That Woman is Gone: Discovering Postpartum Depression

On some spring mornings, even nine years later, a remnant returns: red-winged blackbirds wake me before dawn, panic cinches my throat, and adrenalin pulses in my fingertips.

I still don’t know whether the sleeplessness caused the depression or if it was the other way around.  By the time we checked out of the hospital, because of a sleepless night before the birth and a litany of distractions (mostly a blood-pressure cuff accidentally set to squeeze my arm every sixty seconds), I’d gone almost seventy-two hours without sleep.

Is that what made me lose my mind? A faulty blood-pressure cuff?

My mom flew in from California to help me adjust to those first days with a newborn and toddler. I couldn’t settle down to sleep, but I figured I was lovestruck with my copper-headed bundle. I funneled my energies into cooking, shopping, and planting flowers when the baby was still only days old.

My mom left, and I still couldn’t nap or sleep at night. I’d feed Becca and lie awake until she cried again. My husband took over nighttime feedings, but it made no difference. I thought my nerves would explode through my skin. Even if I dozed fitfully for an hour or two, the birds would always wake me before dawn.

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Tuesday Morning at the Old Asylum, Part 1

It’s probably not okay to call it the insane asylum. It’s officially the Village at Grand Traverse Commons, a mixed-use development with a brick-oven bakery, a coffee roaster, farm-to-table restaurants, a nature school and a place to buy ethically sourced yoga pants.

But there’s something satisfyingly shocking about calling it the insane asylum. It seems right to acknowledge why this place of luxury goods and services looks like the setting for A Series of Unfortunate Events, why it’s so beautiful and so obviously, poignantly, haunted.

It’s the word insane that’s the problem, for who could dislike the word asylum, which connotes protection, refuge and safety?

I love the idea that we used to shelter not only the criminally dangerous but the sick in the soul, the depressed, exhausted and nervous of the world. Not just for our sakes, but for theirs. The words insane asylum speak to me of what the Victorian-era psychiatrist Thomas Kirkbride—the designer of these buildings—described as “respectable decorum.”

Traverse City has some of the last standing Kirkbride buildings in America, and as I walk the grounds I feel perhaps a little too much sympathy with the former residents.

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Wabi-sabi: Living with Beauty and Ugliness

Yesterday, a man might have killed me.

Both receptionists were away from the counter when I entered the waiting room for a physical therapy appointment. The waiting room, shared by several different offices, was lonely in mid-morning with only one man wearing all black and headphones sitting slightly hunched. I took a seat as far away as I could and picked up a magazine, anticipating a few minutes of quiet before my appointment.

The man was talking quietly, perhaps on a phone call, I thought, before turning my attention to the magazine and how someone had constructed a Japanese garden in a small space in the city. The article explained how the garden included the careful selection of plants, typically varying texture within the same palette of green, how boulders are placed to symbolize permanence, and rocks are used to represent a river. [Read more...]


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