The first time I realized how bad it was I was driving home on I-93, with the baby in the car seat and tears streaming down my face. I had just left the Deerfield Fair, where my mother and relatives were enjoying the crisp fall air and the quaint offerings of the biggest pumpkin and best quilt contests.
I couldn't enjoy them, and had left my mother and her bewildered look behind, as I frantically took my five month old from her and hustled towards the car. A moment before I had been standing just past the fried dough stand, where I'd stopped to get a take-home piece for my husband. The breath had backed up in my lungs and a scream was waiting to burst from my lips as my gaze whipped from side to side. She had taken my baby.
That was all I could think, that they always say that it's someone close to you who steals your baby. As she headed back in my direction, I ran towards her, kneeling down to hug Shaelin and look up at my mother like a deer caught in headlights. I was terrified, and she was confused.
"Sam, what's wrong?" She was genuinely curious, because not two minutes ago she had told me she was going to wait down at the gate. She couldn't know that the demon in my mind, the post-partum depression that I hid masterfully from view so no one would laugh at me or think I was weak, had erased that part of the conversation as if it had never happened.
It didn't get much better when I was home. My husband had gone out with his best friend, and they had run into the friend's old girlfriend. This immediately translated to "they planned to meet her, and they didn't want me along."
I sent the friend, who is one of the nicest guys on the planet, a nasty email accusing him of plotting to do God knows what, and to involve my husband in it, too. Even the little voice in the back of my head that was often lucid didn't stop me from pressing "send", and the next day he showed up at my work, trying to set things straight with a person who could no longer keep the demon separate from the girl. I was embarrassed, even more so as he waited an hour for me to finish work to see me. I don't remember the conversation we had--the demon was talking too loud--but I do remember telling him that my brother's death two months before had just made me a little "crazy." I tried to fluff it off, even as he tried to help, and ultimately, the demon won and I just went home.
Home, where I often envisioned running scissors down my arms until they reached my wrists, and the only thing that kept me from doing it was the little miracle baby who needed me as much as I needed her. She was less than six months old and was the only thing keeping me alive.
The manic moments came more and more often. I accused my husband of anything I could accuse him of, and hid my demon as best I could from the doctor, my work, and the rest of my family. I would find myself poring through bills, trying to find something to fight about, because surely my husband didn't really want me.
Finally, a lucid moment allowed me to call my doctor. She only had two patients left and worked part-time, so I got her machine, where I left a teary message telling her that I wasn't me, that I had thoughts of hurting myself that couldn't belong to me. While I didn't immediately get an answer, I was sure just letting it out had helped. I felt so much better. Later that day, when she called me at work, I let out an embarrassed laugh. "I was just over-whelmed for a minute. I'm fine, and I'm sorry I bothered you." It was Halloween Day, 2001, just a month and a half after two planes crashed into the twin towers. Everyone was ready for the world to get back to its routine, and I was no exception. Shaelin had her little piglet costume all ready for that night. The doctor ended the call with me, and did something that today would probably get her fired: she called my husband.
He begged, pleaded, and finally demanded that we got to the mental health urgent care department immediately. I resisted, telling him that Shaelin wasn't going to miss her first Halloween; in my mind, the demon was telling me that my husband only wanted proof that I was crazy so that he could take the baby when he divorced me.
I went into the waiting room with my arms crossed, my foot tapping, anger and fear at war with my lucidity. The big tattooed male nurse who talked to me made me feel "normal" for the first time in months. The therapist that came in to talk to me wanted me to admit myself to the hospital for a few days, and I explained in the only words that would pass my lips: "I will die without my baby. I'm better when I'm near her."
They made my husband promise to stay with me over the next few days as I set up appointments with therapists and psychologists. My mother came over when he couldn't be there. I wish I could say that I was immediately better; but the truth is that it took me a long time. It took medication to re-set the chemical imbalance in my brain, which had started with a miscarriage, worsened with pregnancy and delivery, and pushed me over the edge with the death of my brother.
But it did get better. The demon receded and I could finally remember who I was, could find my lucidity and embrace it. Years later, it's even easy to laugh at how "crazy" I was. But I try not to--I try to remember that in that moment, it wasn't crazy, it was my existence. I want my daughters and son to know that depression--the demon--can rear its ugly head, and that it won't be funny, they won't be laughed at, and that it can get better if they can only find the courage for one moment to reach out.
If you or anyone you know is suffering from depression, please reach out. Help is available. Call The National Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK(8255) or visit afsp.org.