Category Archives: Depression

Brooke Shields Had Me At Postpartum Depression

While visiting to library to pay $40+ in damaged library book fines, I picked up Brooke Shields’s book, “Down Came the Rain.”  Some of the chapters were interesting, a few I found a bit dull (no offense, Brooke), but the chapters where she went into deep detail about her Postpartum depression glued me.

She describes her ambivalence toward her infant, feelings of wanting to disappear, and crazy thoughts of wanting to hurt her child or herself.  It was an intense read.  Her experience was something I could painfully relate to.

When Emily was born, I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel close to her.  I tried; however, the only time I felt anything was when she breastfed–and that wasn’t a positive experience.

It is heartbreaking to read all these wonderful experiences of having a baby and not feeling them.  It makes you question your very identity and whether you should have become a mother.

I still have many of these feelings, especially when my hormones increase and I must adjust my medication (under a doctor’s guidance, of course).  Thankfully, I feel very comfortable that I may pop pills until the day I die.

It is refreshing to read another mother’s account and realize that your experience was not unique, but something many women experience.  It also empowers me to continue in sharing my story.

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Shifting From Dark to Light

African sunrise Pictures, Images and Photos

While we were dating, Ben and I often went hiking on the beautiful Alaskan mountains. One particular morning found us at the top of Flattop a little after sunrise. I remember observing the gradual shift from dark to light as the sun’s rays spread across the land, leaving a kaleidoscope of shadows.

These last few days I’ve been reflecting on that scene in connection with my newly found happiness.  For years I suffered under a cloud of despair: Seeing my future as hopeless and desolate.  Looking back through time, I can only remember brief stints of joy splattered on a canvass of bleakness–my existence.

Up until a few months ago, before I recognized the need of intervention–in the forms of therapy and medication–I would wake with a rising sense of dread.  The kids would watch hours of the Wiggles so I could sleep through the pain of severe anxiety and depression.  When they engaged in normal child activities, the screwed up wiring in my brain produced reactions of intense and irrational irritation and anger.  My husband was terrified to come home because he did not know what Amber he would find: the cheerful and supportive wife or the desperate and despairing wife.  Multiple times a week I would have meltdowns complete with tears and dreary announcements of our future.

Under the guidance of a wonderful practitioner, I received the help I needed.  After finding the right dose and mix of medications–to treat the clinical depression and anxiety–I saw a noticeable difference.  The manifestation began by waking up full of hope and excitement for the day ahead of me, followed by joyful anticipation of the transition our family will soon make when Ben begins medical school, and capped when I no longer dreaded my husband’s long work week but looked forward to any time we had together.

The medication precipitated a symbolic sunrise in my life.  No longer do I dwell in darkness; rather, the shadows are carefully dispelling under the gentle caress of the sun’s rays.

No longer incapacitated by mental illness, I am peeling away the layers and finding the person I have always been: Compassionate, optimistic, and happy.

Thank you all for supporting me through this painful journey.   Your patience, kindness, and friendship has meant so much to me.

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Getting In Touch With Depression, Part Two

To catch up with this two-part series, read part one.

My first diagnosis of depression came while I was in college.  It took me a while, though, before I started seeing the pattern.

A Therapist? Medication?  I’ll Take Both

I called my mom today, again, crying.  It’s just so hard, y’know?  I work my butt off each day and can’t seem to pull the A’s I so desperately want.  I suck.  Majorly.  I’m in this class where I am required to write 3 papers this semester.  Three huge papers.  I can’t write–the proof is in the mark-ups of my returned papers.  I can’t believe I told myself I could come here to BYU and succeed.  Everyone is smarter than I am.  Most have completed AP courses prior to attending, I most definitely did not.  I am having even more panic attacks–episodes in which my breathing shallows and I feel like I’m going to suffocate.  I can’t compete anymore; I’ll never win.

As a college student, my mother intervened and convinced me to make an appointment with a therapist.  I decided that I would, the next semester.  Over the course of our many meetings, my therapist explained to me the inconsistencies with my thought processes and my personal conduct.  “Obviously,” she explained, “you are an excellent student who is exerting herself to the point of anxiety.  In fact, I’m sure we can look back through your personal history and see many types of anxiety attacks.  My dear, you suffer from the treatable condition of anxiety, with a touch of depression.”  She helped me focus on my strengths and taught me relaxation methods to make it through classes, exams, and, most importantly, finals.  I deferred medication at that point because our sessions were so successful that it didn’t seem necessary.

