I saw a naturopath recently, and she told me she thinks I’m walking on the edge of postpartum depression. “You could go either way,” she said. She suggested I take St. John’s Wort to alleviate my depressive symptoms.
This was after I was telling her about what feels like the dark heaviness of the world these days. I brought that weight into her office with me and I think it made her uncomfortable. I was also describing to her our family’s current modus operandi of “hibernation,” and I think all she heard was “I don’t want to go outside anymore.”
After she went and got a flower essence for me (I declined the St. John’s Wort), she came back and let me know that she’d like to see me again soon to make sure I don’t slip into full-on depression.
I told her that it kind of blew my mind that feeling this weight isn’t everyone’s experience right now. I didn’t tell her this part, but I felt perplexed that a brief mention of how totally fucked the world seems right now resulted in an almost-diagnosis and $50 worth of new herbal tinctures. She responded by saying that there needs to be “room for the light” in my life as well as the dark, and that it’s still important to enjoy the beauty of things. I think she used the word “hope” at one point, but by then I was tuned out.
Now, I know that I already tend toward the melancholic end of the spectrum, and I have a family history of postpartum depression, so it’s something that I take seriously.
But for her to assume that there’s not space in my soul for light because I’m sensitive to the darkness that’s all around didn’t resonate with me. Even though I instantly got a “no” from my body while I was in her office, it took me days of processing to come back to that conclusion. I left with all sorts of confusing thoughts: “Oh my god, am I depressed?,” “Am I denying my baby what she needs?,” “What if I have depression and am too depressed to know it?,” etc.
This visit came at an interesting time, because I feel like I’m finally, for once, really tuning in to what it means to rest. I’m learning more about my heightened perception and about how to honor the part of me that doesn’t want to put rose-colored glasses on all the time.
Does this mean I’m depressed? I don’t know. I think that word gets thrown around too loosely and that there’s a wide range of its expression. I’ve also been formally diagnosed with depression in the past and took anti-depressants for many years before finding that all I really needed was to find my own right path.
Today, the word ‘depression’ doesn’t fit for me. I don’t feel depressed. I feel awake, and soft, and like I’m learning how to exist in a bigger and more meaningful way.
Parenthood is still really hard sometimes, and I know I need more mom friends and support, but for now I want to stay attuned to my body and the consciousness that’s unfolding.
I want to stay in the dark a little longer, resting, waiting, and feeling. That can be uncomfortable sometimes, especially when I interface with people who are naturally more effervescent and active, but I know that if I try to be too bubbly or out in the world right now, something precious will be lost.
The key for me is to be intentional with the times I hang out in that liminal, dark space of not knowing and to be aware of anytime it feels like it’s no longer a choice to be there.
I wonder how many of us are finally excavating our internal landscapes and waking up to the mega-systems of oppression around us. I wonder how many of us in that process are being told that we’re not handling it very well because when we talk about it, it feels dark and heavy in the room.
Maybe it just is dark and heavy.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing.
Many of us in Western culture don’t really know how to carry something like this - something so big and vast as society or climate change - but we’re trying to learn.
Just because I feel the weight of the world sometimes doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate my daughter’s laugh or the way the crows call to each other on our walks.
For me, waking up to this pain and the suffering of others is part of the process of becoming whole. For decades, I was shielded from a lot of it, and because of the privilege I carry, I could still bury my head in the sand and tune most of it out. But that would mean that I wasn’t participating fully in my own life, my own global home, and I don’t want to do that anymore.
Which isn’t to say I’m great or that I have anything figured out, just that I want to become comfortable with the dark and heavy feelings.
Learning how to do that will allow me to participate more meaningfully in the revolution that’s underway in our world right now.
Each of us is the authority over our own life, and that includes the authority to choose how we label the transformations we go through. No one - however prestigious their background or lengthy their resume - is in your body or walking your path. Your path is named only for you, and there’s a wisdom in each of us that knows what we need.
The point of my sharing this with you today is to remind you of your own inner wisdom and to encourage you to notice and honor any resistance that comes up when you’re in the presence of so-called “experts” who want to diagnose you or use a label that doesn’t resonate with you.
These people could be doctors, coaches, and even bosses who think that you should apply for this promotion, or take that project, or work on such and such skill.
You get to decide. Always.
If this is a tough area for you - if you’re someone who, like me, has deferred to other people for answers - consider pausing the next time you want to reach out for advice.
Notice how you are in presence with someone else who seems intimidating or like they’re “farther along” than you. Most likely, you become small in your body (hunched over, quiet voice, lethargic) and create too much space for them in the control room of your life. I know this posture intimately and don’t judge you if it’s familiar to you, too.
Right now, see if you can imagine the trunk of a tree running through your core, rooted to the earth through your pelvic floor.
Notice how you feel in your body.
Try imagining this strong, stable, nourishing tree running through your core the next time you’re in a room with one of these “experts.” See how it changes the dynamics of your conversation and even of your relationship.
If you’re a postpartum-depression-edge-walker who has also felt confused and conflicted, or if you’re just a person feeling the weight of the world these days, I hope you’ll be diligent about finding healers and helpers who really see you and respect your authority over your own life.
You deserve that. We all do.