The other night my cell phone rang and I didn't recognize the number. I let it go to voice mail because, I mean, don't you? A woman left a message and said she thought her friend was going through postpartum depression and was seeking help. She explained that a Google search produced my name and number, most likely because of my position as race director for the Moms' Run a couple of years ago. The run raises money for Postpartum Support Charleston. I called the woman immediately and connected her with the people who could help.
When I listened to the message, my first reactions were concern and relief. Concern because so many women experience PPD and suffer silently. Relief because this woman was willing to reach out and fight for a friend.
Sometimes I've wondered if what I experience after having babies is PPD or the more common "baby blues". Since I've had Cate, some days have been better than others. I went to the OBGYN recently, and she said, "I hate postpartum." And honestly, it's validating to hear those kinds of things... when a fully functioning woman... a medical professional... admits that it's hard.
It is hard. And I try to remember that on days when I'm at my tipping point. My ability to experience many good days in the midst of the difficult ones probably makes me more normal than I feel sometimes. What concerns me about our society in general is what we've come to accept as normal. Is it really normal to go as much as we go and do as much as we do and produce as much as we produce? I'm ambitious. I love to work. But I wonder sometimes.
I've studied stress management for years, long before babies came into the picture. The first time I ever heard someone say "you gotta take care of you before you can take care of anyone else" I was 29 years old and had just quit my job in TV. To say I was stressed and depressed feels like an understatement. And it came from years and years of ignoring my inner voice, telling me so many things I didn't want to hear. Because listening to that voice requires action. It requires making changes I wasn't yet ready to make.
When I finally broke free from that bondage, I told myself I'd never get to that place again. I'm not sure I've done an excellent job of that. It's hard to break old patterns of saying yes when I mean no, of taking on other people's stuff, of doing what I think I should do rather than listening to my own soul speak.
But today I have something I didn't have then: awareness. I remember I have the ability to pull myself out of a slump. I have a willingness to fight for myself. I'm not sure where that comes from. Probably from knowing I'm loved by many and the grace of God.
Last week, Andra wrote a powerful post about how everybody hurts. And since then, I've been hearing REM's Michael Stipe reminding me to hold on. And what's funny about that is before Andra wrote the post, I'd been walking around for days singing Wilson Phillips' "Hold on for one more day". I'd sing the song and think about the movie Bridesmaids and laugh.
But that's how I do it, friends. That's how I stay afloat when the days—not just the postpartum days—get hard. I wrap myself in a theme song, or I go to Starbucks and get a frappachino with an extra shot of espresso, or I exercise, or drink a big glass of water, or browse Barnes and Noble.
I pray. I hug my babies. I take a nap. I call a friend. I write.
I remember I'm worth the fight.
And I feel better.
What helps you hold on?
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