Fast forward to 2 years later.  I was pregnant with Andrew and having the same symptoms.  My husband convinced me to talk with my doctor about my evident depression; I concurred.  The next appointment I brought it up and my doctor immediately prescribed medication.  I resisted taking it, though I had it filled immediately, thinking that if only I were a stronger person I could do without it.  Once again, a loved one intervened–my husband–and encouraged me to try the medicine.  I did.  The difference was amazing.  At this point, we couldn’t afford a therapist so I stuck with the medication and felt much more…sane.

After trying both, I believe that therapy and medication are optimal for me as I have the benefits of the SSRI’s increasing seratonin levels, and a therapist teaching me different coping methods.  I have also found alternative forms of medicine–changing my diet and exercising–to be beneficial.

An Ongoing Conclusion

I feel more level lately.  My moods aren’t nearly as severe and I am laughing so much more than I have in the past year.  Ben has noticed the difference as well.  I no longer freak out when he’s home, because I’m scared of him leaving, and have started cooking dinners regularly and exercising again.  However, I am scared.  Afraid of seeking into those depressive depths again.  I wonder if I’ll be able to get out the next time.

Contrary to popular belief, depression isn’t constant.  It usually kicks in during times of great stress and change,  but if left untreated it can result in very long episodes.   I didn’t learn this until recently, when I became more self-aware.

After years of debilitating anxiety and untimely bouts with depression, I can look back and differentiate between what was real and what was imagined.  In my teens, I have vivid memories of severe panic attacks accompanied by draining depression.  My parents supposed my symptoms were related to my obsessive perfectionism.  What I thought was pregnancy related depression with Andrew in reality was my anxiety kicking into over-drive and bringing depression along for the ride.  The same thing with my supposed Postpartum depression.

In November (last month), with the guidance of my husband, I came to the conclusion that I was once again experiencing severe anxiety and depression.   The ruthless nature of this mental illness has kept me down.  Really down.

Unfortunately, our finances cannot allow a doctor’s visit this month.  This has forced me to review the sessions with my therapist I had as a college student and figure out ways to at least control the symptoms.  I have incorporated a good fitness routine into my day and this really has made a slight, but important difference.

I am lucky to have a marvelous and in-tune husband as well as supportive friends.  (Including all of you.) Depression and anxiety are hard to live with.  But we are lucky to live in a time of modern medicine and excellent therapists. For that I am grateful.

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Getting In Touch With Depression

Depression is an oft used noun in today’s vernacular.   It is also commonly misunderstood.  To better comprehend the complexity and seriousness of depression, I am going to describe the mental illness and provide excerpts from my personal journal to frame understanding.

Lost and Hopeless

I wish I were somewhere else.  I can’t be a good wife or parent.  Ben, and the kids, would be better off without me. I feel like I’m living life in a fog–the only happiness I feel is filtered through the murky vapor of sadness…or whatever it is.  I know it’s my fault I feel this way.  I need to be stronger, should be stronger, but it’s hard when hope feels so far away.  I can’t even see it on the horizon.

Some common symptoms of depression include overwhelming “hopelessness, helplessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, and self-hatred.”  Depressed people exhibit a constant low mood and often lose their ability to experience happiness with activities that they used to enjoy. (Source: Wikipedia.)

I have never contemplated suicide, but I have had a few periods in my life–as a teenager, a sophomore in college, and after this miscarriage–that I convinced myself the world, and my family, would be better off without me.

I Am Grateful, Dang It!

I have so many blessings in my life:  Beautiful children, an amazing husband, warm shelter, delicious food, and supportive family members.  Yet I know that I’m not worthy of them.  The negativity that surrounds my thoughts is proof of what an ungrateful wretch I have become.  I can hardly say a kind word to my husband, let alone give him a compliment; my eyes are constantly flashing with anger over the little things my kids do that are a normal part of their development; I avoid my friends because I am sure they notice how deficient I am in so many areas.

A common misconception is that a clinically depressed person can snap out of it if they try to develop a more grateful attitude, pray more, or have more faith.  This is false.  A depressed person is already hard on themselves.  They recognize how great everything is around them, but they cannot bring their mood up. It’s a brain thing.

I remember looking at myself, as if from above, and shaking my head.  Obviously, I told myself, I am unfaithful.  Worthless.  With these phrases incessantly going through my mind, I had trouble sleeping, eating, and facing the world.  I would wake up and cry knowing that I had to parent my kids that day; me, an awful mother, would be alone with them.  A miserable place, indeed…*

*After I finished writing this post, I saw how much I had written** and deemed it necessary to break it up into two more manageable posts.  I will post part two sometime next week.

