I have ambitions and dreams. . .but luckily none of them involve killing royalty and setting myself up as queen. I don't plan on going crazy either. But that one might be more likely. Oh and I do occasionally mumble about "damn spots", but fortunately they are only regarding the incessant laundry.
I should have gotten therapy when I was pregnant with Hannah. I should have gotten on medication right after Hannah was born. I can only think that not knowing where to go to with therapy and becoming insanely busy with a newborn and a two year old, kept getting help and taking care of myself far from my mind. I slogged through day after day of just making it through. Being miserable, crying all the time, not wanting to do anything and never being able to fall asleep or stay asleep or nap became the norm. If Gen or Hannah had a tantrum, got sick or did any of the normal complications that come with children, I had a meltdown of my own. I was either too vigilant and immediately burned myself out until I felt crazy or I would be paralyzed with fear, guilt and the feeling that I couldn't handle it. If Russ had to stay late for work, I felt like I was going to have a conniption. There were several times where both girls would be crying at the same time and I would break down with anger and extreme sadness. I would run into my closet, shut the door and have a toddler tantrum of my own. All the while I would be hating myself. I felt like the worst mother on the planet and the biggest failure humanity could find. Sometimes I would get so low, that I just wanted to die. I didn't want to kill myself, I just didn't want to exist anymore. I felt like I was no good for my children, Russ or anyone else in my life. I wondered if everyone would be better off if I'd just disappear. But then those thoughts would scare and shame me and I would feel even more low and more alone. I felt like no one understood how I felt and I had no idea how I was going to go on day after day like this. I knew that nothing was going to ever change and that I was going to have this torturous and monotonous life for the next twenty years. I felt so trapped. I wanted nothing more than to change my life. But I knew that thought was so wrong and looking to other women in my same situation only made me feel worse. They were doing it. They were loving it. What was so horribly wrong with me? Not only was I a bad mom, I was also a bad Mormon woman. Yet through all of this, I hadn't realized I was depressed. I just thought that what I was going through and feeling, was a result of my situation and my inability to be good at it. On one of my many sleepless nights I suddenly had an epiphany. The thought came very strongly, clearly and powerfully that I was depressed. The next morning I took a depression quiz on WebMD and sure enough I was answering yes to all of the symptoms of depression. I'm still dumbfounded that with my psychology background and all of the times I must have read through the symptoms of depression, that I couldn't recognize it in myself. I told Russ later that night that I thought I was depressed and that I was going to go to the doctor again. I'm not sure going to the doctor was any easier this time than the first. I didn't want to admit that I had gone off of my meds on my own, nor did I want to talk about how depressed I was. I don't think anyone relishes the idea of crying in front of their doctor. I don't like crying in front of anyone. I went back on the same medication I was on before. I also asked about any recommendations the doctor might have for a therapist. He sort of blew me off and I got the feeling he didn't "believe" in therapy. So no help there and I let it go and started the pills. Once again they were magic and I was brought back from a horrible place of darkness, despair and loneliness. Best of all I could sleep again. That in itself was miraculous. Suddenly where sleep was the ultimate battle and the thing that constantly eluded me, now simply because the medication had kicked in, I could fall asleep.
Next: The special piece of Hell finding the right medicine can be.
Me with my Dad's Family-You've got to love my mom's hot, pregnancy dress.
Three months after going on Celexa, I decided to wean myself down and off. I was feeling better, Gen had stopped having such horrible colic and despite the miraculous difference I had seen personally and among some close friends and family, I wanted to be "normal" again and not need the meds. Can we say stupid! Let me say though, you find out pretty quickly that you weren't "addicted" like you had long ago felt. I didn't notice any physical or emotional withdrawals and I was better than I had been before going on the medicine. I think the changes in Gen as well as the nice reprieve from anxiety and depression helped me be ready to face life without the help of Celexa. But if I'm being honest, I should have stayed on the medicine. I think it would have been best in the long run. I did ok until I got pregnant with Hannah. I think the change in hormones sent me spiraling back to that dark, torturous place again. There was a return of anxiety, but more pronounced this time was the depression. I think I was so tired and worn down from all of the anxiety that it finally gave way to bleak depression. My pregnancy with Hannah was harder than with Genevieve. I was more sick and more tired. I think part of that was the fact that I had Genevieve to wake up with and look after. I spent a lot of time on the couch and I felt like crap. I fought hard to get up and take care of Genevieve's needs and take her away from the babysitter that was the TV. But some days I just couldn't and I would spend the whole day loathing myself and feeling horribly guilty that instead of nurturing Genevieve like I good mom should, I was immobile and crying on the couch. I think my friend Tiff was a huge part in getting me through that time. We would go walking every Tuesday and Thursday and she was my therapy. She got me off the couch, got me walking and talking. Russ also was amazing. He did crazy amounts of loads of laundry, cleaning and making meals. He listened to me, loved me and did all that he could to help me. I knew I didn't want to take medicine while I was pregnant. I was so worried that it would hurt Hannah and when I tried to get some advice on therapy and who would be good my midwives were surprisingly unsupportive and unhelpful. Besides my wonderful husband, family and friends, I had to go it alone. Depression makes you feel oh so alone.
