Thursday, March 20, 2014

My Journey: Postpartum Depression, Life Long Anxiety

This is one of the posts that I have known for a while I wanted to do.  But, it's a part of my life that I have hidden from everyone except my husband - until more recently.


This is something that I have dealt with all of my life!  I have "self-diagnosed" OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder).  I have never seen a professional to get help with this.  Why should I if I can still function pretty well???  I don't lock myself in the house - nor am I afraid to be around others...  Now that I know more about this I have realized more about my life.  When I was younger my mom and I would get in arguments over her not properly storing food in the correct containers and organizing them in a way that made sense - to me....  My friends would laugh (in a fun way) at how I organized the can food in my cupboards....  I would completely loose it if my husband suggested any last minute changes to our plans!  In my head things had to be planned out days, weeks, months in advance.  Last minute suggestions to go see a movie would cause me to go find a spot where I could be alone and cry.  

I had read so much about this while I was pregnant and after I had both of my babies.  But, I have to admit that it is VERY hard to recognize it in yourself.  Really - how do you tell the difference between depression and just having a bad day (every day)?  Before kids, my husband and I devoted a ton of time to our jobs.  We both had pretty demanding positions in the companies we worked for.  Plus, with technology growing, it was hard to get away from work - even at home or on vacation!  

When my daughter (my oldest) was born there were some changes in our lives.  We had a baby to care for.  She was colicky, had issues with reflux (couldn't keep formula down), and needed to be held a LOT.  But, we loved her and loved being parents :-)  I can't explain how grateful we were (and are) for her!  I also went back to work after my 6 weeks of maternity leave.  I had time to miss her and I still felt like I had something that defined me - outside of being mom and wife.  

My daughter was 20 months old when my son was born (again - blessed to have this little man join our family).  Two weeks before my sons birth I stopped working.  So this time was very different.  Also, my son was taken from me shortly after birth due to a possible infection in his lungs.  No visits from family and happy days of holding our newborn baby 24/7.  He was in the children's hospital for a week.  I was able to see him but I needed someone to take me there the first couple of days (since I just gave birth).  Then, after I was released from the hospital, I felt like I was torn between my kiddos when I was with one but not the other.  I was lucky that my son was only there for one week and ended up being just fine!  But, it did add to my emotions at the time.  

We had two little ones that needed help with everything.  I was not working so I was mom 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.  Hobbies - I had none.  Who had time for hobbies when, in the past, I was working so much??  My husband and I had even joked in the past about him being the at home parent (if one of us ever was) because I wouldn't survive.  Well, joking turned into reality except I was the one staying home...

I remember nights, when my husband would get home, I would immediately put him in charge of the kids and I would go to our room to cry.  I didn't want to go out of the house - ever!  Why would I?  I never had time to safely take a shower (the babies needed to be watched), my hair was a mess, there was puke on my clothes, I was "fat"....  I would tell my husband that he could go out with his friends but then I would break down and cry when it was time for him to go - leaving me alone again with the babies.  

I flipped out on a kid (not my own) once...  Sounds bad but we had a "ding dong ditcher".  Just image all this stuff that was going on with me.  I finally get the babies to fall asleep (which was never easy) and then someone rings your doorbell!!!  Well, it was happening a lot at our house!  I now remind people all the time that a simple "kids will be kids" can turn bad because you never know what frame of mind the person "on the other side of the door" is in!

When my son was about 6 months old I decided to start a serious work-out program and controlled eating.  I spent all of my free time (after the kids were in bed) working out.  I was losing weight but it wasn't making me happy at all.  It was actually the reverse - I was more unhappy than ever.  And - that made me cry even more...

Why would I be so depressed when I had the perfect husband, the best kids in the world, the perfect life!?!?  I remember getting up early to do grocery shopping.  I always shopped on the weekend so I could leave the kids at home with my husband.  That was the ONLY time that I had to my self.  I would get a coffee and shop for 2 hours.  Just wandering around the grocery store - knowing that it was the only 2 hours I would get all week.  Then, I would get home to find that the kids still needed to be dressed and fed breakfast.  I would break down again...  Reality is, why did I expect that my husband would have had them dressed and fed?  I always did this stuff and I yelled at him for not doing it correctly when he did try!

Then, there is the pressure (brought on even more by social media) to be the perfect parent, make sure my kids were going to every cool place/activity, getting them enrolled in everything (sports, play groups, events) that is offered, ....  Add to that, when my daughter turned two I was told that she had delayed speech.  Now I had really failed as a parent!  I still don't know much that I could have done different those first two years but do you understand why I would take it personally?  So, my calendar was filled with home visits, play groups, and other programs to help get her on track.  I was also faced with multiple "grandparents" (not just mine but any stranger we'd encounter) that had advice on how my kids should be raised - as if there wasn't enough pressure.  I even had one lady chase me down at a garage sale to ask me if my son was autistic!!  All because he was upset over a piece of candy!  Don't get me wrong, I know and love some kiddos that are autistic.  But, why did this lady feel that it was okay to do that?  Especially in the middle of me dragging my son to the car while he is kicking and screaming!

Time to make a change:  

One day, after my "vacation" at the grocery store, I pulled the car off the road and just mentally broke down!  At that moment I thought the only way to end this was to die.  Yes, DIE!  I just couldn't figure out why things felt so bad when I KNEW that my life was perfect.  Why couldn't I FEEL like my life was perfect???  So, I called my doctor and set up an appointment to see him right away.  I didn't tell my husband about this until the day of the appointment.  I didn't want him to feel like he failed was a husband.  I already knew that I was feeling like I failed as a mother and wife...  FAILURE is a big thing for me!  So, I met with my doctor who right away started me on a depression and anxiety medication.  It took a few weeks to really kick in but it was worth it!

My fix (keep in mind that we are all different and you need to seek a professional to find your "fix") :
I don't remember what the name brand was called but my generic version is Venlafaxine HCL (37.5 MG twice a day).

Now, my "happy" pills have helped me in more ways than I thought possible.  I am able to enjoy my family, my life, my everything!  Don't get me wrong - I have some bad days.  But wouldn't it be weird if I didn't?  My husband started to make observations about how well I now handle last minute suggestions to see a movie or go out to eat.  And, I was fine with the kiddos tagging along!  I started taking classes to learn how to do things that I had been interested in before.  You know - to help me find a new me aside from being a mom and wife.  I finally learned how to use my sewing machine.  I took photography classes, food canning classes, cake decorating classes, .... the list goes on!

I kept this a secret for many years.  I still didn't want anyone to look at me as failing and not being able to cope.  Eventually I started opening up to others when I would see them going through what I had.  Now, I know that there are so many woman that have had the same experiences as me.  I am fine with talking about it now.  Even to blog about it for the world to know.  I am in such a better place now and I couldn't be more thankful!  Will I ever stop taking a medication for this?  Probably not.  Now I know how much this medication has helped me deal with my anxiety caused by my OCD.  I'm pretty sure that other people like the "new me" better too ;-)  

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