Depression Status Check

I’ve been on depression medication for about two weeks now.  I’m over the side effects for the most part and am feeling less like a stranger is taking over my body.  I still have stressful days (like yesterday), which is of course normal, but instead of the stress rendering me despondent, I am able to see clearly enough to acknowledge my feelings and deal with them.

Now that I’m feeling more with it, I can try to describe what the worst of this depression has been like.  It literally felt as if I was a casual observer of all that was going on, that the world around me was flying past so quickly that I could not keep up with the plot.  I was often so confused and my thoughts so scattered that I was even having trouble deciphering the meaning of sentences.  Words were like puzzle pieces but instead of my brain stringing them together to process an idea, it scattered and jumbled them so I was only able to capture a small piece of the meaning.  I am not sure that I can really articulate it well.  I guess I’ll just say that instead of feeling cemented to my chair because I’m in slow-motion while the rest of the world is playing normally, I now feel like part of the goings-on.  I can participate in life!

I still have work to do.  There are a lot of things that have been put on hold because I just couldn’t deal.  The top of the list is my marriage.  I haven’t figured out how to be fair to be a wife, a mother, and an independent woman.  Joe and I are planning to regularly swap babysitting duty with my bro- and sis-in-law in the near future so that we can all get date nights and remember a little of what came before the babies!  I know that will be immensely helpful and a big step in the right direction.

I am scheduled to take a course on depression management and continuing to see my psychiatrist, who is awesome and reminds me of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Stranger than Fiction (if you haven’t seen it, do!).  With my history, the doctor advised me to consider medication as part of my vitamin regimen for the rest of my life.  Instead of treating each episode of depression as if they were individual illnesses to be treated, I will instead strive to break the pattern with preventative medicine.

Most of all I must remember that with medication I’m still living the same life but now the light switch is turned on and I can see everything more clearly.

Step in the right direction

It’s interesting being at this stage in my life, a life as a chronic depression-sufferer.  I am such a seasoned veteran of depression by this point that most can’t even tell I’m depressed.  A therapist admitted to me a few years ago that she could not tell that I was totally freaking out sitting right in front of her.  I attribute this not only to how long I’ve been dealing with these issues, but also to growing up in a family who hid problems and marched on because any wrong step could throw us into a very scary situation from which we might not recover.  I’m somewhat thankful because it has made me stronger, and I can keep functioning even under terrible circumstances.  The downside, of course, is that I often forget that I’m no longer living on a precipice and it takes a lot longer for me to realize that I’ve reached the point where I have stopped participating in really living.

As you all know, I realized some time ago that I needed help.  Well, I am finally getting it.  I contacted my doctor last week and she immediately got to work with a referral to the mental health department.  Embarrassing questions were asked but now things are in motion.

My first intake appointment is in a week and a half.  I will be spending the whole morning getting acquainted with the system, meeting with mental health professionals, and possibly even participating in group therapy.  I am interested to see what I get out of all of this because it sure seems like a lot to do in a few hours time.  Also, we leave for a trip to Wisconsin the very next day.

I feel relieved even though I still have paperwork and talking to do before I actually get treatment.  It has also helped that we have the daycare situation squared away so I don’t have to expend enormous amounts of energy worrying about that.  I am looking forward to returning to a healthier state of mind.  I am looking forward to really living.

A little about PPD and me

After posting a week and a half ago about PPD, I started to do some reading on the subject.  I realized in my reading that things were a little worse than I had thought.  I should have known, as I am having more trouble writing, sleeping, remembering basic things, and even just being myself.  I am sure it sounds strange that after so many years of dealing with depression on and off, one could be depressed and not know it, but that’s probably why the illness is so nasty.  It sneaks up on you gradually until one day you think, huh, things just aren’t right here.

I think one of the worst parts of my depression is the paranoia.  This is almost crippling as it results in me not reaching out to my friends and family for fear that they will/do think poorly of me.  I feel as if I show weakness, I will never be able to take it back and that is all everyone will ever see.  Everything I say will always be suspect or somehow less credible.  Quite counter-productive when I’m trying to get out of this fog.

My depression has morphed over the years.  It used to involve sadless, listlessness, excessive sleep, and headaches.  I think as I’ve gotten older I’ve learned to ignore those feelings, so my symptoms morphed a bit.  Paranoia, insomnia, anxiety, exhaustion, loss of appetite, confusion are more likely to occur now.  Worst of all, normal every day life is overwhelming and I often feel trapped.

