Tag Archives: Depression

PPD, Two Years Later

16 Jun

I haven’t even begun this post and it’s already misleading. I guess I’ve battled PPD for two years now but really it started before that, before Isobel was even born. While I was pregnant the doctor diagnosed me with antenatal depression and anxiety, so really this began nearly three years ago.

I put off writing about the nursery tour on purpose because of my experience with PPD. Even after I thought I was recovered I’d look at this room and think about how naive I was and how easy I thought it’d all be and god, what a failure I was. I think it’s a measure of how far I’ve come that I look at this room now and think about all the great times we’ve had and how I still love the decor and I just feel light and free.

For me the worst part of PPD was feeling like an utter failure. Nothing particular happened to made me feel this way; as best I can describe it that’s how PPD felt to me. I had a rough labor and needed emergency surgery after Isobel was pulled from my belly. I was awake when they had wheeled me into the OR ,when they had ordered me, mid-contraction, with a catheter bag full of blood, to climb to the operating table, but by the time Isobel emerged, I was out.

I saw Isobel for the first time on my camera’s small screen. My whole family got to meet Isobel before I did while doctors dug around inside of me.  I felt like a failure. From the first minute of motherhood.

Comparatively, my PPD was not that bad. I never had thoughts of harming myself or anybody else, I had no problems lovingly caring for Isobel, and I was only ever prescribed a low dose of a common antidepressant that I no longer take. But overall it deeply affected not only me but my whole family. I am so grateful that I have a loving husband, wonderful friends, and a supportive family, because without them I’m not sure how I would have ever been able to climb out of that pit of depression. I still see my therapist from time to time.

If you have PPD it doesn’t make you a bad mother or a bad partner. It’s a chemical imbalance brought on by the myriad of hormones coursing through your body. If pregnancy itself is making you feel out of control, or if having a newborn is overwhelming, talk to your family, talk to your doctor, talk to your partner. Talk to anyone you trust.  You can recover, and you can thrive, even if you feel miles away from any semblance of normal. You are not a failure. You are not alone.

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Lucky

7 Oct

Although I’ve made enormous strides and have been an active part of my recovery from PPD, there are still days when it sneaks up on me and robs the color from life. Days where my husband finding a good job in this economy seem too rough, days when my job here with the students seems too fragile, days when I miss the comfort of being an innocent child myself.

I was having one of those mornings when my cousin called with a stroke of luck, and I decided to make a list of all the good things that have happened lately in order to be properly grateful.

I am lucky because:

* We live near family who never hesitates to be a part of Isobel’s life. My Mom comes over at the drop of a hat to care for her if something unexpected comes up in our schedule. My Dad usually visits during that time, too, and Isobel is making beautiful bonds with them. Anthony’s family is just as involved, with Anthony’s Grandma, Mama Juani, watching Isobel at least once a week and my mother in law who relishes her frequent visits. On top of the good fortune of living near her Grandparents, she spends Fridays at my Uncle’s house where my mom watches her while she plays with my three year old cousin Victoria and my 6 month old cousin Sam. She sees my aunt, my uncle and my cousin Sarah more frequently than I do. On Anthony’s side she’s becoming great pals with Anthony’s small cousins Serena and Jewel.

* The recent rain last weekend brought with it a beautiful rainbow, Isobel’s first. When I tweeted about this rainbow several people asked me if it was a double-rainbow, and yes, actually, it sort of was as we could see a faint image of another rainbow above it. It wasn’t what I would call so intense, but I did figure out what does it mean… It means the rain is gone. Deep, I know. Rainbows, double or not, are lucky.

* It’s officially October which means it’s officially my birthday month. Yay! I have two dear friends who also have October birthdays, Stef and Zack, and we’re going to see how much celebrating we can pack into one autumnal month. Halloween is coming up and that’s always a big deal for us as we love to dress up. October is pretty much awesome, and it brings with it the added bonus of temperatures cooling down from the mid-nineties.

* My cousin Liz’s friend, Laurie, won FOUR TICKETS TO SEE YO GABBA GABBA LIVE  in Sacramento next month. Laurie’s own children are grown so she had no idea what Yo Gabba Gabba was when the radio station contest she won said she’d be getting tickets. “Maybe it’s a Mexican band,” she thought to herself as she googled YGG. She had certainly never heard of it and it didn’t really sound like English. When she found out it was the best children’s show ever* (*according to Isobel) she offered the tickets to my cousin who then called me. The two of us are going to take Victoria and Isobel to the show of their lives come November, and I couldn’t be more excited.

