In October, Hayden Panettiere entered treatment for postpartum depression. It was “big” news that a celebrity would be bold enough to not only admit that they were dealing with such a problem, but to publicly announce that they were seeking … Continue reading
I wish I was filling these “pages” with fun pictures and happy tales of our new ‘normal’ with our 3 month old and almost 3 year old. There are plenty of things to laugh at, smile about, and be so grateful for. Elly and Beau are growing, healthy, and absolute joys. Spring is bending into summer and life is settling in to a beautiful, simpler rhythm. But while I want so badly to share those things, each time I can come close to bringing myself to write, I know what I’m penning is a collection of lies – the facade that all is well. And while circumstances may say that is true, my heart (and my head) say it’s not.
It’s back. The crippling, aching fog of a very unwelcome company in the form of depression.
I’ve been fighting since before I even delivered Beau. The last trimester for me was almost as trying as the first, then the days of emotional ups and downs after delivery scared and worried me that I was set to fight this battle again. So I did. I talked. I cried. I read. I PRAYED. I gave myself grace and time. Medicine was adjusted. I began getting my strength back after surgery and became more active. For a brief time, I thought I was going to beat it. I thought I was on top of it enough that I could “win” this time around.
I was wrong.
The last few weeks have been a downward spiral that mimics everything I experienced when post-partum hit after Elly. I’ve lost all motivation, sleep is my ultimate daily goal. My moods and weight are all over the place, uncontrollably. I can’t remember things and even have a hard time making a list. I have no interest in things I typically enjoy (like making lists) even if I was able to fight through the fog to try to do something for enjoyment (like keeping up with a blog) I couldn’t complete it. Self hatred and guilt are constant companions. Days are daunting, nights fitful and restless. The lead in my veins pulses fatigue and it’s as if everything I do to keep my head above water is mocking me.
I HATE admitting this. I’ve asked for prayer. I’ve talked to people about this ugly that is my life right now. I’ve pleaded with God to let this pass, to lighten my load. And finally I’ve had to resort to seeking the dreaded medicine change to try to get back to some semblance of myself.
I can’t believe I’m here again. I can’t believe I’m “losing” when I thought I was putting up a good fight. This is a painful reality though and maybe by admitting it, I can find some relief. I have to remind myself I’m not defined by this and that I’m not a bad person for having to go through it – that I don’t have to fake it. I also have to bury myself in God’s word, prayer and praise to attempt to trust that God hasn’t left me here – that somehow, hopefully soon – there will be less darkness.
I’m thankful for those who are praying and for a responsive doctor. I’m beyond grateful to my husband and family for putting up with me (again) as I wrestle this demon. And I seek hope every day in a God that is stronger and bigger than anything I will face during this time.
In the meantime? Survival mode. Again. I try to find (and record) the sweet, happy, or funny moments that do emerge out of the frustration. I don’t want to lose or take for granted what I have, but I also don’t want to live a lie. It is what it is right now and this is just part of my journey. Hopefully soon I can write about Elly’s funny anecdotes and Beau’s sweetness and even what’s happening on TV. Until then, bear with me and maybe say a prayer.
How – HOW – has it already been two months…
I’m not even sure where to begin exactly since my life has effectively become 100% different since I last posted. It’s like a real-life time warp happened. A fantastically crazy few months and it all resulted in the most beautiful, precious, sweet baby boy ever to have existed.
But before that, I must pick up where I left off.
The plagues apparently weren’t done with our house – we ALL ended up with the flu, down to and including dad (which could have been very dangerous, but thankfully he faired pretty well). So after almost two weeks of quarantine, no school for Elly, and coughs that seemed to never go away, we all finally seemed better and could re-emerge into the land of the living. Or, for me, the land of pregnant misery.
