The Post I Never Wanted to Write (Part 2)

Part 1 is here.

In a moment of clarity, I opened up a book and scanned its glossary. I found a reference I was looking for, read some symptoms and made a phone call to a nurse. She validated my fears, but I refused to admit to myself that something was seriously wrong and hung up the phone. My husband walked in the bedroom as I was part-way through the conversation with the nurse. He knew it was bigger than I was letting on and asked how I felt. I said that I was fine, that I could go until Monday, but the empty hope just reverberated in my own ears.

We got to my mother-in-law’s home and I couldn’t go any further. I out-right refused to go to work. I felt like I had shrunk within myself and thinking about all my tasks at work, interacting with others and their potential demands of me – even just interacting with them – was more than I could ever cope with.

Things steadily got worse from there. It’s difficult to reiterate the physical feelings that I had, it’s almost easier to try and relate it through broken, fragmented sentences, because I was broken and fragmented. The day I realised I was suffering from depression was probably one of the worst, darkest days of my life. I didn’t want this. I was happy! Content, even. I had everything I wanted, and how dare it invade my life and destroy every piece of happiness I enjoyed.

The next day after I spoke to the nurse, I thought about waiting until the following Monday to go get the medication she promised was waiting for me. I didn’t make it to Monday. I threw on a poloneck (to cover as much of myself as I could, plus it was November), tried to show I cared a little about my appearance by brushing my hair and forcing myself to put in my contacts and apply some mascara — all in front of a compact mirror because I couldn’t bare to look at myself. If I was going to do this, I had to fake any type of feelings I had about my appearance.

We drove the few minutes down the street to the InstaCare and I sat and waited, wondering how I was going to get through any type of explanation without crying about it. I sat across from the nameless doctor staring down at the floor as I spoke, ringing my hands together. I saw him watch me, realised that I was displaying behaviour he was probably looking for, and stopped. I hadn’t realised I was doing any of it. I just felt so consumed and wanted it fixed as quickly as it had seemed to sweep over me. I felt ashamed that I needed help, and more especially that I needed anti-depressant medication, but he reassured me by saying, “you need this just as much as a diabetic needs insulin.” Then came the words I never expected to hear: “the only drawback is the medication can take up to six weeks for you to start seeing a difference.” I was devastated and scared out of my life. I couldn’t wait that long! I already felt out-of-control of myself and this almost seemed like a death sentence.

I didn’t have days off to take, but I took them anyway. The mornings were the worst part of the day, but the very first thing I made myself do was go downstairs and take my medication, it almost became a ritual. I’d spend hours lying on my bed just trying to exist. I couldn’t bare to shower, dress, style my hair, put in my contacts, apply makeup and take care of my son. These menial tasks were now overpoweringly difficult to rationalise in my head and was far too much to cope with.

As quickly as the disease had overtaken me, the showers rapidly changed from daily to every four days. I didn’t feel dirty. I didn’t feel anything. It’s much different than being apathetic or indifferent: there’s nothing. An emptiness where there was once feelings. All I felt was an immense feeling of physical darkness and I couldn’t pull myself out of it, despite how hard I fought it or tried, and that brought on tears too. Eating was a burden. I couldn’t eat, I felt no hunger. I heard my stomach growl occasionally, but rarely felt hungry enough to eat. All I felt was the powerful tingles that took over any other feeling that I may have been capable of. (The only way I can describe it is a feeling of your blood being icy cold.) Then there was the huge pit in the stomach that never went away. I couldn’t think, all I could do was exist. And if I did think, my thoughts of worry and anxiousness spanned my family’s entire life in one moment, rather than day-to-day. I now carried any plausible stress and anxiety any mother would carry for a child’s lifetime every moment.

It became unbearable to cope with and all I wanted to do was sleep. I was constantly tired, but the thing I yearned for the most was furthest from my reach. Feeling comfortable and secure in my home was not enough, as I lied down to rest, my brain never once shut off, I was consumed by rapid thoughts or music that would run over and over in my head, and the exhaustion increased. I couldn’t bear to go out, I didn’t want to see anyone; to go shopping for food was a huge nightmare, I felt recluse and broken. I also felt vulnerable. I couldn’t bare to look anyone in the eyes, doing so might reveal my plight; but in hind-sight probably just highlighted it. The doctor encouraged me to go out, to be in the sunshine, but why would I want to? It was the thing I feared and despised the most.

