THE following letter was written by a Winnipeg mother who has suffered from postpartum depression. The Free Press has agreed to withhold the identity of the letter writer.
As I have been reading the stories over past two days about Lisa Gibson and the death of her two precious children, I feel such sorrow and grief over what has transpired.
For me, postpartum depression was a never-ending pit of despair, one I thought I couldn't ever bring myself out of.
My daughter was born in July of 2006, and by September I felt like I was living in a prison that no one could see but me. Everyone around me was thrilled about the baby and kept saying "you are so lucky, you must be so excited, isn't it wonderful..." But I dreaded every moment I had to spend alone with my baby. I couldn't sleep, no matter what. And many doctors will say lack of sleep is one of the first signs of depression. If I tried to sleep, my mind would keep saying "the baby will wake up, you're going to have to wake up, you need to take care of her first." I would beg my husband not to go to work, but I couldn't even explain why I didn't want to be with the baby.
I didn't want to take care of her, I just wanted to lie down and die. The very idea of having to move through my days made me physically ill. I thought it would be better if I was dead. I never wanted to hurt her, but I thought everyone would be better off if I died. No matter how hard I tried, I could not express the joy and happiness everyone so desperately thought I should be feeling. The guilt of not being in love with your child is overwhelming.
When I did get to go out on my own, I would drive to parking lots or empty streets and cry in my car -- I literally could not see a way out. The thought I would have to take care of this baby every day, no matter what, scared me more than death.
I finally went to my doctor for help. At that point I hadn't slept in almost a month and there are weeks in the fall of 2006 I don't remember. I was prescribed medication, however, it takes six weeks for it to take effect.
One Saturday morning, my husband was supposed to leave to play baseball, and I would NOT get out of my bed. I would not feed the baby -- I wouldn't even speak to him. I lay in the bed crying and moaning, completely out of my mind. That was my breaking point. I was only a few days into the anti-depressants, but my mind and my body couldn't function anymore.
Fortunately, I was rescued -- by my husband and my family. The baby and I went to live with my in-laws for over a month, had round-the-clock care until the medication started working, and I felt human again. I also joined a support group through Women's Health Clinic. However, it took close to six months before I could honestly say I was "better."
Postpartum depression is not simply crying over little things, or being a little sad. It consumes your whole life and can cause tragic consequences.
I am lucky, but not everyone is.