While my last post got too long so I broke it up (Part 1 and Part 2), this post is a result of what happened after I shared my story of PPD. Like my PPD story, it is something I have a very difficult time articulating coherently out loud with those that I love most dearly.
“I didn’t realize your PPD was so bad.”
“Why didn’t you tell me this when it was happening?”
This statement and question, spoken tentatively, vulnerably, and filled with emotion from the mouths of my people… the ones I can’t live without… cuts me with fear. I don’t want them to feel bad or think they could have done more. I don’t want them to believe it is about the trust in our relationship.
The truth is that I felt deeply loved and had everything I asked for during my recovery. As evidenced by my being here today, my team cheering me on in the stadium of my mind and in real life was enough. My friends and family gave me a precious gift that I wouldn’t come to understand until more recently, they allowed me to try on new ways of being without judging.
Until age 34, I spent my life proving-pleasing-perfecting-performing. It was exhausting. Depression stole my energy and the work of recovery was taxing. Each day I woke up with only one thought, “I can survive today.” Any courage I had was used to face the smallest tasks of the day: getting dressed, walking into work, sitting at my desk, being around people. At the end of each day, I would collapse in weariness. I could barely put clothes on, let alone lift on my armor of proving-pleasing-perfecting-performing. My people loved me anyway or maybe they just felt bad for me.
In the year of recovery that I wrote about, I didn’t have words to explain what was happening with me. I was deeply scared that I wouldn’t ever be “normal” again. Would it be different for all of these people if they thought I was always going to be this needy, incapable woman? Instead of saying that I was scared or repeating the lies of my depression (which in my worst nightmare would be validated by someone who I loved), I mustered a smile and said something trite like, “This is just a phase and I will get through it.” I was so fragile. I needed everybody around me to believe the happy ending was coming.
I packed away so much emotional shit in that year that healthy people would have just dealt with, but I didn’t have the capacity. A year later, when depression lifted, I could have locked the door to the room in my brain that held my shame, trauma, and pain. If I had done that, I would have spent the rest of my life pretending that what happened to me was nothing and didn’t matter. I was strong enough then to be able to put my armor back on, but I didn’t want to carry its weight anymore. The only thing it was protecting me from was being myself and letting others see me as I am.
Over the past three years, I opened the doors to the shame, trauma, and pain room and have started cleaning house. Buried deep under the heap of emotional shit I knew was there, I found so much more from even earlier in my life. Stories I’ve been keeping and telling myself about my who I am. Stories I’ve let define me. Stories that make me want to put my armor back on. As I have discarded those stories, I’ve been writing new ones.
I owe a debt of gratitude to my friends and family who have allowed me to practice living without my armor and being who I am. Each has contributed threads that I’ve woven into my personal safety net as I show my true self. My safety net doesn’t protect me from failure, but reminds me that my people will be there when I fall and willing to brush me off as I get up to try again.