I did not realize the effect our old house had on my life until I returned the last time for some final cleaning. When I turned onto the street that led to the neighborhood, I felt this hole forming in my stomach and hot saliva pooling in the back of my throat like my body was forcing down something distasteful. As I pulled up to the gates, I could feel my hands sweating as I gripped the steering wheel. The car rounded the first corner, then the second, and come to a stop in front of the house. Every atom in my body was humming and telling me to turn back. It was as if I sat in front of a grizzly haunted house from a horror movie with an overly dramatic name like “The Blackened” instead of a gray-blue townhouse. My fingers hesitated at the ignition key, still undecided if they wanted to obey my commands to turn off the car. I forced them, and with a quick turn, the car was silent.
We moved into the townhouse when my son was three weeks old, and trapped within those walls, I faced my twenty-two month battle with severe postpartum depression. Because the house and depression entered my life at the same time, the walls became stained and scared from the dark experience that took place there, and when I pulled up for last time, it all came flooding back. I thought I hated that house for lack of closets, the tiny kitchen, or the dysfunctional HOA. However, the stark contrast I felt between our new home, which is filled with peace, and this old building, tainted by hate, acted as a potent reminder that every strand of carpet, every squeak in the floor, and every window blind carried with it memories of pain.
This week I wrote about my postpartum depression for my creative writing class. During this process, I reviewed old blog and journal entries so the experience would be fresh in my mind. This entry particularly stood out because I had forgotten that it was last spring that brought the first buds of hope back into my life. Now, one year later, I walk through my yard and observe the tiny, green leaves poking out the ground that will soon sprout into daffodils. I find green and purple mint leaves hiding under dead winter foliage. I see the moss-covered willow branches budding around the teal tire swing that Annie sways in every afternoon. I find so much joy in it all and an immense amount of gratitude to be in this place. I think this time every year I will remember the hell that held me captive and the heavenly freedom I feel now and be grateful that every winter has a spring.