Thursday, March 22, 2012

My Post Partum Depression Story Part 2 - Fighting Back

This is a follow up to the post The First Time Around in which I wrote about coming to the realization that I was suffering from Post Partum Depression. Unlike with most illnesses, depression related medications do not bring immediate relief. It is expected that it will take up to a month for the medication to build up in your system enough to reach full strength. There is also a trial and error process that takes place as the doctors try to get the dose adjusted correctly. Fortunately for me, I was able to stick with the dose that they started me on. But the healing process is so much more that that. While medication is great, and in my situation necessary, it can't do the job alone. I had to do a lot of work to help make myself better and let me tell you, at that point I really didn't know if I could do it. I knew I had to, but every day was such a struggle. With very little sleep at night and being on edge all day, my mind had little to no down time. I became aware very quickly that I needed to focus on one day at a time and simply managing that day as it came.

I felt humiliated and embarrassed to admit that I had Post Partum Depression. I was overjoyed and so amazingly in love with this little boy, yet at the same time I had failed at being a mom and let my mind take me apart one piece at a time. I couldn't be around loud noise and confusion because it simply overwhelmed me. I didn't want to go anywhere, but I also didn't want to stay home with Braeden by myself. I would watch him playing and will myself not to get up and go to him because in my own mind I couldn't be trusted. It was my greatest fear that I might do something to him (which I never, ever did) and that fear just kept producing more fears and worry. Knowing the medication couldn't work right away only made it all worse. I was caught in a constant storm of fear and guilt.

I was so fortunate to have a wonderfully strong support system. Once I came forward with what was going on, my family jumped right in and played whatever role I needed them to at any given time. The first night my parents kept Braeden at their house overnight so I could try to get some sleep and begin to process my situation. I couldn't wait to get to him the next morning and returned to their house by 7:30am to see him. My irrational sense of guilt made it feel like not being near him would ruin his life and make him know that something weird was going on. I'm doubtful that he thought anything of it that night. It wasn't his first sleepover and he was happy to stay. For the next week or so, I spent the days at my parents house with my dad and brother hanging out with me periodically throughout the day since they both work right there. I could manage okay each day until 4:00. After that, the panic would come back and I'd have to fight harder for the rest of the day until bedtime. I'm not sure if it was exhaustion or being able to let my guard down because my mom and Roman both got home from work around that time. I was also seeing a holistic chiropractor every couple of days and it was like therapy for me. I could talk easily with her and she did something with my energy that calmed me down and helped me to continue to move forward.

For a while, every day was a fight. I always made sure I stuck to a routine and didn't vary from the way I had always cared for Braeden. It helped me to stay focused and busy. If I was doing something, I couldn't think. I needed to stop thinking for a while. After the first month or so, the panic was gone. Thank you God! I was far more able to function closer to the way I had before the PPD started. I still didn't enjoy much, but I  felt much more like myself. For the months that followed, I tried to add more activity to our days. I joined a playgroup and interacted with others more. It was helpful for both Braeden and I. We also went to a public playgroup offered in a nearby town. I found my inner strength and I pressed on and made myself get better. There was no choice in my mind. I wanted to not be only be a good mom, but a great mom. I wanted to be a fully functioning part of my community of family and friends again. And I did it. As Evan says so often these days, I won.

I started to wean off the medication after six months. This was another process that made me very nervous. Again the question of, what if I'm really crazy and it just took having a baby to bring it out? What if I need medication for the rest of my life to continue to feel sane? I had learned enough about myself by that point that I knew I could do it. I had made it through the very worst and come out on top so I could do this part too. As it turned out, I'm not permanently crazy. Phew! Going off the medication did change things a bit. I had to go back to controlling my mental state and emotions all on my own, but I was happy to get that part of me back. As I had begun to feel better along the way, I had really started to miss feeling things. On the medication I couldn't go low, but I couldn't go high either. So the joy of milestones, etc. was missing. The weaning off was effective and I realized I could be the old me again, actually even better. I had learned a lot of lessons about who I was, the strength I had, and what I really wanted out of life during the whole PPD experience.

Over time, I started to understand that it was not a situation I had any control over. I couldn't have stopped the PPD from coming and I wasn't a failure. I became proud of myself for getting help and kicking PPD's butt. It took a couple of years, but eventually I was more willing to talk about it freely and share my experience with others without feeling the need to apologize for it. And now, I am completely willing to share my story with anyone. I am hopeful that my experiences can help someone else who might not recognize what they're feeling. I made it. Take that Post Partum Depression.

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