Moving Towards the Light
This spring, I have reveled in every warm spring day. The boy and I have been digging in the mud, throwing rocks, petting flowers, and running around naked in the sunshine (well him mostly on that last one, but I’m with him in spirit).
This spring has been especially sweet because last spring, I couldn’t see or appreciate the budding leaves, the fresh flowers, or the cool breeze after the rain. It was as if I was deaf, blind, and senseless all the time.
I had plunged into a darkness that I couldn’t claw my way out of, no matter how much yoga, meditation, or “self-care” I did.
I have written before about my hospitalization for postpartum psychosis, but it is still hard for me to find the words to express just how terrifying that entire experience was. Up until that point, I had prided myself on my “intelligence” and my “intuition”. All of a sudden, my brain was my enemy. It was actively trying to take me down.
At the apex of my psychotic episode, I stood on the curb and waited to step out into traffic.
I was calm. Relaxed. I finally decided to stop fighting and to succumb to the voices that had been screaming at me for days that I was evil and my son was doomed to die if I stayed alive. It was finally going to be all over. I was relieved.
My husband, whom I had asked to hold the baby for “a while”, walked out to stand next to me. The baby was squirming and crying. My husband reached out and gently touched my arm.
“Hey... Are you okay?”
“Yeah. I’m fine. Just waiting.”
“… what are you waiting for?”
“I’m waiting to die.”
Even though I refused to look at my husband, I could feel the pain that overtook his face. He thought carefully before he finally spoke.
“Bugga needs his mommy.”
I closed my eyes. I allowed myself to hear my child’s cries and let them fully sink in. With my head hung low, I took my son from my husband’s arms and heaved a deep sigh.
The only thing that pulled me back from stepping out into traffic was my child crying.
No matter what the voices in my brain were trying to tell me, my son needed me to be here in the world. He feels me. He is a part of me. If I allowed myself to die, I would also be killing a part of him.
I will always be grateful to my husband and son for saving me from the darkness that day. Even though I had to take responsibility for my healing from that point forward, without their love, I would not have been able to turn around and move towards the light.
I am sharing this little piece of my story today because tomorrow (May 1, 2019) is World Maternal Mental Health Day, and we are also smack in the middle of Maternal Mental Health Awareness Week. Losing control of my mind was one of the scariest experiences of my life, which is why these calls for awareness mean so much to me.
My goal with this post is to let women in the midst of (or recovering from) postpartum psychosis know that they are not alone and this experience does not mean they are failing as a mother — or even that they are losing their sanity forever. You are powerful. This is temporary. You deserve to be seen and supported. You can do this. You can move towards the light.
If you know a woman who has gone through a difficult postpartum experience or may just seem like she is having a hard time adjusting to being a mom, please send this post to her.
I am honored to still be here and to share my journey with you.
Sending you so much love today,
P. S. If you are feeling anxious, depressed, or lost within two years of having your baby, please reach out to a postpartum doula or mental health professional who specializes in the postpartum experience for support. Get all the help you can!
Many of my recent paintings are inspired by my spiral into postpartum psychosis and the transformation I was required to undergo to come out on the other side. My paintings are helping me to process my own paradoxical feelings about motherhood, with its unbridled love, loss of freedom, and death of self.
To celebrate the importance of raising awareness about maternal mental health struggles, I have offered a 20% off discount that is valid through May 1 at 11:59 pm. All you have to do is add the code “MMHMATTERS” at checkout.
So if you have a special mama or partner or friend in your life who you’ve been trying to find a present for, now is the perfect time. With the small 8” x 8” works + a 20% discount, you can get a painting for as low as $156. As always, shipping is totally free — and I’ll even guarantee that if you order by the end of the discount, your new piece will arrive by Mother’s Day.