Thursday, August 25, 2016

Depression, Waffles and Spaghetti

I always think of myself as having my shit together at the most basic level. Do I forget vital information on a regular basis? Yep. Do I lose my mind from time to time? Absolutely. Do I feel overwhelmed and cry while eating all the chocolate I can find at times? You betcha. But no more than other women I am close to. The analogy I've always loved is that men are like waffles and women are like spaghetti. Men can compartmentalize everything. If a man is working on his car, that's all he is thinking about. Women, on the other hand, are one big hot mess of everything mixing together. While we cook supper, we think about the next day's meeting, if the kids have clean clothes for school, if we sent that email, and when we'll call our best friend to check on her sick dog. All while the man is still working on his car.

When I was pregnant with my oldest child, I obsessively read blogs and articles about adjusting to new life with a baby. I was ready. Sure, I had glanced over the stuff about post-partum depression and anxiety, but that wouldn't be me. There was no need to even research postpartum depression. This baby was the answer to so many prayers that there was no way I could ever be sad or anxious.

Famous. Last. Words.

When kid #1 was a few days old and we arrived home from the hospital, I was over the moon about her. She was perfect. Seriously, in the history of babies, she was the most beautiful, smartest, and  best baby ever. She was born in December, so we had a little snow on the ground, and all I could imagine were the perfectly candid holiday photos. I was home with her for two months. After the first month, she decided that sleep was a thing of my past. We fought through that, and I was still mostly happy. Sure, I cried more than I'd like to admit,  but I assumed that was part of the adjustment period.

One day as we were getting ready to take her to a doctor appointment, I walked through the house to make sure I had turned off all the lights and heard the gentle sounds of a waterfall. We don't have a waterfall. At least we didn't until the pipe burst above the nursery and bathroom. Two inches of water was already pooling on the bathroom floor and was seeping into the nursery with the brand new bamboo floors I had meticulously picked out. I immediately went into crisis mode. Husband (Hubs), compartmentalizing like he does, turned off the water to the house, grabbed all the towels, and began clean up. I grabbed the baby, went to our room, nursed her, and cried for an hour. My house was in shambles; I felt like a failure. Hubs, being the wall of strength that he is, comforted me and somehow convinced me to quit crying. The next day we ran out of propane. That was the coldest winter in years and somehow the propane truck missed us. So we had no water, no clean towels, and no gas for the heater. Again, I cried. My parents tried to persuade us to stay with them, but I thought not staying in my own home was a sign of failure. I refused to be a failure to this tiny person I had brought into the world. My brother even tried to convince me to stay with my parents. Again, I refused. 

Every time I refused these offers of help, it broke me. My biggest memories of those weeks are of me and the baby crying. Two days later, another pipe that lead to our washing machine burst. I have never felt so low and depressed as I did that day walking into the house and stepping in more water.

After we survived our own personal hell of a winter, I assumed that I was fine. My baby was getting older and we were figuring out this parenting thing. Then she stopped gaining weight. She was three months old and tiny. I had decided that I was going to exclusively breastfeed until at least six months. When we saw that her weight was so much lower than her projected weight, I was crushed. I couldn't fail her again! Why wasn't my milk sufficient for this tiny person?!? She was constantly nursing! I was scared that someone was going to take my baby away from me because I had defective breasts.

Finally, when she was four months old, Hubs convinced me to talk to my doctor. I was crying all the time, uncontrollably and for no logical reason at all. One time, I broke down because my baby reached for Hubs instead of me. I needed a break but couldn't understand why she didn't want only me. Admitting that there was something wrong with me was, once again, in my mind a sign of failure. If I was happy to have this baby, then why was I so sad? Why did the thought of anyone but me holding her give me an anxiety attack? Why did I hate being a mom when it was what I had wanted for so long?

After confiding in my doctor,  he said, "Why in the hell are you just now coming to me with this?!? You didn't have to deal with this on your own!" He was right. I had convinced myself that I could do everything on my own to the detriment of myself and my family. My selfishness and stubbornness had prevented me from getting the help I needed. I began taking Zoloft daily. I know this sounds hyperbolic, but Zoloft saved my life. It didn't make the craziness go away, but it took the edge off just enough for me to handle things when the shit hit the fan again. And again.

When kid #1 was about nine months old, I found out I was pregnant with kid #2. My OB asked if I would continue taking Zoloft during the pregnancy. Immediately, my brain went into panic mode. What if the Zoloft caused some sort of birth defect? What if it had a horrible effect on the baby? I decided to go without it for a couple weeks to see how I could handle myself unmedicated. Big mistake! HUGE mistake!! I couldn't deal with the pregnancy hormones, an infant, a new job, and the insanity of life without that pill. I had never wanted to become a person who had to have a pill to function, but that's what I had become. A medicated me is much more tolerable than an unmedicated me.

My kids are now one and half years old and nearly three years old, and I'm still taking Zoloft every morning. As long as my life is full of craziness, I'll keep taking it. I'm okay with that. I've reached the point in my life where I can recognize and acknowledge when I need extra help, whether that be in the form of Zoloft, an hour alone, or a phone call to a friend. None of those are signs of weakness at all. They are signs that I am strong enough to admit when I am not strong. It takes strength to admit when one needs help. This allows me to be a stronger wife, mother, friend, and woman.

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