If I had had the energy to write anything during the last days of January, it would have basically been a chorus of “I’m so done being pregnant” and bellyaching over how I still had X-number of weeks/days left. I went to my prenatal appointment at 35 weeks and had an ultrasound that showed baby boy was already measuring the same weight as Elly when she was born. Granted, those estimates can be off, but that coupled with the fact that I was already dilating and having more contractions than I was comfortable with on a regular basis, my doctor said we could induce at 39 weeks (on February 25). I almost leapt off the table to hug her and couldn’t have been more thankful to finally have a determined date to look forward to and a specific number of days to count.
BUT, things change, and if anything has been the norm with this pregnancy, it’s been to expect the unexpected.
Everything seemed to be moving along fine at my 36 week appointment and I was actually doing fairly well having finally gotten over being sick, but still fairly miserable as it seemed like the baby gained at least 4 pounds daily. I was busy trying to tie up loose ends from just surviving the month of January. I had good lists made and since I knew my induction date of February 25, I had mentally spaced my tasks out evenly over the remaining time so I would have something to do basically until that date. I thought it was a genius approach, giving me something to check off my lists every day, but not overdo it. In hindsight, this probably wasn’t as good of an idea as I thought.
At my 37 week appointment on Wednesday, February 11th, I was still doing well and not much had changed. I also was feeling good about everything being on track according to my lists. Michael was home from work early that day putting together the rest of the nursery furniture, odds and ends we needed had been ordered and were scheduled to be delivered, and I was pleased with what was accomplished and surmised that the amount of what was left to do was not overwhelming.
That same night after my appointment, I was in tremendous pain. Not labor-like pain or contractions, just a lot of pressure and almost unidentifiable pelvic pain that generally made me really uncomfortable. Since there weren’t regular contractions or anything, I didn’t even think of going to the hospital – it just seemed like more inevitable late-pregnancy pain that I was just going to have to put up with.
I slept what little I could that night, got Elly to school the next day, and even ran a few last-minute Valentine’s Day errands. When I picked up Elly from school, I was still in pain and had very little appetite, but was “making do.” I finished up Elly’s Valentine’s goodies for school and did a few other things around the house after I put her down for her nap. Then I had an…er…interesting trip to the bathroom that led me to text Michael and mom to see if they thought it warranted a call to the doctor. Michael immediately said yes, and mom was close behind. So, I reluctantly called and talked to a nurse who checked with my doctor and said it would be best for me to go to labor and delivery to get checked out.
Elly was having nothing to do with napping that afternoon, so mom picked her up and I headed off to the hospital (alone) for what I figured would just end up being a routine check while I sat half-naked in a closet of a room listening to the baby’s heartbeat, just to be sent home after finding essentially nothing to be concerned about.
Boy, I could not have been more wrong.
Everything did start off as I expected – the bleeding I had experienced at home seemed to have stopped, I hadn’t progressed beyond the 2cm dilated I was the day before, I wasn’t having regular contractions, and everything seemed to be checking out ok. Then the nurse said something that concerned me. She said the baby “looks a little sleepy on the monitor” and asked when I had eaten last (it was about 3pm at this point.) It only then dawned on me that I hadn’t eaten lunch. I didn’t really understand what she meant by that, but we both seemed to surmise that the baby wasn’t very active because I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so she brought me a Coke in hopes to “wake him up a bit.”
So I sat diligently drinking my Coke, texting mom and Michael to keep them updated. I kept telling Michael not to leave work because I was certain by the time he got there, I would be sent home. My sweet mom, however, didn’t want me sitting at the hospital alone, so before I knew it, she appeared in my closet-room in OB triage. I have to admit, I was happy to have the company.
After watching baby boy on the monitor for another half hour or so, the nurse came back to let us know that she had talked with my doctor to fill her in on what was going on and as a result, she would be coming to check on me after office hours. She also started an IV to help get me hydrated. I knew then that something a little more serious might be going on. Apparently, his heart rate was sluggish and would have moments where it would drop. But the nurse kept reassuring me that it looked like the Coke was helping and that hopefully we would continue to see that trend since I was also now getting fluids.