Plans are still in place to get myself out of the house more and to exercise, but those things are kind of on the backburner until our household recovers from this nasty cold.  Additionally, I’ve realized that these small steps may not be enough at this point, so I’ll be talking to my doctor.

For anyone else out there looking for information and anecdotes, I found ppdconnect extremely helpful.

Another piece

Last night I laid in bed for over an hour before I finally fell asleep.  Jack was sleeping soundly next to me and yet my mind wouldn’t shut off and give in to slumber.  Instead I lay there with negative and paranoid thoughts until I started to question why it was happening.  Then I examined the past few weeks of what I have been calling “perpetual PMS” – the lack of energy, short temper, headaches, and feelings of disconnection, and I realized that I have started down the depression road again.  It’s interesting how long it takes me to figure it out, even after living with this affliction for (officially) 13 years now.  Luckily I have recognized it before things have gone too far, and I can put a plan into place to take better care of myself.

Last night I also became aware of how breastfeeding has made an impact on my life over the past 18 months.   Following the miscarriage of my first pregnancy, I struggled with severe post partum depression.  It was beyond anything I had experienced prior to that (or since); the grief of that loss was expected, but the hormonal landslide that occured ripped the floor from beneath me.  When I look back on that time, I don’t recognize myself at all.

After that period, which involved lots of medication and therapy, I worried that I would experience severe depression again even after a successful pregnancy.  This made the decision to breastfeed that much smarter in my case, as I had read that breastfeeding can help a new mother avoid depression.  It has certainly seemed to work for me; the level of depression I felt after Jack was born was mild and managed with relative ease.  As I lay in bed last night, I realized that the more serious symptoms of depression I’ve been experiencing have increased as I have decreased breastfeeding and pumping sessions.  There are other factors, of course, but for now, I have one more piece to add to the depression puzzle in my life.  I also have work to do to get myself back in shape!

On why I'm a working parent

I hated maternity leave.  I worked up until I was 38.5 weeks pregnant and then I finally gave in and took time off due to late pregnancy fatigue.  Jack was quite overdue, so my leave ended up being quite a bit longer than I had planned (those extra 11 days seemed like forever).  While I waited for signs of impending labor, signs that did not come, I e-mailed my co-workers nearly every day to get work news; most of them would tell me nothing except, “Enjoy your time off!”  I checked my work email from home, responding when I could.  I would have gladly taken things home with me if I did not have a temp at work that was easily keeping up on the workload by herself.

Being around other people is vital to my mental health.  That is something I’ve learned to understand and respect about myself as I’ve grown older and as I’ve learned how to manage and avoid depression.  In isolation I drive myself crazy with my constantly racing thoughts; work related projects energize me and give my mind a direction and my thoughts a purpose.  Maternity leave was like being strapped into a straight jacket and locked in a white cell for days on end – I could not wait to get out.

The first two weeks after Jack was born were difficult for me, full of nursing troubles, cat naps, and getting exercise to ward off the baby blues.  We had some visitors, including Joe’s parents, to break up the days.  Joe went back to work two weeks after Jack was born, the same day his parents returned to Wisconsin, and except for brief visits from family and friends, I was left alone with my newborn.  By the time Jack was a month old, everyone I knew had returned to their regularly scheduled life.  I quickly went stir-crazy.

I see this happening with other new moms and yet I’m helpless in the face of their loneliness.  I still have no notion as to how to avoid the isolation of the post partum time.  Looking back now, returning to work when Jack was 6 weeks old seems really early but I remember all too well how those days dragged on while I waited for Joe to get home and take over.  There was nothing to keep me sane except for the breastfeeding support group that I attended for two hours each week.  I loved that group for getting me out of the house, but I made no friends there.  I returned home after the session every week only slightly less lonely.

I did not have a child so that I could stick him in daycare for someone else to raise, yet I cannot be a stay-at-home parent, as I have neither the money nor the mental capacity to withstand it.  Perhaps in a different time or place, I could have done it.  Because in my view, not only does it take a village to raise a child, but it takes a tightly-knit community to support parents.

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By the way, it’s national delurk day!  Please leave a comment to let me know you’re out there.  It doesn’t have to be related to this post, but I’d love to hear your thoughts if you have something to add!