Thursday, 16 April 2015

I Survived Without Stretchmarks, But Not Without Scars...

Sometimes the depression is easy to forget.

The days in between then and now just keep multiplying - my relation to the pain - less and less.
It can be easy to forget the screaming newborn and my screaming brain.
Easy to forget the days that death seemed so much more merciful than the hell on earth I was living.
Easy to think about the deep love I have for my daughter, and easy to forget the times I wish she was never born.

But the scars are there.

Do you have stretchmarks? Many women do - a badge of honour, as some say.
"Show off your stretchmarks; you created a life" (which I totally agree with!)

I thought I was lucky...I never gained that much weight, just over 20 lbs total....and my younger non-antidepressant-filled body snapped right back into shape post birth.
No stretch marks.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones.

But I have other scars.
Scars that remind me daily not of my birth experience, but of my post-birth experience.
Scars that remind me that, just as birthing is an incredible feat of human strength, so is surviving postpartum depression.

Most of my depression experience is easy for me to talk about without shame. I am a huge advocate for mental health awareness, and for reducing the stigma.
So why are my scars hard for me to talk about?

Perhaps because I'm worried that people will think I did it for attention (which they did think at the time). Perhaps I'm worried that the physical evidence of my struggle will somehow lessen my credibility as a survivor.

Perhaps I just don't want to remember.

I don't want to remember that I felt such excruciating mental torture, that I felt physical pain would be the only way to make it stop.
I don't want to remember that dragging a steak knife repeatedly across my arms hurt so much less than being alive in that moment.
I don't want to remember that I desperately wished I was brave enough to cut deeper and closer to my veins.

I had only one train of thought in that moment...

Help me, or kill me.

Help me stop the thoughts, or kill me so I don't have to think them anymore. Anything but allowing me to live within that brain for yet another minute of the day.

This is an impossible thing to understand for those who haven't experienced mental health issues...but I know.
People hear stories on the news about mothers cutting their babies and pilots flying plains into mountainsides, and cry out "What could make a person do this?!"

I know.

I know the tragedy of mental illness, and I know they are sick. I know that they don't want to be in their own minds, but they can't escape. Thought processes are illogical - healthy minds do not understand what a sick mind is capable of.

I know.

I know my brain wanted me to kill myself. I know my brain wanted my daughter to drown in the bathtub so I wouldn't hear her cries anymore. I know my brain felt that an outward expression of my pain would get me help. Or if I was lucky, death.

I know I healed. I know I thought that after 2 years of severe depression, healing was impossible. But it came. I know there is hope for everyone, even though our sick brains cannot process this possibility.
I know my thoughts then are not my thoughts now, nor were they thoughts a healthy mind would ever have.
I know she was not me.

How do I know?
I know because the depth of love I have for the beautiful human being that is my daughter, is infinitely greater than my depression ever was. I wasn't sure that was possible, but time has proved me wrong.
I know because my healthy brain aches at the thought that I would have left this precious girl without one of the people she needs the most in this life - her mommy.

I think of how selfish I was - how could I even consider leaving her? But then I remember that I was ill.

She was not me.
I hate that person she was, but she has given me the ability to appreciate even the smallest joys in life.

I am thankful for my scars, which are a visible reminder that mental pain is real. It is a visible reminder that I need to be accepting and not judge those who do things I cannot understand. Those that are suffering.

It reminds me that being able to smile a genuine smile is a gift, not a default setting.
It reminds me that a hug from my child and constant "I love you mommy"'s is a privilege that I have earned, despite of myself.

Let my scars remind you that you don't know everyone's story. Let them remind you that depression is not shameful - but that silence is.

Let them remind you to be kind, loving, and ever-accepting.

Let them remind you no one is immune.

Thanks for reading,