So you found your way to the Postpartum Progress Mother’s Day Rally, huh? Maybe it’s your first time here, maybe (like me) you come back year after year to read the stories. No matter how you got here, you’re probably reading this because either you are struggling, you struggled at one time, or someone you loves is/was struggling.
I fall under all of those categories.
This spring marks four years since my diagnosis of postpartum depression and anxiety. This fall will mark four years of being in therapy for depression and anxiety that was probably with me since my first miscarriage seven years ago (and maybe even before that). After my first son, Eddie, was born in 2009, I developed PPD, PPA, and PTSD. During my pregnancy with my second son, Charlie, I developed antenatal depression and after his birth, another round of PPD. I also developed OCD after Charlie.
I’m in a good place now. One where I can see the pitfalls coming, prepare for them, brace myself when they hit, and heal with a lot more speed. I can write about the darkness and the suffocating loneliness that sweeps in blankets my mind, heart, and soul. I can articulate the rage that bubbles below the surface just before I throw up my hands and seek out my bed to crawl into to try to escape the world.
I can look at depression in retrospect.
This is not a comfort everyone has. In fact, as I work to strengthen myself, I have noticed that my eyes have been opened to others who struggle. As my scars fade, I can see the fresh wounds in others.
And I can listen.
My suffering and the destruction of my mind, heart, and soul have left me with an acute sense of empathy for others who struggle. My experience in finding light after every single fall into darkness has helped me see that there are others in the darkness too.
I am never alone.
They are never alone.
YOU are never alone.
If you are in the darkness, there are others there too. Chance are you can’t see them because the pit of depression is so dark, it’s thick. It’s like a black velvet blanket. The darkness should be comforting, but it’s not; it suffocates, it terrifies.
But you are not alone.
Reach out your hand. There is someone there who desperately wants to hold it.
Reach up. Someone in the light wants to pull you out, or at least offer you a connection to life. To remind you that you have not left. That you are there.
The darkness is not endless. Those holding your hands will walk with you. They will emerge with you or, if they are already in the light, they will rejoice when you join them.
Know your strength.
When you can’t go anymore, take one more step. And then another. Grab at hands. Reach farther for the light.
The light is always out there somewhere. If it wasn’t, you would be dead. But you’re alive, so keep being alive.
Depression stole moments, days, even years from my life. But those stolen moments that were lived in the dark were replaced by experiences in the light so radiant, sometimes I have just had to close my eyes and feel it, rather than see it.
I want that for you too.
I want you to feel the light on your face.
Someday too, you (or the one you love) will look at depression in retrospect.
You will be the hand that someone else grasps.
Katie Sluiter is just a small town girl…wait no, that is a Journey song. Although she does live in a small town. She is a wife, a mother, a teacher, and a writer. She and her family have joys and they have struggles. Just like you. Follow her on Twitter @ksluiter.
Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on all things related to emotional health around pregnancy & childbirth, is a service of Postpartum Progress Inc., a 501c3 nonprofit devoted to raising awareness of postpartum depression and similar illnesses. Please consider making a donation today, Mother’s Day, so we can continue and expand our work supporting maternal mental health. Thank you!