For all the extrovert I am, there is also a huge part of me that is private. But something clicked in me recently, and said that maybe it is OK to finally talk about how painful life can be. And that there is the ability to find yourself again.
Disclaimer: This post is NOT medical advice. It is my life, and what I have been through.
Post Partum Depression is a nasty thing.
And I do understand if it makes you very, very uncomfortable to read about it. Or you roll your eyes. Or even bluntly ask “what does this have to do with the outdoors?” But you should care. Because it can happen to any woman. And you might not even have a clue she is under it, since we tend to put on a pretty good front. What it does is suck away all good feelings, and everything you ever cared about. Sometimes it is like my first experience after my oldest son: I felt sad a few weeks after having him, cried for an hour, and then felt good. Normal. And then sometimes it goes very, very deep.
Hiking was everything to me. For those of you who have read my writing since the start, before I had my younger children, I was out on the trail 2 to 4 times a week, weekly backpacking was often in good weather. Crazy fun, always looking ahead, always planning. It wasn’t a hobby, it was literally a huge chunk of my life and identity.
When I wasn’t out there the past few years, it sucked away all the love I had for my writing. I had many periods where I nearly walked away from my business.
Fear controls you.
When we decided to have kids I knew it would change me, I just didn’t know how much. I had a kid who was 11, and life was easy to deal with. How much would my life change?
Being blunt, it wasn’t easy to have the kids. I was a lot older. It isn’t easy getting pregnant when you are older. For a year we tried, and I gave up hikes I wanted badly because I had promised I wouldn’t do stupid hikes, that put me in any remote potential danger. I had 2 early miscarriages. I was no glowing hippy mama. I had unexplained bleeding and had bed rest with Walker. I couldn’t hike. I couldn’t even walk. I got to lay on my side and hate life, and hope he’d be OK as I felt him moving in me. For months. I had a hard delivery with him that left me in constant pain when walking for 6 months after. With turning 40 on the horizon, I knew if I wanted a third child, there was no waiting. I barely recovered, and Alistaire came along. I was severely anemic the entire pregnancy, and wasn’t allowed to exercise or hike, again. I watched my hobby, my life, my muse, slip away from the end of 2009 till early 2012. Instead, I sat inside and watched myself gain weight and wallow in a pit of self-pity/despair. Pictures of me in early 2012 show a very pale, very tired human.
The fear was always there: do exactly what you are told so you won’t lose the child you are barely carrying. Even if it means not doing any of the things you love. Because that child means so much to you. It means more than anything else.
Then our family was complete. And the new fear came: extreme allergies in the youngest. I have talked about this before, and how it controlled my life so much. I couldn’t bear to take Alistaire hiking far out for the first 3 years. The never-ending fears of what could happen, they take over the mind.
You are damn lucky if someone sees PPD and calls you on it.
I am an extrovert. I am very, very good at smiling and telling you I am OK, even when I am not. I have a husband who called me on it. He went to my doctor and told them I wasn’t OK. In the hospital, after having Alistaire, they put me on some very heavy drugs to avoid potential seizures. I had Preeclampsia with my oldest, and they were worried about potentially it happening, as I had been showing signs of it starting with the third. I wasn’t allowed to hold the baby, as the drugs can affect your coordination. It just set me off. My PPD started within hours of him being there. So badly I couldn’t bear to hold him, in my mind I knew I would accidentally hurt him, some how. They got me on meds – in the hospital. Something wasn’t right, and even I knew I needed help.
Tip: if the woman isn’t sleeping, something isn’t right. PLEASE ASK FOR HELP.
Kirk took care of Alistaire for the first week. It took me that long to feel safe enough to hold him.
Don’t fear medicine.
It’s hard to admit you need it. But if you are not sleeping, and are spending your night staring at your baby, obsessing that they are OK, you need help. The meds soothe your brain, they let you sleep. They let you live. You might need to try more than one, or different doses. Talk to a competent doctor.
And know it might be a short time. Or it might be years till you feel better.
For me, it was a very, very long time.
Life went on, I did get a bit of my previous life back. But when you see the years flying by, and you haven’t regained your previous life, it is easy to get bitter. Especially when you are deep in the baby/toddler/preschool years. Having two small children is never easy, especially with an older one who is running to adulthood before you realize it.
For me, a huge part of my recovery was finding other ways to enjoy my hobby. Instead of driving for hours to hike 3 miles, I accepted that maybe long walks BY MYSELF was the answer. Kirk takes over, drops me off at a local trailhead and I literally walk home. By the time I get home…my mind is good, I am relaxed, and I miss everyone.
I talked about my SHealth App love affair. It’s a huge part of my happiness.
I ran the numbers last night. In 36 days I have taken 500,194 steps and walked 230.65 miles. Which shocked me. Half a million steps? All I know is suddenly I look forward to the next half million, often with my kids next to me.
I wish you all safe hiking – and a healthy life as well.