After another half hour or so, and finally telling Michael that he probably needed to come on to the hospital, the nurse came in and said my doctor wasn’t thrilled with what she was seeing from the baby, and then said, “so, you’re not going to be leaving the hospital…with the baby in your belly.”
Bless her heart, she couldn’t have put it more gently, but I really couldn’t believe what I was hearing. All of those things remaining on my lists immediately flashed through my head – most prominently that I did not have our bags packed and thus I was now stuck at the hospital WITHOUT MY STUFF. And then I realized how vain that thought was and started mentally waffling back and forth between panic over the baby being in trouble and trying to stay calm.
They ushered me to a room where my doctor came in and explained more about what was going on and let me know that she was going to break my water to get things moving and see how well the baby handled that and go from there.
There was now an air of mild seriousness about the situation, but everyone was obviously doing what they could to keep me calm, so I just went with it as best I could and prepared to settle in for labor. I made sure the anesthesiologist was nearby for the epidural first and foremost! Michael arrived and we updated him on the new ‘plan’ and I started making my list of what I knew I would need after delivery, etc. before the pain got too bad.
A flurry of nurses and bloodwork and talking with my doctor went on for the next half hour or so as my monitors were being watched closely – every time he would move or “fall off” the radar, a nurse or doctor would immediately be in my room checking everything and having me move to a better position. It didn’t take long before my doctor was looking at the monitor and explaining to us what was happening that she looked at me and, again very gently said, “I think this baby is going to be born abdominally. We need to get him out.”
Ok. So at this point I knew I had two options. Pray and breathe, or panic. I desperately did NOT want to have a c-section for many reasons, but I knew my doctor wouldn’t go this route unless it was absolutely necessary and I was so concerned for my baby boy at this point that I took a deep breath and just held on for whatever was coming next.
Mom was immediately in my face telling me that everything was going to be ok and naming the good points about having a c-section, and I actually remember laughing at her because she was clearly the one panicking at this point, bless her. She, Michael and I held hands for a quick prayer and all breathed a collective breath as we waited for the next steps.
Things picked up rather quickly and the next thing I know, I’m signing paperwork, talking with the anesthesiologist, and being prepped for surgery. It was all a blur, really. They got Michael garbed up for the operating room and before I knew it, I was being wheeled in.
The spinal was next, and wasn’t bad. I was having pretty good contractions at this point so I was looking forward to the relief from that. My blood pressure took a good hit after that and I thought I was for sure going to drown in mid-air as the spinal took effect, but the dear anesthesiologist, nurses, and my doc kept reassuring me everything would even out soon, and sure enough, I was feeling better – and VERY numb – within minutes.
They got the drape up and Michael came in to sit by my head and hold my hand and we were off and running. I remember thinking at the time that having my wisdom teeth out was so much worse than what I had experienced thus far with the c-section that I so dreaded, so I was still pretty calm and just kept silently praying for my boy to be ok.
There was a lot of tugging and pulling as they worked, but it really wasn’t as bad as I had thought it would be. Once they got to the baby I heard my doctor say “he’s BREACH.” (WHAT? Just the day before, the nurse practitioner had confirmed his head in my pelvis – when did this happen?!) Then just a few minutes later, he was out!
They didn’t raise him above the curtain for me to see and he didn’t cry immediately, but he did let out a brief whimper before they took him to the incubator and I knew he was at least alive. My doctor said he looked ‘ok’ but they were helping him breathe as Michael went over to be with him. Pretty soon, they showed me my swaddled boy who, to me, was the most beautiful thing I’d seen since Elly was born and the whisked him away to the nursery, Michael following.
So, here I was left to hang out with those finishing up my surgery and I was completely delirious at this point. After I drilled my doctor with questions about the condition of my boy, I’m pretty sure I uttered something along the lines of “I love you, man” because I was so happy to know that this thing I dreaded so horribly was almost over. Then, as it turns out, a guy assisting with my surgery is the husband of a girl I went to school with. Small world when you live in a small town. Ha!
