Category Archives: Post-partum depression

SOC Sunday: The winter doldrums

#SOCsunday

As usually, I am linking up with my friend Fadra for Stream of Consciousness Sunday. Today’s Writing Prompt: How does winter make you feel and what do you do with those feelings?

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It’s funny, I was just thinking about this yesterday when I took Noah out for a walk. Mostly that I can hardly wait for summer. Then I thought about the heat and humidity of June, July and August in Alabama and decided that it’s really spring I’m looking forward to.

We’ll be celebrating Noah’s birthday. The weather will be warmer, and we’ll be able to go on walks every day unless it’s raining. Brighter days are ahead.

I’ve frequently thought of Counting Crows’ Long December throughout this winter. It has been a long, tough few months for me this time. It was my first winter and first holiday season without my dad, and it was tough. Add to that the fact that I’ve been dealing with postpartum depression for several months and also that I decided to try to come off my  meds, and it’s been a sort of trying season.

But for me that just makes spring seem that much brighter. Maybe I’m fooling myself into thinking it’ll be something better than it is, but that doesn’t stop me from looking forward to it. I think back to that fortune cookie I wrote about sometime in the past couple of weeks, the one that said I would have great joy when the flowers bloom.

I hope it’s true. I feel like the Long December is coming to a close for me, and I’m glad. Typically I don’t have as hard a time during the winter as I did this year, so I hope that next year will be different but that I’ll go into it having survived the hardest winter of my life and bearing more knowledge and strength because of it.

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This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post.
  • Link up your post at All Things Fadra.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

A moment in time (PPD update)

I stood over the garbage can, carrot in my left hand and vegetable peeler in my right. Hamburgers sizzled in the skillet, and beans rolled in boiling water on the stove.

In the nursery, Bobby was reading aloud to Noah, “Hey, come join the lot of us…” I’d heard Noah’s laughter just moments earlier and was glad they were having some time together. Noah’s been going through a clingy phase where he only wants me, and I know it’s been hard on Bobby, too.

“But not the armadillo,” Bobby reads.

And I sigh and think that this is just the way it should be. That life is good.

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Last week was a major emotional battle, the worst since I came off PPD meds.

For the first time, I seriously entertained the thought that I should just start taking the pills again.

And you know what? At the time it seemed like such a hard decision that it was paralyzing, but it would have been OK if I had needed to do that. At the same time, I’m proud of myself for sticking it out through several tough days and coming out on the other side feeling a little better.

I don’t really want to dwell on details, but I’m glad I’m past that for now. I suspect that’s not the last time I’ll feel an onslaught of negative emotions, but hopefully next time I will be better prepared for it.

I think it’s toughest on Bobby when I go through periods like that because he’s seen a glimpse of the old me shining through as I’ve come out of the haze of PPD/PPA. And I know a lot of times I take my anxiety out on him in some form (most often it’s being extremely short-tempered for no apparent reason). I’m really thankful that he’s here with me, willing to fight through it with me.

I also have to admit that I do wonder how to know if I really do need to go back on my meds. Last week I just kept telling myself I wanted to make it one more week, just to see if this funk was going to stick around. And it didn’t. But at what point do I say, “OK, this isn’t getting better on its own?”

It’s a little scary, I guess. I have a pretty sensitive husband, so I think his attentiveness will help. I just don’t want to go through the rest of my life with bouts of misery that last several days or a week followed by a few days of feeling semi-normal only to dip back down into a near-debilitating depression.

That probably sounds more hopeless than I feel, but like I said, last week was tough. I’m glad to have my head above the water again, though, and praying that I’ve passed the worst of it. Moments of contentment like the one I shared above give me hope that maybe I have.

My word for 2012: JOY

joy fortune cookieA few weeks ago, Bobby and I met up for our weekly lunch date at Pearl Garden, one of our favorite local Chinese places. We always get a laugh out of the fortune cookies (We add “in bed” to the end. Do it. It will revolutionize your fortune cookie experience.), but this time I was a little caught off guard by the fortune in mine.

“When the flowers bloom, so will great joy in your life.”

I think we probably still joked a little bit, and Bobby teased me that maybe I’d be pregnant again in the spring (That’s a big, fat NO.). But that little cookie prophecy has stuck with me. I can hardly take my mind off it.

Last year was really, really hard. Have you ever seen an old, weather-beaten wooden house that has been abandoned for years … so abandoned that no one’s even bothered to tear it down?

That’s how the last year has made my soul feel.

I am weary. I have reached points where I wasn’t sure my emotions could handle any more. I have bent, but I. have. not. broken.

The past year has been spent clawing my way out of the dirt, sometimes with bare hands. I have mud under my fingernails and smudges on my face, but I can see daylight now, and it makes me yearn for the sunshine even more.

