Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The Silent Thief: Motherhood, Depression, and Finding Myself

Today's blogger prefers to remain anonymous. 

When I had my son, 3 years ago, he was sick and early and had to stay at the hospital for a while. It was HORRIBLE, but as soon as he was home we easily got into a groove and life was perfect.

While I was pregnant with my daughter, I was really sick and uncomfortable.  So when she was born I hoped and prayed that things would get back to normal.  Happy, crazy, busy, fun, and normal.  But it didn't.  I figured it was just the stress of two kids, or that I was tired, or my husband was gone too much, or whatever.  After months and months, it didn't get better.  I just kind of adjusted. I figured motherhood with two children was just that hard.  I thought, "There is no way I could EVER have more. This is too much!"  I never had energy to do anything, I couldn't handle going anywhere without my husband, and we never left our apartment.

Finally, just before my daughters first birthday, I recognized that I was not okay, that something had to be fixed. I talked to my wonderful husband, we called the employee support line, and they referred me to a therapist.  It took me a few weeks to call her and then I almost chickened out of the appointment.  When I finally went, she was late.  I got in the car and almost drove away,  but I somehow got the courage to go back in.

And it was great.  She let me talk, I cried, she understood, and she told me I was depressed. I thought "No, I am not depressed, have you seen my kids? And have you met my husband? I have NOTHING to be depressed about!" So we discussed what depression really is, and I learned that you can have a perfectly happy life, and still be depressed. Chemical imbalances in your brain cause you to not be you, to be angry and sad and stressed all the time.  I learned that depression is a real medical condition and it was very humbling for me.  I was of the "you can handle it, just work through it, depression isn't that bad, or really real" school of thought. I was so wrong.

At first she thought it was my thyroid, which had been diagnosed as being under-productive a few years earlier.  I went to an endocrinologist and he told me my thyroid was fine.  I had been misdiagnosed.  I had been taking meds for years for something that wasn't wrong.  I stopped taking them, and felt a little better.  But it still wasn't right. The endocrinologist referred me to a psychiatrist, and I called after a few weeks.  They were so busy they couldn't see me for 3 months. I told them not to worry about it.  I then waited another week, and looked up a different one.  I called pretty quickly, and they said they could see me the next week.

I was very nervous to say the least.  I had been finding ways to put off dealing with it every way I could. I felt so weak, and like I was at fault. I worried that my husband would think he didn't make me happy. I worried that I must be the worst mother ever because I didn't find enough joy in my children.  I worried that I would go and they would say to me "It's all in your head, grow up,  you're fine you big whiner."  I went and he was the nicest guy.  He knew how I felt before I could even explain it.

Apparently, I had a classic text book version of depression.  There are 3 kinds of depression. Mine was chemical rather than situational.  I agreed to try taking medication and went home. I took it for 4 days and I noticed a HUGE difference. For the first time in a year I felt like a real person again. It was bright outside again, I wanted to play with my children.  You know the movie Tangled?  She sings  "And at last I see the light, and it's like a fog has lifted." (You just sang that, didn't you?)  As cheesy and rehearsed as that sounds, it was exactly how I felt.  I couldn't believe it.  It wasn't a magic cure-all and I have still had to deal with my emotions, but it was great.

My doctor told me I had undiagnosed Postpartum depression that had just gotten worse and worse. He said that PPD is often referred to as the "silent thief of motherhood joy" (or any joy, really)  and that so many women suffer from it, but never know or seek help. So many women are missing out on the wonderful happiness that you can feel when your body is working the way it was intended to work.  It's really scary for me to share this story, because it's SO very easy to think, "I am so weak, I should be better/stronger/bigger than this."  I am working through that, and I do believe there is a medical cause for it, but it's so easy to slip into that.

To the thoughts of insecurity and not being good enough. It's the easiest thing to listen to someone who doesn't think depression is real, and to feel like less than a whole person for being so weak. I have learned that depression is a real condition, and it can be helped, just like any other illness. It is very real.  It is not just in your head. You are not alone if you are depressed, it is something so many people struggle with. Don't suffer alone.  It's not your fault.  It can be better.

It is scary and hard to admit a weakness.  Everyone feels that. No one likes to admit that they are weak at something, that they are less than they want to be in some way.  But you need to know that any problem or illness you have can be dealt with. For me it was depression and I had to find my path to treatment and ultimately working through it and being happy again.  No matter what it is you are going through, you are never alone.  Sometimes the hardest thing to do is ask for help.  But it makes all
the difference. If you have no strength left, find enough to ask someone else for help. Let them help you, let them give you some strength, you can do it. You can be happy again. I am.

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