* It’s pumpkin time! I love fall and look forward to picking out our pumpkins every year. Last year our pumpkins kept so well I decided to take bets to see how long we could keep them before they rotted. The first two passed away sometime over the summer not from age so much as from Isobel throwing them around and getting dented and mushy. Since I still had three perfectly fine pumpkins (if rather aged) I set them on our porch earlier last month. I heard my mother in law comment on how together we were since we all ready had our pumpkins out. Suckers! Those were last year’s pumpkins! JOKE’S ON YOU, FAMILY! WE’RE NOT WITH IT AT ALL! I STILL HAVE A VALENTINE’S DECORATION UP FROM 3 YEARS AGO! Of course over the weekend the sun did them in and my pumpkins turned into a sort of a gross lumpy puddle and they had to be hosed off the cement. But I still consider myself lucky for picking out pumpkins with such wonderful longevity.

I’m not always happy, but I do try to always be grateful.

I had a baby! It was hard.

21 Sep

Recently I spoke to a friend about postpartum depression. Did you go through this? She wanted to know. I can’t control these crazy emotions. Her words were so full of sadness my heart ached for her. Having a baby is hard, I told her, but it gets better. I promise.

I suffered from pregnancy-induced depression as early as my second trimester. I would sob for seemingly no reason. I would become enraged and throw things. I behaved so out of character that my husband became deeply worried. He became worried for me but also for the stress my emotions would put on the baby. He urged me to tell the doctor at one of my check-ups. I really didn’t want to. I was ashamed that I couldn’t keep it together, I felt as if these crazy emotions were my fault. With Anthony’s prompting, I finally broke down and told the doctor. Actually, I broke down and sobbed in front of the doctor and he figured out the rest.

The most important thing I found out by telling my doctor is that postpartum and antepartum depression is that it not just affects you, or the people you’re around. It affects the bonding process with your baby. Especially for a new mom, uncertain about how you’re going to take care of a brand new life form so wholly dependent on you for survival. The last thing you need is anything making that experience more stressful.

You know for sure that having a baby is going to change your life. You know that, and are even looking forward to it. But what you might not take into consideration is that your hormones are going to go wild. Suddenly you are sleep deprived, possibly recovering from a traumatic birth (my case), and you’re going to experience the worst PMS of your life. You are going to feel so much pressure about doing the right thing and you are never going to measure up to the pre-baby visions you had of yourself effortlessly vacuuming and breastfeeding at the same time.

And that’s okay.

I think a lot about parenthood and how it has changed me but also just about parenthood in general. I remember through a fog what it was like before kids. Parenthood is a mystery in that it must be experienced to be understood. There is nothing anyone can tell you that will give you a sense of what it is like, and watching the interactions of parents and kids as an outsider offers an incomplete picture at best. What it won’t tell you is how unrelenting parenting is. It won’t tell you about the oppressive weight that is having another being permanently attached to you. With a baby comes the responsibility of living to your highest aspirations for yourself. Your struggles become your baby’s struggles.

Being a parent means looking at the clock and discovering with a sinking heart it’s only noon and feeling like it should be 4:00 pm for the amount of hard work and effort you’ve put into the day.

Being a parent means holding yourself up to an imaginary yardstick of achievement on a daily basis and feeling like you’ve failed. Or even if you’ve done really well, you have that feeling that it wasn’t enough.

Being a parent means sniffing your baby’s head day in and day out and never, ever getting tired of the new baby smell.

Being a parent means I can’t describe the joy I experience when I hear by baby fart. I successfully made a being so complex she can fart.

Being a parent means I have moments of new mom wonder and awe on a daily basis. I stare at her and think to myself, “I made this. I created her. She was nothing and she came from me.”

When you first have a baby the hardest part is the fact that it’s a non-stop, full-time, 24 hours-a-day job. If you get no sleep one night, you can’t automatically expect to catch up on it the next night, or even the night after that. It’s moment-by-moment survival. You never get a break. You never feel like it will be over.

You’re not going to become who you think you are going to become. Once you’ve reconciled with that, you’ll know that that is okay, too. I remember one of the toughest realizations came when Anthony went back to work and I was at home with Isobel 24 hours a day.

I’m never going to be able to shower again.

This one thought destroyed me. It summed up everything about my life that wouldn’t be the same ever again, or at least not for many, many years. It was hard to let go and become the person I am now because I’m not the person I thought I’d be.

It’s okay if it’s hard. Sometimes if you’re doing it correctly it’s supposed to be hard. Some families handle the transition in stride, but it was hard for me. No one has a baby in a vacuum, and the complications of life surrounding Isobel’s pregnancy and birth were enormous. I was dealing with a lot of things simultaneously. And it was hard. And that’s okay.

