It's no secret that I live with depression, I'm an open book about my own experiences and trials both here on the blog and in person. Over the years, people have thanked me for being honest about the disease and how I handle it saying I've inspired them, helped them in some way or that it was simply comforting to know they aren't alone. And while it's been hard to be honest about a condition shrouded in so much shame and misunderstanding, I've continued to share to help heal myself and continue to help others like me. I've never once regretted the writing or the speaking until I became pregnant, and that makes me ashamed and angry - to have had the power and healing that I've found in those words to be stripped from me by people I know.
You see, even before I became pregnant, people threatened that should I conceive they would become my shadow to make sure I didn't become depressed and hurt myself or my child. This freaked me out a bit and when it came time to tell everyone about the baby, I didn't want to. I talked to Joe about how much I just wanted to keep the whole pregnancy secret until the baby was here (a Ukranian tradition that my father told me about) and how apprehensive I was about the whole thing... but you can't really hide it forever when you're showing at 3 months.
And so we told people, with my guts in knots and my stress levels elevated the whole time. I don't remember if I smiled at all; if I did, it was forced as I waited for the pouncing and the craziness that I knew would follow.
And sure enough, it did. Since we told everyone, I've had two days go by where these same people have not texted me or started a conversation with me with the now dreaded words... "how are you feeling?" And should I answer with "fine" because, really I am and I'm tired of answering the same question repeatedly... I'm pregnant, I don't have cancer - they come back with "are you sure...." or "..." or "how about mentally?"
Those of you to whom I've spoken about my depression and those of you who've read about it here on the blog will know that I've handled this disease on my own with exceeding competence and that when I have needed help, I've asked for it. I'm not too proud, or scared, or ashamed to say "I'm depressed". It's a part of me; not a shiny happy part that people like to gush about like my art, my spirituality or my penchant for hilarity at awkward moments... but a part of me nonetheless. And I accept it for what it is; it doesn't make me weak or pitiful, it just means I deal with different stuff than others.
As a side note to those who are friends or loved ones of people with depression: sad, glum or tired do not always equal depression. We can be sad just like you, without it spiraling in to depression every single time.
Anyways, this lack of space -this clingyness- has left me with anxiety every time my phone goes off or people come over. I dread the question and the prying, I dread the near stalker level of crazy some of my friends have taken on. I wouldn't be surprised if I didn't answer in a reasonable amount of time if they showed up at my door. And that freaks me out and, more importantly, pisses me off.
It pisses me off because - I'm not depressed! I've been sad a few times since getting knocked up, worried about a few things but who doesn't at some point? Also, it makes me angry because it feels like a severe lack of trust and faith in my own abilities to care for myself (as I've done numerous times before) and even worse than that? It feels like a lack of faith and trust in my husband's ability to be mindful of my depression or be able to care for me should it arise.
Which he has done through every episode of it I've had since we've met. He's actually gotten better at seeing it coming than I am and allows me the space I need without letting me sink. Which is what I need in general - regardless of mood... space.
I'm not saying that all people with depression are capable of handling things on their own, have a supportive partner or don't benefit from a constant watchful eye or twenty. But for me, the more you cling the harder I will shove you away. I'm a fairly private person (I know right? a private person blogging) and when people insert themselves in to incredibly delicate and personal areas of my life uninvited, it makes me resent and dislike them for disrespecting my hula hoop of personal space.
Not everyone who lives with depression will suffer prenatal or postpartum depression, just like not everyone who suffers prenatal or postpartum depression has a history with the illness. To lump every woman's experience in as "the way it goes" and to treat every woman (or even every pregnancy or birth) as a cookie cutter image of someone else's experience belittles and demeans the personal nature of this experience.
So please, stop clinging. You're giving me anxiety and you're making me want to break up with you, even if I'm pretending like everything's ok to your face. Please stop assuming that because I've been staying home more lately that it's because I'm in a deep dark pit of depression. Want to know why I've been staying home? Then ask why I'm being a hermit and these will be your honest answers:
1) The holidays were insane and I'm enjoying my sabbatical of not needing to do anything. There wasn't a single weekend in November or December (you know, when I was feeling sick all the time) where we didn't have solid all weekend plans or weren't traveling and I'm enjoying peace and quiet and most importantly, not having plans.
2) I feel like crap. I'm tired, I'm achy, my head hurts and I still get random bouts of nausea. And you know where I want to be when those things hit? Curled up on my own couch or my own bed.
3) I'm taking time for self care; taking time to paint, work on my spiritual practices, clean up my house. Yes, those sound selfish to you - they aren't.
4) We're having a baby and when it comes I'm quitting my job. We're pinching all of the pennies we can right now and going out simply isn't in the budget.
That's reasonable, not depressed.
And while I wouldn't be surprised if people came over, emailed or called after reading this... I really hope you don't. Lately I hate being right and enjoy being wrong and need lots and lots of space. Please give it to me.