I have seen friends suffer through postpartum depression, postnatal depression or baby-blues, whatever the name, the condition is the same. It was traumatic for them and their families, yet things generally improved once the diagnosis and support was in place. But when I began to see similar patterns emerging in my own life, I was not at all prepared for the hurricane of emotional turmoil. Try as I might, I could find no on-line support group, and surprisingly no friends who had been through my particular condition before, as my condition differed from my friends in one, albeit crucial, detail. I suffer from late-onset postpartum depression.
This condition is not as rare as it first seems. It is a debilitating form of depression that kicks in around year sixteen following your baby’s birth. It can last anywhere between one to three years if left untreated. Now that I am well on my way to recovery, I would like to share my personal experiences of late-onset postpartum depression so that others plagued by this complaint may be able to help themselves through their own personal storm as health forums continue to neglect this very real and serious ailment. I might also add that my state verged on psychosis, as I will explain later, but for the most part the basic depression encapsulates my illness.
Identifying late-onset post-partum:
When your baby was nearing his or her sixteenth birthday did you find that you were more moody or sad than usual? Do you find you are having memory problems or feel guilty or worthless? Have you found that you no longer find pleasure in activities that you used to enjoy? Are you overwhelmed with the task of being a mother to a sixteen year old? Do you doubt your ability to be a good mother? Do you feel tired from having a restless or broken sleep for the past sixteen years? Do you have a marked lack of time to yourself? Do you feel less attractive than you did before you had your baby? If you are at all like me, you may even have answered affirmatively to all of those questions.
I found that not only did I feel sad, frustrated, and guilty about my inadequacy, but I felt increasingly irrelevant. There wasn’t a question, a quip, quandary that I could offer that his friends on Facebook or Wikipedia couldn’t top. I questioned my very role in his life. Then things became worse. I was on the verge of tears most of the time, and a slave to my blinding rage and irrational anger. I quickly found out that it was way too late to give him up for adoption.
I finally sought help when I began to contemplate doing irrevocable harm to my offspring. It was four thirty in the morning when I staggered out of bed with the sound of the front door. I had been lightly asleep, as typical since his birth. When I finally groped my way down the stairs into the kitchen, I looked up at him, into his glossy reddened eyes as he was about to put the following day’s dinner into the microwave. ‘What the hell do you think you are doing?’ I shrieked in a voice I could hardly recognize.
‘Just making a snack, Mom. I’m hungry.’ He keyed auto-heat on the microwave.
‘That’s tomorrow’s dinner.’ I breathed out in slow and even words.
‘I’m going out for dinner.’
It was like I was a possessed demon. I grabbed the glass tray the lasagne was in, I pulled it out of his hand and sealed the foil over the top and put it back into the fridge. ‘You’ll do no such thing.’ I said, my eyes swollen with hot rivers of rage. ‘You’re, you’re …’ I could barely find the words to express my feelings, until I finally spat out, ‘GROUNDED.’
He shrugged and lumped down the stairs to his room in the basement.
The following day I discovered that I was in deeper trouble that I had previously realized. Psychosis was evident. I felt elated that he was home after a two-day hiatus, but when I entered the basement realm where he typically dwelt, my I became confused; my mood swung from motherly concern and relief, to fury.
I didn’t turn the light on; I thought that my interruption was enough of an assault on his senses. But I could clearly see, or so I thought, at the foot of his bed sat a four foot glossy bong—the type that you might find a genie in if you rubbed it just the right way.
‘What the hell is that?’ I asked as calmly as I could muster.
‘He pulled his head out from under his pillow, what are you talking about?’
‘That, Bong.’ I pointed at it. It was right there almost as tall as me.
‘I don’t know what you are talking about.’
I knew I was in trouble, but then I flipped on the lights.
He bolted up right and there she was. Naked. In my son’s bed. Her tousled hair covered her eyes, but I could see her smirk in her half-awake way. The seductress, the nymph, the trollup, how dare she, I thought.
‘Who is that?’ I pointed at the fleshy lipped woman. She waved her painted fingers at me, and gloated her manicure.
‘Fuck, mom, you’re crazy. There is no one here but me. You should just go upstairs and forget everything. Go make yourself another latte.’ He switched off the light with his long arm, and buried his head under his pillow.
I snapped. I pulled off my Birkenstocks and threw one after another at them both, or rather at him as she was apparently just a figment of my demented mind. I walked barefoot upstairs and proceed to make myself a latte. It was a job I could do in my sleep, had done in my sleep. I needed help.
As there are few options, I have found an easy do-it-yourself diagnosis and treatment.
If you find yourself being punished by your mind, as I have been by mine, please consider my helpful suggestions to ease your way back to the sane. Begin with a latte; if you can’t make one, immediately go buy one at your nearest cafe. Talk therapy may be your next step in self help. Phone someone, preferably the mother of one of your child’s friends, console each other, compare notes, vent outrageously if necessary. Note: never call your own mother. If she is at all like mine, she will snicker and say that it is simply karma baby, karma, and then snicker some more. Finally medicine, you can go to your own doctor, of course. But if you prefer the self-medication route, there is the imaginary bong, but if that doesn’t materialize, then I highly recommend starting with something heavy like a single-malt. Spend what you have to obtain a quality vintage. You are worth it. Once you have worked your way through that over a few weeks of therapy, you may be ready to wean down to a nice pinot noir, or a heavier bodied cabernet. If you happen to be going through the worse of your crisis in the summer, there is nothing wrong with a nice cool G and T to chill the nerves. It chilled mine. Good luck, and remember, you are not alone. Not yet. There are still two more years until adulthood.
(This story has also been published on: Ranting Parent.com)