My husband knew about my depression early in our relationship. I remember talking about it in one of those epic late night phone calls in our dating days. Though heâ€™d had a roommate with extreme bipolar disorder, he had never dated anyone suffering from mental illness. And when I finally told him about my history with cutting, he said, stone-faced, â€śif you ever do that again, weâ€™re breaking up.â€ť
It did happen again, but we didnâ€™t break up. However, I quickly learned how very little he understood about depression. When I was lonely and didnâ€™t want to abandon the comfort of the couch, he would tell me just to call someone and wonder why I wouldnâ€™t. Or when I was overwhelmed by tasks that the healthy me wouldnâ€™t bat an eye at, he would ask why I couldnâ€™t just make a checklist and knock those tasks out. The worst of all was when heâ€™d just say â€śchin up,â€ť or â€śjust stop thinking negatively.â€ť
When I did harm myself again, instead of reaching out to me, he pushed away and wouldnâ€™t talk about it. I canâ€™t blame himâ€”from his perspective, Iâ€™m hurting the person he loves the most, so of course he would be upset with me. I started doing my best to explain what depression feels like so he may have a better script for when an episode strikes.
I explained that making a simple phone call is a gargantuan task. Calling a friend is out of the question. And cheering myself up? Thatâ€™s akin to giving myself bypass surgery. He slowly began to accept that this was how things really felt for me. But he still didnâ€™t understand depression.
Weâ€™ve now been married for two and a half years and have a 14-month-old daughter. I experienced a year and a half symptom-free: from when I became pregnant to babyâ€™s nine month mark, when I got my period back. I mistakenly thought that my depression was a thing of the past, that I had somehow defeated it by keeping busy. Now, I see that it was probably my pregnancy and breastfeeding hormones keeping me calm and happy.
I think itâ€™s appropriate that what was once depression is now considered postpartum depression, because what Iâ€™m currently going through is a whole new beast. Physically, my symptoms are the same as they were as a teenagerâ€”bouts of aches, exhaustion and crying. But the repercussions are different. No longer can I hibernate; I have a toddler who wants to play. No longer can I self soothe with a long drive or a walk; my daughter wonâ€™t be happy for more than 10 minutes restrained in a five-point harness. And thereâ€™s this morbid irony that my old last-resort coping mechanisms, like getting drunk or hurting myself, are out of the question now that Iâ€™m caring for a baby. Which is for the better, of course, but that knowledge makes me feel more trapped than reassured.