Wednesday, March 28, 2012

No secrets.

I've been putting on a brave face. My "I'm proud of my journey to wellness face." My "I'm not ashamed" face. My "kicking postpartum depression's ass" face.

All of those faces are genuine.

But really, what choice do I have? Sit around feeling sad about all that's transpired? Feel embarrassed about my rather public (at least in my personal life) unraveling? I can't hide in my house forever, so I haven't hid in my house at all. I've gone to the grocery store. The playground with the kids. Boot camp. I've seen friends and neighbors, people who know a lot, people who know a little, people who know none of it. I've worn my brave face.

In a few weeks, I have some events to attend where I'll be seeing people I haven't seen for a while. People who might have talked to someone who talked to someone my blog. Or talked to someone.

And though I've said and stand by the fact that I'm not ashamed, I am aware. Of what might be said when I get up to refresh my drink. Of nervous smiles greeting me hello. Of whispers. Of the awkwardness of the question, "It's been so long! How have you been?"

I am aware of judgement. Of ignorance. Of the fact that sometimes people get only half a story. Of the fact that stories often get very twisted.

The truth?

I'm scared. Because there's at least a tiny part of me that wants to cry all of the time. That wants to scream out an explanation and education to everyone who might have heard. That deep down, cringes as my imagination runs wild about what people might think. What they might say.

There are two sides to this coin. On one, I know the facts. I understand the statistics. I believe mental health is a spectrum and I'm suspicious of anyone who claims to permanently operate on the extreme end of healthy. But the other side is where ignorance lies. Where it's easy to pass judgement on a good day, even easier when it's a topic we don't understand or discuss openly.

I am getting well. I can't believe where I am now in comparison to where I was a month ago. Truly, I can't believe it. I've worked my ass off. I'm proud. Hopeful. Confident.

I'm also angry, sad, and self-conscious.

We don't get to pick our journey. Just how we handle ourselves as we travel.

This particular journey?  Effing blows. How I'm handling it? I'm doing my best.

And onward.

Monday, March 19, 2012

But I don't feel depressed.

It seemed to start in November. I thought it was PMS. For about a week, I felt full of rage, impatient, not myself. Then I got my period and things returned to normal. I felt happy. Thrilled to be home with the kids, finally having left my job. So excited about the coming holidays. Looking forward to my sister flying home from CA for an extended visit. Life was good. I had everything I've ever wanted. I certainly did not feel depressed. In December, the hormonal swing came on stronger and lasted longer. For two weeks, I felt like someone had taken over my body. She was a raging bitch. She was sarcastic with my children, short with my husband, full of rage and possessing zero patience. I hated her. My period came, and once again, I felt normal. Happy. But confused. And scared. Was this PMDD? I made an appt. to see my OB to go on birth control, thinking it would level out my hormones. The appt. was scheduled for February; her soonest opening. Until then, I'd ride it out.

In January, the crazy, rageful me came out stronger than ever. Kyle came home from work one day and I declared I was done. DONE. I shut myself in the bathroom and let him handle the kids...dinner, bedtime, all of it. I thought the bath would unwind me, help me relax. Instead, I lay in the warm water and was flooded by sudden and disturbing intrusive thoughts. It scared me. I scheduled an appointment with my PCP for the following morning.

And here's the sad reality. I recognized something was wrong. I took every step I knew to intervene, get myself back on track. It was too little, too late. The next month is a blur.

