TW: depression and suicide
I’ve learnt to fend off the curiosity of others by cracking jokes about the lack of my nurturing abilities, and in some cases by belittling the honourable calling that is motherhood. I would, or rather should apologize for this but when people ask me when I’m going to have children my gut reaction is to tell them to fuck off. So, I think I should get some credit in reigning back my hostility. I’m sorry, but when did my uterus become any of your business? And when did my reproductive choices become the choice, small-talk conversation starter?
Photo Credit: Benjamin Kroeker
Let me clear some things up for those of you still wondering when this 26 year old is “finally” going to get busy and pop out a few hellions. This is why it might never happen.
Because depression is a heartless bitch.
A little over two years ago I decided to postpone any plan or hope of bearing a child. Exiting the numbing fog of depression, I returned to birth control and found relief in its security. Ben and I, only a year and a half before that, had decided that we wanted to explore the possibility of becoming parents but the anxiety of waiting each month to see results, not knowing what we should be planning for, and, quite honestly, not even sure if we were ready or if we even wanted this, this anxiety became too much. I don’t think that this triggered my depressive episode, although it did become a distraction. When another cycle would come and go I could blame the constant emptiness I felt on my inability to conceive and I could direct my misery somewhere. When you feel constant misery you search for anything that could help make sense of it; having a reason for being sad means that you aren’t batshit crazy, and that you don’t need to start taking anti-depressants and that you don’t need to see a counsellor or psychiatrist. Having a reason for being sad means that you can lay in bed all day binge watching Pretty Little Liars without feeling guilty for wasting yet another day away in your bathrobe.
It should come as no surprise that motherhood and depression have become, in my mind, inescapably woven together. I’m afraid that trying to conceive now will have the same outcome as last time. Or worse. I could get pregnant and be depressed. I could give birth and be suicidal. I could have the responsibility of keeping a precious, tiny human alive while at the same time struggling just to stay alive myself. Can you understand why I’m afraid?
Because the medications I’m taking are precariously balancing my moods, emotions and hormones, and I’m not willing to risk it all going to shit by fucking with them.
I’ve been doing well, truly well, for just over two years. And this wellness took time; I had to find the right medication for me, the right dosage, the right amount of exercise, the right diet. The thought of changing my meds around is not really an option, not yet. Not only would I have to come off of birth control to conceive, I wouldn't be able to stay on my anti-depressants while pregnant. I don’t picture myself taking these medications for the rest of my life, but at the same time I’m not ready to experiment. So the birth control is staying for now.
Because postpartum depression is a very real possibility.
This is yet another fear. The probability of postpartum depression is high because of my history. This is one of the things that I talked to my doctor about, that she cautioned me with. So not only would I need to wait until I'm "healthy" enough to come off medication, but I run the risk of being swallowed up by depression because of motherhood. The more I think about it, the less appealing it is.
Because depression is inevitable and I’m just not ready to add a kid to that shit-show.
I sometimes have dreams that my depression returns. In these dreams I’m always just going about my day when I’m hit with the realization that I’m not happy and that I should be. I realize that I’m depressed and suicidal, and just like the last time, despite all of my hard work in trying to make the right and the healthy decisions, I’m powerless. This is the nightmare that haunts me, only it won’t always just be a nightmare. I’m confident that my depression will return. It’s this inevitability in my reality that hangs over my head, similar to that of death and taxes.
I can’t even begin to imagine what this inevitability would mean for our children. Again, this thought terrifies me.
I don't know if I will ever overcome these particular fears, or if I will be able to reconcile my mental illness with parenthood. I know that it has been done because there are thriving parents out in the world who struggle with mental illness and still manage to raise tiny humans, and raise them well. I also truly believe that God can redeem and heal and strengthen me and Ben, and should we become parents I know that He'll have our backs and our children will have Him, along with their imperfect but authentically loving parents.