Once that was all finished, my well-loved doctor left me to go check on my boy and I was taken to recovery. Mom appeared pretty quickly and showed me some pictures on her camera of my boy in the nursery, which was such a relief. We chatted about the surgery and she loved on me like mamas do. And then we laughed because about every 2 seconds, I was scratching – my neck, my face, my arms…apparently a side effect of a spinal is itching and I definitely experienced that! My blood pressure was still too low so they couldn’t give me any Benedryl to help with the itching, so I just scratched. Small price to pay, I figured!
After about an hour, I got back to my room and Michael – the proud papa at this point – came in and was bragging about how well baby Beau was doing in the nursery. They had put in an IV because he was severely dehydrated, but he was “plumping up” so nicely that they felt like any issues would likely be fixed with some fluids and so far, he was proving them right. His heart looked good, and everything else was checking out. Michael told me his stats – 7lbs 1oz, 21 in long, and we all agreed that if I had carried him to full term that he probably would have been a good 8 ½ – 9 lbs.
Before I knew it, the lactation consultant was bringing him into my room and I was able to finally have skin-to-skin time with him and nurse him. With all the meds, the adrenaline of the whole experience, and finally holding my sweet boy, I was in heaven. So thankful that everything had gone well, we all were so relieved.
After an hour or so, they took him back to the nursery for further monitoring and Michael and I tried to get some rest. However, with everything that had gone on, and the fact that there were FOURTEEN other mamas either in OB or maternity, my meds had gotten behind and the spinal was starting to wear off.
This was when I thought I might die.
It was literally like someone had lit a fire in my stomach and it was burning it’s way out. Trying to sleep was a joke. I finally got my medicine and after about an hour of hellacious pain, I could finally rest a little.
The next couple of days were a whirlwind of visitors and getting to know our sweet boy. And realizing this was our new reality. I couldn’t believe how blessed we were to have two beautiful, healthy children. And I was SO thankful not to be pregnant anymore.🙂
Well. First, I have PRAISE THE LORD the Elly seems to finally be on the mend. We had a good visit with her doctor on Wednesday, where she patiently entertained our questions and concerns but also gave us a good outlook and shared why she felt Elly’s situation was improving, which was very encouraging. She is eating a little more normally (not like she’s starving, like she was before) and she has been napping and sleeping SO much better which is also a sign she’s more comfortable. So…so far, so good. We still give her Zantac around the clock and are hoping it will fully heal her and we can be over this hurdle, but it’s still going to take some time, so patience is still of the essence. But we’re getting there it seems and that’s all we can ask for. I tried to return a little bit to some normal routine for her and we did some crafts on Thursday morning. She’s such a good helper.
Not Elly – that’s my temp yesterday.
I started with an oh so familiar cough on Wednesday, but just attributed it to the crazy weather we’d been having. Thursday morning wasn’t too bad, but by Elly’s naptime, I was achy and started promptly praying that that too was weather related. By that night I was running a low grade temp and knew something wasn’t right. I did little more than toss and turn all night, and Michael woke up with me around 5 and we started talking about what I needed to do. Luckily, the urgent clinic opens at 6, so I dragged myself there and was able to walk right in. My flu test came back negative, but the doctor let me know that that could change – that she’d seen people on Friday who tested negative and then a few days later, when they weren’t better, tested positive.
Seriously? Don’t tell me that. Can’t we just let negative be negative and move on?
Essentially that’s what she did, by giving me a hefty antibiotic and reminding me to rest. Um, ok.
So I came home and Lysoled everything I could have touched or breathed on in the last 24 hours and then holed myself up in the bedroom.
By the afternoon, I was convinced I was going to be one of those people that doesn’t test positive for flu until it’s too late because my fever kept creeping up and I felt like death spread on a cracker. I may even have prayed for the rapture a time or two. It was bad.
