Friday, August 5, 2011

Putting together the pieces

I've been trying for awhile now to think how best to describe my PPD.  With something so complex and strange it's often easier to see it as a metaphor in order to tackle it.  I think I've finally settled on a puzzle.  A great, big, floor puzzle.

When we came home as a family of three I had been through quite the trauma.  I've struggled with depression all my life and towards the end of my pregnancy I was starting to feel it creep up on me.  Labor was dramatic and when it was finally time to go home I was still struggling to comprehend what had happened.  There were feelings of euphoric joy mixed with a nagging feeling of despair.  If I was a whole person, a whole picture, before I had my child then after I was a broken puzzle.  The pieces had been thrown in the box and the box had been shaken up - hard.  They didn't just break apart, they bent at the corners and tore the paper from the cardboard.  If you saw my puzzle at the thrift store you wouldn't buy it.  It was trash.

I started to put the puzzle back together very slowly.  Only I was piecing it together blind, upside down, the cardboard up and the picture a total mystery underneath.  All I had to go on was the vague shape that might match up with another vague shape.  There were no colors or images to help.  No yellow in the corner, no purple flower, no blue sky piece.  It was all just drab brown.  I fully admit that had I sought more help I might have been able to flip some of the pieces over sooner.  I went to counseling, but every time I visited she would ask "Is today the day you're going to finally take some anti-depressants?" and every time I would answer "No."  At group counseling every mother told me how much better, how much easier, it was with medication.  But I demurred.  I had my reasons.  They were really stupid reasons and it was a really stupid decision.

But, thankfully, I got some of the pieces together anyway.  Some of who I was is back together.  However, now that there are some edges, I have some huge portions ready to go, I notice that there are a lot of pieces missing.  A lot of pieces aren't in the box.  Some of the pieces are things that I was before I was pregnant or a mother.  They are gone now and I'm not sure if I want them back.  Some of those holes are shapes I've never seen before and I'm not sure what is supposed to fill them.  Around the bits that have been put together are huge holes where I can't place anything.  The worst part, since this is a floor puzzle, is that in order for me to place the pieces I do understand I have to step over these holes.  Sometimes I slip and I fall in.  That's when I find myself wondering who the heck I am, what I'm doing, and if I'm really just a trashed puzzle with a bunch of missing pieces.  Who wants a puzzle that can't be put together whole?  Who wants a person who can't even put together a partial puzzle?

It would be better, I think, if I saw myself and my state as a painting.  A blank canvas ready to suck up whatever beautiful color I mixed up.  Being a puzzle constrains me, it puts up hard edges and specific rules.  A female piece will not fit into another female piece, a male piece cannot be forced over another.  In a painting you could always paint over if not erase.  A puzzle demands there only be one piece for one place, there is no room for error or place holders.  It would be better if I wasn't a puzzle.  But, I can't see myself as anything else right now.  And the holes really bother me.