Monday, December 21, 2015

Watching My Nervous Breakdown on Timehop

I tried so hard to look happy and normal.

It started out innocently enough. I downloaded Timehop, the app that shows you your social media activity on today's date 1, 2, 3+ years ago. You see baby pictures of your kids, relive first days at new jobs, laugh at your own daily wittiness.

But several months ago, I started to notice a trend. I'd acquired Facebook a little over seven years ago - exactly when my daughter Stella was born. Instantly, I began to use Facebook to annoy everyone with a near-constant stream of cute baby photos.

But in between impossibly adorable pictures of Stella's chubby cheeks, there were status updates that caused a lump in my throat. Updates that, to some, probably seemed mundane.

Randi tired.

Randi girding her loins for a night of no sleep.

Randi Skaggs...needs a buoy.

Randi Skaggs...would pay $3,000,000 for 3 more hours of sleep.

(This was back in the day when you filled in your third person status update after your name, by the way.)

Just another tired new mom, complaining about her lack of sleep. Nothing crazy.

Except there was crazy. So much crazy. It started a couple of months after Stella's birth, when I realized that better sleep wasn't "just around the corner," like everyone promised. When I realized the dark feelings I had weren't just the "baby blues." When I found myself drowning in anxiety and anger and alienation from friends who were trying their best to reach out to me. Leaving messages on my page like,

Hey Randi! Stella sure is a cutey! I'd be happy to come over and watch her so you can sleep.

Hey Randi! How's it going? I know it's hard to talk on the phone right now, but I'm here if you need me.

Hey girl! How's motherhood? Don't forget to take care of yourself, too! Stella needs a happy mommy.

Funny. In my memory, nobody cared about me. Nobody loved me. I just annoyed everyone. Yet here were messages on top of messages from people trying to help me. People I wouldn't let near me.

I couldn't let someone watch Stella because I was certain she'd die if not under my watch. I didn't want people to come around because I was afraid they'd witness one of my many "snaps" - like screaming at my upstairs neighbor when he made too much noise or losing my you know what on the delivery man who accidentally gave my neighbors my package. I didn't want them to see me absolutely failing at motherhood. I was ashamed.

So I spiraled downward, until, 16 months post her birth - I found myself in the psychiatric ER, begging the staff to help me stay alive.

It's hard to watch the spiral of my descent on social media.

Randi resigned.

Randi in Hell today.

Randi drinking as much wine as the breastfeeding manuals will allow.

All I see when I read it is "Randi Skaggs...needs help. Randi Skaggs...needs help. Randi Skaggs...needs help."

So now I'm a little pushy when my friends have babies. I tell them 150 times to get help early if something doesn't feel right. I tell them that post-partum problems don't always mean crying for no reason or feeling listless. It can mean feeling like you can't leave your baby for a moment for fear something bad will happen. It can mean feeling downright homicidal - maybe not toward your baby (although that can happen), but maybe toward your partner or family or neighbors. It can mean feeling like ending your life would be a blessing to those around you, most of all your child who doesn't deserve to be raised by you. It can mean feeling totally alone, even when people keep reaching out to you.

It's hard to see this play out over and over, but my story has a happy ending. I did get help, and I had a strong, incredible spouse who stayed with me through it all. I'm still here to parent Stella and now her baby brother, Sam. I'm still here to help the kids I teach, and love the people in my life. And maybe I'm here to prevent some other new mom from going down that same road that I traveled, the one I'll revisit when I open my Timehop again tomorrow morning.

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