I remember sitting at a psychologist’s office in New York City on a beautiful spring day, with the gentle sounds of piano from a far-off CD player faintly humming in my ears, the scent of my herbal tea mingling with the many complementing scents of the potted flowers and vines lining the open, and large for Manhattan, window. It was a totally comfortable type of place, the interior designer obviously knew their stuff. But I was still a jumble of nerves– not because I was new to talking about my problems, no, but because the first session is always the hardest. You are inviting someone in to look at your life, your feelings, your failings and strengths, and allowing them to make a judgment. That’s nerve-wracking. I had been to 5 therapists/counselors/psychologists in my life- one all through high school because I was caught one too many times eating lunch alone in the library, one for a year at college because I was a very caring residential assistant, another at graduate school because my nutritionist believed I was depressed, another in NYC because my doctor was quite certain I was depressed, and the last in Germany for aiding in my adjustment. So you see, I’ve got loads of experience with this type of thing.
It’s not particularly hard for me to describe what I needed from these professional listeners during those different periods of my life. It always has, and always will, come down to my desire to feel connected to my family. I love family, I’m a family oriented type of person; I want to be surrounded by love through the thick and thin. I need unconditional love, loads of hugs, support and people to share memories with. But as it stands now, I’m more or less estranged from my dad, my Mom (the one who I connected to the most) passed away 7 years ago, and my sister and I have a relationship that is so complicated and convoluted from our clashing personalities, I could make a very tame- but still emotional, Lifetime movie of it. Petty arguments before my time distanced quite a bit of family and that never quite healed, and once I tried to make a go of things, I somehow failed to make strong bonds that could withstand the flimsiest of infractions. As for friends, it’s like testing a batch of pasta by throwing it against the wall; one -maybe two, might stick but the rest fall down leaving little watery traces. And that’s what I tried to say to this guy in NYC, while trying to nonchalantly drink my tea and not let the tears fall. He sat back in his chair and told me that none of this is my fault, I got a raw deal, I was seeking something that didn’t exist in my family and I was a walking ball of hurt. And then I cried. I cried so much, I never went back.
I’m totally hurt. I want a family like the ones you see in dramedies; big, complicated but loving. I want someone I can call for advice who can remind me of that time I did that thing that was so stupid and relevant to the problem I’d currently face. I want to laugh and feel like I belong. Especially now— especially after moving to Germany and feeling even more disconnected from the world I knew. Especially now that I have this beautiful bouncy, and busy!, baby and my overworked, stressed out, but wonderful husband, and I have few people to share the little stories of our lives together with. On one hand it’s my own fault; I could have tried harder to make more friends, I could have pretended that some of the friends I did have (and have now lost) cared about me as much as I cared about them, and I could have been less…. everything. Know what I mean? But on the other hand, sometimes people are just assholes and I can’t change that. I can’t click with everyone, and I can’t force something that just won’t work.
So it came as no surprise when, a few months back, my doctor over here told me I’m suffering from postpartum depression. She asked about my support network (don’t really have one). She asked me who I confide in– I said no one I feel comfortable with yet, not anymore, at least outside of my husband which stands to reason that if my husband and I argue, I have no one to sound off on. She asked if I want medicine (no), and then told me to get involved in mothers groups and do many baby activities. But the thing about ppd is that you are depressed and/but responsible for a tiny human being that you simply adore. The world seems gray and although that baby is a beam of sunshine, sometimes the grayness wins. You are so, so tired– things you used to be able to do seem like pushing a boulder uphill. Now it seems all my energy goes into making sure the baby has the best day ever, every day. And I’m kinda succeeding at that. But taking care of myself just isn’t a motivation when I feel so busy. I am more involved, I’m getting out of the house, and yes, I’m still tired, and there are days when food doesn’t touch my mouth (yet my girth remains unchanged). I can’t plan anything at all. I’ve been without my special shampoo for months, my clothes aren’t hung up in the closet, they are next to my side of the bed where I can go through them and find the least dirty thing to wear, my coat has lost a button months back, and and and…. I’m a new mom to an almost 1 year-old. These things are typical.
The most difficult thing though is the constant feelings of doubt, whether it’s parenting or personality, waves of self-loathing, and just feeling all around overwhelmed. Don’t get me wrong, there are way more moments when her sunshine breaks through and dissipates the gray, and I smile and laugh and love my life because I have two amazing people that make me honored and special to call my own. But the gray always comes back, and it has gotten better…. but I need more people. I need a network, I need the love and laughter, to be understood and appreciated for who I am and not who I should be. I know this now. I can’t do the casual thing anymore with fair weather friendships and call it the real thing. I just don’t know how to do this, mostly because I just don’t know how/who to be over here at the same time without coming off as a desperate weirdo. There’s got to be a way, right?
P.S. Sorry if this post seemed nonsensical, this has been weighing heavy on my mind now for so long, it was time to let it out. Thanks for reading and for some of you, commiserating and relating.