My home became a prison and a refuge. But I didn’t want to be alone, being alone with this stranger I didn’t recognise brought more fear and dread, not knowing what I may be capable of or not cope with was frightening. Coping with my own needs and the needs of my son seemed far too much to deal with alone. It couldn’t be anyone, it had to be Bryan, someone I was explicitly close with and loved me. But it just wasn’t possible. My only solution was to have us both dropped off at his mother’s. She cared for Ian and I…I just sat and existed. I dreaded if someone came home for lunch, I knew I looked different – I certainly felt different – and social interaction was not on my list of priorities. I’d lay down to sleep and three hours later, I’d still be wide awake, alone with this other person who was taking over my body and I couldn’t fight. I’d feel ‘me’ coming through every-so-often, and it was all I could do to convince myself that I was bigger and better than this, that it wasn’t me but an illness that had seeped every ounce of happiness from my life. Any amount of pleasure from a task or a daily ritual was now…empty. Nothing. Applying makeup, going for a walk in the sunshine, talking on the phone, all require some level of enjoyment or happiness and they were still out of my reach and burdensome.

By week 3 of the medication, the anxiety was easing and life was becoming tolerable again. I was able to cope. I’d went back to work a day or two each week, but it was difficult and by 4th of December, I spoke with the H.R. Manager and we agreed it would be better for me to quit. I asked that that day be my last and she understood.

At the end of December, I returned to my doctor for my yearly checkup and mentioned the depression. I told him that I had sought help and was getting better. By that point, I had probably lost 25-30 pounds through not eating consistently for three weeks; generally I only was able to eat one small meal a day, usually force-feeding myself. I was now 17 pounds lighter than I was before I had Ian in a very small window of time. He advised me to stay on the medication for about a year.

With time, things improved immensely and I was eventually able to take myself off the medication. But one thing always stumped me: What had caused it? I really could never get a clear or informed answer and l reluctantly labelled it Post-Partum Depression.

Two-and-a-half years later, right before I had Cameron, I told my new Obstetrician everything, and we took necessary precautions. I was able to come off the medication again after a while.

After we returned home from Scotland in April, I decided to wean Cameron. I had continued to do it to aid with the flights and changes in the air pressure to help with his ears. After three days, I started noticing a small change – the anxiety had returned, as minimal as it was.

I now had my answer, and it all made sense.  The hormonal changes from weaning both Ian (accidental at 5 months) and Cameron had caused it.

Cameron was having a hard time adjusting and I gave in and relented. When we arrived at his doctor’s office for his 18-month wellness check, I told him that I wanted to wean him completely but that he was still coming to me for comfort once a day at nap time. He said the best way was to just cut it off completely.

We are now on Day 13 and doing well. My morning anxiety is still there, but I feel like I can cope and have been fighting it with everything I have. I know the help and advice is there for me if and when I need it and I have the support system I need to get through it.

If you know of anyone experiencing depression, the biggest piece of advice I can give is to be there for them and also seek out someone who has been through it and can talk and listen. Depression is a dark, scary, lonely road and they need all the support out there that there is.

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36 responses to “The Post I Never Wanted to Write (Part 2)

  1. It sounds scary, dark and lonely. I didn’t realize what type of thinking manifests itself in you by being depressed. You wouldn’t wish it on anyone. I am glad you are better but sorry you went through this.

  2. I hope you can feel completely better soon. Sadly I’ve been down that dark, lonely road as well but for different reasons. It’s a constant battle that I know you can win.

  3. I really do understand that dark place, unfortunately. You described it so very well. the feelings of having no control, no hope, no reason to do anything at all…and not knowing why. I continue meds, as without I would be right back there. Know you aren’t alone in this struggle and folks out here in the internet “get it.” Hang in there, chickadee.

  4. As many others commented in the first part… how very brave and very strong. Thank you for sharing, it probably has not only helped you but other folks as well out here on the intertube. Dealing with depression is a lonely thing and your story shows that there is hope for managing it and even moving past it a stronger person.

  5. I adore you. You wrote that so beautifully. Having been through something similar, although no where near as severe, you are so inspirational.

  6. Very well written and very brave. My mother had PPD after my younger brother was born and something like this would have helped her, I’m sure. You’ve done something good by sharing this.

  7. This was such a brave series. I’m so glad you wrote it. For yourself. And for all the other people out there you are helping by writing it.
    Thank you!

