COMMENTARY: ‘I am lucky I had a moment of clarity’

The crushing weight of hating my life, my new children and resenting my spouse was not what I expected after becoming a new mother of two healthy babies.

I knew I was perfectly capable of loving and had enjoyed a nursing career where I cared for others at their most critical times — but I was unable to love even myself. I felt the emotional highs and lows of my patients, so the last thing I expected was to feel numb. From the outside, I was a successful nurse married to a doctor and I was known for my happy, carefree personality. My pregnancy was joyful and I carried my twins to full term. I had a good life, a big house, wonderful friends, and I still couldn’t scrape myself off the floor.

The day we arrived home from the hospital, I locked myself in the nursery. I rarely left the rocking chair over the next two weeks, for fear of my infants dying. I slept two hours a day and was hyper-alert, yet bored and disinterested. I went through the motions, caring for my infants and meeting their basic needs, but I felt numb. Everyone told me it would be a joyful time, that I would never love anyone like I loved my children the first second I saw them, and that there is no joy as fulfilling as motherhood. I felt overwhelmed, distrustful, obsessive, resentful and very angry. Breastfeeding was stressful, my house was a mess, I had no social support and I was distraught. Initially, when I told my mother I wanted to kill myself, she laughed and said, “Who can be so sullen and angry with a set of newborn twins and a husband who loves you?”’

I formed a plan to end my life. When I researched where to buy a firearm, I started to pray for an intervention. The fog temporarily lifted and I decided it was time to talk to my primary-care physician. I was lucky enough to have good insurance, which many do not. I cancelled three appointments before walking into the office, hysterical and lonely. Looking back, it was the darkest place in my life. I am lucky I had a moment of clarity.

I stumbled upon an online group for new mothers. As soon as I read that other mothers were feeling the same way I was, I found a ray of hope and clung to it to keep myself alive. In recovery from Postpartum Depression, I try to be a beacon for women who are despondent or embarrassed. Mothers are the backbones of society and the warmth and love of communities. My hope is that all women know there are other people who share their experiences and that you can recover as long as you find hope.

We have seen recent shocking news stories of celebrity suicides. One in eight people has a serious mental illness. In your group of friends, at least one is seriously struggling. Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain were experts in their respective fields with abundant resources and the public’s love. Millions of people are distraught over their deaths. Pain can go unnoticed and the brightest smiles can hide the most pain.

Let us not be silent. Be a light to others and ask how they are doing. I was saved by a group of mothers who never knew my real name. We can recover and flourish by making a simple connection to others. Love without action is silence. My hope is that no one else experiences the depths of despair as I did, and that we never lose another mother or father to suicide.

Kristan Levy is a writer who lives in Oakwood.

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