I had to read Marrit Ingman's book for the title alone. And Inconsolable: How I Threw My Mental Health Out with the Diapers is not disappointing me. Ingman is smart, funny, not afraid of four-letter words, and so honest it hurts. On every page I find myself nodding my head, thinking, "Yes, yes, yes. I remember feeling like that." The times when I wanted to punch a hole in the wall and I screamed at my children instead. Or when I fantasized about swerving the car into oncoming traffic. Just like that, and everyone's problems would be over. (Not just my problems, but the raw deal Justin and the kids got of a defective, crappy wife and mother. I'm screwing them up for life, I'd think. They'd be better off without me.) Marrit Ingman writes about those feelings, too. All the feelings mothers may have that are too ugly to admit to. SHE GETS IT. Because she's been there, and come through to the other side. And she's really good at writing about her experiences with shattering immediacy, as if they are still happening while she's writing about them and while you are reading about them. Because they are happening right now, if not to her or to you, to some mother out there.
This book is for women who are struggling with motherhood: the impossible expectations we put on ourselves, the crushing weight of inadequacy and the rising tide of anxiety that threaten to overwhelm us. It is for anyone who has ever imagined, even for one tiny second, about leaving the baby on someone's doorstep and vanishing into another identity where you are not responsible for anyone, especially anyone who screams all night. Ingman mentions that she wanted to commit suicide, but she couldn't find a babysitter. That was me. I thought about gassing myself in the car, but I couldn't think of an excuse to get someone to watch the baby. And then who would pick Miss Pink up from school? What would Justin tell her? No, I wouldn't be able to kill myself that day. Interestingly, that realization did not make me feel better.
Now, of course, I'm so grateful I wasn't crazy enough to commit suicide. Thankful beyond words for that scrap of responsibility toward my children that tied me to this earth. (I remember sobbing to myself, "I'm beyond trapped! I can't even make the most basic choice--whether or not to KILL MYSELF!" The very thing that brought me to the brink of insanity also saved my life: motherhood. I knew I couldn't let my children grow up wondering why I hadn't loved them enough to stay alive. I couldn't leave them that legacy, which would overshadow their lives and possibly poison their relationships. And so there was only one thing left to do. I had to fight like hell to get better.
I did it because I decided I didn't deserve to suffer in silence. It wasn't my fault that this illness had happened to me. I was sick of being gagged and stuffed with mother guilt. I was terrified of the drugs not working, of the doctors being condescending, of ending up in a straitjacket hollering about aliens implanting computer chips in my brain. But the alternative was worse. So I yelled for help.
None of the things I feared happened to me, or at least not for long. Some of it happened to Ingman, and she shows that sometimes you have to push back at the system and try different things, even when you are least capable of exerting yourself. It helps to have someone advocate for you, which I did--my husband called the doctor when the sleeping aids weren't working, because I was too scared to tell the doctor I needed help AGAIN. (As if it were my fault the meds weren't working on me. There's a reason they call it "going crazy" and that's because a lot of your thoughts are crazy.)
If anyone is reading this and any of this is sounding familiar, please get help. Tell someone. Tell your spouse or partner, your best friend or your parent--whoever will take you seriously rather than telling you things will get better on their own. Call your doctor--and if your primary care doctor blows you off, go to your OB-GYN. (My doctor and nurse told me they wish more women would come to them for help for PPD.) Ingman says tackle the postal carrier if you have to. Call someone you trust to keep the baby and go away and do something for yourself, but don't beat yourself up if a couple hours alone isn't enough to restore you to cheerfulness. Therapy may very well help. Drugs are not the unthinkable, especially if you can't function when you're responsible for children. Psychiatrists are not evil mad scientists who long to drug you into a dazed stupor with no evidence of your former personality behind your now-dead eyes. Give yourself permission to say, "Something in me is broken, and I would like it to be healed."
There is help out there. And speaking for myself and Ingman--a sample size of two--it does get better with time, as well. But if you are at your breaking point and need help getting to the point at which you can enjoy your child(ren), do it. Do it for yourself first, then for your family.
They really need us, you know. They need us to do all the mom things like make lunches and sign permission slips and get them to bed on time (God, my husband would suck at those if he were a single dad). They need us to tuck them in at night and tell them we love them (preferably without having to apologize every night for our out-of-control behavior that day. Just some nights).
But most of all, they just need us to be there.
Marrit Ingman and I want you to stay here with us to say, "I survived. It happened to me and I lived to tell the tale." We want you to be glad you stayed.