But, thankfully around 2 am, my fever broke and I was able to shower and feel human for about 30 minutes, giving me hope that what I was dealing with was in fact getting better. I rested on and off for the rest of the night and today started markedly better than yesterday, to say the least.
I could cry a river of thanks to my mom and Michael who have taken over while I’m trying to get well. Mom has essentially dropped everything to take care of Elly while Michael works and I don’t know how I’ll ever be able to thank her enough. The peace of mind to know your child is taken care of AND having a good time is priceless.
I’ve decided all of these unexpected “hurdles” must be God’s way of preparing me for the chaos that’s about to ensue in 5 weeks or so when baby boy makes his arrival. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to say that I’m prepared, but it’s more than apparent God’s determined for me to take one day at a time and lean into Him instead of trying to control everything. You know, just the single-most difficult thing for me to do.
But I’m learning. And hopefully God sees that too.
Warning – if you’re not in the mood for what serves as at least a partial pity-party, then stop reading now.
I’ve had enough.
I tried the thankful route – knowing in my heart and trying to convince my mind that gratitude and a gracious attitude would keep me from falling into a pit; that keeping my mind Christ-centered and focused on his goodness would be in my best interest. And for all intents and purposes, I suppose it did – or at least delayed the pit because well, here we are.
I figure I am human, after all.
11 days. 11 days (and long nights) of wondering, pondering, trying not to worry have left me spent. Add on top of that some mystery illness that plagued Michael and I (in similar but different ways – I’ll spare you the details) over the last 3 days and I’m surprised I’m even upright at this point.
We’re STILL trying to figure out what’s wrong with our sweet Elly. After last week’s tests that virtually only ruled out common ailments, she experienced another setback Monday night when she got sick in the middle of the night, completely unexpectedly. We put her back on the anti nausea medicine so she could at least keep food down until we could talk with her doctor on Wednesday, when she ordered an abdominal xray that showed nothing. After another visit today, we’re doing another trial run with to see if she gets sick this time without the medicine or if we’re past whatever beast this is.
So more questions. More waiting. More fearing what’s next, whether it be tomorrow or next week, based on the unpredictable nature of this crap.
I don’t survive well in wait-and-seeville. In fact, it pushes my very core being into uproar because I live to know WHY. And the waiting?! Um, yeah. Forget it. And when it’s my baby we’re dealing with, well, a hormonal 8 month pregnant momma bear is not really an ideal suit for this scenario. And quite frankly I’m over it.
I’m over the zillions of questions that ruminate in my head of whether I did/have done/am doing this or that right; of whether what I had or he had or she had was a bug or this or that and who’s giving it to who, etc; of whether I can actually breathe a sigh of relief that maybe we’re past this bout of hell we’ve been dealt for the time being or whether we’re potentially facing something long-term for Elly that’s going to be a lot of trial and error with even MORE questions. All this with the constant reminder ringing in my mind that soon I’ll be dealing with all of this TIMES TWO.
There aren’t enough anxiety meds in the world.
Don’t get me wrong for even a SECOND – I KNOW things could be (or get) worse. I have cried and prayed for mommas of chronically ill children more this week than I ever have because even a mildly sick child is enough to humble any mother to her knees in thankfulness for health. I can’t imagine what they go thru only a daily basis – that all the questions and worry are commonplace and not something they’re waiting for to pass like I am lucky enough to be at this time.
But yes, I’m tired, I’m defeated, and I’m ready to find some answers – answers that seem so elusive for the moment. But mostly I’m frustrated because I don’t know what to do from minute to minute right now except wait. And again, that’s not in my repertoire of refined skills.
So please forgive me for needing to vent, for wanting to be over this and all the questions along with this. And please pray that some answers will come and this will all be in our past soon.
And that somehow, we’ll all be stronger for it.
Oh my my heavens, what a week.
This poor baby is what I’ve looked at most of the week.
