There aren’t enough words in the universe powerful enough to explain how I feel about Kim from All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. We met on Twitter, through #ppdchat. She’s become one of my friends, even though we’ve never met in person. (God, I love the Internet for that!) She is real, she is honest, and the girl can write. She’s hilarious. Also, obsessed with Chuck Norris, which is just awesome. I’m honoured to have her writing here for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Without further ado, here are Kim’s words.
It was 9 in the morning when she had called and asked if she could come see him. I looked down at my pajama bottoms and the state of my kitchen. Bottles stacked one up against the other waiting to be sterilized, breakfast dishes left on the table, and his swing covered haphazardly with a blanket speckled with spit up.
“Of course you can come over,” I said with an exaggerated chipper tone.
She said in 2 hours.
In those 2 hours I cleaned the kitchen.
I dressed myself, including doing my hair and make-up.
I dressed my son in the finest clothing that was hung neatly in his colour coordinated closet.
I made the beds.
I swept the floors.
I got on my hands and knees and plucked out any noticeable lint and dog hair from the carpet.
I had just finished wiping down the bathroom with antibacterial wipes when the dog started barking at the door.
There she was.
My Aunt held a bouquet of daisies, my favourite, and an outfit for my son.
She immediately swooped him up in her arms and looked me over.
“You look so beautiful. I mean that. When I was 2 weeks postpartum, I was still in the same pajamas I had worn home from the hospital.”
She roamed my house with my newborn son, holding him tightly on her chest.
I watched her anxiously, looking for any indication that she had figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me.
“Your beds, they’re made. Kimbers, your house is absolutely spotless. Did you hire someone to do this?”
I bowed my head, “No. I do it.”
“Kimbers, you should be resting when the baby rests.”
I nodded in agreement.
When she finally left, she told me she was proud of me; that I was “rocking” motherhood with ease.
And as her car pulled out of my driveway, I took a breath of relief.
I fooled another person into believing that everything was ok.
In the days following, I went to great lengths to conceal my internal struggle.
If I looked perfect, if my son looked perfect, if my home looked perfect, no one would know.
It was so easy to hide my internal battle behind the cheerful facades that I had created.
And why did I do this?
Because I was scared that I would be labeled as a terrible mother.
Not to be trusted with her child.
For weeks, and even after my diagnosis, I still kept a perfectly pretty barrier between me and my personal hell.
When I finally admitted to friends and family that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, they all had the same reaction:
“I had no idea. You looked like you had everything under control.”
Postpartum depression and anxiety does not have a face.
People cannot see it.
What they do see is what is portrayed on television, in the newspapers, tabloids, internet, etc.
They see monsters, psychos, nuts, disheveled, with twitches in our eyes and all the other horrible words and images that are associated with mental illness.
This sort of exaggerated misinformation breeds stigma like a wild fire. This is why so many men and women suffer in silence when they don’t have to.
Just like I did.
That’s why we have to stand up. We have to use our collective voice to teach others about our illnesses.
They need to understand that the way we experience depression looks completely different from everyone else’s.
This was me at 4 weeks postpartum.
Can you tell that I was crumbling inside?
More importantly, we need to keep talking to Moms. We need to ask those difficult questions like, “Are you ok?”
Even if they get offended, just ask them.
You never know what lies behind a perfect smile.
You could save a life.
Kimberly is a Registered Nurse, Mom and wife to a beautiful 4 year old son. She is a 4 year postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder.
She writes on her personal blog, All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something.