Hannah was a sweet baby and as long as she was being held she didn't cry. I can't tell you how wonderful that was. I think 9 months of constant crying created something like PTSD with crying. I still feel like I'm going to crawl out of my skin and fly out of the door screaming when my kids whine and cry for a prolonged time. It still took me a long time to get some help after Hannah was born. I think that whole "must breastfeed" and keep meds out of the milk kept help far from my mind.
**Next: I go lower than ever before until I finally re-see the light and get help.
Nana (my grandma), my mom, Acie (my great-grandma) and me
I really didn't want to take medicine. I felt like I was giving up and giving in. I felt like going on meds was admitting that I couldn't solve this problem myself. I was worried that once on it, I'd be forever on it. Meds are tough because it takes at least two weeks for them to kick in and to know if they're going to work. Sometimes results can even take up to six weeks. I think it must be like having horrible, debilitating pain and having the doctor give you a prescription and then telling you, the pain killers will start working somewhere between two to six weeks. Luckily for me, Celexa was prescribed and started working about two weeks after I began taking it.
I was so nervous waiting to see the doctor. I felt like I was going to him to confess some horrible and embarrassing sin. Luckily, he was so gracious. I took a couple of quick assessment quizzes, one about anxiety and one about depression. I was very high on the anxiety scale and also over the threshold on the depression quiz as well. He patiently answered all of my questions and reassured me. I left feeling something I hadn't in a long time, hope.
In two weeks my whole life had changed. Feelings, thoughts and behaviors I had beat myself up over and felt horribly guilty about, because I thought they were my fault, magically disappeared. I suddenly knew that there was something physically wrong with me. Somehow the chemicals in my body had betrayed me and turned me into something I wasn't. The medicine was balancing those chemicals back again where they should be. The medicine didn't turn me into a zombie, didn't make me out-of-control giddy, they simply returned me back to something that resembled my old self. I still had some work to do, because you can get into some negative patterns after being anxious/depressed for so long, but I was so much better. My life was a night and day difference compared to two weeks ago. If you suspect you might have anxiety or depression, don't wait. WebMD has some pretty good quizzes. Visit your doctor. The worst/best they can tell you is that you are fine, but if you are suffering, I'm telling you there is no shame in medicine. Would you refuse medication if you had an infection? I'm guessing not. Many times anxiety and depression is a result of something chemical/physical going on in your body and has a strong link to genes. Sometimes it's because something really horrible happened and that messed you up chemically. Whatever the case, some sort of medicine will help you. Sometimes one doesn't, but there are lots to try. If medicine doesn't help, certain types of therapy can be just as effective. You will feel normal again, you will be happy again and not only will it greatly bless your life, it will help all those around you.
I was anything but anxious or depressed growing up. I was always looking for a new adventure. I flew by myself and would join my dad on a business trips or visit my cousins in Washington. I lived by the belief that things always worked out and there was no need to be worried or uptight about anything. I was a serial procrastinator who must have gotten some sort of pleasure out of the rush that came with pulling off a miraculous effort on the eve of a project or assignment due. I worked well under the stress and urgency that followed putting things off until the last minute. This was unfortunately much to the distress of my poor mother. I was the extremely good and improvising and making due and quite often it really all did work out. I was outgoing, happy and carefree. Maybe a little too much so.
