depression · Marriage

You Don’t Know- an open letter from your wife with postpartum depression/anxiety.

Dear Husband,

You look at me with that same sparkle in your eye that you always have. Only now, during these days there’s a hint of compassion glowing around it. You don’t know how much I treasure the warmth of your eyes.

You can’t possibly understand how it feels when I’m sitting, rocking in the chair with the weight of her small frame against me. When the fog is closing in and I’m fighting with every shard of strength left in my brokenness to be FULLY present for her. For them. You don’t know that your strength even then weaves its steel into mine.

When I’m sitting next to you in your truck as the fields are blurring by and my heart is beating out of my chest because “my friend”, the one who sits meticulously picking at his clothes while no one even sees him, he was someone’s baby. You don’t know that when I look at him I see small dark, round cheeks and a whirl of fuzzy beautiful black hair. I see what God sees. You don’t know how your hand covering mine then soothes the wild ache in me that longs to save the world.

When the day is long and my tears have lingered, spilling silently over as I move from one task to the other, fighting to be. here. now. When I’ve let something slip in my battle to keep up with it all and you offer me grace there. When dinner isn’t ready because I’m managing the troop with the efficiency of a broken washing machine hose and you simply load us into the car and never even say I failed. You don’t know the way your gentleness builds up solid stone beneath my feet.

When I come to you with rambling words trying to share the way my anxious mind plays silent horror films in my head. The way I fear for her life and panic clenches my throat because the world is dark and I can’t protect these little hearts, and you just listen. Then ask what you can do. You don’t know that is where I find relief, where the panic pauses and the clarity of truth-out-loud saves me.

When I’m up for the sixth time in the night and my head is heavy and the tears are brimming, and as I crawl back into bed your hand slides over and runs along my arm. When I wake in the night to the weight of your arm across my back and you fingers twirling softly in my hair and my heart rests. When you reach for me and the smell of your skin and your breath reminds me who I am. You don’t know how much your love peels back this nightmare and lets me breathe again.

You can’t possibly understand what this feels like. I know that. I don’t even need you to. Until someone lives it there isn’t a way to make it known. Words fail here, even for me.

You don’t know what I’m going through. I’m ok with that.

You know me. And that’s all I need you to know.

Thank you for knowing me.


Choosing Hope

I did so well this time. Six months. Six months I flourished. I was so careful, so aware of my needs. My nutrition, exercise, water, rest, all of it. I was so careful. And in the last two weeks it’s crept up on me. Slowly, silently taking hold.

Postpartum Depression doesn’t discriminate. And it’s close friend, anxiety, is just as ruthless. When they’re together it’s a combination that leaves you constantly fighting to stay afloat.

It’s different this time. The fight is the same but this time I am not the same. I’m talking. Exposing their secrets. Shining light into the darkness. My hubby, my mom, even an acquaintance that God told me to tell, and you. I’m telling you.

We don’t talk about this much and that’s really part of the problem. Depression never tells you to reach out or speak up, it tells you to sit quietly, you’re the only one. No one will understand. And truly, unless you have lived it or loved someone that has you probably won’t. But none of us are alone. Not one.

Prayer is my fiercest tool in battling the dark blanket that falls. Nutrition is also key. Talking, exposing the ugliest of it, that changes everything. But it’s also the hardest thing. It’s hard to make sense of it all. There aren’t words that clearly describe it. No way to explain the way it feels. The way you seem to be drowning slowly and silently and your brain stops working for you and becomes detached. It’s weight. Heaviness falling over everything.

You won’t recognize the face of depression (anxiety) itself. It doesn’t look any different. It looks like me.

It looks like a wife wildly in love, a joyful, happy mother who adores her baby. It looks like one who pushes through and keeps showing up for her family. It looks like blessings and hope. It looks like beauty.

It also looks like exhaustion that feels heavy like death. It looks like battling through a constant fog to stay present and show up. To work hard at listening and hearing and being where you are. It looks like the sudden need to clean something with irrational urgency. It looks like utter panic that something will happen to your baby and feeling the terror of that when all is well. It looks like nightmares and deep anxiety over the reality of how fragile life is. It looks like so many different things for every different woman.

I have amazing support. I’m using it. And I am struggling but also so so good.

Writing these words feels cathartic and yet terrifying. Anyone with depression (anxiety) knows the hardest thing is this. Talking about it. It’s impossible to explain, and yet makes just enough sense to sound crazy. That’s exactly why it’s an epidemic. We need to be exposing it. Fighting it. Coming alongside each other.

Someone with depression (anxiety), postpartum or not, doesn’t reach out. That’s the very nature of the disease. And never mistake it for anything other than a disease. It isolates, suffocates, and steals life.

But there is so much hope. So much.

First, talking. It’s the hardest thing. Something I have to physically force myself to do. But it’s critical. Nutrition, feeding your brain and balancing your hormones is a must. Hydration is another big thing, especially as a nursing mom. Exercise, which is also monumentally hard, is so important. It produces endorphins and releases tension and provides energy. And rest, allowing yourself to rest is so crucial.

For me, prayer is the biggest thing. Staying present with Him minute by minute. It’s the only thing that anchors me in the fog. That shines joy into the darkness. The one way I can keep fighting on one step at a time.

Yesterday my teenager was talking to me in the kitchen. I was making dinner. Fighting to stay present. Praying through each second. I realized suddenly I hadn’t heard anything he was saying. I stopped. Turned and looked at him, and said quietly, “I didn’t hear you, I’m struggling today, can you tell me again?” And he did. In that moment I made a choice, a choice to be vulnerable and to expose my weakness. A choice to fight to be present when showing up was hard. I don’t get it right every time. But when I do I win a little of me back. It exposes the disease and leaves more room for my heart. It’s taken me five pregnancies, five rounds of this battle, to get to where I can do that. I’m so so grateful.

I’m sharing because I know that speaking my truth will empower my healing. I also know I’m not the only one.

There is hope. There is help. You are not alone. You are loved. You have purpose. You have a future.

Just like me.

Postpartum Support International