Thursday, June 30, 2011

Yay, decisions!

Today, I finally (if you can call getting to do something after waiting for like a week and a half "finally") got to take a step toward finalizing a huge decision I made a few weeks ago. And before you ask, no, I don't think I could make that any more cryptic or convoluted.

This probably isn't anything anyone else will care about, so try not to lose any sleep over it. But I'm excited. I'll share more when I can.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Journeying through PPD, Part III: My story, the beginning

This is the third post in my series about PPD. The first two parts can be found here and here.

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Then what? You’ve been diagnosed, you’re getting treatment, and you…live happily ever after? I honestly can’t tell you because I’m not there yet. I’m still working through my treatment, but the light gets brighter by the day. I will fill in the blanks of my story for you, though, so you can see that maybe the depression you’re living with right now can get worse and you do something about it before it gets there. Or you can see that even if you’re going through some very serious PPD, you can come out on the other side ok. You might want to brace yourself for the full truth. It’s brutal.

My PPD, which, in my case also stands for prenatal depression, started early in my pregnancy with W, my older son. I was still in my first trimester when I started experiencing the depressed mood, lack of enjoyment, sleeping too much (though, really, who doesn’t sleep too much in her first trimester?), agitation, and feelings of worthlessness. I tried to ignore the symptoms and carry on with my life, but everything kept getting worse and worse. By the time I mentioned it to my OB at 16 weeks, I hated my life, I hated my baby, and wanted nothing more than to go back to that night four months earlier and make my husband, B, wear a condom. Luckily for me, my OB took my concerns seriously. She explained that I was going through something normal and prescribed me an antidepressant. I filled the prescription, but never took a single pill. Why? Because one of the potential effects on the baby was uncontrollable crying. I was so far down in a pit of despair about my ability to deal with having a kid that I just knew I could deal with uncontrollable crying. So I didn’t take the medicine. And I continued to get more and more depressed.

W was born and I think I actually got a brief reprieve; being a mom was ok for a very brief time. But W was an awful baby. He had terrible reflux and was constantly puking (he threw up in my mouth once. It was as disgusting as it sounds); he was terrible at nursing, so he was always hungry and screaming (which we and his doctors figured was colic for a long time. All the while, he was literally starving even though he nursed all the time); he didn’t sleep for more than two or three hours at a time until he was almost nine months old. On top of that, I was working full-time an hour away from home, B was laid off, and money was really tight. Combined with the hormonal madness that is the post-partum period and my body’s inability to tolerate even minor hormonal shifts, I had a recipe for disaster.

My depression continued to get worse, but I did nothing. I said nothing. I was too paralyzed by my feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy to think I was entitled to feel better, or – dare I say it? – happy. When W was around five or so months old, I started taking the Zoloft my OB had prescribed when I was pregnant. The low dose actually helped me feel better, and I was fine for several months.

Coming up - Part IV: My story, the downward spiral

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Switching mid-stream

Remember that my word for the year is "peace"? Well, after a good conversation with my counselor today that really resonated with me, I've decided to refocus my year by changing my word to "healing." The only way I'm ever going to find my peace is through healing my mind, body, heart, and soul, so healing seems like a more appropriate place to aim my self-improvement efforts.

I think this also means I need to get a new ring...I'm leaning toward this one (with this thrown in for good measure).

Monday, June 27, 2011

Journeying through PPD, Part II: Getting help

This is the second post in my series about PPD. The first part can be found here.

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You think you might have PPD. What do you do about it? One of my husband’s favorite sayings to whip out when I’ve screwed up and am apologizing to him is, “Don’t apologize. Fix it.” That’s exactly the mentality you need when it comes to “fixing” your PPD. Don’t just sit there; do something about it.

Your plan should, first and foremost, include TELLING SOMEONE. This is where I tell you to do as I say, not as I did. I was embarrassed of the feelings I was having. I thought it meant that I didn’t love my son(s). I thought it meant that I was a horrible mother. I though it meant that my kid(s) would be better off without me around. So I just kept everything inside. Sure, there were times when people could tell something was going on, but no one – and I mean NO ONE – knew the full extent of my depression. I didn’t tell my friends, I didn’t tell my husband, I didn't tell my mom, I didn’t tell my doctor, and, when I eventually began seeing one, I didn’t tell my counselor. As the too-sweet-for-words Ree says, don’t be like me.