It’s been rough. What started as what we thought was a bug on Monday has morphed into something that has lasted all week and honestly – even after a doctor visit – aren’t entirely convinced it’s “over.” After ruling out several causes for what could be making our baby very (albeit inconsistently) sick, the consensus at the moment is that she has a highly inflamed stomach lining and possibly the beginning of an ulcer. (Poor thing – she definitely takes afyer her momma.) But if this week has taught me anything, it’s that all of that can change, literally overnight.
Yet I’ve learned a lot more than just that this week. A lot about mothering; a lot about worry; and ultimately, a lot about myself. That sounds crazy, I guess, but for my heightened hormonal, anxiety-ridden self, even the smallest things can become BIG tests – tests that require a huge learning curve.
Watching my poor, petite little girl suffer is one of the most heartbreaking things I’ve endured as a mother. I know I’m not alone in this, but I guess it just becomes so real when your child lays in front of her toys unable to even play with them because she feels so bad. And no, this isn’t the first time Elly’s been sick – I feel this way every time. I just finally have the mental clarity to put it into words I suppose.
I also learned that I can endure much more than I imagined (even while 8 months pregnant.) Yes, I may have cried (a lot, maybe), I may have worried excessively, and I may have been hit with an inevitable migraine, but we’re all still here. Making it.
And while I don’t like to admit it, I guess we’ll continue to ‘make it’ should this episode continue.
But the most shocking thing I realized throughout this week is what I could still manage to be thankful for in spite of the not-so-great parts of having a sick child. My husband is a rock, but is also a caring daddy concerned about his baby girl. My mom is still the prayer warrior and faith monger that she’s always been. Regardless of how hard these days have been, it could be so much worse. We have a WARM comfy home where we can endure all of this together. We have fantastic cleaning products that make things fresh again – like this fabric softener (thanks, Dede!!) that makes everything smell so pretty I could literally make my own perfume out of the stuff.
We have good medicines and good doctors at our disposal that make the process of dealing with everything a little easier. We have friends and family that pray…I could go on and on, and for that simple fact as well, I’m thankful.
I’m hoping and praying for a peaceful weekend, but even if more surprises pop up, I hope I can still find something to be thankful for, regardless of how small.
This exact time last year, I was in a freezing cold hotel room across from Jewish Hospital where me, Sonny and his family, and my Aunt Lou were trying to get bedded down for a short sleep. After waiting a full day with no definitive answer, we had just gotten news about an hour prior that Dad’s liver transplant surgery would take place around 9am on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014. We were all in a sort of semi-shock that this was all really happening and sleep proved quite elusive, both from the nerves/anticipation and from the fact that thanks to the first Polar Vortex of the year, our hotel room never got above 68 degrees with a wind chill of -34. Payne talked in his sleep the whole night. I had to pee at least 4 times in the 5 short hours we were there. Needless to say, when you’re waiting on a miracle that’s nearly in your grasp, restful sleep is not at the top of the list.
But the next day came, and we trudged across to the hospital in literal sub-zero temps to wait through a 10-hour surgery that would prove to save Dad’s life in more ways than one. We will all never forget that as they wheeled him away to the operating room, he waved to us and said, “I’ll be fine. See you later!”
We all witnessed a miracle that day. We heard doctors say words that we never thought we would hear. We saw not only his life, but our lives changed forever as we now count this as Dad’s “second birthday.”
We could not be more thankful for the gifts we’ve been given – the gift of more life with Dad, the reward of seeing true belief and faith come to full fruition (even when the days of waiting were hard and the doubt so easily crept in.)
So, Happy Second Birthday, Dad. You’re more than a miracle!