  8. How brave of you to bare your soul like that. I do hope it is as cathartic for you as it is inspirational for me to read.

    My little one was down to one bedtime feed and I’ve managed to wean him, but had to do it cold turkey too. It’s hard on them isn’t it? Anyway, thank you for writing and that and I truly hope that you feel better soon.

  9. Thannks for sharing. My brother suffered with depression but has improved a great deal since going on medication – this helps me understand a little bit of what he was going through.

  10. Hugs to you, Siobhan. I don’t personally have experience with what you endured, but you wrote about it with such detail that my heart just totally went out to you. I think that you just may help some people out with your frankness and honesty, and I applaud your bravery in sharing it.

    Many hugs!!!

  11. You described it so well…*hugs* I hope you feel better soon.

  12. I am so happy you got help and are doing better now. Thanks for being so brave and sharing.

  13. Wow, my heart goes and wants to help even though it is in the past. Your post reminds me of how different this illness affects everyone and yet the same. You know my family has been affected by it and just today I was thinking about how listless I feel and that I need to watch it. I don’t want to go back there again either.

  14. I am going to have my husband read this. I can’t tell you how many times I have repeated, “No, John. You didn’t do anything to cause it. It’s NOT YOU. It’s me and I can’t begin to tell you why except that it’s a chemical imbalance that just… IS.” But, like you, I am ever vigilant, watching for those inklings of feelings that lead to you-know-where…

  15. You are so wonderful to share this. You never know who you might help. I hope weaning goes well. I hope you feel better soon. I know it’s a horrible feeling not to feel like yourself. Hang in there.

  16. What a frightening place to be, with those feelings (and then without.) Amazing how our bodies can backfire on us, but lucky that there are ways to help in recovery.

  17. Weaning is hard! I remember DD clung to the nursing when I got home from work every day until I finally found that she was just as happy to have a snack of some kind so long as I sat with her. DS wanted a bedtime nursing, and we managed to stop that when we moved to a house where he finally had his own room. I don’t remember PPD kicking in for me at that point, though I’m sure there was an element of it. For me it was at its worst after 12 weeks at home with the newborn, and going back to work helped relieve it, until the guilt kicked in and then it came back . . . Depression is a hard thing to deal with 😦 The last time it hit, DH was my savior, recognising the signs and absolutely insisting that I needed to see the doctor despite my arguing that I’d feel fine in a day or two.

    But good for you continuing to nurse Cameron so long! What a great start you’ve got both your kids off to by nursing them!

  18. “I’d spend hours lying on my bed just trying to exist. “ *hugs* Hormones are powerful wee beasties, aren’t they? I’ve known that sort of helplessness–you have to be ever vigilant. A rock solid support system is essential… and it’s very plain that you will always find whatever support you need among friends and family alike.

  19. Bravo to you Siobhan for sharing this. You’ve described your experiences so vividly, and to come back from those depths is truly remarkable. PPD and depression in general is such a crippling thing, I’m glad you had some good doctors and some amazing support at home (huge kudos to hubby and family).

    Weaning is stressful, but congrats on nursing as long as you did! I remember how tough it was to wean my daughter at 19 months – for me, though, probably more than her!

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  21. Oh hon, I can’t begin to imagine what that must have been, and still is, like for you. It’s a difficult thing to understand unless you have experienced it yourself.

    I know I haven’t “known” you long but if you ever find it easier to talk to a relative stranger, you can call on me.

  22. I’ve never been depressed, and I only now realise how terrible it is. I’m sorry it had to happen to you, and glad that you are getting better.

  23. Once before I mentioned what amazing women there must be in your life. Your Mum and your Nan. They taught you well. But the courage it took to go through what you went through and come out the other side, and the courage it took to write about it so eloquently and so completely, is all you. Nobody gives you courage. It’s something that’s all yours. You either have it or you don’t. And you, my friend, have it in spades. That’s American for “You are Amazing.”

  24. Wow…many have already said it. Well articulated, my heart feels a deep empathy with you, almost a love. Hold strong, I’ve been there too, so has my mother for the same reasons. Thank God that you discovered it so soon, it plagued her for years and deeply impacted how she related to the rest of her family. You have a beautiful spirit, if I may say so 🙂

  25. Hi…I just discovered your blog today and when I read this post–well, it could have been written by me. I experienced PPD after my third baby (didn’t have even a hint of it after the first two) and it was EXACTLY as you describe–the tingling sensation or feeling of your blood running cold is something I tried to explain to my husband many times…I made it through with a mild antidepressant but didn’t truly feel “back to normal” until I weaned my son at 18 months. I’m convinced it was something to do with the hormones and stress of looking after small children AND nursing–it’s rather a lot for one person to deal with isn’t it? Anyway, thanks for sharing this; I just know it will help someone who may be going through it right now. Hugs to You.

