Today is the day. The day I was supposed to be stepping back on to the unit at work. The day that was "supposed" to mark the end of a happy year of bonding with my new baby. The day I return to the person I was before; changed, tired, fuller, nostalgic, worried, relieved, but still me.
Instead, I'm home. Looking at myself; a stranger. Longing to be in charge of my own mind again. Instead, I'm "graduating" from 18 weeks of group therapy (extended from their usual 10 week max). Instead, I feel broken, wounded, changed, exhausted, depleted. And it's actually an ok day. 🙄Today I continue with a sick leave that is dauntingly short, and long somehow at the same time.
Today I continue my battle (as a pacifist, I don't chose that word lightly). I fight to stay above water. I fight not to let my postpartum depression and PTSD rule my world, my mind, my core, and drag me under the waves of anxiety, sadness, resentment, incredible stress.
There was a time when I was under the water, drowning, reaching the surface only for enough gasps of air to keep me alive. Slowly, I began to float, and now I feel as though I'm perhaps in a life boat. Still vulnerable to the storm, but much safer.
I feel lucky. I feel cursed. I'm lucky to be drinking my coffee hot, undisturbed. I'm lucky to have such an incredibly supportive family. I have best husband in the world. I'm lucky to have access to INCREDIBLE programs through the City of Toronto's Public Health. I have a trillion things to be grateful for. And I AM. So very, very grateful. But also I wonder what I did to deserve all this. This illogical, helpless, anxious, volatile person is now in charge of my heart and mind. And here I am, held hostage; duct taped to the chair in the control room, unable to do a damned thing about any of it.
And frankly? My heart hurts. My heart mourns for the year of bonding I lost to a year of simply coping, getting by. I mourn the loss of the expectations I had of what this experience would be like. I mourn the distance I feel between my baby's heart and mine. I know it will grow closer. I know it does grow closer, day by day. But that healing will take time. And I can't let the overwhelming guilt of that swallow me up. I yearn to hear giggles, and feel hugs, and to see his face light up when I enter a room, to have him reach for me with a smile on his face. I fight the panic, the tightening of my throat, the tightness in my chest, the cold sweat I break into when he screams. My shoulders by my ears, teeth clenched; a reaction so frequent it's become unconscious. That piercing scream. It touches places in my soul I didn't know could hurt. It renders me thought-less, in a blank panic, desperate to make it stop, completely helpless. Frozen, unable to think logically of what I can do to help. At his mercy. What if his colic is returning? What if he never stops crying? Ever. What kind of mother can't settle her child? What kind of mother am I that he pushes away from me when he's upset? Why doesn't he like me? What if there's something wrong inside him? What kind of nurse am I to not be able to figure it out? God, I'm going to feel stupid once we figure this out. Everyone will point at me and sneer "YOU of all people should have known better. Aren't you a NURSE?" I'm incompetent. Completely overwhelmed. And it makes me ANGRY.
Breathe in. ... Breathe out. ... Stop the spiral.
I refuse to acknowledge this as weakness.
Today, in an act of stubborn defiance to the stranger in me who wants to hide away, alone, and never speak to anyone ever again...I bear my vulnerabilities to ALLLL of you. I do it because I think we need to be more real with each other. We need to rip off the bandaid we use to cover up depression, anxiety, PTSD... I bear my raw heart to you so that we can be more free to discuss mental health issues with each other. I hope that one day I'll have the strength to rip off the heavy burden of the exhaustion, the "just coping", the "just getting through the day", the self doubt, the shame... I know it's coming. Little by little, day by day, small happy steps forward give me hope. Seeing myself painfully slowly emerging from the fog. Catching glimpses, out of the corner of my eye, of my true self when I least expect it. Those flashing glimpses are slowly becoming glances, and I hope soon enough I'll be staring myself in the face, knowing that I have arrived. I'm back. One day.
"Radical softness is the idea that unapologetically sharing your emotions is a political move and a way to combat the societal idea that feelings are a sign of weakness.“ - Lora Mathis"