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Monday, October 5, 2009

Postpartum Depression: Mama's Losin' It

When I think of Postpartum Depression, I always think of moms who can't bring themselves to care for their children, who are just not happy after the birth of their baby. I never thought of it as general confusion or crankiness. And I never thought after 4 kids that I would have it with my 5th.

A couple of weeks ago, I started feeling like everything was piling up and I got to the point where I didn't know how to start my day. I was just writing it off as a result of not being able to get enough sleep because of having a newborn and spending my days alone with 5 young kids while William works very long hours. It got to the point where I couldn't keep up with daily life and so I gave up trying to get things done. I kept thinking, if I could just get enough rest, then I could get the energy to wash the dishes or finish the laundry. My office is a disaster. I am still finding things that I was working on or that came in the mail when Owain was born 17 months ago. The more I let things go, waiting for this down feeling to pass, the more things piled up. The more things piled up, the more I felt down. And there is where the cycle started.

I would stand in my kitchen and try force myself to finish all the dishes that had been piling up and just get it done, because the mess was driving me crazy. By the end of the day, the mess still there and I still felt bad. I have always been one to go and play with my kids instead of cleaning up everything. I always tell myself that my kids will only be young once and that it is more important to spend time with them than to have a perfect house. I make a point to clean up every day, but I never felt the need to clean and finish every last thing every single day. At this point though, my kitchen was a disaster and things only got washed when I needed to use them. It is so hard for me to function in a disaster of a kitchen. A few dishes in the sink never bothered me, but when I walk into cook, I need everything to be in place. So when it is not in place, I don't cook. For the past couple of weeks, I reverted to cereal for dinner many times, along with pulling out every bit of quick fix microwaveable food I could find. Dinner got to be later and later and one time I looked at the clock and it was bed time and my kids were still running around the house playing. I am pretty strict about getting an early dinner for the kids. I aim for 5 and hopefully we eat between 5 and 6pm. I love having dinner over, mostly cleaned up and having time to spend as a family afterward. I love that time after dinner, when we all get to hang out. My kitchen was a mess and I was missing out on hanging out with the kids after dinner, and that made me feel down too.

There were lots of little things that I was feeling, every last thing made me cry. Stupid commercials, books, my kids being cute, my kids being rotten, good times, bad times, all of it made me cry. I didn't really think anything of it, because I kept thinking about everything that has been going on in our lives for the past 17 months. We started the addition, Wee Nut was born the next week and we spent 4 weeks in the hospital with him, both of his surgeries, getting pregnant again when Wee Nut was still so young and still in need of so much extra care, still working on the addition, William working so far from home so much of the time, Wing Nut's ADHD, and then caring for a newborn all got to be too much to handle. Even that was too much crazy for even me to handle.

So everything got out of control and at that point I just let it go. But I was mad at myself for letting it go, so I was cranky, so I wasn't having as much fun with my kids. There were so many times when I would get started on something and suddenly She Nut would wake up and want to be fed, instead of nursing her myself, I just made a bottle and gave her to one of my other kids to feed. And that made me feel bad too, because I wanted to nurse her. If I wasn't crying, I was cranky. My kids would do something that would tick me off, but when I would normally get mad at them and move on, I would just end up in a bad mood, too cranky to get anything done. And that made me feel bad.

I knew I wasn't feeling well, but I kept thinking I could pull myself out of it. I did everything I normally do after having a baby. I tried to make sure that I ate the right foods, but could never get my kitchen cleaned up. I tried to go for walks and get some exercise, but I could never manage to get out the door before I had to go get one of the kids or head out to an appointment. I tried to get good sleep, but the stress of everything kept me up, and when I did sleep She Nut woke me up. I felt confused, forgetful, stressed, overwhelmed and overly sensitive. At the same time though, when I was able to get out, I felt great, I had a wonderful time with my kids. When my little Nuts talked me into playing cards or a video game with them we had a great time. And I would think, See, I'm happy, so that must mean I am not depressed, I am just tired.

