Red is a Happy Color
Yesterday, I left my kids with my mother-in-law and got ready to go to the grocery store. I had just recommitted to following a healthy plan to lose the baby weight that has slowly crept up in the 15 months since Evie’s birth, and I was feeling good. When I stopped by my house to pick up my purse and a few other things, I was already formulating a plan to wear this coat with this fur collar.
And then, I touched up my eyeliner. Then, I had to do my hair. Before I knew it, I was dressed to the toes in a beautiful, cheerful outfit, all just to run grocery errands. It is the second time this week that this has happened. That’s when I realized: I can finally say I’m okay.
Postpartum depression hit me sneakily.
The first flare was three days after Evie’s birth with an internet interaction that left me in pretty harsh tears. I didn’t realize what it was then, and just assumed I was a bit tired. A week later, we were at a party with my husband’s family and suddenly I just needed to go home. I felt anxious and emotional and ended up fleeing to an empty room to cry for no obvious reason. Still, I had just had a baby and I assumed it was lingering exhaustion.
But later the next week, it finally dawned on me. Sitting on our couch watching Asa toddle away out the door with his daddy as they walked over to grandma’s to give me some quiet, I was hit with an inexpressible sadness. I held my newborn girl to my chest and sobbed.
I remember thinking: “I don’t want to be a mom to two kids. I want my first baby back. I don’t want Asa to grow up. I don’t want a second baby. I want to go back.”
And the thing was, I did want this second baby.
I already loved her fiercely and unconditionally. But in the deepest, worst moments of depression, I just wanted to escape. I didn’t want to face the confusing emotions that postpartum hormones were shoving into my chest and stifling me with. I just wanted to hug my baby, curl up in a dark place, and sleep. That’s when I realized that something more than just exhaustion was messing with me.
Through the first six months of Evie’s life, I felt like I was in a haze. I do not have very many memories from her first six months, except the harsh and shaky feelings of depression. I took a lot of photos because I needed a physical way to hang on to the memories since my brain put a fog over every day. Some days, I would wake up and the sun would shine in my life and everything felt okay. Shaky and unsure, but okay. I could get up, play with Asa, do minimal things around the house, and feel like I might be getting better. Other days I would wake up and ask myself “are you okay today?” and the resounding “no” of my aching heart would answer, and I would move through the day fighting just to survive.
There were a LOT of outfit posts I shared through those months that I only wore for the time it took to take photos. Because I clung to blogging. I wanted to seem okay, so that I would believe I was.
I struggled a lot with communication in those days. I didn’t want to admit that something was wrong with me; nobody really talks about depression like they should, and I wanted others to see my life as being okay. Not perfect, but I didn’t want deep questions. I didn’t want to be asked how I was, nor have conversations about how I was feeling, nor interact with humans on anything more than a superficial level.
I spent a lot of time watching YouTube videos and interacting with Facebook groups. People who didn’t know me in person, to whom I could present an entirely happy and perfect version of myself. I thought that perhaps if I could just pretend I was okay, eventually I would start to feel okay, and then things would get better.
But, of course, that’s not how it works.
After about six months, I started to come out of the haze a little bit and realized that the best way to overcome, for me, was to tell people about it. So I started easy, telling my mom friends in mom groups. Then I moved on to a few of my best friends. Then, my husband and family. They were the hardest because they know me the best and they would ask the toughest questions for me to answer honestly. I can put on a face to my friends, but I can’t hide things so well from those who know me best.
It seemed like it took a long time to come out of it, but today has made me realize that I have come out of it. Because today and yesterday and the day before, and perhaps for a week or two now, I have gotten dressed without even thinking about it. It’s not an effort any more to get into clothes that look good, because I feel good inside. And it’s less of a struggle now to eat healthy and nourishing things, because I’m no longer drowning inexplicable sorrows on the inside.
It no longer feels overwhelming and hard to get dressed in things that make me happy, because I am finally feeling truly happy on the inside. Nor does it feel hard to do a photoshoot after errands, or to get myself moving around, or to play and be silly with my kids. It no longer feels hard to make healthy decisions instead of eating the easiest thing I can find. Those markers that I have been using as a gauge to determine the state of my mental health are finally all coming up positive.
And it’s a fantastic feeling.
If you struggle with postpartum depression, please do not hesitate to get help.
I think mine was very mild, but it was still very real and the best thing I could do, for me, was to talk about it. Start there. Tell someone how you’re feeling. Reach out when people offer. Accept that you’re not okay, and take steps to fix it. Talk to me if you need to; I will always be here to listen and offer what support I can. But if you need to visit a doctor and take medication, do that. Do whatever it takes, because being stuck in depression with no way out, feeling alone and out of control, is the worst place to be. Someday, it will pass and you will be okay. But until then, don’t forget that in the flurry of taking care of a newborn, you also need to care for yourself.
Dress, gift from Skye (similar here, here, and here) | coat, thrifted (similar here and here and here) | belt, belonged to another dress | collar, brooch, and earrings, vintage | scarf, thrifted | tights, Target (similar)| booties, thrifted (same here and in many places online)