Lea Grover is a writer and toddler-wrangler living in Chicago. When she isn’t cultivating an impressive dust bunny collection she waxes philosophic about raising interfaith children, life after cancer, and vegetarian cooking. In her free time you can find her writing as Becoming SuperMommy.
I have video of the moment I broke.
My kids and I are dancing, and out of nowhere I just can’t. I can’t do anything.
I go through the moves of spinning with one of my daughters. My face contorts, and you see that I’m holding back from sobbing. Then I sit down and cry. The twins ask me what’s wrong, I tell them I need a hug, and they hug me. Then they ask to keep dancing…
But I can’t. I am utterly overwhelmed by post-partum depression.
I know it’s happening. I glance at the camera, and I know that I am on it, crying out of nowhere.
I had a three month old, two two year olds, and a weight pressing down on me that wouldn’t recede. I felt constant peripheral haze of panic, anger, and fear. I’d battled depression back in my teens, even survived a suicide attempt. I was intensely familiar with the warning signs, I’d learned to notice the little changes in my personality. I’d known I was in trouble for weeks.
I avoided people. I avoided my reflection. I wasn’t taking joy in cooking, or eating, or being with the people who loved me. I was alienating my friends, my husband, even my children.
I was trying to get better alone, and I thought dancing might be the cure. If I could get that daily playful energy, maybe happiness would linger. Maybe the endorphins or weight loss or just dancing with my kids would knock me out of the funk I’d been in since returning from the hospital with a new baby in tow. I made videos of our dance parties, set them to music. The girls loved them, so I threw my remaining energy into spinning in literal endless circles with my daughters.
And then there was this…
You can see the layers of emotional revelation in my face- first the depression itself, swallowing any glimmer of joy. Then the humiliation that I’ve been captured in such an intensely private moment. Then the realization that my depression is something I’ve been cultivating privately. As though it’s my little secret. It’s a moment of bright clarity, the awareness that this is it. Then my face breaks again into hopeless anguish.
That was when I realized that I wasn’t just falling into some funk, I was there. I was already at the bottom, and the walls were already falling in on me.
People don’t realize how real PPD is. They don’t know that suicide is one of the leading causes of death for pregnant women, that in the grips of your depression you have no control over your emotions, that you can’t just “suck it up” and move on, that even if your a second- or third-time mom it can be a new and different and all encompassing disease.
I read stories about women strapping babies to their chests and jumping off buildings, and I ache for those women. I understand their paranoia, their intense anguish. I feel for them, those women who might have been me.
As I sat and watched the video of my emotional break, all I could think was, “Please, somebody help me. Somebody save me from this…” The next week I found a therapist, and I started to get better.
When I hear of another woman tangled in her own senseless grief, I see me, suffering forever on camera.
I wish I could be there to help us both.