I started thinking about The Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression and didn't feel like I fit into that category. I kind of thought about it on and off for about a week or so, honestly, it could have been 2 weeks for all I can remember. At some point I mentioned it to William and at first he did the same thing that I did, contributed it to stress, not enough sleep and trying too hard to keep up with everything. I guess when I think of postpartum depression, I think of mothers who are not able to take care of their children, or that they have thoughts of harming themselves or their kids. I never felt that way, I just felt down. So for some time, the whole postpartum depression thing eluded me. The more I talked about it though, the more he agreed that I should talk to my Midwife. So I said I would call, but my day would get away from me before I got a chance to call. I would think about it in the morning, but by the end of the day I had forgotten. William kept calling to remind me and I always said that I would do it right now, but then before I knew it, the day was over again. It was added to the list of things that I couldn't seem to accomplish. I felt ridiculous that I couldn't manage to make a phone call.

I finally did it though. I managed to make the call on Friday morning, at the end of the week. Later that afternoon, after talking to my Midwife for a while she agreed that it sounded like postpartum depression and gave me a prescription for Zoloft.

I started taking it on Saturday and already I can notice a difference. Saturday was kind of a hard day, Zoloft can upset your stomach, and I was so sick all day that I thought I would never be able to take it again. As sick as my stomach was though, I didn't feel as down. I wasn't able to eat too much on Saturday, but I took it again on Sunday and it didn't upset my stomach nearly as much. Saturday  I was both a bit hyper and a bit sleepy and since my stomach didn't feel well, I actually laid down in the middle of the day and took a nap, something I haven't done in months.

I still feel a bit confused, but I am not so scatterbrained as I was feeling before. I am much more focused and way less irritable. I have been sleeping much better as well. I know it has only been two days, but I feel so much better than I did last week. The biggest difference I see is that the little things don't bother me like they have been for the past few weeks, or even a month. I think one of the strangest things it actually being able to see the fog lift. Really. Lately I would look across the room and think Gosh, my glasses are filthy. I would try to clean my glasses, but everything still looked cloudy. So I would open some windows thinking that I just needed to let in some fresh air. I am not sure why I would think that the air in my house would be so stale and dusty that I need to open the windows to let in the fresh air and clean things out. I guess it was because I had such a hard time keeping up with everything that I just assumed that my house was stale and dusty...even though I open my windows almost everyday, even for a few minutes in the winter. I noticed yesterday that the fog had lifted, that my filthy house...which wasn't that filthy, just extra messy. I noticed that colors were brighter and that fog that I kept trying to clean out of my house was just in my head.

Freaking weird! Like "Are you freaking kidding me?!?" kind of freaking weird. All. In. My. Head. I still can't believe it. I just spent the past few weeks, or month or what ever, I have no idea, trying to shake this fog while I was spinning my wheels trying to regain focus and finish a coherent though. At this point my head is so clear, I can't believe I just made it through the last month without falling apart completely. I am glad that I looked at the signs and read them properly. I feel lighter.

And to add to my weirdness. My E Nut was just sitting here next to me doing his homework, and I looked over at him because I could tell he was not doing his homework...and he was just sitting there smiling up at me. I said to him "What's up sweetie" and he just sat there smiling at me. I said "Are you looking at me, smiling like that?" he just smiled and nodded. I said "Well what are you thinking?" he smiled at me and said "You look good inside your hair?" OK I have no idea what that means, but he sure was happy about it. He also said I look like Wonder Woman. Cool. When I was a kid I wanted to be Wonder Woman when I grew up.


Lorraine said...

Lisa, I am so glad you noticed the signs of postpardum depression and sought help. I went thru that when I had Chris. Thank God, I got the help I needed to overcome it. I'm sure you will feel like your old self soon. What with everything you have gone thru in the past year, its no wonder this hit you. Hugs and kisses to all of you. Lorraine

Lisa Curcio said...

Lorraine, I know I was pretty young when Chris was born, but I do remember that. That was one of the reasons I kept talking to my husband about that. I just felt off. I am feeling a much better, not quite all there just yet. My midwife said it would take about a week or so. I was shocked at how quickly I felt a change. We got the hugs and kisses and are sending some back your way.