Consequently, it took me far too long to realize that I actually was suffering from anxiety or depression after Genevieve was born. Surely I was not the type that was susceptible to postpartum anything. I was not the least inclined before, so why would that have changed? I reasoned every moment panicking and not being able to sleep the result of "new mother worries". Even when I began worrying constantly about everything from Russ dying in horrible ways, to my family dying, to the baby having SIDS, Russ losing his job, feelings that I was a terrible mother, I was still convinced this was a result of my lacking in self-control. I decided I just needed to figure out this mothering thing. I was extremely upset when I still wasn't finding a rhythm months after Genevieve was born. I had spent so much time plotting and planning how I was going to be the perfect mother. How could I not be succeeding? I had had majored in psychology for goodness sake. And I had always been able to work hard at school or a job and do really well. I wasn't used to feeling like I was constantly failing and that I was never going to get used to my new lot in life. Why wasn't this working? Why was I having such an unbelievably hard time and most pressing, why in the world did I not like it one bit? Not that I would ever admit to anyone else, or most of the time to myself, that horribly shameful admission. After all, this is what I had grown up dreaming about. I had been taught from my own cradle that this would be my greatest job and most fulfilling aspect of my life. It was my eternal destiny and the hope of every Mormon girl. Plus, all I had to do was look at everyone else out there with their babies and children, especially their blogs, to know that they loved motherhood and they had it down to a science.
Finally when Genevieve was about six months old, I had reached my limit. I was freaking out and stressing over every little stupid thing that happened to me, Russ or anyone else I knew. I knew my craziness was being hard on Russ. He was constantly my listening ear and reassured me about every tiny problem. I hated being a burden, especially because he was so wonderful about it all. I couldn't fall asleep and I couldn't stay asleep. I started to dread going to bed. Falling asleep had become a torturous battle that I frequently lost. Imagine the terrible irony when your baby is sleeping through the night, you are insanely tired, and can't get the sleep you so desperately need. I had decided Russ and I had suffered enough. I wasn't just worried, I was clinically anxious. As much as I hated to realize the truth that I needed help, I was going to swallow my pride and see my doctor.
A few days ago I went to therapy. Supposedly in LA, it is very posh to have a therapist and almost all the cool kids do. Too bad I live in the real world where I'm pretty sure admitting you've gone to therapy is social leprosy. So hopefully I don't loose too many friends over my precarious admission. But I feel pretty strongly that there might just be some of the rest of you out there struggling with anxiety or depression or you most likely know someone close to you who is/has. I also believe that there is nothing wrong with admitting that you have a challenge and that you are doing all in your power to get better. And although I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make much of a dent in eliminating the stigma surrounding mental illness, I refuse to be afraid and ashamed anymore. I can't remember meeting many people who were viewed as tainted or somewhat ostracized when they had bronchitis, diabetes, polio or any other physical illness. Yet somehow, some erroneously believe that mental illness has nothing to do with genes, bad luck or circumstances beyond an individual's control. I would argue, that perhaps with most cases of mental illness, people are far less likely to "bring it upon themselves" than a lot of physical diseases, like Type II Diabetes. Don't worry, I've felt enough guilt and shame, beat myself up because I couldn't quite "snap out of it", for most of the world combined. Part of the joy of depression is that you're worse to yourself than anyone else could ever be. I was going to get myself out of that dark abyss without any help, if it killed me.
In the next few posts I want to focus on the story of my postpartum depression anxiety and perhaps shed some light on the subject as far as my experience goes.
It's official. Today I figured out that the lovely hospital (Durham Regional) that I will be delivering at, has the hideous policy of "rooming in". Oh they try to make it sound all lovely, dovey and that you will be able to form such a wonderful bond with your infant from the very start. Right, this couldn't be about saving money and resources, no of course not! it's absolutely beautiful to put a mother right to work after she's labored and pushed out a bowling ball at 3AM. I can't wait! What could be better than being absolutely exhausted, messy, sore and emotionally drained and then having no respite from needing to be in the constant care of your baby? Sounds like a dream to wake up, an hour after giving birth, to a crying infant needing another feed, diaper change and a soothing before back to bed. I'm sure I'm going to come home fully recovered and ready to tackle those first few weeks after being alone caring for my baby since birth. This is a brilliant plan! Absolutely genius! I know, I've likely incited some out there, who are far better mothers than I and relish in the chance to be with their baby the whole time they are in the hospital. They probably hate the idea of abandoning their baby to the nursery for the night. If you are out there just take comfort in the fact that you are far superior mother. My hat is off to you. Maybe you could come and be my hospital nursery?
P.S. Did you see the contraband in that woman's hand in the illustration above? Yes, not only do I want a break from my baby, but I might also be committing the unpardonable sin of motherhood--bottle feeding.