Step two is getting treatment. This can include talk therapy and medications. As the situational aspects of having a newborn can exacerbate depression symptoms, I think seeing a counselor is a wonderful idea. You need to be able to work through the feelings that don’t seem to fit with the societal representation of the blissful new mommy. My counselor has been, and continues to be, a wonderful support and resource for me. Appointments with her also provide a lovely, child-free hour filled with adult conversation once a week. It doesn’t get much better than that.

If you’re worried about taking medicine while pregnant and/or nursing, don’t be. There is a whole host of antidepressants that are safe for your baby. This is particularly true for nursing moms. Your body does a fantastic job of filtering most of the junk in your body out of your milk before it is expressed. The amounts of medication that remain in breast milk are miniscule, and the half-lives of the antidepressants used for nursing moms are so short that there isn’t much concern about the medication building up in the baby’s system to unsafe levels. Of course, as with every medicine out there, there are some potential side effects, and you need to discuss the risks and benefits with your doctor before making a decision. I personally am getting to the point where I believe that a healthy, happy mom is critical for a healthy, happy baby. If it takes a (legal, medically prescribed) drug to get you there, so be it. Your kid will turn out just fine.

The issue of what doctor to see for treatment is a big one. Generally, PPD treatment starts with your OB. This is fine. I’m sure he or she has seen enough cases of PPD to be competent and confident enough to prescribe a low-dose, fetus- and/or nursling-safe antidepressant and refer you to therapy. The same is likely true of most family doctors. When you get to the point of needing multiple dosage increases or need to switch medications, however, I suggest finding a psychiatrist. I stuck with my OB through two dosage increases, then went to my family doctor for a third dosage increase (because I was too far post-partum for my OB to do it). Then, my family doc started making medication changes. He added one. Then increased my dosage on one. Then took me off one and put me on another. Then took me off another and put me on a third. Then took me off of a third and put me on a fourth. Then I had a medication-induced bout of crazy.

I want to be clear that I don’t blame my family doctor for anything that happened. His reasons for switching stuff up made sense to me (and to everyone I’ve talked to about it), but I had gotten out of his zone of familiarity, I think, and probably should have gone to a psychiatrist before Crazypalooza ’11 ever happened. My completely unprofessional opinion is that an OB or family doctor is fine for one medication and one or two dosage increases. For anything beyond that, go see someone who specializes in dealing with mental disorders and medications.

Coming up - Part III: Post-diagnosis

Friday, June 24, 2011

Journeying through PPD, Part I: What is post-partum depression?

If you've read my blog for any length of time, you know that I've struggled with post-partum depression for the past three years. I'm finally in a place where I can tell my story - the whole, unadulterated story. I've given my readers fragments of the tale throughout my blogging history, the real truth is probably different from what you might expect. And I'm not just telling my story. I'm also providing information with the hope that I might be able to reach another mother who feels lost and hopeless.

I've struggled with the thought of writing this post for a long time. My first draft was started one year ago today, actually. So much has changed in that year. I think the reason I wasn't able to make any progress before now was because I wasn't ready to face the potential implications of my words. I also now know that my story was nowhere near its climax a year ago.

When I finally got it all on (virtual) paper, it was L-O-N-G. In the interest of your attention spans, I've broken this up into six parts that I'll be posting over the next couple of weeks. My only request is that you try to be gentle with me. My soul is still a little tender.

Also, because it hurts my researcher’s heart to write something that isn’t fully annotated and footnoted, I want to let you know that I’ve linked to every internet source I referenced while writing this. If you want some more information on my sources or methodology, or just need a sympathetic ear, shoot me an e-mail at notthatpregnant at gmail dot com, and we can talk.

Here goes nothing...

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Post-partum depression. I don’t claim to be an expert on the subject and I’m sure as hell not a medical professional whose advice you should follow, but I’ve lived it. I figure that gives me just enough credibility to blog about it, yes?

Let’s start with some background. Post-partum depression (PPD) is a disorder of depressive symptoms that affects new mothers, and is thought to be caused by the rapid, crazy hormonal changes a woman goes through immediately following birth. PPD can range from the “baby blues” (a brief period of mood swings and crying spells) to full-on psychosis (experiencing delusions and/or hallucinations). It is thought to occur in approximately 10 percent of new mothers, but is likely more prevalent, due to under-reporting of symptoms by moms and under-diagnosis by healthcare providers.

