I guess everyone has one of these. The mask that they plaster on their face when they don’t want anyone to see what they are feeling or thinking. The smile that never quite reaches their eyes. The laugh that is a little too forced.
I use that mask a lot. I don’t let people see the real me. I don’t let them see the problems I face or the demons that haunt me. I don’t share that part of myself easily. I don’t want to be judged but I also don’t want to be pitied. I don’t want to feel the weight of the stares or the comments or the whispers. Being the center of attention has never been my things. I’ve always been perfectly content to fade into the background and do my thing without an audience.
People close to me did not see the severity of the postpartum depression and anxiety that plagued me after Zoey’s birth. They didn’t see it because I didn’t let them. I hid in my house. I made excuses and cancelled plans. I avoided social events and family get togethers. I kept it all locked inside myself. I let friendships lapse because I didn’t want to bother anyone. Or maybe I didn’t want to be bothered with anyone.
I find myself now letting little things slip. Giving people a glimpse of the turmoil of the previous year. It’s scary to bare your soul and let people see who you really are inside. In my head I know that postpartum depression does not define me and it’s not who I am. But in my heart, I hate to show that vulnerability to anyone else. I shared a incident that happened in the height of my Postpartum Psychosis with a friend who is struggling in her role as a new mom for the third time. I didn’t want to share it with her. I didn’t want to scare her off. But she asked and then she insisted. You see, she’s a survivor too. She knows, she’s been there. It’s an incident that I have not shared with anyone other than Mr.McHunky. It felt good to lay it out there and release it from my soul. Telling her gave me the courage to write about it.
|This is the face of PPD-unedited and real|
To say that I had hallucinations is probably the biggest understatement I could make. I had visions of things that will haunt me to my dying breath. I was hyper aware of my surroundings, I was paranoid and I was seeing things that threatened to steal every last ounce of sanity from my mind.
On this particular night, I was trying to run a bath in the hopes that soaking in steaming hot water would soothe the thoughts running mercilessly through my mind. I just wanted peace. I wanted to be still. My hands were shaking so badly that I spilled the entire bottle of bubble bath all over the floor. I hurled the empty bottle across the room, striking the mirror and make it wobble dangerously on the wall. I had hot tears pouring down my cheeks but I didn’t even realize I was crying. My chest felt so tight and I was sure I was dying. My skin felt like it was crawling, thousands of tiny pin pricks went up and down my body. As I retrieved the empty bubble bath bottle from the sink, I glanced up at my reflection in the mirror. I studied the pale face staring back at me, with the dark smudges under the eyes, the sunken in cheeks, the lines of exhaustion and stress around the mouth. I stared at her. In the blink of an eye, the image before me changed. Gone was that woman, replaced by a corpse. A corpse covered in blood with rotting flesh and dead eyes. She stared back at me. She smiled.
“You are useless. You are stupid. You’re a horrible mother, your kids hate you. Why are you still here? Why are you still alive? You don’t deserve to be alive. I am you. And you are going to be me.”
The words rattled through my brain like bullets shot out of a gun. She was talking to me, she was telling me exactly what I already knew. She was right. I opened my mouth to scream but nothing came out except for a strangled gasp of horror. She laughed at me. She pointed a blood covered finger at me. I was screaming in my head but no sound was coming out of my mouth. I don’t remember anything else except being found by Mr.McHunky an hour or so later in the dark recesses of my closet. I was naked, shivering and curled up in the fetal position rocking back and forth. I was covered in blood from the scratches that I had inflicted upon myself. I don’t remember hurting myself but I had deep scratches lined up along my arms and legs and blood caked under my fingernails. I was holding a clump of hair that I had yanked out of my own head and my lip was bloody and swollen where I had bitten clear through it.
I wish I could tell you that this was the worst incident. Or the catalyst that led me to getting intensive help. But it wasn’t. It got so much worse over the coming weeks.
So much worse.