Six years ago I fell into a deep cavern of postpartum depression. I had been depressed (and hid it) twice before in my life. But there’s something inherently different about postpartum depression. When people hear you are non-postpartumly depressed, they might be confused or indifferent or possibly judgmental. But when people hear ppd, they think you are a bad mom. (Or at least that’s the lie ppd tells us.) And when you are a new mom, what could be worse than being deemed a bad mom?
So my husband knew I had ppd, and the therapist I had been seeing for years knew I had ppd, but no one else knew about it. It was my deep, shameful secret.
But the strange thing is that while I was keeping my secret, I had this nagging feeling that keeping it was irresponsible. I’m a writer. Not a well known one, but still, I have spent my life writing. I have also spent many years teaching struggling writers and teaching illiterate adults. What those experiences have taught me is that I have a voice. A voice that I take for granted. A voice that everyone in America should have but that far too many don’t have.
And I also have this weird part of me that isn’t ashamed (much) to tell my stories. I’m a sharer. Maybe all writers are.
But with the ppd, I was too afraid. I was too afraid people would tell me that I didn’t deserve my daughter. The little girl we fought for four years to conceive. The little girl who meant more to me than my own life. There were three feelings I could feel in those months: despair, panic, and love. And if people accused me of not feeling love… well, then what was left to me?
Luckily I had been in therapy for years before this happened, and luckily I had a therapist and a husband who were somehow able to get through the blackness and be the single source of light that told me that it was okay to need help, it was okay to receive help, and it was okay if sometimes that help came in the form of a little pill from the pharmacist.
I recovered. Well, as much as any of us can recover from such things.
I felt relief. I eventually felt joy. But I also felt I had a purpose. There was only one way to take that horrible pain and make something beautiful out of it. And that was to share my story. So that no one I knew and no one I could reach would ever feel that alone and that broken and that terrified ever again. So that they, when in their darkest moments, could say, “See! She went through the same thing. I am not the only one. And she made it through it.”
So I started writing. It took me awhile to share it with people that I knew. But I did. And the response has been so humbling. While helping others learn that they are not alone, they have taught me that I am actually not alone.
But still, occasionally (maybe like once or twice a second) I start to think, but who am I to share? I’m just some silly little woman out in the suburbs with a computer and a couch. Who am I to share my story? Who am I to share my messiness and my pain? Who am I to stand up and shout, “This is me. I’m not backing down. I won’t be shamed into silence.”
But then I’m reminded that the only way to touch someone is through vulnerability. Most of us, for most of our lives perhaps, think we need to impress people with the beauty we have in our lives. But beauty doesn’t attract as much as realness does. Shiny things don’t catch our eyes as much as honesty does.
Perhaps it’s because honesty and openness and vulnerability and rawness are rare commodities. Or maybe it’s because the broken parts of ourselves are the most real and the most knowable.
Whatever it is, it makes connections in a world in which it is dreadfully hard to connect.
Maybe some of us are more broken than others. I surely feel like I am most days. But maybe God makes the broken to usher His grace into the world.
I don’t have flashy things or great beauty or an Ivy League PhD. But I do have my truth. And I have my voice.
And so today, I went to my web host, and I renewed this little blog of mine for year four. Four years! How did that happen?
I don’t know what is going to happen during year four. I don’t know what I’ll share that I will then wish I had kept silent. But I do know that the only way I have learned to exist comfortably in this world is to be myself. And the only way to be myself is to hide away my shame and stand up for the person I was created to be.
Good and bad, warts and all. All I can be is myself. And writing helps me learn who that is. And it helps me be less ashamed of who that is.
And I guess that’s worth everything to me.