The symptoms of PPD are the same as those of major depressive disorder. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Addition, Text Revision (DSM) – the reference manual used by mental health professionals to identify and diagnose mental disorders – requires a showing of at least five of the following symptoms lasting for a minimum of two weeks to diagnose a person as “depressed”:
  • Depressed mood (feelings of sadness or emptiness)

  • Reduced interest in enjoyable activities

  • Sleeping too much or not enough

  • Loss of energy

  • Difficulty concentrating

  • Increased or decreased appetite or weight loss or gain

  • Restlessness, agitation, or noticeable slowing of movement/activity

  • Feelings of excessive guilt or worthlessness

  • Thoughts of suicide
Did you just feel a lurch in your stomach or start crying as you read the list of symptoms? That could be a sign you’re one of the lucky PPD sufferers out there.

And guess what? If you are suffering from PPD, it’s not the end of the world. You are not a bad mother. You are not weak. You are not a failure. I want you to go back and reread the last four sentences. Now I want you to believe them. I know from experience just how difficult it is to believe those things about yourself when you’re in the midst of the PPD quagmire, but I want you to try anyway. It’s important that you stop hating on yourself or you’ll never really feel better.

Coming up - Part II: Getting help

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Target soothes my soul

I was cranky tonight and needed to get out of the house. Rather than feed (no pun intended) my currently-linebacker-esque appetite by getting ice cream for the second time this week, I decided to go wander around Target for awhile. It was a good choice. I don't know what it is about that store, but being there makes me happy.

Tonight's trip - shockingly - only cost me $40. I anticipated a lot more. For my small investment, I got:
  • A new shirt for work - $4;

  • A raincoat - $15...I was hesitant on this one because I didn't intend to spend this much money on myself, but I've wanted a raincoat forever, and it's cute;

  • A set of toy nuts and bolts for W to use to improve fine motor skills and one of those giant bubble wands - $1 each;

  • A can of hairspray - $2-something, but really free. This is what prompted me to head to Target in the first place. I had a coupon for a free styling product that expired today, so I had to use it;

  • Two sets of six kid-sized tumblers (one for me, one for my mom) and two sets of two ballpark-beer-sized tumblers (both for me) - $.58 each;

  • A set of snack-sized bowls - $.98;

  • A bag of marshmallow - $no idea. I didn't pay attention. I was just craving marshmallows. Oooh, have you seen the new stackable marshmallows? I was so tempted to buy them, even though I have no s'mores plans any time soon;

  • A new sun tea jar - $6. My old one had an unfortunate run-in with B and the dishwasher early last summer and I've wanted to replace it; and

  • Mini spin pins - $6. I have a set of regular spin pins that I like, but I don't really have enough hair for them. The pins always end up sticking out of the top and bottom of my bun. The mini ones (which apparently don't exist on Goody's website) are half the size, and my test run indicates that they are going to be perfect for me. The half-up look on the back of the package actually looked cute on my head, too, which was a pleasant surprise.
That comes out to right about $40, doesn't it? It's too late at night for me to be doing math.

Did I really need anything I came home with? No. But sometimes it's nice to pick up some wants. Ahhh, Target retail therapy. It's good for what ails ya.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Partner parlance

I've noticed lately that B and I have started using some of W's toddler-isms in everyday conversations, mostly because they amuse us. For example, when you ask W what a cow says, he replies "booooo!" Now, in our house, cows say "boo" instead of "moo." Or, when one of us says something about counting/numbers/math, the other will start counting, W style: "tooooo, fowr, nine, sebin, TEN!"

This is fine when we're in private, but I've been catching myself saying some of these things in public. It's bad enough when I tell another adult that I need to "go potty," but having to explain to someone why the hell I just said "nochew" (pronounced like "no" and "chew," but with both words smooshed together) when they asked me a question is downright embarrassing.

(For those who are wondering, "no chew" is how W usually says "no, thank you." He says "thank you" just fine when he's thanking someone for something, but throwing that "no" in front of it seems to ruin his pronunciation. But it's hilarious, so any time B asks if I want something that I'm not interested in, he gets a "nochew.")

Am I the only person who does this? I felt like a total dumb ass in front of all the other people in my organization who have the same job I do. Granted, it was only three people, but still. I felt like a moron.

I like our family's "secret language." It makes me laugh (or at least give a little chuckle). I just have to remember to keep it in the house instead of busting it out in public...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

So much to write, so little time

I have a bunch of stuff I want to write about. But I'm busy. And tired. And apparently on a one-woman mission to eat through an entire week's worth of groceries in three days. And feeling down. Mostly, I'm tired. I want to puke my soul out for the internet to devour, but there aren't enough hours in the day.

