Dear Lindsay Clancy

postpartum*Please note that this post contains sensitive topics related to postpartum mental health (anxiety, depression, psychosis). If you are experiencing these, please call 988. You matter, and you are not alone *

Dear Lindsay,

Oh, Mama, I see you. You were failed by a system that does not care about mothers; does not listen to mothers, even when we are shouting as loud as we can, asking for help, and doing the things instructed to us. You are a mother of three, a labor and delivery nurse, a woman who, despite her best efforts, experienced postpartum psychosis, which led to her babies being killed by her own hand prior to her jumping from a window in an effort to take her own life. It is tragic and heartbreaking.

Here’s the thing: I could have been you. I know postpartum anxiety and depression well.
And so, allow me to pull the curtain back for everyone who cannot fathom this. Allow me to let you inside my head in hopes that you’ll understand our struggles a little more. Let me shout the things we shouldn’t keep quiet about.

To the world, everything is unchanged in this postpartum season. For me, it creeps in like the morning rays hitting the hardwood. Silent and unassuming.

Filling each crack, every crevice, until it is the only visible thing.

Heavier than a cumulonimbus cloud, on the precipice of storm; an unyielding line of swirling chaos waiting to open up.

It seeps, like the first melting of snow seeps into the ground creating spring mud. It seeps, like the rotting bag of salad in the fridge. You know, the one you swore would be eaten.

Consuming, like the shadows dancing in the dark as the hall light barely glows. Hungry, much resembling circling of wolves starved in the belly of harsh winters.

And so you sit, warm skin against cold porcelain. Arms aching against worn knees, white knuckles gripping at themselves in an effort to maintain a sense of control.

And so you breathe, attempting regulation so that the demons stay at bay. Inhale, hold, exhale; lungs demanding air despite the tightness in your chest. Skeletons bang at the closet door, demanding release as your pulse races.

And so you will the tears to not be there, pools of emotions threatening to overspill eyes that have seen too much, that have cried too much. They slam shut, efforts to keep the salt from spilling failing. Not this time, you beg as you search the very depths of yourself for the heart to simply stand.

Nothing is simple, though, is it?

You know this foe, familiar in its emptiness. It’s one that you’ve thought you defeated. Instead, it lurks, biding time until you are comfortable. It seems larger this time, more formidable.

All it takes is an unassuming spark to send the towers and the walls crumbling down. Despite your efforts, despite the fight, here you are again.

Frozen, as it begins curling around you, smoke tendrils you wish weren’t. A whisper, coaxing you deeper until all you see is nothing, senses overwhelmed.

Barren, stripped of any emotion other than the paralyzing grip it has on every cell, every morsel of being. A desert in which the hell isn’t heat but is a wasteland of frigidity.

You can’t afford to break, to let it win. But you’re already broken, bandaged in places to hold yourself together, much like Kintsugi.

A voice calls for you, one that cuts through the cloak weighing you down.

Mama? The voice calls, seeking comfort that only you can provide. Colors and warmth radiate from the other side of the wooden door, in stark contrast to this bathroom.

And so you squeeze your eyes harder, attempting a shaking loose of limbs, as you scramble to lift off the tile. Maybe this last time is the last time. Something inside screams at you to ask for help.

Instead, you stuff it all back down. You cannot let the pot boil over, let it reach the surface. This is your darkness, and you refuse to let it taint the colors surrounding that little voice.

Smothering it to what you hope becomes ashes, you wipe the tears from your face and open the door.

If you or someone you know is struggling, please call 988.

Reach out even when it is easier said than done. Keep shouting, keep begging someone-anyone-to hear you. A single postpartum visit at six weeks is not enough.

Postpartum anxiety, postpartum depression, and postpartum psychosis are real. You aren’t alone. You are not crazy.