Saturday, May 18, 2013

The scariest post ever

I wrote this post November 2011. I have had it just sitting in draft form for a year and a half. I shared it with very few people. Now that we are getting ready to have our second little one, I have come back to reread. I have been thinking about what doing this all over again entails and sometimes it is just interesting to read those thoughts from when they were so fresh.
“Life's challenges are not supposed to paralyze you, they're supposed to help you discover who you are.” ~ Bernice Johnson Reagon
I recently read an article on relating the 5 stages of grief to Postpartum Depression (PPD). I came across this website through a blog I stumbled across about 4 months ago. The author, Robin, is a survivor of PPD. She writes openly and honestly about her experiences, past and present. It's both comforting and heart wrenching to know that someone else feels this way and is brave enough to share it with others. Although our experiences are not identical (no two seem to be) I related so strongly to both Robin and the other women who follow her and comment that initially I couldn't read it all. It was just hitting too close to home. I read and read and stayed quietly in the shadows. I do not prefer for my personal life to be laid out for all to see. I've thought long and hard about whether I really want to write about this on my blog. I feel like I am announcing one big character flaw to the world. A flaw so big that it will affect how my family and friends look at me. I'm afraid that people will think I am over reacting, that I'm making it up but I will tell you that I couldn't make this up if I tried and I'm not sure I even mind what people think anymore. That isn't what matters.  I'm not even sure that Patrick knows how strongly this has affected me and who I am.

This was a comment I posted on another blog written by a mom who has overcome PPD. "I come to this blog and over and over and over I am relieved to hear stories that sound like my own. Women who sound like me. I have a one year old (today is his birthday). I have to admit I am also celebrating that I made it one year. That he and I are still alive and kicking. There are still days and hours that are almost unbearable but it is so much better. (Seems like there may be a blog post for my blog in this somewhere.) I was too ashamed to tell anyone how miserable I was. Everyone except my husband told me that it's supposed to be hard, that this was normal, but it wasn't. I know that now. I never sought help. I was afraid it was too expensive or that I was crazy or that really, this was how it was supposed to be.  My husband was and still is utterly supportive and loving. He KNEW without a doubt that this was not right. I haven't blogged about this. I haven't talked about this. I have even tried not to think about it but maybe it is time. Maybe I can support others."

And this is where I start from. I wrote this comment in the middle of September. It is now almost exactly 2 months later and already I feel better, changed. There are many reasons for that but that is another post entirely.

