jetsetgreen

Friday, January 07, 2011

Fighting The Nothing

One of the reasons it’s taken us so long to decide to have another baby is what happened the last time we had a baby: I fell into a black hole of nothing that ate me.

The loss of dear friends, losing the only income we had, and other profound circumstantial difficulties, exacerbated my already precarious perch. The precipitous drop in hormones that a lot of women experience after having a baby plunged me into a depression that in my life had no equal. I was a shell. I had the nothing. I couldn’t speak, I couldn’t remember to do the most ordinary tasks, I forgot everything.

My friends would call on the phone and I would answer, but couldn’t even muster a “Hi.” Instead, my friends learned to say, “I know you can’t talk, but I want to talk to you, so you don’t have to say anything, just listen.” And that’s what I did. I listened because my brain couldn’t make words come out of my mouth. Some days I would cry and not know why. Other days I would sit and stare straight ahead and not know what happened. My husband would ask me to do simple things, like remember to put a dirty diaper in the garbage; I could not even accomplish that.

The only thing I did know was the fierce bond that Proximo and I had from the very beginning. He was the solitary light; my solar system; the entirety of the universe. My first born and my husband bore the brunt of my myopic preoccupation with the baby and my bungling neglect of all else; the nothing almost pulled them out of my hands.

I’m grateful that I blogged so much during that time because I honestly do not remember that year. I have a record because the only coping I could do was to write. I know that one day I woke up from the nothing. Huh, I thought, I need to do the dishes. I tried to remember when I had last done the dishes and realized that I’d been pregnant; I had a one-year-old on my knee. My relationships were a wreck and I was in shambles.

During the time of nothing I kept telling myself that it was getting better. No, I didn’t need to go to a Doctor, no I didn’t need help, no I was fine. It’s better than it was two weeks ago, I’d tell myself. But it wasn’t, because I couldn’t see how I’d lost myself. I needed help and I didn’t get it.

This time will be different.

I made my friends and family swear an oath that even if I insisted I was OK from here to Sunday, they know the truth and they will have to drive me to see a professional. I cannot risk losing another year of my life to nothing. It’s not acceptable to do that to my children and my spouse when there might be a way of preventing it.

So when I went to the midwives for my first appointment I explained that I would not be putting on a repeat performance. The midwife and I made a plan, and that plan includes a prescription for happy pills. It will be the first time I’ve ever taken the happy pills. I’ll start them about six weeks before the baby is due so that I don’t jump at the precipice. I’m somewhat nervous about taking the pills; I’m very sensitive to medication and stimulants of any kind. I don’t know how my body and my mental state will react to the seratonin. However, I will do anything it takes to fight the nothing--anything.

52 comments:

Dixie Mom said...

Don't lose another year. One of my biggest regrets are the years I lost after babies. No memories.
I wish you luck and wellness.

Megling said...

this post, right here, is why I love blogging. I love it because now I have read another woman's struggle and I don't have to feel alone. I love it because you have (once again) put so eloquently into words what I can never really say.
Please know that from the bottom of my crazy lady (SSRI cocktail approved crazy!) heart, I am praying for you. That the Good Lord makes this particular burden so light it is hardly felt.
Thanks a million for sharing.

dalene said...

Thank you for your frankness about postpartum depression. I had it bad after my first-born and when I finally had the courage to talk to a doctor about it he told me it was all in my head. I didn't know where else to go for help and we all just suffered.

Hopefully as more women share their stories and have the courage to take action, less women will suffer silently and alone.

sarah k. said...

Oh, darling. That's right when I met you, and of course, I had no idea. I finally got myself medicated after my third, and I'm here to reassure you, it's really, truly a good thing. It didn't make me magically happier, or change any inherent personality traits, it just took the bite off. (I did notice it took the edge off both sides, so I didn't rage like I had before, but I also didn't weep at a sunset or the fantastic fall leaves. I noticed, but wasn't elementally moved.)