We spent this weekend in Jackson and Germantown TN with mom’s side of the family and it was absolutely wonderful. We calculated how long it had been since we had been to visit there (Michael always has to work, weather and health are always major considerations) and it had been since Christmas of 2008 since I had been and Christmas of 2011 since the rest of the Flatts had been. So, basically far too long. Michael still had to work this year but Elly and I made the trek with everyone else. Everyone was an immense help to me considering Elly isn’t really the greatest traveler (she seriously will NOT sleep in the car), but Payne and Graycen were absolutely indispensable. They’re so good with her and she gets quite spoiled with them being pretty much at her beck and call. I should give her credit too though – she slept great in the hotel (after about 20 minutes of intermittent “mommy?” quizzes to make sure I was still in the room with her) she was out. She was great visiting people she hadn’t seen in a year or so or in some cases, ever, and did a pretty good job stealing hearts. Uncle Skip and Aunt Peggy were fabulous hosts as usual and made sure all the little ones were catered to. Elly had a blast playing with everyone and her face lit up when she saw her cousin Garner, who is just a month or so older than her, walked in. It was precious.
The best part was that all of “the cousins” and their offspring were there. That’s quite a feat considering there are 8 of us with 12 kids spread from IL to TN. It was such a blessing for everyone to be together. Times like this, especially with dad, are so treasured now. Hopefully we can look forward to many more trips like this!
I don’t like to talk about this subject.
It’s painful. It’s personal. It’s often lonely and ignored. But I feel like I’ve reached a point that it’s necessary.
I mentioned in the post announcing that we’re pregnant that the first trimester “almost took me under.”
And that it did. A depression unlike almost any I had ever experienced took me down.
It took me to a very, very dark place when I was supposed to be glowing with anticipation and excitement, even amidst the throes of morning sickness and insane fatigue.
I’ve battled depression for over 10 years – probably longer – but was first ‘diagnosed’ in my early 20’s. I was put on the same anti-depressant as everyone else by my primary care physician (who, it should be noted, was more of a psychologist than many in psychological professions I’ve seen since then.) Not much was said about it, and truthfully, I don’t know what it did or didn’t do for me because I didn’t really know the demon I was battling.
I stopped taking it after I felt “better” and spent the next several years on a roller coaster of other medications and “talk therapy” trying to treat a foreign ailment that sometimes seemed like something I just dreamed up or just an excuse for doctors to get me to stop complaining about whatever was bothering me. The only thing that kept me from being certain I was just making this up was that I knew there was a strong family history of depression, so perhaps I was just lucky enough to get some of those genes.
I managed pretty well when anxiety was finally recognized about 3 years ago as a big part of my problem in addition to the depression and I started being able to put pieces together of what caused my depression. Hormonal issues, my personality of perfectionism and need for control, and especially when I physically don’t feel well all can lead me into a dark fog. You may as well drag my emotional health down the river when I’m physically down because it’s a relatively lost cause.
As you can imagine, the first weeks of pregnancy are the perfect storm for me. Hormonal changes every SECOND, being completely out of control of what your body (and mind) is going through, and of course, physically feeling like death spread on a cracker. I was sunk. As the depression worsened, so did the anxiety. Suddenly, I was fretful over every little thing regarding the pregnancy: I would have a ‘good’ day where I didn’t feel sick and would convince myself that must mean the pregnancy wasn’t healthy or viable any longer. I calculated massive numbers in my head of how the odds of miscarriage in second pregnancies was so high that I may as well be prepared. Every pain, cramp, or twinge of change was certainly spelling impending doom. My mind was out of control.
I was hoping for some consolation and perhaps an increase in medication, something – ANYTHING – from my first appointment at 8 weeks but instead was met with none of the above. I saw a nurse practitioner I had no past with for that first visit, and unfortunately, my tears and pleading meant little to her. I completely understand there was probably nothing she could do at that point anyway, but a little compassion can go a long way sometimes. I was desperate. I didn’t want to feel this way, think these things – ESPECIALLY when I would much rather have been living in a place of thankfulness and peace. It was horrifying, knowing there was so little I could do while I waited and prayed for the first trimester to move quickly. Thankfully, I have a husband and family who are more than supportive and understanding and helped me walk through those dreary days.