There's no point to this. Just thought I'd let you know that I'm here and alive. And I'm tired.

Two steps back

It still amazes me that I can be cruising along just fine, having good day after good day, and - BAM - out of nowhere (and for no reason I can figure out) I have a shit-tastic day that sets back any depression progress I've made.

Tuesday, for example, started out well enough, but quickly went down hill after about 7:00 AM. R fell and cut open his eyebrow on the entertainment center (I think...I was in the kitchen when it happened). I had to cancel an appointment I had made for W because I had to take R to the ER for stitches. I had to go to the ER. When I got to the ER, I got judgey looks from the staff for not knowing exactly what happened to R. Then, they found out about the vaccines.

Quick aside. We are behind on R's vaccinations. They weren't my first priority over the past year because of everything in my life that was falling apart. I have nothing against vaccines and know he needs them. When I made him appointments, he had this uncanny ability to come down with a cold or a fever so he could get his shot. Then I would forget to make appointments for a long time, and when I did, he'd get sick again. And it just cycled on and on. Right now, I'm operating under the assumption that the rest of the herd has less neglectful parents who get them immunized on time, so R should be fine, right?

Man, if I thought medical professionals were judgey when you bring in an injured kid with a semi-questionable explanation for the injury, I was sorely mistaken. That's got nothing on the judginess you get when you're behind on your kid's immunizations. Damn. Even though I only spent about half an hour in the ER, I spent the next three hours attempting to get R the bazillion shots he needed, being silently judged by every doctor, nurse, and receptionist I came into contact with.

I've determined that judging is one of my triggers. For whatever reason, I get very, very defensive when I think someone is judging my parenting style. Maybe it's because I feel like I'm miserably failing my children, and I don't want everyone else know it. Or it could be because perfection has always been my Thing, and hiding my imperfections has always been one of my best talents. When I'm giving people things to judge, I'm letting my perfect facade slip.

As a result of the judging and everything else that happened, I go from feeling really good about myself and my life - a feeling that had been around for almost week...that's practically a record for me these days! - to sobbing hysterically in my car as I drove from the pediatrician's office to the health department in search of the ever-elusive vaccinations, and hating myself, my kids, and my life. Of course, this also happened on the first day in months that I decided to wear mascara.

Oh, to top off the morning, I ran over a whole family of groundhogs. A mama and two babies. I thought that was apt. And disturbing.

Moral of the story: One shitty morning can destroy weeks of progress, and it seems like there's nothing I can do to prevent it. I'm still feeling awful and angry two days later. I'd say it's depressing, but, well...Instead, I'll just tell you that I'm drowning my sorrows in DVR-ed "Top Model" reruns, a bowl of ice cream (vanilla with walnuts and homemade caramel sauce. Divine.), a glass of asti, and my sleepy-time medicine.

Tomorrow's another day. Let's hope it's a better one.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Look what I made!

I ran across this tutorial for an Anthropologie necklace knock-off the other day. As I was reading through it, I realized 1). someone had shown it to me before, and 2). that it looked fun and easy. I was bored tonight, so instead of doing laundry or cleaning, I decided to make a necklace.

Here's the finished product.

It turned out pretty well. It looks a little rough in some places, and only has one flower/pouf because I had a bit of an incident with my first tube attempt and ran out of fabric to make a second one, but I like it. I bought another color fabric, too, so I can make a second some other day. I'm guessing number two will turn out far better now that I know what I'm doing.

Here's my creation on. I'm not sure what's up with the photo's worse than I normally get from my point-and-shoot.

And now here's a random video of R. The TV was singing "Old MacDonald" (in case you can't hear it in the background), and after a few times, B and I realized that R was singing along to the "e-i-e-i-o" part. So we rewound the TV and did everything we could to catch this on video. It was a pain to get him to cooperate, but it was worth it because it's super cute. (Sorry the video is sideways. I can't figure out how to flip it when it comes of my camera that way.)


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

A toast to me


I would like everyone to pause their regular blog-reading and raise their glasses for a toast.

To me.

For all I've been through and for all I've overcome,
For the inner strength I never knew I had,
For the love I've been lucky enough to attract into my life,
For the friends who know me better than I know myself and love me more than I deserve,
For the courage to break the outer shell,
For weathering a multitude of storms,
For finally deciding to rise above...

For all these reasons, I raise my glass to myself.

I am beautiful, I am strong, and I am on my way.