Wednesday, October 24, 2007

It's Blog Day for 'The Mothers Act'

BlogHers Act: Blog Day for the Mothers ActI became aware of this initiative just today but am feeling the need to respond and share my story. You can find out more about BlogHers Act and why postpartum depression is such an important issue here.

I always hoped that I could be strong enough that my family history of depression could be held off - by pure force of will, if nothing else. I refused to let myself 'become' depressed, although I probably was even before I had my kids. But I was able to function well and live a generally fulfilled life so I never considered depression as a possibility. After seeing my mom's struggles with depression and anxiety during my entire lifetime, I vowed to never 'let' that happen to me.

Sometimes life doesn't give you what you want though.

After Abby was born, I really didn't have any trouble with depression, or so I thought. It wasn't until months later when I was back to work and hating it, and resenting Ron for being able to be home with 'my' baby girl, that I realized that there might just be something more going on. Thankfully I was able to get help and was convinced to try medication. I didn't like the way I felt on the medication, although I had to admit that it did help me to be able to function much better. I took it for a few months and then was switched to a different one when I became pregnant with Hannah. I stayed on the medication throughout my second pregnancy and afterwards for a while, but stopped taking it after we moved here in late 2003. I knew I wasn't 'cured', but I felt proud of myself for being able to handle life and my responsibilities all on my own.

My doctor asked me about my history of depression when I was pregnant with Becca. She continued to ask throughout my pregnancy how things were going and if I felt like I needed to go back on medication. I really still felt ok at that point and it wasn't until after Becca was born that things started to go haywire. It happened slowly and insidiously until the point where I found myself on the phone with Ron when he'd taken Hannah up to his parents' house (an hour away) for an overnight sleepover - something he'd done the previous weekend with Abby as a special treat while my mom was visiting us. This was Hannah's turn, and since my mom was gone now, I found that being left alone with Abby and the baby was more than I could handle. I called Ron and begged him, sobbing, to come home. To his credit, he explained things (somehow) to his parents and did, although the couple of hours until they were able to get there were incredibly long. I then realized that the way I felt wasn't just sleep deprivation and stress about finances, but a very real depression that I could not manage on my own. Outwardly, I went through the motions of day to day life, but inside I was a mess. And since we'd lost our health coverage when Becca was born and I left my job, getting back on any kind of medication wasn't an option.

Somehow I made it through, taking each day at a time and trying to focus just on meeting everyone's basic needs. Although this was the longest period of time I spent home with any of my babies after they were born, I wasn't in much of a position to truly enjoy it and it's hard for me to even really remember much of that summer. Finding the job that I have now opened a lot of doors back up, including having medical insurance again, although I wasn't able to get back on medication for several more months. But when I did, I began to slowly pull things back together again.

The depression is still there - although I have no idea if it's still considered 'post-partum' given that Becca's appraching her second birthday in a few months. We had to increase the dosage of medication a month ago because I began to backslide down into a mess of depression symptoms both old and familiar and a few new ones. I found myself unable to sleep at night even though I could hardly stay awake at work all day. Jumpy and jittery and my mind racing over everything so I couldn't make myself relax. Unmotivated to do anything beyond sitting on the couch and staring at the television after the kids went to bed at night and on the weekends. And unable to bring myself to do the kind of job at work that I know I am capable of.

I couldn't admit to anyone except Ron and my doctor how bad things had gotten, not even to my friends or this journal/diary/blog I'd started in the spring. I didn't even mean to go into so much detail when I began this post earlier this morning, but the words have just been coming and I'll let my fingers have at it. Increasing the dosage of my medication has helped quite a bit although going cold-turkey off of it for several days last week while I was getting it refilled wasn't a good idea. At all. But something interesting happened late the other night - I was in a complete funk, couldn't concentrate, found myself getting angrier by the moment with everything that I hated about our house and that hadn't gotten done while I was gone over the weekend. Ron was in danger of being woken up by a very irate, frustrated wife until I remembered that I hadn't been able to take my medication in days and that most of my feelings were probably just because of that. And - just - like - that - I began to deflate, almost like a balloon, until I could pull myself together and finish what I needed to do and go to bed. At 2am, but at least I was able to sleep when I did finally lie down.

My refill came on Monday so hopefully things will stay in the status quo for a while, or hopefully at least the 90 days I've got until my next refill. I'll have to remember to do that a bit earlier next time so I don't actually run out.