  26. This sounds like something I could have written from my own head.

    And I am on medication too, and I’ve been told that I will “probably have to be on it like a diabetic needs insulin”…for the rest of my life.

    It is very hard to cope with the thought that I am not perfect. But with therapy and medication and the love of my family, I can see that perfect isn’t necessary. I am.

    I am always here if you need to chat. I feel it girl. I really do.

  27. You have been so brave to write about this. It must be magnified when you are so far away from home and family (not your husband or children, obviously the the ‘ain fowk’ we all crave when parted from)

  28. Like so many others have said here, that post could have been written for me.
    You describe that deep black pit so well. And the anxiety attacks. Reading that touched a real nerve.

    The depression after weaning is interesting. I’ve suffered depression (mainly dysthymia) for years, even before I had my children. So I expected that I might suffer PPD in the first few months, but apart from the usual ‘lowness’ I didn’t. However, when I weaned my daughters (I weaned them both quite late) I did suffer a bout of major depression each time.

    I put it down to the stress of going back to work full time. But now I think about it, it could well have been a reaction to weaning.

    Either way, my doctor upped my antidepressant meds and eventually they worked.

    Obviously the same does not apply to every depression sufferer, as the comments above show, but it’s interesting and helpful to others who may be lost in this and wondering why. And perhaps needs to be considered more readily by the medical profession.

    I’ve never been to your blog before, but I’m feeling for you right now. You are incredibly brave and strong.

    You will get through this. It may take time, but you will.

    Take care.

  29. I can’t even begin to imagine that dark place you were in and I wont pretend to.
    What I do understand is that you fought and you won (and continue to win).

  30. A single incident some three and a half years ago almost made me dependent on Calcium block. Later, getting to know in some Product Information book the medicines I was taking, I discovered that what made me feel different and also made my blood pressure jumped were in fact already the side effects of the medicines I was taking. I kicked them off and regained my old self again (for three years now).

    But one time I almost died. I remembered the 5mg capsules that I’ve always kept in my wallet. They were some of the thing that doctor made me bite once that I think was fast and great. I decided to keep some with me everywhere I go. What a shock! Forgotten for some time, they were as flat as cardboard and must have been useless! [Knowing they’re there in my wallet even this day makes me feel fine.]

    Anyway, while problems might be physical, I think most of the causes could be psychological or mental: Fear, anxiety, doubt, worry, insecurity, pressure – one must face them until they go away. I consider my case as ‘faith healing’. (Which could be religious, scientific, or both)

  31. What an awful time you have gone through Siobhan. And you are very brave to divulge it.
    Love & hugs.

  32. I can relate to this.. I still fight it. I’m so glad you’ve done so well, and I pray you don’t ever have to face it again. You’re a very strong woman, with a great husband. You’ll get through it. Blessings.
    Jean

  33. thank you for being so open and talking about this probably scariest time in your life! i can only hope that many will read this…

    franzi

  34. Thank you for this post. It is the most detailed and honest description of depression I’ve ever read. My poor mother started to slide into depression last year, and it was thrown into full throttle after her heart attack in February, which forced her to give up her freedom, her house, her beloved cats, everything. She stopped eating. But while she was very big to begin with (just over 300 lbs), so no one seemed to worry about her not eating, she needed that nutrition to do the physical therapy she needed to recover from her bypass surgery. She tried a few different anti-depressants, and reacted horribly to them…shut down, thought she had been kidnapped, etc. They finally had her on one that seemed to be helping a bit, but she ran out of time to adjust. She died in June.

    Coming here and reading this was a glimpse into her side of things, where mostly what I’ve seen so far was my side, my trying so hard to get the doctors to get the right meds, trying to get her to do her physical therapy, trying to get her to eat, knowing that the stupid clock was ticking. Sadly, for her, it ran out.

    I’m so glad that it didn’t run out for you, that you were able to figure out the problem, and you know now how to treat it.

  35. Pingback: Thinking About… » Haunted

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