I’ve always liked to smile. I like what it does to people. I like to see people go from disturbed and frustrated to relaxed and okay because of a smile and a kind word. But you only know what you see. It’s really not your fault. You see me smile and laugh and do my best to encourage others. You see my loving husband, my beautiful little girls, my amazing life. And you are right.
But that’s all you know because it’s all you see.
My constant smile exhausts me. It literally makes me tired. I smile all day to prevent you from seeing what is going on inside that I can’t control. They call it “Postpartum Depression.” But it’s really more like Hell. I can’t control my emotions. I can’t control my outbursts. I can’t control the tears, the rage, the overwhelming guilt. I smile as a prevention, if you will. I’m afraid that if you saw all these things I have a hard time controlling, you’d see me as what I fear I already am: a horrible person or worse- a hypochondriac, a hypocrite just looking for attention.
So I smile.
Meanwhile, my amazing husband holds me while I cry, forgives me while I rage about ridiculous things like entering through the exit, and reminds me that this is temporary and eventually will subside. But twenty months in, I have started to wonder. I fear this isn’t “postpartum” any longer.
While you tell me how you admire how I smile constantly, I think about how I yelled for the hundredth time at my precious four-year-old for doing something four-year-olds do. I think about how many days, I end up a sobbing heap on the floor and can’t explain why. What sweet child should see her mother do these things? Even worse, she wants to be just like me when she grows up and I’m terrified of what that could mean if she is to pick up the behaviors I’ve exhibited over the past two years.
I can’t explain what it’s like to have a great life, to know how great it is, and yet somehow not be able to enjoy it fully. Or what it’s like to feel like a fraud every. single. day. because I fake it. Or to wonder how I can fake it for the outside world, but not for my own husband and kids- the three people in the world who mean the most to me, who I love more than life itself. I can’t explain the feeling of getting in the car after work and crying after having held it together all day, but not knowing why I’m crying. Because I actually feel pretty happy right then.
And I know- it’s technically “hormones being imbalanced.” But I still feel they should have gone back to normal by now. I’m terrified that this is the new normal.
I wish I could understand how I feel. I wish I could just be me again. But, I’m not me. I’m someone I don’t recognize and I certainly don’t like.
I am the girl who always smiles…