BUT!!! I didn't lose it with the slightest provocation, I didn't lie in bed for days at a stretch, I did stuff, got dressed, stopped saying "You suck so bad" all day in my head, didn't weep for no reason, and only took the meds for less than a year. Reboot. That's all. Then, when it was over, I took art classes.

sarah k. said...

Oh yeah. I called it The Nothing too. And sometimes, I would yell in my head, "Artax! You're sinking!"

Annette Lyon said...

Way to arm yourself in advance. "Nothing" doesn't have a chance.

A Few Tacos Shy... said...

I have been on Zoloft since my miscarriage last year. Best thing I ever did for myself. I can see now that I had been struggling with a mild anxiety disorder my whole life because I can see! I am all me, just with the edgy, scattery, paranoid and sometimes vacant part not there. We wouldn't tell a woman with gestational diabetes that she can work through it and post-partum depression is no different. You won't regret this :-)

~j. said...

Ask for the raspberry flavored happy. The strawberry? Does nothing.

Lindsey Johnson said...

Good for you. I'm totally scared to have another baby. I still haven't recovered from the last one 2 1/2 years ago. Zoloft was awesome for me. I hope that's what they put you on.

Britty said...

We learn a lot of things the second and third times around, huh?

You should also take sufficient omega-3's (fish oil). They regulate hormones, and everything gets so depleted for moms when we're pregnant. Research has found it to be just as beneficial with only positive side effects.

That's neat you have such a great support system, too. Friends who are there to take care of us in our worst moments are the best.

sarah k. said...

Or, as a "cheaper" and more "traditional" option (traditional in the same sense that cannibalism is traditional), you could bake up your PLACENTA! http://thestir.cafemom.com/baby/109605/eating_your_placenta_offers_serious

FoxyJ said...

That's why our third baby is almost 4 years younger than our second. After the year of post-partum hell with our second we didn't want any more kids. I can even look at pictures of myself after having my son and see it in my face--sometimes I wish someone would have said something to me. PPD was complicated by an emergency delivery, moving for grad school, and my husband deciding he was done with being married (worst year of my life, by far!). Thankfully we all got better, including our marriage, but it really sucked. I actually had the same reaction too--didn't get help because I kept thinking I'd get better. I kind of did, gradually, but it would probably have been better to get some help.

Your post also makes me feel totally validated that I don't actually remember much of my son's first year of life. I can actually remember my daughter's babyhood better, and that was 7 years ago. I keep thinking 'now what did I do last time?' and I have no idea. I'm glad I was blogging, although I think every other post from that year is some kind of painful thing that I don't want to read ever again. I hope this time is good to you--I'm actually glad that I had a third baby just because it has been a fabulous experience and really made me feel better about being a parent.

dmarie said...

good for you for being so proactive. i lost time after my baby as well. i thought i was a failure...where was that peaceful, ethereal feeling that is portrayed in society? thank goodness for a sainted husband and paxil. nobody talks about this...thank you!!

Bryn said...

Thanks for your well written frankness and honesty!

TheFeministBreeder said...

(haven't read the comments, scuse me for repeating anything)... Have you looked into Placenta Encapsulation?

http://placentabenefits.info/

That was the very first thing my midwife recommended to prevent PP depression. I actually started hearing about it nearly 2 years ago when one of the incredibly knowledgeable people at Whole Foods started explaining to me the way that all these brain chemicals are stored in our placenta, and the expulsion of the placenta removes them, causing everything from baby-blues to sometimes terrible PPD. So, it makes sense to keep those chemicals in when you can. It's a fairly ancient practice, and modern moms swear by it.

That's the route I'm going, especially since we already learned the hard way how I react to Zoloft. Super uncoolio for me.

Rachel said...

I'm so sorry you had to endure such misery, and so glad that you are already taking steps to make this time around different. I stumbled around in a hopeless, dark fog for over 9 months after having my daughter. Finally one day I woke up and kind of felt like "me" again and continued to improve from there, but I will always regret losing those 9 months of my life. Next time I too, will talk to my doctor before that baby even makes an appearance. "Toughing it out" is just not worth it. Best of luck to you!

k.baer said...

