I Believe in the Power of Truth to Heal
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In 1998 after my daughter was born, I fell into a brief, but dark hole. As the weeks of sleep
deprivation and newborn crying got better, my feeling of “what have I done? — did not.
Post-partum depression crept in — and unmercifully left only the remains of my former self.
One morning, sitting on the porch I was eerily calm. I mumbled to my husband, “I have to tell you that I want to die, but I know I can’t so I won’t. I promise.” The horror behind my words shattered him. But sorrow outweighed any need to censor my thoughts.
I didn’t really want to die; only to sink into oblivion, to feel the opposite of whatever this was. But I chose to have a baby, and this didn’t fit, so maybe I wanted out. My mind tricked me, eventually numbing me into a state of resignation.
I knew in the purest sense that I loved my daughter; but maybe, I thought, I wasn’t supposed to be a mother. I never bought into the myth of the perfect new mommy, but I never expected to live such dark moments.
I was grateful for my beautiful baby, so how could gratitude and misery possibly co-exist? They could I reasoned — if I had made a terrible mistake. No one knew my secret — no one but my husband.
It felt like a melancholy movie was running in the background. I wanted it to stop, but someone kept pushing the play button. My brain’s hormonal mis-firings couldn’t sort out the confusing messages; but my deepest instincts reassured me that I was a good mother. My baby was happy and healthy.
She made me smile — and monsters didn’t smile did they?
In the months and years following; I spoke of my brief plunge into post-partum depression. I knew my story would get a raised eyebrow or two — but I also knew that truth overpowers the bruises of shame.
One day I mentioned to a couple of friends, the courage Brooke Shield’s showed when she revealed her own post-partum nightmare. A mother who I’d known for years said, “I just loved being a mom, right from the beginning. I just don’t understand”. I got up from the table and told her “you’re right — you don’t understand — be glad”. She and I often laughed and shared stories. But somehow my
raw honesty and sarcastic motherhood commentary made her squirm. Perhaps my admissions stirred up her own fear of maternal failure.
For years loving mothers have come to me with worry and tears. I knew that my story and words of hope could help pull them from their own chasm. When they heard my message, they might begin to replace the false monster in the mirror — with the reflection of who they really are.
I believe in the power of truth to heal — if you choose to let it.
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