Yes, I’m tired, but I am hopeful. I am ready to see mourning turned to dancing and sorrow turned to joy. And that’s my prayer for 2012.

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The Lettered Cottage

Blissdom confessions

I’ll just be honest and say I’m posting this because I need reassurance.

I’m feeling so incredibly anxious about Blissdom (for those who don’t know, it’s a blogging conference I’m attending in February in Nashville). I literally said I would be attending Twitter yesterday because I hoped just knowing other people expected me to be there would entice me not to back out of going. I haven’t even officially signed up for it yet, but I’m already getting that terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach.

I don’t think this is regular anxiety. I think it’s PPA-related. I love meeting new people and trying new things.

But as I think about it, I imagine sitting by myself in a roomful of people who are all laughing, who all have things in common, who have met or chatted on Twitter or Skyped before. I think about breaking the “rule” that crying in the bathroom is not allowed. I think about how much I’ll miss Noah and Bobby and that I wish I could just take them both with me.

And the knot from my stomach is in my throat now.

I want to go. Bobby is encouraging me to go. I’ve even had one person (hi, Fadra) already promise me a hug.

But this little voice tells me I’m not cool enough. That people will just be annoyed by my anxiety and nervousness. That I don’t belong there.

And I want to belong there. I want to experience the community everybody who’s been raves about. And I’m afraid I’m going to be the one missing out.

Struggle

Butterfly and cocoon

Photo from starampglobal.com.au.

I’ve heard a story before about how it’s important for a butterfly to struggle to get out of its cocoon in order to be strong and able to fly once it’s in the real world.

So I guess I should be thankful.

Coming off antidepressants has not been a walk in the park. The first couple of days were a breeze, but then I think my system realized something was up, and the hormones that had been held in check for months decided to have a little party in my brain.

It’s not as bad as it could be, but I have felt a lot of pressure, stress, anxiety in the past week. I’ve found myself being increasingly short with Bobby. We’ve fought more this week than probably any other single week since I started on the meds. I’ve done my share of crying. And with Christmas looming, I’ve been thinking about my dad even more than usual, which doesn’t help.

But I’m not breaking. Bobby has been so supportive and has let me know (gently) that it’s OK if I need to start taking the meds again. And I was able to talk to him about where I am — to tell him that I know, that I will if I need to but that I’m not going to take an easy out. I knew coming off them would be difficult, and I’m making it OK so far. Not easy, but OK.

I do think it will get easier. My body will slowly get all its chemicals more straightened out, and I’ll be able to go through my days without the near-constant tension that comes from anxiety and depression.

In the meantime, I am reminding myself to take deep breaths and enjoy the happy moments. It does my heart good to have weekends like this past one, where Noah was about as sweet as I could imagine, where he wanted Mama to put him down for his naps and didn’t mind when I cuddled him a few extra minutes each time.

Life is good, even if it’s hard. And I think it’s getting better every day. One day at a time, and I’ll take a few steps back if I need it.

Loss, PPD and the holidays

My sisters and me with our dad at Christmas in 2006. Hard to believe that was five years ago.

I’ve had this post rolling around in my head ever since I visited “home” for Thanksgiving. I don’t know why I haven’t written it yet except that it really is still hard to think about my dad sometimes.

Something that struck me about the time I spent with my sisters and our significant others over Thanksgiving was that we were able to share stories about our dad. Good memories, funny little things we remembered, even a few things we wish had turned out differently.

And I was able to reflect on my dad and who he was (and who he wasn’t, for that matter) without feeling like the walls were closing in on me.

Up to this point, the postpartum depression I’ve dealt in recent months was so much in control that I really couldn’t even think about my dad without facing a downward spiral of crappy emotions. And that really kept me from even being able to grieve for him because I basically just couldn’t even think about him. And when I did, those thoughts quickly turned to me — what I was doing wrong, how bad my life was, what was wrong with me.

This is not to say that I feel at fault for this or that I could have done anything about it at the time. But I am really glad that I now feel like I’m able to grieve for my father.

Christmas was one of his favorite times of the year. I will always remember (and this is so silly, but it’s a fun memory for me) him wrapping presents on random nights in December and then knocking on the bedroom door, indicating that he wanted me to come get them. I would race down the hallway to get the wrapped-up presents, hoping to catch a glimpse of something unwrapped on the other side of the door before he closed it. I never did catch that glimpse.

I think about being a kid and loading up in my dad’s truck, bundled up against the cold, to find a Christmas tree. We’d take a saw and drive out into the woods somewhere near our house, looking for the perfect tree. We’d decorate it with every Christmas ornament, string of lights, strand of garland and piece of tinsel we owned, and by Christmas, it would be almost hidden behind stacks of presents.

