“Enjoy every moment, won’t you?”
I offer a watery smile and nod but inside my blood freezes and my heart pounds with the anxiety that has come to constantly plague me like an unwelcome guest. Because how can I? How can I enjoy every moment of what is hailed such a precious time when I’m so frightened I can’t even hold a conversation or cook a meal? When I’m so sad I sob my heart out several times a day? When I’m so anxious that just being in the same room as my baby causes me to sweat and shake?
“It goes by so quickly, doesn’t it?”
Every minute feels like an hour, and every hour may as well be a week. The hours before my husband arrives home stretch on like years and I wonder if I’ll make it to the end without hurting myself, or worse.
“Isn’t your heart just bursting with love and pride?”
If I could locate my heart I’d tell you but I haven’t felt it for weeks. I can’t feel anything beyond the crippling terror and sadness. I can’t see past the horrifying, persistent images in my head of blood and pills and death.
“These are the best days of your life.”
Then why do I crave my old life, the old me, with a staggering ferocity? Why do I long for a time machine to the past when everything felt normal and right, or to the future where I pray this nightmare will be over?
“You’re just tired. Sleep when the baby sleeps and you’ll feel better.”
I can’t sleep when the baby sleeps. I can’t sleep when my husband sleeps. I can’t sleep when it’s 3am and the whole country is sleeping. If I could just switch off my brain…if I could just switch off everything.
“You need to eat something.”
Why would I put food in my mouth when I can’t breathe, can’t think, can barely speak? When I feel sick all the time. Why would I sustain my body just so my mind can keep going like this? Where is the girl who loved her food, where is she?
“You aren’t well, but you’re not alone. And you will be okay.”
I wish I could tell you that sentence alone was enough to make it all better, but it wasn’t. In fact, merely being diagnosed with Postnatal Depression and Anxiety brought a wave of panic so strong I had to call my mother in law to take my son for the afternoon. But it was a turning point. It was the end of that horrible chapter and the beginning of the next challenge. It was someone pulling me from the blizzard, strapping much-needed supplies on my back and standing me steady at the bottom of a mountain, ready to climb.
Enjoying every moment is impossible when you’re suffering from PPD/A. In truth, it takes lots of therapy and hard work just to enjoy a single moment. But when you do, and you will, just grab onto that flash of relief and hold it tight. Memorise it. For when the darkness slips back, that memory will make it harder for the illness to take that moment of light from you. Soon another moment will come, and another. You’ll have a rush of relief every week, then every day, then several times a day.
It will be frustrating. The mountain is high and steep and horribly intimidating. Some days you’ll be too exhausted to climb and you’ll simply collapse on the ground and cry with exhaustion and that’s okay. Because when you’re ready to get up and carry on you won’t be back at the bottom, nothing will be undone, and you can continue on your way.
Eventually, and how I wish I could tell you how long it takes, you’ll be enjoying many moments. You’ll feel again. You’ll think straight again. You’ll love again. And maybe it won’t be one glittering, wonderful moment of realisation when you think “I’m cured.” But, more likely, it will be a series of moments that creep up on you, a collection of evidence that shows you’re recovering. A few hopeful glimpses of the summit.
I have many days when I feel truly well, and I have other days when I wonder if I’m still climbing. But in the meantime, I’m living life, I’m enjoying lots of moments and not enjoying others and learning to be fine with that. Because when well-meaning people tell you to “enjoy every moment” they are setting an unrealistic goal for any parent. Many aspects of parenthood are simply not enjoyable. Instead, I focus on feeling every moment, good and bad. If I feel afraid, that’s okay, I just sit with it and let it pass. If I feel sad, I allow myself to cry. And if I feel happy I clutch that joy to my chest and absorb it into my soul, and try to keep it safe forever.