Monday, October 5, 2009

bare bones

I'm sorry to say that I have no funny left in me today.  I'm definitely all out of funny.  If you are reading this for a well-needed laugh... stop here.

I was up last night from 4-6 a.m., which is a marked improvement from the night before that, when I was up for a much longer chunk of time.  You're probably thinking "well that's par for the course with a 3 month old baby," right?  The problem being - baby slept fine.  I was up all by my little self.

It's starting again.  I've been feeling it creep up for weeks now, but have tried hard to ignore it/will it away/deny it.  I had the same experience when Oliver was born, but with him it happened a lot earlier.  I really thought I was in the clear this time.  Turns out, not so much.  I call it post partum anxiety (PPA), but I don't think there's really a term for it at all (or if there is, I've never heard of it).   It's like waking up in a cold sweat with your own personal horror film playing, reeling over and over in your mind.  But it's not a bad dream, because you're already awake; hating yourself for having such horrible thoughts and yet unable to stop them.

People have started, more and more, to talk about post partum depression.  Public health nurses and midwives and docs screen for it regularly.  But I'm not depressed.  (You'll have to trust me when I say that I'm well aware of what depression looks and feels like).   I'm not sad.  I don't want to hurt myself.  I don't want to hurt my kids.  I am, at times, totally immobolized by the fear that someone else is going to hurt my kids. This does not come up on the screening questionnaires for PPD.  And although the nurses always ask "how are you?"  I can't imagine answering that question by saying, "well actually, I can't sleep because I keep imagining that someone is going to break into my house and jump on my baby's head, or make me watch as they drag my toddler behind their car, or pour gasoline around my house and burn us all alive."  (And these are only the ones that I can actually bring myself to say out loud).   I would sound insane.  I do sound insane.  Which, I can't help pointing out here, I am not.

I'm totally fine, though exhausted, during the day.  I'm not even a particularly anxious parent.  But when night falls, the reel starts up again and takes on a life of its own.  It is, in a word, torture.   The worst part it, are the moments when I wonder if it's my fault.  I mean, what kind of sick brain could even think of things so awful?  Do I subconsciously resent my kids?   Do I hate being a parent?   Am I a crappy parent?  In my more forgiving moments, I know these things aren't true.

Some really smart person once told me that becoming a parent is like wearing your heart on the outside.  I think this analogy is spot-on, as they say.  And I think that this (along with the help of some pretty strong hormone action) is where my cold-sweat-awake-night-terrors stems from.  Becoming a parent has made me acutely aware that I love these two little creatures more fully and fiercely than I thought myself capable of loving anyone or anything.  So the idea of anything bad happening to them is pretty much equal to my own emotional annihilation.  And since wearing your heart on the outside makes it awfully difficult to protect, maybe the horror reel, though really ugly and awful, kind of makes sense.  Maybe being a parent, on some level, means accepting our powerlessness to protect our children from the bad stuff.   

With Oliver the PPA passed pretty quickly, maybe a month or two.   Until then, I eagerly await the arrival of my new treadmill tomorrow, so I can run myself into total exhaustion before bed, and hopefully go back to getting some sleep.   Because right now, my kids are just getting the bare bones of me.  And that's not fair to any of us.


  1. T - I experience a similar phenomenon, but its episodic. Usually right before I fall asleep at night (usually after I've already fallen asleep but the book falling on my face wakes me up) I start having these 'really really worst case scenarios' about my babies. I won't tell you what they are b/c I don't want to add to your repertoire...its awful and paralysing and I don't know how to make it stop either. Usually I wake up my husband and tell him and saying it out loud makes me realize that its a little ridiculous. I'm sure L. would listen at 4 am to calm you down...a well placed supply of Ativan probably wouldn't hurt either.

  2. T - Nat told me YESTERDAY she was experiencing exactly what you describe. Over the top visions of horrible traumas for our baby. She is really disturbed by this - as am I for her!- and we are not sure what to do. Probably wait for a week or 2 and see if it gets better on its own... if not - I am sending back to the psychologist we know and trust for a top-up. She tends towards anxiety, and we can't let this develop into something more permanent.... hope your treadmill does the trick!

  3. Thanks girls- though I don't wish this experience on anyone, it's certainly nice to know that others can relate!

  4. T, In the world that we live in, it isn't much of a stretch for our anxious selves to take and twist the world's atrocities and insert our loved ones into the scenarios. This is not a reflection on you. I hope the anxiety subsides for you but if it doesn't, I hope you'll see/talk to a professional who can help so it doesn't continue creeping in to everyday life.