Here is my truth.
I’m 37 today and for the past few days, I’ve been thinking over this last year—January 19, 2015 to January 19, 2016—and of all that has fallen and risen on the days in between. It’s been the best year; it’s been the worst year and I mean it exactly that way. The dichotomy of this past year is truly almost unreal to me, and I struggle to make sense of how that can even be? How can so much pain and so much joy be friends in the same year? How can they sleep next to one another like that, keeping one another warm in the night? How can they be so bonded, like mother and child?
Before this past year, I never knew that darkness could reveal so much light. How surreal it was not to be able to see anything really, foraging and grasping to make my way through such a dark space only to find a door. And I knocked on the door and it opened. It opened and so much light came pouring in and I could see that the place I had been lost in—the one that felt so dismal and dark—was really the most beautiful place I had ever seen. It was the most beautiful place I had ever seen. And the eyes looking at me, as I stood in the doorway in the warmth of the sun, were the eyes of the people I loved the very most. And they had waited there for me, their eyes–all shades of varied blue and unlike my own– staring at me, happy I had found the light again. And I’ve tried, oh how I’ve tried, to live each day that way—with my eyes turned toward the sun, looking at all the beauty in the life I have been given—in the life I’m living.
I haven’t written much here or anywhere about my struggle with post-partum depression after the birth of my daughter almost 19 months ago. Most people in my life don’t even know about it and here I am, writing about it now and here for all to read—friends and strangers, alike. But, I feel called to, today on my birthday. It’s the gift to myself today: to own that truth here with you. I owe it to myself, but I owe it to anyone enduring the same thing. It was real and very terrible and by staying silent about it, I’m acting like it isn’t something worth talking about. But it is and I’m talking about it now. I didn’t like who I was then on many days to the people I loved or to myself. And it lasted, and it lasted, and it lasted…. It lasted until my sweet baby girl—the one I begged God for and prayed novenas for and who was a dream realized– was over a year old.
Only my husband knew just how bad it had gotten. I downplayed it and lied on the test the doctor administered at my six-week check-up. I’m not proud of that but I did it. I smiled through it when people were around, but when I dropped my son off at preschool, I walked the baby around town, tears streaming down my face behind my sunglasses. I acted and rallied, but I was anxious inside, worried if I could keep from crumbling and shattering into a million pieces, like glass does when it meets the pavement. I waited for it to pass—like a storm would–and watched the months go by on the calendar we keep in our kitchen. And then one day, right around this time last year, I was driving, alone, and I had an intrusive thought about pulling out in front of a Mack truck and it shook me to my core because it came from no where and wasn’t welcome. Those words are so hard to type, but I must here in this space on the page. I knew then that that I wasn’t going to get better until I admitted to myself that I needed help.
When I told my husband what I had unwillingly thought of doing, the horror in his eyes told the story. He was horrified and terrified and I saw it and I knew it wasn’t going to go away on its own. And his blue eyes filled with tears and he gathered me in his arms and held me against his broad chest—my safe place for the past 21 years– and he said, “This isn’t normal. We need to get you help.” And we did just that and I got better, eventually. It wasn’t easy, but slowly, I got better. Like we do here in Pennsylvania after a snow storm, I dug deep and I dug out with the help of a skilled professional.
The light came again and it’s really only because of the darkness that some of my dreams have been realized. But I want you to know that at first, I only wrote to save myself. I only wrote to heal and through it, a vocation was revealed. I was brought to my knees through my post-partum depression and writing was salvation. It was a selfish act and only for me at first. It was therapy and the mindfulness it called me to have was what rescued me, I think. Time passed and the light the writing revealed in my life was almost blinding and forgotten and warm. I suddenly noticed a small butterfly or how the fog settled in the mountain divide of a valley I traveled through every day but had hardly ever even noticed. The sun seemed warmer; the rain glistened on the grass like a diamond; the hush of the house whispered of my dreams; the quiet of the church spoke to my soul. I saw my husband there—trying so hard to make me happy again and a small, sweet boy who rubbed my face when I felt sad. And the little girl of my dreams, with her chubby cheeks, staring at my face like it belonged to her. The love. The love there helped to bring me back again.
At first it was all so selfish, really, but now, I want my writing to help and to heal others and to help people see the real beauty right in front of them as they mother themselves or their children or their relationship with God. The beauty there is startling. Blessings abound in the everyday.
So, thank you for being there as I healed and now, as I mother my children, my spirit, and the sacred. I’m blessed to live this life I do with this family I have. Life isn’t perfect—not for me or anyone–but I have a husband who sends me photos every day because he sees me in them and a little boy with gray eyes who writes me love notes almost with the same regularity. And I have a curly-haired daughter whose eyes light up when I come into a room. What more could I ask for today on my 37th birthday? Nothing else matters, really. The rest is all bonus. Blessings abound.
Thank you for allowing me to gift myself tonight with the truth. Thank you for being here as I live out this spiritual adventure of raising my children and mothering the divide that it has been for me this past year. I am eternally grateful.