It is far too familiar-- the taste in my mouth hot, rancid, bitter on the edges. I back away from it, shaking my head--no--but I know what this is. The looming self-loathing, widening darkness, the new world I am thrust into, far from anything like cheerfulness, lightheartedness. It's all familiar, the way I am deadened, irritable, unable to focus. The whispers when I am shopping:
"I'm not very good at this." I shrug them off, or I try.
"Nonsense," I whisper back. "What's to be good at? I know how to look for wormholes in the tomatoes, I know how to tell a bitter cucumber."
"All of it, I'm not good at any of it. At life. I hate myself," the whispers say.
"I am loved," I say back. "And this is only shopping."
"Soon the fruit will crash all around me, I'll be slipping on the market floor. They'll be angry. They already are." That's the whisperer again, the whisperer who is me with a bag over my head, led from place to place like a hostage.
"Nonsense," I say. And I flee.
I know what this is, and it comes at what seems like the most unfair time, it spirals into my life, an out-of-control car through the glass of a flower shop, just when I'm heady with delight over my new baby. It dulls the beauty of this first year, it has done the same four times before. This thing, postpartum depression, has marked up six years of my life so far, and here it is, back again. I can't bear to look into the coming days.
I drive off on my scooter in the dark after midnight, unable to sit with my own self hatred any longer. I know, I think . I just won't talk anymore. I'll go far away inside, where no one can find me.
But even as I think it, I know it can't be. I'm in the market, I'm under the sky, I'm surrounded by people. By children. I can't turn away, they won't let me. God wouldn't let me.
And it wouldn't be good.
I know what this is, and here's the one good thing-- that I know. I have its number. It's not quite under my thumb perhaps, but I can talk back to it. Swirls of heat and pain steam from me, but I can smile and be calm and be kind. Most of the time. I can pretend, but it's really so hard for me to feel any different. I act in ways I don't feel, because action determines the quality of my days, rather than feeling. Action determines the health of my family, the strength of my marriage. I write my lists, I pay attention, I somehow propel myself through what seem like unending days. I act lighthearted, sometimes funny. I act happy. And underneath, all the while, the streams of sadness.
It won't be forever, I know this too. Around the time I wean my baby, when he is fifteen months or so, this will lift from me and I will be reintroduced to myself, a girl who is never free from shades of melancholy, but often happy, recognizable, smiling even on the inside. It's not forever.
I know what this is and I find that I am angry about it, that I see again how many years I've lost to this.
But the years are not quite lost, and this is why writing is all the more powerful to me. Even if I can't feel enjoyment, I can write about beautiful, funny, and poignant things, and in the telling, they come alive, they are as real as if I felt them. I write down my stories and in them, my husband is a Superstar, my kids are funny and quirky, my life is beautiful. God is all around, giving gifts in every day, his voice muted by my own panic, but still there. This is the way these beloveds always are, even when my vision is foggy and I only want to hide away. In forcing myself to pay attention, I don't get totally lost in the swirling darkness, it will not take me away and get the better of me. In acknowledging the simplest, most restrained things, I become free.