I recall reading about a woman who soon after giving birth to her beautiful little girl suffered severely with post-natal depression. On a crystal clear night in the month of May, she stood outside on her balcony, the little girl wrapped in a blanket, and jumped.
According to the World Health Organization, 350 million people worldwide suffer from depression. The silent killer who doesn’t care if its victim is a new mom, a shy teenager or even a lonely sixty-year-old. As long as it can take their joy and life away it has succeeded.
But this is not a story on how I overcame post-natal depression. Rather, this is a tale of how giving birth to my little Lilly in actual fact saved my life.
You see, like so many millions of people around the globe, I suffer from major depression. Ask anyone who knows me, and they will tell you that I am a friendly, caring, outgoing person who loves life. This might seem true to a certain degree. But that’s just because they don’t see inside my mind. I would dread waking up in the morning. Every day just seemed like another burden that I simply did not have the strength to bear. Constantly tired, just breathing felt like it was too much to do. Then the memories would hit you like a sucker punch and the rest of the day would be spent crying and wondering if there was a way to escape from it all. Suicide attempts failed, only ended me up in the hospital, feeling even more worthless. The phycologists just prescribed more drugs to try and numb you even more. And strangers would tell you that you need to just get over yourself and think happy thoughts. All the happy thoughts in the world couldn’t save me whilst my brain wasn’t producing enough serotonin.
So this was basically how my life was going up until I met my darling husband. For a brief moment, life felt wonderful again and I could feel a slight glimmer of hope inside me. Thinking back I sometimes feel guilty for having him fall in love with me. He is such a generous person and I didn’t want to drag him with me on this dark journey.
Soon enough though the anxiety attacks were back in full force and my poor husband had to spend countless nights next to me on the bathroom floor, listening to me sob uncontrollably about who knows what. To top it all off, my husband and I don’t belong to the same religious system, so we had to deal with ridicule and opposition from both sides of the family when we decided to get married.
We stuck it out, heaven alone only knows how, but we did. And he didn’t leave me. I kept on pushing him away, adamant on walking the long dark journey alone, but he just refused to back down. And so, two years into our marriage I fell pregnant.
It would be an understatement to say I hated being pregnant. I managed to gain 65 pounds, so not only did I still struggle with the daily darkness of my mind, but now I didn’t even want to look at myself in the mirror anymore. Losing the last inch of self-worth that I still had. But despite all of this, there was still a tiny human growing inside of me. At 24 weeks we found out that I will be having a little girl and so we decided to name her Lilly. From the beginning, I had to know that there was a little fighter growing inside of me. Despite her mother’s depression and feelings of constant distress, Lilly just kept on happily growing and developing into a healthy little baby, 8.6 pounds to be exact.
Up until the day of her birth, nothing significantly changed in my life. Where I started off being depressed and 2 weeks pregnant, now I was depressed and 36 weeks pregnant with swollen feet and physical pain accompanying the emotional pain.
As I lay on the cold operating table waiting for the doctors to begin my C-Section, hubby next to me firmly holding my hand and looking slightly yellowish with nausea, it suddenly dawned on me that they were about to take a baby out of my womb.
I wanted to get up and get out! And I probably would have tried to run if I had any feeling left in my lower body. How did I get to this point? I wasn’t ready to be a mother!
Ready or not, a few minutes later I heard the doctor say “Congratulations, she’s a beauty.” And there she was, my little Lilly, screaming at the top of her lungs announcing her arrival into this upside down world of ours.
At that point, my life starting changing for the better. It’s not as if my depression suddenly faded away. Nor did I miraculously feel like a new happy person ready to take on motherhood. Rather, I realized that I no longer lived for myself. I had this tiny human being entirely dependent on me, and I was not about to fail her. I still hated myself, and the darkness inside of me, but I loved her with every inch of my mind heart and soul, and I was adamant on giving her the kind of love and life that she deserved.
I sometimes think that God knew I needed some sunshine and so he decided to give me Lilly. She brings out the best in me with her happy demeanor, always looking for some way to make us laugh. Until today I still have those really dark days where I feel like running away, but then she comes up to me and says: “Don’t cry mommy, I love you.” And with those few words, I get the strength that I need to continue another day with my husband and my Lilly by my side.