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Facing The Pit Beast: a Tale of Postpartum Depression

By Charlotte W.F. Smith

When I used to hear that someone was having a baby, I would naively bombard them with excitement. Where are you registered? Do you have a nursery theme? When are you due? You must be so excited! I had no idea.

People talked about the pregnancy glow, how it’s this beautiful thing and then you have this beautiful child and every day is beautiful and life is beautiful, beautiful, beautiful. Some will mention the baby blues. I only knew about pregnancy-induced depression and postpartum depression and anxiety because it runs in my family. I figured since I already have depression and anxiety, it couldn’t be that bad.

God, I was so, so wrong.

I’d experienced crippling depression and anxiety in my life before becoming pregnant with my daughter. Going for days without eating (or really moving from the couch), being too overwhelmed to complete simple tasks, having to make lists to be accountable for daily things like brushing my hair. Each depressive episode had a unique pitfall though. This past year or so, it’s as if every insecurity, every trigger for my OCD and anxiety, every situation where my senses could be overwhelmed, every panic attack and depressive episode combined into one adversary. I call it The Pit Beast.

When The Pit Beast strikes (usually only once or twice a day now, instead of 24/7), it feels like a kraken is trying to burst its way out of my stomach and swallow me whole. Usually it’s triggered by something other people might find ridiculous, like trying to focus on measuring my daughter’s formula while people are talking to me and the TV’s on, someone offering to clean my house for me (oh God, no, they’ll do it wrong and I’ll have no idea where anything is unless I follow their every move or go back and clean up after them), or someone grabbing a bag or purse off my arm while I’m holding my daughter, in an attempt to help, without giving me warning. I used to freeze up, maybe shudder a little, and move on.

You can only hold that in for so long, though, and when I couldn’t hold it in anymore, I’d yell at well-meaning people, burst into tears, or hyperventilate.

As time went on, those closest to me realized I was not, in fact, fucking around when I’d say “back up and leave me alone” for the third time that day. They  came to realize that they’d missed the warning signs I’d given, and that I’d become so familiar with the breaking point that I had tea there daily.

“Just listen to me,” I’d plead, repeatedly. My family, especially, has had to learn that while they may have good intentions, that’s what the road to hell is paved with. I’ve got enough hell going on as it is.

Of course, I love my daughter. That is what’s keeping me alive.

I had no idea I’d nearly die and end up with an emergency C-section 28 weeks into my pregnancy, but I did. I gave birth to an absolute badass in the process. I’m sure one day I’ll loathe her inability to understand “no,” but right now, it means she also doesn’t understand “can’t.” When she does something her occupational or physical therapists say she shouldn’t be able to do yet, she gets this mischievous grin and wild look in her eyes that says, “Clearly, you don’t know me.”

I try to give myself grace. My daughter is happy and healthy, so clearly I’m not doing everything wrong.

At least I have that.

I listened to a song earlier in the tub, a new song from Lana Del Rey entitled “Hope is a dangerous thing for a woman like me to have – but I have it.” I listened to it three times, tears running down my face.

I have let many people down with my inability to keep up with commitments. I have hurt people with my honesty. I have hurt others by keeping silent.

But.

I have a husband who somehow still loves me. I have a daughter who reaches for me, and smiles when she sees me. I have friends who, despite the misery in my head, still manage to call me a friend.

A mom friend messaged me when I posted one day about my grandfather dying. He’d been dying for five months from complications from a car accident. He hated hospitals, hated being sick, and hated the idea of being on feeding tubes and ventilators. He was done. And so, as writers do, I wrote to process my feelings. Her message read: “What you wrote about your grandfather moooooved me. I want to read your book.” I thank the universe for it. Right words, right time.

I’d missed writing, but The Pit Beast had convinced me no one wanted to read what I had to say. I’d been gone too long. It might be wrong, though. So, I’m slipping out of its tentacles. Eventually, it will retreat.

Charlotte Smith is an esthetician licensed in Tennessee and Georgia. She’s married to a lumberjack version of Deadpool, is obsessed with huskies, is straight up in quarter-life crisis mode, and loves pretty much anything that could be considered creepy.

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