Can Work Help you Heal?

PostPartum Depression.jpg

When my second son was born, I suffered from Postpartum Depression (PPD). I was never diagnosed because I never went to the doctor. I thought I could shake it off. I thought it would fade away soon just like it did after a few months with my first son. But, it didn't. My second son never slept. 45 min at a time and then he would be up for 3 or 4 hours. That lasted a year. I was tired, trying to keep track of a busy tantruming two year old and a very crabby, colicky baby. It felt like hell.  I still have regrets of how I handled (or didn't handle) that time with my babies. 

I hid my PPD the best I could. My husband knew I wasn't myself but he didn't know how bad it was. I joke now that my dog was the only one that knew what was really going on. He sat near me during all my tears. My boys got the worst of me. And to this day, it still brings me to tears thinking of how I reacted to them on those hard days.

Throughout all of this, I threw myself into filming. It was the only time I felt like myself. I felt worthy, that I was doing something that meant something to people.  So I starting scheduling shoots, coffee meetings and planning meetings with friends. Anything to get away from the guilt I felt as a failing new mom. One of my friends Andrea, set up a dinner meeting with her good friend Ashley.  She was a previous Ford Model and knew we would love to work together.  We did, and we decided to set up a test video shoot.  I started looking for visuals and all I was drawn to were dark, emotional images. I sent them to Ashley and we decided to go for that vibe and shoot at her new apartment because it had floor to ceiling windows.  Our shoot went amazing and I made a short 60 sec film that set a mood.

Later, I met with another female videographer (there aren't too many) and I showed it to her. She said "I think you should keep working on this." She gave me some ideas from the stories I shared with her but I was really dismissive because I didn't really want to go there. You're not really supposed to talk and share about PPD, right?

After some thought though, I called Ashley and asked her if she was up to shooting some more. She said yes. I was now into planning mode to share a little more about my PPD and it was terrifying. I knew I didn't want to explain it with a narrative, but knew I needed to show the relationship between mother/baby too. I wanted to show that even though I had PPD, I still loved and cared for my baby. I still shared beautiful moments of joy with him. That was important to me. My friend let me "borrow" her baby for the few scenes and he was perfect.  He cried like a champ! 

I also wanted to show the isolation, the exhaustion, the tears. Even as I dreamed, I dreamed of sorrow. I couldn't escape the emotions. It completely swallowed me. Ashley was in for more of an acting role than a model.  She did such an amazing job. 

I finished the film and as I was uploading it, I got nervous. If I shared my struggles, who would want to hire me? Who would want to be around me? Would people think that I was broken? I didn't want anyone feeling sorry for me. I just wanted others to know that they were not alone, because I felt so alone. (even though I didn't reach out to people for help) It's a viscous cycle.  I decided to hit POST anyway. I knew I had to do it. 

As it went out to the world, there was a HUGE wave of peace that came over me. I can't really explain it. For 2 years I felt a cloud or fog hovering over me, and then all of a sudden it cleared.  I was more vulnerable than I had even been and put a piece of me out there that was so private. And you know what? It helped me heal.

So, can work help you heal? I believe it can. But healing is a process.  It doesn't happen overnight and it comes and goes. Even now, almost 4 years after Travis was born there are days that I can feel it creeping in. I fight it with all I have. I don't want to go back there. I don't want to let it consume me again. 

Now when my emotions get the best of me, I push myself to go create. It doesn't have to be elaborate. It doesn't have to be a long shoot. It doesn't even have to produce something amazing. Just a connection with someone else, a chance to switch your brain from darkness to light. 

Much love-

 

Jackie Palmer

Filmmaker/Photographer