It comes out of nowhere, and yet, in retrospect I guess there are signs and symptoms of the spinning. Like when you’ve been drinking tequila shots all night, thinking you’re doing fine, and then BAM on the dance floor you are suddenly completely wasted and you wonder to yourself “how did this happen?” Of course, there ARE warning signs, but it’s hard for me to see them in the moment. The ramping up of my irritability that becomes more than sleepy, middle-of-the-night frustration at a poor latch and moves into an uncontrollable, unexplicalbe anger-bordering-on-rage,that makes absolutely NO sense, and leaves me despondant, detached, with feelings of incredible guilt after the episode passes.
It didn’t start out this way. There was a mostly blissful bubble, punctured by perfectionism and my desire to be the best mom ever, get my kid to latch on without a nipple shield, exclusively breastfeed to get him back up to birth-weight (rather than supplement with formula given by our pediatrician), to lost the baby-weight, to be up and around entertaining people post-partum like a combination of Wonder Woman and Betty Crocker. I had showered a mere 1.5 hours after birth, was wearing mascara and eye-liner during our first pictures with baby, and had an awesome amount of energy in the first few days that felt brilliant.
There were a few little moments of irritability that left me concerned enough to at least mention it to my midwife and husband that I was afraid I was heading into a tunnel. Nights were particularly bad, but not always bad. That’s the dangerous part of all of this, is that there seems to be no rhyme or reason to the nights with spinning thoughts, irritability, despair, guilt and the nights where I nurse with ease and we go about our sleeping business with relatively little interuption, 1.5 or 2 hours at a time, before we begin our little routine of nurse-burp-change diaper-nurse-burp-sleep, again.
So last night, when I woke up and the only language I could must were “fuck yous,” I handed the little one to Boof and curled up in bed. I thought of dying. I thought of running away. I thought that everyone would be better off without me. I felt worthless and detached and angry. And then I felt sad. And my thoughts spun rapidly out of control down this horrible rabbit hole into a nightmare of Wonderland proportions. Though I am experienced with depression and anxiety, I have not felt this level of despair in years. And then, after almost an hour, it went away and I nursed with ease, and slept like a rock (until we did our routine again). My humor and sweetness and ability to communicate returned as switftly as it left, which should comfort me, but actually scares me more than anything.
Because, when drinking tequila shots and getting out of control wasted is a choice, and while I can’t necessarily know if 8 drinks will cause that out-of-control drunk space, I can know that 1 drink, or 0 drinks, will not. But this feeling of spinning isn’t caused by alcohol or drugs. It is something more sinister, inside of me, that turns on and off without any apparent reason. Though I suppose I can begin to analyze the ramp-up to the point at which I had to hand our child over because I couldn’t be quite sure that I was safe enough for myself, let alone to be a mother.
And just like being drunk, the incredible next-day embarassment and walk of shame, facing my husband who triaged the situation, lingers inside my mind. Human guilt and mom guilt colliding as I wonder “what the hell is wrong with me? Why can’t I get it together?”