Monday, June 30, 2014

Taking on Challenges to beat a Challenge: Post-Partum Depression and Anxiety

Depression.  Anxiety.  Meds.  They all felt like dirty words.  I didn't want to admit that maybe I had it, or maybe I needed them.

The hopeless feelings started shortly after the birth of my fifth child.  I think it was a build up of a few things. Lingering feelings of loss after my miscarriage ten months before Luke's birth, the difficulty with being the primary caregiver for five children, and possibly from  the hemorrhaging that left me weak and tired for the next few weeks after his birth.  I don't know.  Maybe it was just my turn.  Maybe even if none of those things happened, maybe I would've been depressed anyway.

These guys are always my biggest cheerleaders.  I love them so much!

Luke ended up hospitalized at three weeks old.  He had the flu.  I was already exhausted but watching my tiny baby hooked up to tubes and monitors took what little bits of myself that I had managed to pull together and rip it all apart.  Luke came home after a few days perfectly healthy.  I pretended to be. I blamed my exhaustion on the recent birth, my short temper on the trials of taking care of five kids and a household.  As soon as my husband would come home from work, I would hand over the responsibilities and lock myself in my room.  

I knew I wasn't feeling right.  I would lose my temper at the drop of a hat--but I've always been passionate.  It was easy to write off initially.  But then new feelings were also taking over--things that usually would be a breeze for me kept me awake all night.  Planning for Cubscout day camp, something I had done a few times before with minor annoyance, kept me awake for more than three weeks straight.  

I blamed it on my birth control.  I called my doctor, switched meds, and weaned my baby.  All those things helped.  Thinking my hormones were the only issue, I decided everything was fine.  
This is where I didn't want to go.  It's a stressful vacation with babies,
and my anxiety was already crippling me.  I wasn't sure I could handle the added stress.

Only, it wasn't.  Anxiety over an upcoming vacation (that I really didn't want to go on) was crippling me.  My husband and I were fighting constantly about the vacation.  Somehow we made in onto the plane without killing each other, only to come off it with a three month old baby with a fever.  

That week was hell.  I was already on the edge, but then I was stuck in the middle of nowhere (literally more than an hour from the closest hospital) with a feverish baby who couldn't sleep.  The diagnosis of pneumonia pushed me over.  Or maybe it saved me.  A week of people trying to convince me my baby was fine, when I could see he was clearly not, made me think that I might truly be crazy.  I was glad to know that I wasn't, but wondered why I couldn't calm down.  

Now that Luke was on the mend, shouldn't my heart stop racing?  Shouldn't I be able to sit back and enjoy life?  Luke was sleeping again, shouldn't I be able to sleep?  But none of that happened.  Instead I slept less and felt less.  The only thing I did feel was a growing hatred to my children, particularly my two year old girl.  

She looks tired in this picture. All her pictures from this period look tired.
 I think I did that to her.  She was confused. My doctor let me know that I was not alone. That I could be cured.
Can you imagine how horrible it feels to know you brought a life into this world and you wished that life was gone?  I wish I never felt that way, but I did.  Even now, knowing it was the disease and not me, I don't want to admit that I had those feelings. I needed to admit I had them.  It was the only way to get the help I needed.

Back at home, I would call my husband often and begged him to come home from work.  Big deals at work meant he never could. Luckily a friend called out of the blue one day and asked if she could watch my kids the next morning.  I took her up on that offer and many times after.  She always seemed to call when things were at there worst and offer me what I needed most--a few hours child free.

I hated asking for help.  It was like admitting I was a failure at my vocation of choice--motherhood.

I knew I needed to change.  Running had always been my solace.  Emily, a person I had never met before, posted on a Facebook page that she was new in town and in need of running partners.  I'd given up running two years before.  But I needed something and running and always provided that something before.

Within a few weeks, I had worked up from barely being able to finish three miles, to barely being able to finish five.  It felt great.  I felt better.  

Or so I thought.  Running didn't heal me, but it certainly helped me see through the haze.

Driving down the road and imagining running off it doesn't exactly equal better.  Screaming at children for the literal spilled milk doesn't exactly equal better.  It was time to call my doctor.  She offered me medication.  The "M" word.  Reluctantly, I filled the prescription.  

I caught myself singing.  Luke smiled and I was singing.  I smiled.  When was the last time I had sung my baby a song?  I couldn't remember.  I wanted to cry.  Only a week on the medication and I was singing.  And snuggling with my two year old.  And loving it!  I love to snuggle.  Especially with her. I had forgotten that I liked snuggling with my babies...and my big kids!  Suddenly they wanted to be near me, too, now that I didn't yell at them for looking at me funny.
This is the little girl that I know and love.  Whimsical and fun.  Always a treat! (unless it's nap time)
But still I wasn't better.  The medication let me see that.  It made things clear. It separated reality from the dark-fiction my mind created.  I could see I had a long way to go.  But now how to overcome?  

I needed a project.  A big one.  Something that would help me find me again.

Normally, when I need a big project, I choose my writing.  But writing pulls me right where I didn't need to be.  Writing locks me in a room, alone, for hours on end.  Something that normally I'd enjoy.  But now that was exactly what was hurting me.  I couldn't be there fraternizing with my demons.  I needed to be fighting them.  This time, that was not the way to go.

The answer was found at 5 am on a dark street. 

The marathon.

Running a marathon isn't about the last 26.2 miles.  It's about the hundreds before it.  It's about the black toes and sore muscles.  It's about the runs that feel easy and like you could fly.  But especially about the ones.  The ones that should be easy but leave you wanting to cry half a mile in.  It's about doing something hard, just because you can.  It's about making friends.  It's about being lonely with your thoughts and realizing you're not alone.  It's about finding your demons and then not only fighting them but destroying them.  

I love running.  I love finding my demons.  I love finding my "can'ts" and "won'ts" and "shouldn'ts."  I love doing the impossible.  Each step had been a fight against my depression.  Each step has shown me that I'm more than PPD.  I'm more than my anxiety.  

And maybe today I didn't complete that last repeat.  I can go home and cry about it or I can run tomorrow.  

And, fingers crossed that I won't strain my piriformis again, I will be running tomorrow.  Because it is a new day and a new chance to fight.  

I know.  Bad Picture.  About mile 6 of the marathon.
With my running buddy and one of my best friends.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


I think I've hit a breakthrough with my postpartum depression and anxiety.

Cub Scout Day Camp was last week.  Last year, I couldn't sleep for weeks before.  This year, I decided to not stress and I didn't.  If you've ever known anyone with depression or anxiety then you'll know that saying "Don't stress about it" is futile.  I promise, I wanted to be able to control my emotions.  I just couldn't.  But this year, I could.  And it felt good.

PPD is something I've been wanting to write about for a while.  I just don't know where to begin.  I will take this issue up soon.  Hopefully my experience will help someone.  Just know, that you if recently had a baby or are pregnant, and you don't feel right.  If you feel sad or helpless or even feel like you don't love your baby--YOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Yes, I did just yell.  You are not.  Get help. Don't be embarrassed.  PPD is treatable.  Don't let it take over your life.  You will get better.