Today when I was trying to get Noah’s attention, I caught myself saying, “Psst!” That’s something my dad always used to do. He would say, “Psst!” and then when I would look at him, he’d wink. I have a feeling I’ll be teaching that to Noah.

One of the things that makes me saddest is that Noah and my dad never got to meet. Never got to go fishing together. Never rode down to the river or threw a baseball. Noah never got to see him play Santa Claus.

But one of the things that makes me happy now is that I can actually process this, and when the time comes, I know I’ll be ready to share my dad with Noah.

I think visiting family at Christmas will come with its own set of challenges, and I hope I’m ready to face them. It has always been such a special time for my family, even though it’s been different in recent years. And I want Noah to get a glimpse of what it used to be like.

I also don’t want PPD to take away from the joy of  my little boy’s first Christmas and our first Christmas as a family of three.  I’m going to do my best to focus on the good and to leave the worries behind in Tuscaloosa. I’m going to embrace the craziness of the holidays with my family and remind myself when I feel a little overwhelmed that everything is going to be OK. I will take some time for myself while allowing Noah’s grandparents to have a little extra time with him (AKA babysitting).

It’s going to be a different Christmas, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be a good one. And I want to honor my dad and my little three-member family by celebrating.

It’s time. I’m ready.

sleeping baby

Thank goodness the kid slept on the way home from Nashville! Cute, isn't he?

Today is my last day of taking antidepressants.

I think I’m ready.

I got a little bit of a reality check last weekend when we went to Nashville. We were visiting a home church community there, and we took Noah with us. And he cried. And cried. And cried. For basically the second half of the car ride. He also puked at lunch because I let him have a Chick-Fil-A fry, and he crammed the whole thing in his mouth.

Then came Opryland. Great idea in theory, but not so much with a cranky 8-month-old and a million people there looking at the Christmas lights. Bobby and I fought a bit because he wanted to sit down (he didn’t tell me until later that his gout was acting up), and I set off with Noah and the rest of the group without him.

I was barely holding it in at that point. Bad thought after bad thought after bad thought until I was at the point of tears.

The worst thought? “I can’t do this. I’m not ready to come off meds, and I’m never going to be. I just can’t handle motherhood.”

*Sigh*

Thankfully my friend Natalie asked if I wanted to just take Noah and grab something to drink instead of walking around. Almost the whole Tuscaloosa group ended up catching back up with Bobby and sitting for a while. I think that saved me from a full-blown panic attack in the middle of the Opryland Hotel.

So then we end up with the whole group (there were probably at least 40 of us) at Cracker Barrel. Which is also excessively crowded. And noisy. And I have a hungry, cranky baby who hasn’t slept very much all day, and it’s already past his bedtime.

And then we end up at a table with six. other. kids.

Now this is not to complain about the kids, because they were actually all pretty well-behaved. But it was total A.D.D. time for Noah, which was not helpful while I was trying to feed him. Baby food EVERYWHERE. And I just kept getting more and more frazzled as I tried to keep him from grabbing silverware off the table or flinging pureed carrots into my hair by yanking the spoon I was feeding him with out of my hand.

And, of course, in the midst of all this, he has a poopy diaper and completely freaks out in the bathroom when I go to change him. (I don’t know what scares him so badly about public restrooms, but he screams and shakes like I’ve never seen.)

Poor Bobby wanted to help, but we were so packed in there that it was impossible to swap seats.

The pressure and the strain and the bad feelings just kept on building until I was really at the verge of a panic attack. Bobby saw it and kept reassuring me that it’s going to be OK, it’s going to be OK, it’s going to be OK. We ended up setting Noah on the table to finish feeding him, then I gave him bits and pieces off my plate, and he was completely content. No more fit-pitching. Grumpy baby, gone.

Bobby was right: It really was OK.

I approached the edge, and I didn’t go over it (with a little helpful tug back toward reality from Bobby). I didn’t have a panic attack in Cracker Barrel in front of a bunch of people I just met. Noah eventually got to bed that night and woke up the next day in a significantly better mood.

I woke up with a new perspective on me. Those fears from the night before about not being able to handle it? I. proved. them. wrong.

Motherhood isn’t ever going to be easy. And just because I’m coming off antidepressants doesn’t mean I’m completely over PPD and PPA. It just means I’m at a point where I can handle it.

I’m gaining back control of my life, and it’s a relief. It feels good. I’ll take that last little half-pill tonight, and I will close that particular chapter of my life.

Here’s to happy, med-free, messy, full-of-struggle-but-not-overwhelming days ahead.

Edited to add: I have been in the process of weaning off these meds for four weeks after having discussed it with my doctor. I followed her instructions for doing so. I definitely don’t recommend quitting antidepressants cold turkey! If you’re thinking of getting off your meds, make sure to talk to your doctor FIRST!