I'm new to commenting here, but this post really struck a chord with me. I have been trying to be more open with my depression struggles with family and friends. For the past two years (ever since my youngest child) I have had a more mild form of depression that I kept thinking would go away. I felt constantly overwhelmed, flew into rages at the drop of a hat, cried at everything and nothing, and was just negative. I finally went on meds a couple months ago and it has made the hugest difference. I feel like me again!

rich said...

I wanted to also mention the use of omega-3, specifically EPA. During my psych rotation, there was one doc who always recommended EPA and Vit D for depression. So it's worth a try since both are very safe (as long as you don't take high doses).

Just Mom said...

Can't seem to get e-mail to work so will write here. Take heart with your worries. I was very scared about the possible recurrence of PPD with my second child but all ended up well. I wrote a little bit about it here - http://myroundfile.blogspot.com/2008/10/ghost-of-depression-past.html Blessings to you and your family on this journey.

Eric D. Snider said...

Good for you! For taking care of the problem, and for writing about it.

Kalli Ko said...

If you eat your placenta I want to watch.

Nothing about babies is easy really, ppd is certainly no exception. Ssri's are there to help praise the lord.

the emily said...

I had some pretty severe depression myself after baby #2, that I never did anything about--not quite like yours, but bad for me. The night I screamed at the baby that I hated him and to shut up so I could sleep, my husband suggested medication but when I went to the doctor I couldn't bring myself to say what I was there for and did nothing. I'm lucky it got better after about a year but when I was pregnant with baby #3 I made him promise to force it this time. Luckily, there was good nothing--only serious happiness, no depression whatsoever. It's been a fantastic 10 months since baby #3 was born, and I hope it's that way for you too.

Amy said...

Sending happy vibes your way! Hooray that you're being proactive about it.

amelia said...

Thanks for sharing this Carina. You are not alone!

Jane of Seagull Fountain said...

My only question is why you're waiting until 6 weeks before you're due? Is that because you're fine now so don't want to take it unnecessarily? I just wonder if it would help to have a longer time to try different options (don't some of these drugs have cumulative effects?) -- or does the body change so much right after birth that even knowing what helps now isn't that helpful?

I have been wondering more this time than before if I should ask for help (I think you see the Mt. Timp midwives? I took their PPD questionnaire at my 6 wk checkup and it was borderline, but, knowing that it does "get better," I declined to take the longer workup). How happy (sad/angry is normal? How do you know? If you're feeling things/doing things -- if there's not nothing, but instead a rage of too much -- how do you know it's not normal too much?

Emily said...

Life is too short to lose another year of it. (And I don't think your online entourage could survive a year without you!) I say do what you've gotta do to fight The Nothing.

Lisa said...

It's good to have a plan. I asked for a plan and thought I had a plan, and then talked myself out of that plan when I was in no state to make any important decisions about my own well being. I'm embarrassed to say that I did that five times. I hid it well--the house was clean, the children were well taken care of, and I made a big fat joke of it, but it took a toll on me. Stick with your plan.

Melissa said...

Thank you for writing about this. I never believed post partum depression was real until after my second baby. I finally went to the doctor and told him that either my husband or I would be dead if he didn't put me on something. I took anti-depresants for a few months and everything was fine.

Good luck to you. I'm sending good wishes and prayers your way.

Vern said...

PPD: Booooo!
Drugs: Yay!

Julia Dunnit said...

Have a look at Dooce.com
She suffers Depression anyway, so PP was a biggie for her first time round - and good luck!

c jane said...

I believe in your plan because it's your plan. And you're owning it.

Likely said...

you hid it well. i am so sorry. depression is scary. i think the hard thing about it is that you don't realize how bad it was until you look back. that is how it has been for me at least. good for you being proactive. please keep us up to date on how you are affected by your medication. thinking of you friend......

Tyla said...

Good thoughts and a special prayer are being sent your way tonight. Best wishes!

Adams Family Adventure said...