Linda Romeo said...

Even though it is not Thursday, I am thankful that God created individuals with the brains to discover good drugs to help us when we need them. I am thankful for wonderful husbands who support their wives. I have faith that you will recover from this just fine. You've already won half the battle just by addressing your symptoms and seeking the right help.

Sophie in the Moonlight said...

Congratulations on seeking the help you need to take care of you!!

I had suicidal PPD for 2 years and it was HELL. I was a perfect mom and I did everything perfectly to compensate for the woeful anxiety and thoughts of self-harm that plagued me every moment of every day. My son was never at risk and never neglected. We read every day, did all of the developmentally appropriate activities, took him to museums, made his food myself. Perfect. For Him. I thought I was slug snot and was unworthy to be his mom. I couldn't even call myself a mother (the emergency C-section and absolute inability to breast feed fed that thought cycle); I called myself the Babysitter. Did I mention I was suicidal?

Getting through it took a lot of time, energy, and commitment to being well and thinking thoughts of wellness. I took meds and when I found the right meds, it was exactly as you describe. The fog lifted and I saw and was able to participate in Reality for the first time.

Welcome Back, Lisa. We've never met, but I'm glad to know that you are among us. Hold on to your good days and your Wonder Woman moments so if a bad day comes along you can remember that it's not all bad all the time.

I'm so glad you're here.

Lisa Curcio said...

Wow Sophie, I am so sorry that things got that bad for you and that it took you that long to get help. I am glad that you got the help that you needed before you harmed yourself. I know what you mean about doing everything for the kids. Even if I didn't feel like I could physically take care of them, I supervised while they took care of each other. I was always right on top of everything, making sure one was feeding the baby, the oldest was reading to everyone, they all had their favorite snacks, clothes etc. Everything was exhausting and I just kept thinking, If I could just get some rest I would be fine.

Thanks so much for your kind words Sophie, it is nice to meet you.

Krysti Mayers said...

Nice Lisa!!! I had PPD with Liam, briefly--Women have a lot of responsiblity in their lives, more than men--we stay-at-home moms may not be bringing home the bacon and working long hours--but we have the intense burden of raising our children and tending our nests--that is harder than any job any one could have. My husband could not do what I do in a day and he admits it--sometimes, I'm jealous of him getting out of the house and being with other people all day--it is a roller coaster of emotions, but it is the life we chose and we work hard to make the most of it!! We will see our reward in the future--Motherhood is a thankless job, teaching is a thankless job--but somewhere, in the cosmos, we are thanked for the energy that we send up--Hang in there and thank God for drugs!!! Just stay away from the street kind!

Kate said...

I'm so glad you sought out help for yourself and shared your story with us. You are a brave and strong woman.

Ivy said...

Thank you for your courage in sharing your story and joining the moms speaking up about their postpartum depression experiences. Very glad to hear you are on your way to recovery. Hang in there!
All the best,

Mount Belly Mama said...

I think the strength and talent comes in when you can recognize that you are not yourself. Not whether or not you can overcome it without help. When I read a story like this, I see a woman who knows herself inside and out.

Not many women are like that. Thank you so much for sharing this.

queen dani said...

YES! I totally agree with the fog thing. The first day {despite the fact I felt like absolute poo} it was like my brain fog was magically lifted! I wasn't sure whether I could keep taking it either especially after freaking out in Wal-Mart or while driving... but I promised myself I would give it a try and there was no way i was going to stop taking it and go through all that again! *lol* I'm on month two now and so many other things are ironing out... I have the patience to play with my kids again, and my house still isn't clean all the time but I care enough to get it done... it's a process. How are you doing now?

Lisa Curcio said...

Dani, I am doing much better, thank you.

The fog thing was amazing. The colors all popped out at me all of a sudden and I thought, Wow, I really was in a fog. At this point, I am happy not to be so miserable, my house is still a mess, but my kids are happy lol. And my parents are coming for a planned visit anyways today & my mom will be able to help me get everything back in order.

Belly Mama, Ivy, Kate, Thank you so much for your kind words.

Krysti, Amen to that!

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