PCP prescribes Zoloft. Allergic reaction. PCP switches me to Paxil. I take it for several weeks, until it becomes apparent that Paxil and I do not get along. Instead of helping get my moods under control, it makes the instrusive thoughts much more vivid and tortourous. I start thinking of killing myself. Not because I want to die, but because I can't take the torture of my crazy mind any more. Terrified, I fess up to Kyle. I call Postpartum Support International. I get connected to a therapist who specializes in PPD. I see my OB and start on a hormone stabilizing birth control. My OB tells me to stop taking the Paxil, suspecting it's making my thoughts more vivid and violent. I stop cold turkey. Begin going through SSRI withdrawals. My anxiety goes through the roof. I constantly feel like I'm crawling out of my skin. For the first time since all of this started, I feel deeply depressed. I become totally overwhelmed by my life. My children. I throw myself into cleaning and baking. I steam mop my floors three times a day. I steam mop the toilets, the bathtubs, the counter tops. I vacuum constantly. My tiny kitchen is taken over by bubbling vats of sourdough starter. Anything I can do to escape the crazy. I'm too overwhelmed and anxious to be alone with the kids.  We set up a schedule of friends and family who come over every day to help me while Kyle is at work. While they're there, I wander my house in a frenzy, starting 100 projects and finishing none. I have some good days. Mostly I have bad days.

And then, I have "the day." Where my distorted thoughts stop feeling distorted and start sounding logical. Imagine you're walking across a bridge. You're just out for a walk, and the bridge is in front of you. Naturally, you start to cross it. And the next thing you know, instead of crossing it, you're standing on the edge. Your next step will be to jump. And what the fuck? You're just out for a walk. You don't want to die. This wasn't your plan. But here you are. Confused. Terrified.

It wasn't an actual bridge for me. What it was is deeply personal, deeply painful, and deeply sad. But as I stood on that metaphorical railing, I knew it was crazy. Crazy. I called for help. And with help, I climbed back down.

The next day I checked myself into a psych ward. It was the best thing I've ever done for myself.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

In opposition to silence.

Last night, Kyle and I were curled up on the couch watching recorded sitcoms from the last few weeks. Trying to laugh. He got up to go get something and I hit pause. I sat curled up on the couch listening to the hum of the baby monitors. Anwen's white noise. The boys' lullabies. The same lullabies they've been listening to since they were only a few weeks old, the ones I downloaded one overwhelmed day when I needed a sensory grounding to motherhood. Their lullabies have become an integral part of my sense of self as a mother. Reminding me of that boundless love and entrancing magic of childhood. As I sat listening to those sweet songs softly muffled by the monitor, I saw the first true glimpse of my mothering self that I've seen in weeks. It was amazing. It made me cry.


I hadn't blogged much since the fall. Or since Anwen's birth. Or since...when? But suddenly, I had the urge to write. A little over a week ago I hopped back on the laptop and let it spill out. A confused, chaotic, terrifying attempt at finding my way through a mind that was suddenly foreign, with no idea how I'd gotten there, and no idea how to get out. At the urging of loved ones, I took the posts down. Lacking any context to my daily life, they were just plain scary. But then again, daily life had gotten pretty scary itself.


It's hard to decide where to start in blogging about this now.  Do I go back to all the signs I missed over the last few years? Do I start with an explanation of postpartum depression and how truly serious and life threatening it can be? Do I start with my steady unraveling over the past few months? Do I start with my six day stint on a psych ward? Maybe with the journey ahead of me, the journey back to my true self?


None of that. I'm starting with an explanation that could be mistaken for a defense. Let me assure you, it is no defense, simply because I don't need one. I don't need to defend my sanity, my worth as a mother, or my decision to admit myself to a psychiatric ICU. It's not a defense because I feel nothing but proud of myself. For having the courage to be honest, to ask for help, and to set aside my pride to get the help I needed. I have a long way to go in healing. PPD isn't like the flu, over in a few miserable days. And especially when it's gone unchecked for as long as mine. Unchecked, unnoticed, accepted as part of motherhood. When your thoughts are distorted, it's hard to have insight to that fact. I'm starting with an explanation for anyone who is wondering why. Why I would choose to share this openly. Why I wouldn't edit out some of the more gasp-inducing details (psych ward!?!). My explanation is simple. PPD can be deadly. It's far more common than you think. And chances are, we all know somebody who will at some point suffer from it. Very likely in silence, or near silence. 


I'm sharing this because I'm here to write about it.  Because I felt safe enough to not be silent.