Here are the  The Six Stages of Postpartum Depression as quoted in italics, with my personal changes and thoughts in normal font, from the article I linked to above.
  1. Denial: This must be what new motherhood is like. I’ll be alright. It can’t be postpartum depression, because I’m not mentally ill. I’m sure it will wear off soon. I just need more sleep. I didn't even think of PPD at this point. I mean, it didn't even cross my mind. The doctor told me it was "baby blues" at my 6 week appointment and wrote off my feelings with a literal wave of his hand. No offense, but what a dude. How the you-know-what would he even know. ...but, he was the doctor and I figured he knew what he was talking about. The word depression would have been enough to deter me if I had thought of it. I have always been upbeat, positive, happy and organized. I wasn't "someone" who would have depression.  Everyone kept telling me that this was normal and that it would get better but I couldn't see it. The only person who sort of knew what I was feeling was my husband but I wasn't very good at describing it to him and we were both too tired to have that discussion. Thankfully, he could take one look at me and know that this wasn't right.
  2. Anger: Nobody understands what I’m going through.  Why me?! This is supposed to be a time of joy. I don’t deserve this. I don’t want to have to take medication. I don’t want to go to therapy. I shouldn’t have to call a doctor. This is not fair.  In some ways, I guess I was mad about some things but these are things I am just not ready to talk about. For me, there was less anger and more grief and guilt.  I was grieving for what I considered my freedom and my old life. A life that I was really happy with and that I felt like had vanished only to be replaced with incessant crying, sleepless nights, pain, heartache, fear, and not a moment to be alone. I felt guilty for wishing for my life back, for wishing that I could go back in time and make some different decisions. I felt guilty that I was easily producing adequate milk but that the baby couldn't tolerate it. I felt like the worst mother on the planet for giving him formula and I felt like the worst wife for having to spend money on food for a baby that I should have been and was producing for free.  When I finally realized that there was an issue that may or may not have been PPD, I was angry that our insurance didn't cover prescription drugs. Between the really expensive formula and his reflux medicine, I felt like it wasn't even an option. That not only could we not afford the doctor's appointment but that we really couldn't afford any possible medications he would prescribe. I also felt guilty for feeling this way. I had a healthy (if not very fussy) baby who was gaining weight and growing and had come right home from the hospital. Weren't my husband and I the lucky ones, to have given birth to a full term baby and brought him home with no complications? I kept telling myself to snap out of it, that I was lucky, but there was only a teeny tiny part of me that believed that.
  3. Bargaining: If I just exercise more and eat better I’ll be fine. I kept telling myself, when I can run again I will feel like me. When I can put in the miles I will feel so much better. It will help. I know it will. It HAS to. When I can eat a normal diet with dairy and soy protein I will feel like myself. When I get my body back I will be happier. When I don't have to nurse anymore, or pump anymore I will feel like me.  If I could just get to the point where the baby sleeps through the night, I’ll be okay. A-freaking-MEN.  If I get closer to God and pray more, this will surely go away. Some of that was true. I would have gone off the deep end without my jogging stroller. I walked and walked and walked and walked and then I would run just one or two minutes. Next time a few blocks and I worked back up to my normal mileage and I did begin to feel better. My incision healed and being outside was a relief. It seemed like the only time that little boy wasn't crying was when we were outside. At least there was a place he was happy.
  4. Depression: I should just leave my family. I’m bringing everyone down. They all would be better off without me. My poor baby doesn’t deserve a mother like this. I’ll never get better so there’s no point in going on. I remember one run that I went on where it was just me. I couldn't take the dogs yet because I was afraid if they bolted while I was holding the leash it would cause problems with the c section incision which was starting to heal but still very tender. My husband had E at home and I had been looking forward to getting out all afternoon. I cried during the entire 4 miles. I kept thinking about how my boys would be better off without me. I was snapping at the dogs and I couldn't get a meal made to save my soul. I was unhappy, and I was sure that I was making everyone else unhappy. Hell, I couldn't even feed the kid "like a mother should".  Patrick is such a natural parent and has been from the beginning. I kept thinking that he would do so much better without me "getting in the way". I got home and told him so. He hugged me and told me that, of course, that wasn't true. And so the days continued to pass.
  5. Acceptance: What’s happening to me isn’t normal and I can’t ignore it anymore. It’s not my fault. It is okay for me to talk to a doctor. It’s okay for me to ask for help. I can take medication or go to therapy or do whatever is necessary for my health and that of my family. I am not sure I am here yet, however, I will agree that it was not my fault, it just happens. Apparently, it happens a lot more than I realized. Hmmmm, well, good to know.
When it comes to PPD, I’d have to add another stage. The stage that comes after acceptance, after the treatment, after the time when you start feeling better but aren’t 100%. I call it the post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD stage because even after a year of getting treated and getting better it took me another year just to get over the trauma of what I went through and become comfortable with motherhood.
6. PTSD: I still worry that PPD will return. I’m constantly looking over my shoulder. Every time I feel bad I’m convinced that I’ve gone back there. I feel like I’ve lost a lot of confidence in myself and I don’t know if I’ll ever get it back. I worry I hurt my child in the long-term because of how I was when he was a baby.

This was the last part of the article. The thought of being comfortable with motherhood is interesting to me. For me, it is more a fear of having a second child and going through it all again. Would it be better? Worse? The same? I'm not sure I could do this all again and I surely wouldn't want my husband to have to go through it again.

LOL! And here we are. About to start the journey all over again .With some very specific and unusual strategies in place. ;)