When Robin Williams died though, it really bothered me as the outpouring of “concerned” bystanders started rolling in. Suddenly along with every news story about Williams, there was a PSA about how anyone facing depression needed to “seek help” or “reach out.”
This INFURIATED me.
The LAST thing a depressed person WANTS to do is reach out. It’s not selfish, it’s just part of the beast. Depression is so isolating anyway that by the time a person actually recognizes that they are depressed, they’re well past “reaching out.” AND, beyond that, chances are that person may have already reached out and been met with far less help than they needed. Like most ER visits, unless you’re crying ‘heart attack,’ you’re not an emergency. Same with depression – unless you’re talking suicide (and even sometimes when you are), it’s not an emergency.
Here’s what I’ve experienced – seeking help for depression usually goes something like this:
First visit, usually with a primary care doc lands you a recommendation for a counselor, which can’t see you for another 2 weeks. If you do walk out with a prescription, it’s for a mild, run-of-the-mill, just slightly better than a sugar pill drug that won’t begin to work for at least 4 weeks, if at all. And during that 4 weeks, you’re likely to have some “mild” side effects that make the whole process more fun. Meanwhile, word may get out that you’re seeking help for depression and your friends may say things like, “what do YOU have to be depressed about??” and your coworkers just think you’re a coward and your family may even go as far as to think you’re just being lazy. And if you’re a Christian, like me, it’s sad how many times you may be told that you’re just not praying enough. Oh my heavens, what a kick in the gut that is because truthfully, prayer is likely the only reason I was still willing to try to beat depression at all. These responses are ALL too common, from what I’ve learned. You diligently attend your “talk therapy” appointment, but your “counselor” may as well have gone to hairdresser school as far as you’re concerned because her half-witted attempts to explain what you’re feeling seem futile and her assertions of “you seem angry…” just infuriate you more. And an hour session every two weeks is not really doing much except draining your bank account. Really, what can you cover in an HOUR?! You battle with that go-around for six months to a year maybe, only to discover that you’re not any more “well” than before.
From this point, it’s a crap-shoot as to what happens. You may continue to seek traditional care, usually winding up at a psychiatrist who will promise not to turn you into a “zombie” when in fact they do just that with their high-powered meds and psychoanalysis. Or, you turn to unconventional methods with herbs or yoga or something you read about on Facebook, usually to no avail. And yet, all the while, you’re hearing that depressed people should “reach out.” A year or two after you REACHED OUT and you’re more desperate for care than you were before, but also more hopeless that you’ll actually find a suitable solution. It’s dark, people. VERY dark.
I wish I could say I found a key, a secret weapon or some way around all of the above so that others didn’t have to face it, but unfortunately I don’t have that. For me, it took getting to that place of desperation and expressing it to my husband in such a way that there was no denying my sincerity of how deep my despair was. Elly was one, and looking back, it’s evident now that I had late-onset post partum that easily overtook me based on my predisposition for severe depression and anxiety. I’m also an excellent actress and can mask my interior like no other. I still had to go through quite a bit of trial and error and more doctor ‘fails’ before finding a relatively simple but effective method of management for me. For now. Because the beast changes, a person with depression (and anxiety) has to stay on their toes – what works today may need to be changed in a year or two or even sooner.
Again, I wish I could say I had learned the trick or even an appropriate argument for all those well-wishers who say “seek help” because while they mean well, they obviously have no clue what a depressed person is really dealing with. I can only speak from my own experience and what that means for me. I know what my depression looks and feels like. I vividly remember what Elly’s first year was like and how I relish in her existence now, where as I couldn’t then. I know what most of my triggers are and try at best to avoid them when possible. I know I need special care from myself, especially while pregnant, to make sure I stay in a healthy place. And even then, there’s going to be some bad days. I know prayer and my faith is extremely important, as is the support from my family and friends, so I do what I can to keep those things in check.
I’ll step down off my soapbox for now, but please. Before you tell someone to reach out, try reaching in.