If you are experiencing depression at any stage of your pregnancy or after the baby’s born, tell your doctor. They will not judge you. It is not your fault. If you feel this way it’s not because you don’t love or want your baby. Your doctor will know exactly what to do. It’s the best thing not only for you, not only for your family, but for your relationship with your child. I will admit right now that the transition to motherhood was difficult for me, and I relied on medication, my doctors, therapy and my husband and friends to get through it.

And that’s okay.

Choose Happiness

26 May

I am a born and bred introvert. It’s a trait that runs deep through my genes on both sides of my family. I have spent the majority of my life paralyzed by shyness. Over the course of the last seven years I have carefully cultivated an outgoing personality mostly for the sake of my job. Kids who visit the library are shy, too, but it’s my responsibility to reach out to them.

But those who know me quite well also know the introvert. Reluctant to share. Shy and awkward.

I think that’s part of my frustration. The newer, more outgoing part of my personality is just as valid and authentic as the introvert. The introvert doesn’t get to spread her wings as often as she needs to.

After that long talk with Anthony I realized that I can deal with my frustrations either by being self-destructive or by finding another way to express myself. I choose the latter.

I’m tired of cleaning up my messes.

I’ve decided to reach out to happiness. Happiness in the little things is always my goal but now it’s my central focus. I’m letting things slide to be happy. I’m choosing to be happy in little moments.

For example–it’s the end of a long day. A day that started at 5:30 in the morning and hit the ground running. A day of managing the inventory of my library, the graduation preparation of my husband, and a fussy, teething daughter. I’m tired and I need to take my Crohn’s medicine. The house is a wreck and piles of folded laundry festoon the living room. My daughter requires all my attention.

I am frustrated but I have a choice: do I clean the living room and struggle to accomplish all the daily tasks on my to do list, or do I blow raspberries with my daughter? I choose happiness. I choose raspberries. It’s worth it.

I may be compulsively neat but you know what? I’m letting that go. Just for now. Just for this moment. For happiness.

It’s not always easy to choose happiness, but it is necessary.

Sovereignty

25 May

For the past two weeks I’ve been in a funk. Discontent has been lurking in the background of my days, provoking me at times and fading into mild irritation at others. I’ve been restless, impatient and frustrated, but I hadn’t been able to put my finger on exactly what was wrong. I have a strong history of mental illness in my family and I personally suffered from antepartum depression when I was pregnant with Isobel. Feelings such as these trigger all sorts of warning bells and I don’t take them lightly.

As days went by I very strongly felt the urge to be alone.

That is not easy when you work with 1600 kids eager for attention, and that is not possible when you have a sweet toddler clutching at your knees cooing ‘Mama’ over and over. I pushed my craving for solitude aside and did what had to be done.

Half the reason these feelings were so frustrating is because I’m happy. I enjoy my job and I relish being a wife and mother. I have felt these feelings before but always when I was unhappy. Content people have no business fraternizing with lingering malaise.

Yet the feeling intensified. It crystallized. I could finally see it clearly and I knew what it was.

I wanted to run away.

I didn’t want to go anywhere and I didn’t want to do anything. I just wanted to be alone. The more I thought about it the more it became clear to me. I don’t know if this was triggered by library inventory or the constant effort of keeping things together on the home front or the at times frustrating job of motherhood.

I started reminiscing about high school which, if you know me at all, you know is ridiculous. I’m not going to get into all the gory details of why that time in my life was so fucked up, suffice it to say that it was. It was a fucked up time when I did fucked up things and fucked up things were done to me.

The only I had going for me back then was sovereignty. I had no responsibilities and very little in the way of obligation. School was not challenging. I pretty much came and went as I pleased, said what I felt, and pursued whatever was appealing or interesting in the moment. I had enormous amounts of time to myself to listen to music, read philosophy, and think. I did a lot of romantic, impulsive things. I rarely censored myself and didn’t care about the consequences of my actions.

The longing for that sovereignty reached its peak yesterday when Anthony took me out for lunch. We talked about it and talked about it, and the more I put it out there for him the more my feeling… evaporated. The pressure released. The urge went away. The burden dissolved.

I’m not so naive that I think this is the end of my problems. Baggage like this doesn’t just unpack itself neatly and go away. I feel so much better though, and I think the next step is to look for an outlet to channel these feelings so they don’t get out of hand in the future.

The challenge of motherhood is to hold onto your sovereignty while being intricately tied to the wellbeing of others. I just have to figure out a way to stay connected to myself that’s healthy for me and my family.