From Postpartum Progress contributor Robin Farr, author of Farewell Stranger and postpartum depression survivor …
I’m going to ask you a question that might make you wonder whether I’ve gone nuts. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll know exactly what I mean. But first, a story.
One day, around the time I was finally starting to feel better, I went for a walk with a friend. He, too, has suffered from depression and was an excellent sounding board during my really rough months of postpartum depression.
I remember that day so clearly – we took advantage of the sunshine and walked the loop around the bog near my house. We had passed the ducks and had trekked up to the top of the hill that curved away from the main part of the bog. We walked down the other side, making our way back towards the marshy section that led to the cool, tree-covered path.
As we came down the bottom of that slope I asked my friend how he was doing, knowing he had recently been in a better place but wanting to be sure.
“Doing well,” he confirmed. “But I sort of miss the intensity of the emotion, you know?”
I knew exactly what he meant. There was something about struggling daily – hourly, minute by minute – with something like depression that made me feel alive. Even in those moments when I felt I couldn’t bear it and just wanted to die, I was feeling something. I was totally focused on myself (as tends to be the case) and, somewhat paradoxically, I lived in the moment while always looking forward to what I was going to do to beat it.
To me, beating postpartum depression was a challenge. It had haunted me for too long before finally sucking me under, and when it did I owned it. Taking a leave from work, while necessary, was my way of saying, “It’s on.” I needed to focus on my mental health in order to get my life back under control.
I’m not saying it was good, just that it was intense.
Maybe I’m a drama queen, but when I started to feel better I sort of missed that intensity. It was as though everything during that time was brighter, louder, more uncomfortable. My senses were assaulted, but when the light came back into my life everything seemed muted somehow.
Does that make any sense? Maybe you know just what I mean. Maybe you do think I’m nuts. I certainly don’t mean to be provocative or to cause offense, but for me that feeling was part of recovery. And to be fair, once I got past that point the normal excitement of day-to-day life came back, and now I don’t miss those old feelings one bit.
So tell me, those of you who have come out of the black hole of postpartum depression or anxiety (either once or for good), do you know what I mean? Do you ever miss the intensity of those feelings?