Daily vigilance.  Leaping into the unknown of divorce.  Following bliss and remembering how to have fun.  Doing it anyway, even if I was too tired or too down or too broke.

Some battles don't have a clear beginning or end.  My battle with depression and unhappiness felt like a lifetime in the trenches of some far off field.  The most important thing is, never ever give up.  Never stop fighting for happiness and health.

I promise, you will be happy again. 

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Dear suffering Mamas whose burden feels too big to bear, so UNFAIR (!):

 

I want to give you hope

I want to speak to you from my deepest heart buried beneath the numbness, the horror, the despair of this wretched monster we call PPD.  I want you to know that you are not, and never will be, alone.  (I know it feels like you are because we are all silenced out here, drowning, but we are here and we need you, your voice, too.) 

You think you are being overtaken by this beast, your greatest foe, but in reality she is yours to conquer, yours to embrace, yours to overcome, and ultimately, yours to ride like the mightiest of dragons.  Maybe your dragon is pink.  Imagine her, imagine her being yours, and you the master of your own destiny, riding into your wildest dreams of health and peace, stronger, better, you.

I know.  It’s so f#*king hard.

I know because in 2006 I gave birth to my second child, and 8 weeks later the world was a ride I wanted to get off.  My mind wouldn’t stop churning, sleep eluded me, and though I knew love was a language I had once spoken with ease, now it was forgotten.  I drifted slowly, then suddenly, into psychosis.  I dreamed I was kidnapped, locked in a dark trunk, suffocating and screaming for my life. 

A week later that dream came true. I was catatonic, and went to the hospital for 7 days.

After all this, I remember a good friend taking me by the shoulders, on my front porch, looking in my eyes with compassion and love.  She said with gravity and rock solid conviction:  You are going to get through this and you are going to rock the world when you do.  We are going to have a party, a “Heidi-conquered-the-world-party”, and the whole world will be invited and will cheer for you.  You’ll see, you are gonna beat this and change the world.

 

I didn’t believe her.  She had no idea.  I had no hope.  How could she know that?  What did she know about this awful state of mind that robs you of your ability to feel, to love, to care, to focus, to sleep, to be kind, to be yourself

 I never forgot that moment.

 

(By the way, she was right.)

 

Don’t forget.  You are gonna beat this.  You are.

 

And when you do, I want you to climb on your pink dragon and scream to the world that you survived, and ride on, ride on, ride on!!!

 

Sending you All my ferocious love,

Heidi Howes

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