I first became aware of Charlotte Perkins Gilman's famous short story, The Yellow Wallpaper when I was in high school. I was very well versed in childbearing, labor, delivery, and infant care. My mother had been a childbirth educator and she was very open and honest about everything to do with human reproduction. I was deemed responsible enough to baby sit for weekends on end, often staying overnight.
(I know, right? Back then, I thought I was awesome. And while I was very responsible, nothing ever happened and I have very fond memories of the children I was baby-sitting, now I wonder, What the heck were those parents thinking?!)
I knew about post-partum depression and since my mother was an adoption worker, I knew about post-adoptive depression. I knew enough to know that the "rest cure" described in Gilman's work was a load of crock. I ached for the mother who wanted her baby. I knew enough to know that she needed help, yes, maybe some medicine but, mostly, she didn't need to be taken away from her baby.
I knew but I didn't truly know.
After the birth of my first child, I experienced mild depression that, in hindsight, was the result of my thyroid being out of whack. I had a large, cystic mass growing on my thyroid that caused me to experience a short luteal phase, hot flashes, weight loss (not a bad problem! ;p) and depression. The mass was taken out and I conceived my second child shortly after.
Although I had some mild problems after my second was born, it wasn't until the birth and NICU stay of my third that I had hard core- PPD and PTSD. I had depression, flashbacks and the inability to cope with daily life. Oh, and the anxiety!
On my biggest fears during this dark time was being taken away from my children. Logically, I knew it wasn't going to happen. My husband was able to help me and I was actively seeking treatment. I did well on medication and my children were never, ever in any danger.
While I was going through all this, though, "The Yellow Wallpaper" kept running through my head. I understood how someone could go mad and feel like they were trapped in the wallpaper with no way out. For a brief amount of time,I feared I was teetering on the edge, about to topple into the wallpaper with no way out.
It's my weird, twisted and literary sense of humor that led me to label posts that deal with PPD and PTSD "The Yellow Wallpaper." I might be healing, I might be managing, but the wallpaper is always there, surrounding me, sometimes fading from view, sometimes slapping me in the face. I know there are other women being drawn into the wallpaper, feeling alone, wondering if there is hope, a treatment.
There is. By speaking about the wallpaper, I want to reach in, draw them out and let them know they are not alone. The wallpaper might be there, but it doesn't have to grab them. There is help.
I know. I have lived it, survived it and they can too.