My father wasn’t a writer, or not in the vocational sense, but he liked to play with words, and I grew up thinking of him as someone who wrote. He never made a big deal of it; writing was just something he did sometimes, a few quick lines on one of the index cards that he always kept in his shirt pocket. I haven’t seen a lot of his work – only a goofy poem he once jotted for me on a notepad from a medical conference he went to, and some haikus that we found in his bathroom drawer after he died. Many years ago, in a context that I now don’t remember, my mother told me that Burg tended to write most when he was feeling down, and not so much when he was happy. I don’t know if he would explain it that way, and I can’t ask him, but it resonated with me at the time. Probably because I was a teenager then, and I was doing my own share of mopey writing – mostly about the tall, long-haired kid who was a senior in my high school when I was a freshman, who played in a moody band with a clever name and reportedly smoked a truly staggering amount of weed but, I was certain, could be reformed into a fine, upstanding boyfriend if only, if only, IF ONLY I could manage to open my mouth and try speaking to him. There was a lot of woe going on, a lot of longing. I had a lot of feelings. In any case, I remember that conversation with my mother, and I remember thinking, Ah ha! That’s it! I too write the most, and the best, when I’m unhappy. That’s the trick…
Of course, that was sort of an unhelpful realization, and after some years passed and I stopped being a teenager (FINALLY), I began to see that it was not only unhelpful, but also untrue. I discovered other ways to approach writing and other things to write about. I think we can all be grateful for that. Though I do wonder what happened to the tall, long-haired kid. He’s totally unGoogleable, and you know I’ve tried. He’s also now almost forty.
Anyway, what I’m trying to say, and I swear that I really am going somewhere here, is: I don’t like being unhappy, and I don’t like writing about being unhappy. It’s boring, and it makes me tired. But about three weeks ago, I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, and I don’t see a way to not write about it. It began in the form of insomnia, and it took me a while to recognize it, because it was more complicated than I thought depression would be: I wasn’t sad so much as I was overwhelmed. Statistically, something like one in ten mothers get postpartum depression, but few seem to talk about it – or at least, few that I’ve found. When I was diagnosed, and when I was first trying to make sense of it, what I wanted most was to talk with another woman who had been through it and come out the other side, someone who could reassure me with full confidence that it wouldn’t be a permanent condition. I knew that logically, intellectually, but THE HORMONES, they pull the wool over your eyes, and the wool, whoa, it is heavy. You spend nine months growing a real live human baby in your abdomen, and then you push that baby out, and then you feed that baby milk that your body somehow makes, and though we mammals have been doing it for as long as we mammals have existed, it is big, weird, screwy stuff. It makes you have more feelings than you did when you were fifteen, and they feel very real. And in my case, the case of postpartum depression, they don’t go away when they should, and instead, they build.
I am grateful to have been able to ask for help, and I’m relieved that the help is actually helping. I am grateful for Brandon, and I am grateful for June. And though I would certainly rather just la la la pretend that it never happened, I want to write this down, on the off chance that you or someone you know needs to hear it. I am grateful that I can now reassure myself that this isn’t a permanent condition, that I now believe it.