Technically speaking, PostPartum Depression (PPD) is a diagnosis reserved for those Moms who struggle with mood disorders at and around the time of the birth of her child. PPD can last several months post-birth, yet there is an end point. By definition, PPD is time specific. If your PPD symptoms last longer than the indicated time frame, then perhaps your depressive symptoms are an indication of a deeper, more persistent mood disorder. It makes sense. PPD is specific and quantifiable in its definition. These are the psychological mechanics of the disorder.
Yet I wonder if this classification can be held true for every case of PPD. I wonder if there is a more fluid and non-time-sensitive aspect of PPD that resonates with those Moms who have struggled with this disorder. Recovery is possible and I believe remission can be accomplished. This is real and attainable. Yet I truly believe there are real residual effects of PPD that can surface in an instant. Memories, anniversaries, and other reminders that can creep up when we least expect it.
At least this is the case with me.
Mia is quickly approaching her 6th birthday. It has been quite a while since I was first diagnosed with PPD and I am well into the recovery phase of my journey. I went through extensive therapy, got tons of psychiatric assistance, and took drastic steps to address my mood, triggers, and overall well being. I am now much healthier, happier, and a more present Mom to my blossoming child. Clear maintenance.
However, PPD can be an unpredictable bitch. There are moments when I can be instantly transported back to the dark corners of my struggle. When Mia cries (the real kind, not the whiny kind), I swear my spirit shifts back to what was my reality when Mia was an infant. Some of her cries sound exactly like they did back when I was in my deepest struggles, even if my husband reassures me they do not sound exactly the same. My mind and spirit can still hear the infant cries in those more mature cries of my 6 year old. I also experience what I call “phantom cries”; much like a person who has had a limb removed can still “feel” it, I could swear I hear Mia crying when she was not. I sometimes even swore I heard these cries clearly and loudly, even when she was not in the house with me. Talk about freaky. Thankfully those phantom cries have dissipated over time.
I felt helpless then, and in an instant those feelings can come back. It can be so incredibly scary. Especially since my reality is distorted for a moment. My mind remembers exactly what that felt like and it’s as if my body responds automatically.
I have to remind myself that I’m not that same Mom, that I know what to do now, and that I will get through this. I have to pinch myself, bring myself back to present day, present reality. That scares the shit out of me.
Yet this is who I am. It has gotten better over time. The older Mia gets, the less her cries transport me back. I can more clearly distinguish her cries, her behaviors, and my responses to all of it.
Acceptance has become my mantra. Accepting that this phenomenon will happen to me from time to time. For me and my journey in Motherhood, I will always have an aspect of PPD as part of my being. This is not a negative; in fact, I am a proud survivor of PPD. I feel empowered to speak out and connect with other Moms. I am proud to have gotten help and am working to overcome and manage my struggle. Because of the extensive and intensive services I received (and continue to receive), I feel I am an even more amazing Mom to Mia. So I can accept my PPD history. I can accept that there will always be a part of me that cringes when she cries. That as time continues to move on, I will continue to flourish as a Mom. The triggers will be less and less and I will be better equipped to deal with them when they arise.
Early on in my recovery, I tried to fight the PPD shadow on my soul. I would get angry when the reminders came and my spirit began to shift back. Yet that only created more anger and resentment with myself. Totally counterproductive and unrealistic. There is no point in fighting it. I struggle even more when I act as if PPD doesn’t exist in me, isn’t part of me. It only compounds the problem. And more importantly, I deny an essential part of my being.
My PPD journey has been unpredictable, not in line with the full technical definition, and is still part of who I am as a Mom today. This is not a negative or a positive. It just is. And I have come to terms with that. There are moments when I’m startled by the resurfacing of my PPD symptoms, yet each time they appear, I am more accepting and ready to embrace them. Nurture this essential part of who I am so I can better nurture my daughter.