Do I like the fact that I'm on anti-depressants? No. Am I embarrassed by it? Sometimes. It's not something I admit to very many people who don't already know. But it's not something I want to be ashamed of either, which is why I'm writing this post and letting this out to the world - or at least the blogging one. There's still part of me that feels that I should be able to just 'suck it up' and not have to resort to drugs to get through the day. When I start to think that way, I remind myself of what the counselor said when I first was diagnosed with depression, back when Abby was a baby. This is what convinced me to at least give medication a try. She simply asked me if I felt that a person with diabetes should be expected to function without insulin. The answer was automatic - no, not if they needed it to survive. So then why is depression any different? It really shouldn't be - I believe that clinical depression is a chemical imbalance and nobody can control that on their own, any more than a diabetic can control their insulin levels. Sure, in many cases having the right diet can help and there are homeopathic ways to treat depression as well, but sometimes there just isn't any other option but to use the solution that will help the most or is necessary to preserve life.

To. Preserve. Life.

So that's it. I know there are a lot of different opinions out there on depression and the ways to treat it. I try not to judge anyone else for the choices they make, so I hope that nobody will judge me. But even if they do, I need to finally accept that the depression is real, it is genetic and that the best thing I can do for my girls - who are at an increased risk for it themselves - is to acknowledge it and try to be a role model for my daughters.

Tags: Blog Day for the Mothers Act, BlogHers Act, BlogHer, Postpartum Depression, PSI, Postpartum Progress

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13 wonderful people said...:

Anonymous said...

Thank you. You're very brave and strong for writing this. Stories like yours can go a long way toward helping others.

Unknown said...

You are very brave for posting this. Good for you! I know how you feel!

Shanilie said...

What a great post. Thank you for sharing this. Many people are treated for outward pain such as cuts and bruises but are afraid of getting help for the unseen ones and perhaps the more damaging kind. I have a family who are all on various types of depression medication and it is encouraging to know that you feel at peace about blogging about it.

~Amber~ said...

Thanks for sharing that story Deb. When my dad committed suicide, I had to go on Prozac so I didn't lose my mind, and once I felt that I was able to go off it for good I did. I don't think anyone should be ashamed for being on meds...and who cares what others think anyhow. Only YOU know what is best for YOU. Big Hugs!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote this post Deb. It's always so nice to know you are not alone. I struggle with regular depression as you well know. It has taken a lot of effort to overcome shame but I'm pretty much there now and just want to help others going through the same types of things.

Cecily R said...

After my second was born I really struggled with anxiety (something I have always dealt with but in this case triggered by 9/11)and went on Effexor for a while. I felt ashamed of it too, and then I realized that there's no shame in admitting you need more help than you can give yourself on your own.

When I went to my doctor about it he said the coolest thing. He said, "I love treating this problem, because it's jsut that--treatable!"

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing about Blog Day for the MOTHERS Act. I hope you will continue to encourage your readers to call their Senators throughout the rest of the week, as I hear that the phone lines were pretty busy today. Every single call is SO important. Thanks again for your support of women with postpartum depression!

Karen said...

What a wonderful post. No one knows how it feels unless they have been there. I thank the Lord for medication that allows me to enjoy life.

Julie Arduini said...

Thank you so much for writing so candidly. I have my own post to write that is so close along these lines that I've been putting off, I came here to check on the Mother Daughter carnival. If you have the courage to be that real, my post will reflect the same level of authenticity. Thanks again.

Kim @ PAI said...

Thank you for sharing your story.
Yes, depression is real. The chemicals in our brain become altered especially during pregnancy and post partum. One of my friends who serves in my parenting ministry has an online support ministry for PPD and PAD
(post adoption depression) You can find out more about Tara by visiting: http://outofthevalley.org/

God bless you!

Anonymous said...

The more I read about those who suffered (suffer?) from PPD, the more I identify and relate whole-heartedly. It's wonderful to get this out in the open. Thank you so much for sharing.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your support of the MOTHERS Act. Too often postpartum depression is a problem that goes unnoticed, and most women with PPD never receive any type of treatment. PPD is a treatable illness, and it is essential that we continue to educate ourselves and others about this important issue.

For more information on PPD, visit us at The MGH Center for Women's Mental Health.

Anonymous said...

Somehow I made it through, taking each day at a time and trying to focus just on meeting everyone's basic needs. Although this was the longest period of time I spent home with any of my babies after they were born, I wasn't in much of a position to truly enjoy it and it's hard for me to even really remember much of that summer. Finding the job that I have now opened a lot of doors back up, including having medical insurance again, although I wasn't able to get back on medication for several more months. But when I did, I began to slowly pull things back together again.