Thursday, June 06, 2013

Postpartum depression and summer plans

Earlier this week, I started taking antidepressants and meeting with a therapist who specializes in post-partum depression and birth trauma.

Whew.  Got that out.

I didn’t plan to talk about this on my blog so soon—I knew I would at some point, but I thought maybe I’d talk about it when things were stabilized or when I stopped taking antidepressants or something like that. Like some sort of retrospective in a few months or a year. But as I was cleaning up my kitchen after lunch today and thinking that I should blog about our trip to the zoo this morning, I also felt very strongly that I should write about this TODAY.  So if you’re the one who is struggling with something similar…this post is for you.  One of the things that has been most helpful for me is knowing many people that I love and respect who have taken antidepressants, and not seeing it as something shaming.  I’m also really grateful for a husband who has supported me whole-heartedly, and parents & sisters whose first response was to tell me how glad they were that I sought out help.

 In all honesty, I have been thinking about talking to a counselor for about eighteen months.  I even made some calls last summer to various therapists and talked with my doctor about some anxiety medication or cyclical antidepressants that I could perhaps take on an as-needed basis.  She offered to write me a prescription but I ended up not filling it.  I’ve spent a lot of the past year and a half feeling like I was living in a black hole.  I've had trouble feeling comfort when I prayed for peace.  I felt like I was on the verge of tears about 60% of the time.  It was virtually impossible for me to keep my temper when my children misbehaved and I would cry hysterically when Neil was gone at night and I was all alone. Most days I would wake up and wonder how I was ever going to get out of bed and do everything that needed to be done, and the idea of getting up was so overwhelming that I would just lie there until I heard the children and knew that I really did have to get up.

After Nathan was born, things were so much worse that I knew I needed to stop self-medicating with running and schedules and B-vitamins and take a different approach.  I was starting to have panic attacks whenever something unexpected happened, even if it was something I’d dealt with a thousand times.  The point where I realized I really needed to find help was when I dropped a plate on the floor and stood staring at it unable to think of what my next action should be.  It wasn’t until Abigail knelt down and started cleaning up the mess that I knew I should be cleaning up too.

  Things have come together amazingly quickly—I was able to see a therapist the day after I first contacted her—and I am feeling much better already.  I know there is still going to be an adjustment period and things are going to take a while to completely normalize, but we are headed in the right direction.

One of the things I decided a few weeks ago was that I didn’t want my children to remember this summer as the summer that Mommy was sick and that dictated everything.  I don't mean to say that if someone is suffering from mental illness that it's completely possible to carry on as normal--that certainly isn't the case for me and I don't think it is for anyone else.  I'm fortunate, however, in that I do have a lot of good days or hours and if I plan very carefully we can take advantage of these.

My children do know what’s going on—I just told them that just as we would get medicine for an ear infection, I’m taking medicine to balance the chemicals in my body that control my moods—and we’ve created several systems for them that help me too.  One of the things that is most intimidating to me right now is having to make lots of choices.  So I’ve ramped up our typical summer plan that we’ve been following for the past 4 years and used our whiteboard to specify what’s happening every day (breakfast, lunch, and dinner plans, plus the day's major activity and the journal prompt).  This is helpful in that I have a visual record of what’s going on, and the kids also read it and keep me on task.  And speaking of being on task, I updated everyone’s craft-stick responsibility boxes, and so they’re self-directing in terms of their responsibilities and I can tell at a glance who has practiced their piano, made their bed, or done their summer math cards.  It’s really helping me to stay calmer.  I've found that it's very stressful for me if I'm trying to remember what needs to be done next by each child or to prioritize our day, so delegating those to the children is helping SO much. And, as always, if I can build in one activity a day where I feel like I'm being a really great mother, it takes away that constant worry that I'm inadequate and not giving enough quality time to my children.

As in previous years, we wrote a giant summer “bucket list” as a family and the kids and I made a bunch of lists of things to do for craft day, adventure day, and learning day.  We’ve been working down our lists and I think it’s going to be a good summer.  



Rachel Mae said...

Thanks for sharing, Rachael! I'm so glad you are getting help and not feeling shamed about it. This is such a common problem and one that is only worsened by isolation. Good luck to you on your journey!

Tia said...

Thank you for sharing. More moms need to be open and honest like this. HUGE props to you for reaching out and getting help when you needed it. Your kids are so lucky to have such a great mommy.

Julianne said...


Anonymous said...

Hugs to you!
Aunt Pam

ki kati said...

I'm so sorry you've not been feeling great. Take good care of yourself. You are doing an amazing job raising five kids. You are an inspiration. Best wishes and big hugs.

Melanie said...

I love the action plan. You are a strong woman!

And the hour and a half conversation last night did wonders for me- thank you!

Andrea said...

I'm sorry you've been feeling like this. It's strange to be so removed from all of you and clueless. I hope the medication helps and that you can feel yourself again soon.

Anonymous said...

Well done sweetheart. I am proud of you both for facing a hard reality and being willing to own it. Depression doesn't make you weak or flawed, but acknowledging it is an incredibly valuable gift to others.

Love you,

Megan said...

Thanks for writing this, Rachael. I actually has a conversation with Matt a couple of hours ago, telling him that I think it's time for me to start seeing a therapist, and maybe look into some medication. Sometimes things are just too hard to work through without help. I'm glad that you were brave enough to seek out help, and even more brave to actually write about it. Sometimes I think that these things wouldn't seem so scary if more women could share their experiences. I hope things start to feel better in your world.

Thanks for helping me to feel brave, too.

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