In hindsight, I had intense post-partum anxiety with both of my children. But I wasn’t crying into a journal every night, I’m not a worrier, and I still had a desire to care for my babies, so how was I to know?
With my first baby, my son, it all manifested as disorganization and anger. I was out of it and off-center, but we were also going through a lot of transitions. We’d recently moved from Denver to St. Paul and then again into my parents house while we saved to buy a house, but before any of that we travelled around South America for six months. Transitions were everywhere: Career, friendships, parenthood, living situation, more career moves, buying a house, fixing a house, my husband launched a business, my Mom got cancer (for the third time) shortly after she recovered from a stroke. It was bad. It was really bad. But still I couldn’t see it.
Then my daughter was born two years later and I quit my job to start a business with my sister. I stole the work time from my sleep (not a good idea) and we once again removed the stability we had from my existing career. But really, I was already tanked. I was low before she was born, I just didn’t know it.
But I did know that I was angry. I was exacting. I was tired and my body had changed dramatically and I wanted to take care of my children 24/7 while also getting the fuck away from them ASAP. I wanted to carry them everywhere and co-sleep and breastfeed and also pull out all the good ideas I had in my head for my business and talk to a friend while feeling present and go to meetings with just a coffee and a notebook and not two sloshing 25 pound buckets of life who want hugs and need a spoon.
A few months after my daughter was born, I tied a little red thread around my wrist as a symbol for myself to hang on by a thread. It was all I needed to do, I told myself. Just don’t give up on yourself, Allyssa. Everyone needs you. You need you.
Suddenly I could see it all. I could see how bad it was. How dark it felt. How lonely I’d become for myself. I reached out to my midwife because I knew I needed help. Where the fuck had I gone off to in my head? When am I coming back?
I wasn’t going to go to the appointment, but I did. I wasn’t going to fill the prescription, but I did. I wasn’t going to take the pill, but I did. And I do. And I will. In my 20s I spent a lot of time hiking, bicycling, rock climbing, skiing, meditating, teaching yoga and doing all the things that fed my soul and kept me alive and well. But even then, in hindsight, it was there. It was small and I could manage it with the 67 hours a day I had pre-parenthood. In my 30s I run a business and have a marriage and have two little children who want hugs and need spoons. I have neighbors and siblings and friends and a community and responsibilities that bump me from #1 no matter how hard I encouarge myself to be in the Top 5. In order to even reach for the yoga, to reach for the hike, to reach for a friend for a coffee date, I needed that help. To find myself again, I needed that pill.
The little symbol that I had tied around my wrist stayed on for a few months. Taking it off was emotional, because I’d overcome something, and in doing so I’d gained a wisdom that was waiting for me. The symbolism of the little red thread had worked. I’d hung on. I needed me, and in showing up for myself I’d showed up for my family and my career, too. It was painful to be honest with myself. It hurt badly to tell myself the truth about where I was headed, but I am so much wiser for having experienced it.
Besides, I love the new me. The one that’s superglued back together but fought for herself. That old girl who ski’d and climbed and yoga’d every day is gone. She was fun and seized the day, but a new woman is here and her agenda runs deep and looks different and wears lockets instead of threads.
Give her a welcome hug and open the door. It’s her turn.