Tuesday, November 22, 2011
the one where i get serious
**edited to add: i’m posting this without really proofing it. i kinda don’t want to reread it. sorry for typos, and sorry if it doesn’t make complete sense. it’s kind of a stream of consciousness type thing.
i’m not even entirely sure how to begin this post.
the other day i wrote myself a schedule. it contained 15-25 minute time increments, during which i was going to do things like: clean kitchen, clean living room, vacuum living/dining/play rooms, clean bathroom.
i set the timer, and i started.
what my list didn’t have: time to take care of my sick baby.
when she cried, i squeezed in a little five minute nip for her.
it was about the time that i was on my hands and knees in the bathroom: scrubbing the floor with one hand, holding a screeching, snotty, coughing baby in the other hand that it hit me.
WHAT IN THE WORLD AM I DOING?
and why am i doing it?
i know why i’m doing it: because the day before, i did nothing. i barely got out of bed. i didn’t ever change out of my jammies. i’m pretty sure i never even brushed my teeth. my older three got ready for school on their own, packed their own lunches, and the three year old spent way too much time in front of the tv.
i puttered around the house, knowing i should do something. but what? and why?
here’s what i’m dancing around: depression. post-partum, or just your regular old garden variety.
i’m not gonna act like i’m doing something AMAZING and unheard of by discussing this in a relatively public forum. obviously brooke shields has been here before me.
but i feel the need to share.
for me, it runs in quick cycles of an almost manic-depressive type: long days of nothingness, followed by frantic days of manic activity. wonky sleep schedules: nights of insomnia, followed by endless naps and 8:30 bedtimes.
baby #2 was when it first reared it’s ugly head. i didn’t sleep. i was 22 years old, with a 2 year old and a newborn, and i never slept. i would stay awake all night long, puttering around our newly-purchased home, painting and organizing.
when the sun finally came up i’d crawl wearily into bed. the googiedaddy would head off to work, and i would close my eyes for 2 or 3 hours before my babies woke up.
and the thoughts. oh, the crazy crazy thoughts! never EVER of harming myself or my babies. but i was so, SO scared something bad was going to happen. jeremy would leave for work and i would break down in tears, convinced he was going to die. i would sit at a red light and watch cars cross the intersection and think “what if i didn’t see that red light and didn’t stop and that guy HIT me and i DIED???” and all of it would play out in my head like the most morbid horrifying movie and i would sob and sob.
i kind of thought…well, i don’t know what i thought. i didn’t really talk about it.
and right about the time i started thinking maybe it wasn’t normal, maybe i should talk to someone about this, i had an epiphany: maybe this is that ‘post-partum depression’ i’ve heard about.
and just that quickly—i was fine. i was all better.
with baby #3 i was more prepared. i was waiting for it. and when she was born our life was a whirlwind: a house undergoing major construction, running our own business, a 4 year old and 2 year old and newborn with a clubfoot and weekly doctor’s visits and cast changes and and and…
i started down that road—the crazy “what-if” thoughts. the morbid dramas playing out in my brain. and i remember distinctly thinking to myself one day
you DO NOT HAVE TIME FOR THIS.
that was it. simply, i did not have the TIME to ALLOW myself to be depressed. to have post partum depression.
so i didn’t. weird, huh?
for a long time i was fine. i had dark times, here and there. but nothing drastic. like most women there was
always certain times of the month when i was a bit more prone to sadness and melancholy.
when i got pregnant with #4 i was over the moon. i had wanted another baby for a couple of years. this was our first planned pregnancy, and despite my sickness and tiredness i couldn’t WAIT to hold another baby in my arms.
but it was 2008.
do you remember 2008? it’s the year that the economy completely
without getting into too much of it, our family owned business did the same. we went months without a paycheck. we lived off our credit cards and savings. those same credit cards were maxed out to pay our employees salaries’ and buy supplies for the few jobs we did get.
we had three children and another one on the way.
whether it was hormones, or being older or something completely different or a combination i don’t know.
but that time, i couldn’t deal. i couldn’t will it away. or tell myself to STOP.
i started suffering first from anxiety. then panic attacks. i would awaken in the dead of night and completely go bonkers. i couldn’t stop my brain. i literally could not stop my legs from moving and kicking. i would cry and be hysterical and unable to control the thoughts. unable to move on, to talk myself out of it. apologizing over and over to jeremy for my craziness. for waking him up. for being unable to stop.
what if we lose our house? WHAT IF WE LOSE OUR HOUSE? and the logical side of me would say, “yeah. what if we lose our house? we have strong families who love us. it’s FAR from the end of the world.”
i was simply unable to cope. it was a dark time. and it was time to get help. my midwife suggesting talking to my primary doctor. my primary doctor was afraid to do anything, considering i was five months pregnant.
i don’t blame either of them—they are both excellent practitioners. but i see clearly how easily these kinds of things remain untreated. it is a huge, difficult step to take to ask for help. and when that cry for help isn’t immediately answered, it’s all to easy to forget about it. to retreat back into your shell.
my midwife met me at the office on her day off to talk with me. she felt strongly that i was in a place that required medication to help me to cope. i agreed.
i have been on that medication now for almost 3 1/2 years. through my pregnancy with gigi, post-partum with her. throughout my pregnancy with elliot and now post-partum.
i tried coming off once, but it boiled down to this: i am a better mother on it.
i’m not going to debate the pros and cons. i’m not going to listen to anyone’s opinion who is not my personal medical provider.
but the facts for me are thus: if i have high blood pressure, and i choose not to medicate, the only one who suffers is ME. if i have a headache, and i choose not to medicate, the only one who suffers is ME.
if i have depression and anxiety and i choose to live that way, the ones to suffer are my FAMILY. my children. my husband.
and it’s not fair to them.
the problem is my medicine doesn’t seem to be working quite as well these days. they say it could be because i’ve been on it so long. my body could be adjusting.
we tried raising my dosage.
it was a very odd feeling. i was still depressed. i was still down. i was still sad. but i was very flat.
“shannon, your clothes are on fire.”
“meh. oh well. never much liked these pants anyway.”
i realized that was not the way to go. we discussed switching medications. for now though, i’ve gone back to my normal dose. we also discussed “talking to someone.” i’m not entirely sure i want to go that route. maybe this, this blog post—this can be my talking to someone. i tend to keep myself to myself in these kinds of things. i have a hard time saying the words out loud. it’s easier for me to write them. i picture myself sitting in a therapist’s office, unable to speak the words. writing things on a piece of paper.
i have days of nothing. i know my weak spots: if i come home from taking the older three to school, and i’m still in my jammies, and i sit and do nothing for even a small amount of time—it snowballs. it turns into a down day.
and down days lead to berating myself as a Bad Mother and a Bad Wife. and then i Overdo.
so i try to keep moving.
but then i get caught up. and i Overdo.
that day? that day i mentioned at the beginning where i was scrubbing while my baby screamed?
i STOPPED. i got myself under control. i ran a warm bath and held my sick baby in the steamy bathroom, soaking and looking into her eyes. she didn’t even want to nurse. she just wanted to be held in her mommy’s arms.
i’m struggling. i’m battling. i hope i’m winning.