Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Something Wasn't Right Here

As both a mothering and music professional, I feel uniquely qualified to comment on The Whole Britney Thing. Although what I feel about the situation really has nothing to do with music and everything to do with the dozens of moms I've seen on the very edge of their own head-shaving, wrist-tattooing meltdowns. Including me.

It really doesn't even have that much to do with Britney, either, come to think of it. But that's what got me thinking. When I saw her with the clippers in hand, the first thing in my head was, "Somebody get that girl a post-partum depression screening right now." Because going Kojak is just one of the many exciting self-destructive behaviors that depressed new mothers come up with, somewhere on the spectrum between living in sweatpants and driving into oncoming traffic. I didn't see her stubbly head and think of her career. I thought of her two babies, and her recent divorce, and the last couple months of well documented self-medicating.

I don't know the girl, of course, and I can't do anything but speculate and add one more useless opinion to the mix. I also can't really speak to the addiction element, if there is one, because although I have a long family history of substance abuse, I haven't been in that particular hole myself. (And anyway, Craig Ferguson did as thoughtful and honest a job of that as anyone could hope to.) But what I have been is a depressed mother, and one who tended to drift over toward the head-on collision side of the spectrum. It feels over-dramatic of me to even say that, though, since I never sought help, never talked to a therapist, never went on anti-depressants. I also didn't have my depression manifest in a way that prevented me from going about my regular activities. It just made me resent them, and then dread them, and then build up an increasing stash of self-loathing over what a relentlessly ill-equipped mother I was. But due to the fact that I was still getting out of bed in the morning, I figured I was okay.

Once in a while, a friend mentioned that I seemed unhappy. I'd chalk it up to a bad day, or a sleepless night, and completely deny that anything more persistent might be going wrong. I didn't talk to my family about it. I'm even nervous writing it down now, because The Admiral has recently started keeping up with my blog and he was at the top of the list of people I should have asked for help but didn't. I once got as far as asking a couple close friends for therapist recommendations, but didn't have the motivation to work out the insurance issues and find someone I could afford to see. I just went on feeling bad, feeling vacant, feeling like my general existence was doing more harm than good.

For me, there was no one magic cure. My hormones eventually evened out, I took small steps to reduce my stress level, I began getting more than two hours of sleep at a time. Those combined with a dozen other factors all brought me to a point where I could see the difference between the world I'd been living in and the one where all those reasonable, mostly happy people were. I look back and can see all the things I should have done differently, and that gives me hope that I'll be better prepared if I start slipping into the same patterns after this next baby arrives. I also hope that being a little more open about it will put my very caring network of friends and family on slightly higher alert in case they see me making reckless moves toward styling tools.

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