**Seriously, this took quite a bit out of me so you had better appreciate it.  Frankly, if I don’t get like 1000 comments I will probably never write again.

Image courtesy of FreeImages.

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I Have Emerged From A Very Long Journey Out of the Depths of Depression

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing the similarities in our pregnancies.  We both experienced hg and pretty severe Postpartum depression (PPD).  I’ve been thinking about that discussion frequently since then, reflecting on my struggle with PPD.  Not once, but four times.

PPD #1

I remember waking up some mornings wanting so badly to sleep some more.  Hearing Emily wail, I often wondered why I ever decided to become a mom.  I would call my mom, constantly on the  verge of tears, and tell her how difficult everything was.  She would console me and tell me how great I was doing.  I would listen, agree, and promptly forget as soon as I got off the phone.

I lived in a constant haze of pessimism.  I blamed it on being a first time mother and still finishing my own degree.  On Ben being busy with classes, Emily not sleeping through the night, Emily’s colic, the darkness of winter, the never ending homework, and the list goes on and on.   My usually optimistic self would write posts on our family blog that mirrored my old self, but it was a lie.  I wasn’t optimistic; I could hardly string two positive thoughts together on a good day.  But I was a good liar.

Poor Ben handled my listlessness and random crying bouts very well.  He would come home and take Emily from me, ordering me to rest.  I believe he carried us through those very dark days.

And then one day it went away.  I thought it was because I had successfully changed my attitude.  I mean, it was all my fault anyway.

Pregnancy Depression

When I was 6 months pregnant with Andrew, the depression came back.  We were living with Ben’s mom for the summer while Ben finished an internship, and I was miserable.  She was a marvelous host, who did her best to make all of us comfortable; unfortunately, I couldn’t find any positives in our situation.  I was alone during the day in an unfamiliar home with an active baby.   I was without a car and feeling very deserted. I thought once we moved back to our own apartment those feelings would disappear.

They didn’t.  So we moved.  The move was a good decision, as we needed a bigger place, but I still could not change my attitude.  I prayed and prayed and nothing changed.  I went to the temple, studied my scriptures, and blamed my silly weaknesses for the cloud of darkness that had enveloped me.

It was at this time that I started blogging more frequently.  Some of you might remember me during those days.  I was a miserable person.  Finally, Ben suggested that I talk to my doctor about possible depression.  I was put on medication and finally felt somewhat normal.

PPD #2

After having Andrew, I thought my old self had returned.  At my six week appointment, I asked to be taken off my medication.  I thought I was ready.

But, in my haste I  had not considered that my PPD would return after that 6-week mark.  Which it did.  I blamed it on everything: Ben’s work and school schedule, Andrew’s colic, my job, the messy house, a busy toddler.  I tried to change but couldn’t.  One would think that I would recognize the symptoms; however, I am quite dense when it comes to simple solutions.

I finally emerged shortly after Andrew’s colic relented.

PPD #3

And then I got pregnant and had my first miscarriage.  Once again I was on that roller coaster ride that seemed to only point down, with small hills sporadically placed here and there.  I expected grief, but I did not expect depression.  Severe depression.

PPD #4

If you notice the pattern, then I’m sure you can guess what happened after I had the second miscarriage.

I remember one evening in particular while walking with Ben to a mission reunion.  I remember wanting so badly to be at home in bed, having no desire to see people and feeling a sense of hopelessness.  The kind of hopelessness I have only felt when suffering through PPD. Ben was unnerved.  He asked me what he could do, I couldn’t give him any definitive answers.  I blamed this and that.  Until it hit me: PPD.  Again.  Luckily,  the depression eased a couple weeks later and I have come to my old self for the longest time this year.

Lesson Learned?

I don’t know if you’ve sensed the change in my writing.  I know I have felt it vividly.  I no longer feel that dread when I wake up in the morning; I am not terrified when I think about Ben working two jobs; I finally feel hope, optimistic, joyful.  When I write, I can poke fun at my self and laugh at my silly kids.

I can also see clearly.  I know what I want and don’t feel guilty if I can’t accomplish something.

I feel free.

I would like to say that I’ve learned my lesson, but I have a feeling that it won’t be that simple if it comes back again.  I just hope I can read this post again and quickly find the help I need.

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