I think it so brave to write about your experience with PPD. I have had 6 total preganancies, have 4 children and had PPD with the last (although it was brought on by a medication for nausea that I was having, and the medication is now in the Supreme Court for causing major problems in people). At the time I didn't know that but all I knew is that my brother had taken anti-depressants and they did nothing but make him worse and I was afraid to go that route. Now through years of study (my ppd symtoms persisted and worsened) I have discovered some of the physical reasons behind ppd. So here goes, one thing to have checked is your prolactin levels. Prolactin stimulates lactation and if your levels rise to high after the birth of your child they can plunge you into a depression. I had a friend the week she stopped nursing her daughter (about 1 year after her birth) her depression lifted. That would be a classic prolactin issue. There are also women with inherently low levels of zinc and when pregnant, blood levels of copper rise dramatically and can create an imbalance in the zinc/copper ratio. When this happens (copper is too high in proportion or just way too low zinc) it can cause paranoia, anxiety, etc. I had this issue and not the prolactin one. Lastly, I currently take sublingual sprays by neuroscience called 5-htp and tyrosine. They are the natural amino acids in your body which produce the neurotransmitters seratonin and norepinephrine which regulate mood. I know this is a lot of food for thought but these are the highlights of what I have learned over 3 years in dealing with these issues from a physical and nutritional side. If your body is only low in seratonin the anti-depressants will most likely be effective. If it is low or you are ultra sensitive to the meds, there are other options out there. Good resources are Pfieffer Treatment Center (zinc), Dr. Richard Jaeckle of Dallas, TX for prolaction and neurotransmitters. All the best for a fantastic pregnancy and delivery! (FYI - I also take fish oil, vitamin C, Vitamin B-complex, magnesium (reduces stress and cramping and the vitamin D aformentioned).

Anonymous said...

I had something very traumatic happen to me about 5 years ago and I became a miserable shell of myself, much like the way you described. I went on Lexapro (along with some couseling b/c in my case it wasn't just hormones) and I am so grateful that I did. I began to piece myself back together and I really think that the happy pills were my crutch to getting me back to my normal, happy self. Hope they work as well for you as they did for me!

Anne-Marie said...

Meds are great.
Not everyone's bag of chips, but my bag of chips. Particularly wellbutrin. No side effects at all for me Zoloft made me feel druggy.
I wish I didn't suffer so long with other pregnancies & post-partum.
Also...expecta lipil supps (DHA & OMEGA 3'S without the fishoil burps), Vitamin D3 & topical progesterone if you please. I'm a walking pharmacy, but my sanity is in tact for the most part.

kami @ nobiggie.net said...

I loved reading all the comments on this post. Good for you for having a plan. I cried the entire year after I had Avery. Now I can't cry anymore...all cried out.

If I ever have the chance to do it all again, I probably will do something.

Hilary said...

KAiser, thankfully has a REALLY good posptartum depression "Track" they put you on when you have the baby. Someone calls you after, the social worker comes and talks to you when you have the baby.
Anyway, the ONLY Thing that did it the last time, was heading back to work. It was the only thing that hand't changed while my whole world was spinning. Suddenly I realized life would go on.
Weird, since I'm throwing women into the exact tailspin I was in.
Good luck dude.

thedoodlegirl said...

I love you, I love you, I LOVE YOU! You are so fabulous!!! I'm SO glad I got to see you last week. You really are fabulous!!!!!! Good luck with everything!!!

Amy said...

I think it's beautiful that your friends would talk to you on the phone like that, truly. When I had PPD everyone got all awkward and ran for the hills. I have never felt so alone.

I also appreciate your writing about this. With my first baby ten years ago, NO ONE talked about depression, admitted they had it, etc. It was still strictly taboo. I am heartened by the progress made.

Mary said...

I relate so much to this. I was so altered after my second child... I didn't know who I was anymore. I didn't recognize myself. I thought I was losing my mind. It was the worst year I've ever experienced.

My midwife did the same thing for me with my third child. I started taking Zoloft 4 weeks before she was born. I never got to that scary place. I felt like myself, I could still function. It was a completely different experience.

Hang in there. You will be fine.

Tzipporah said...

If I'd had the happy pills right away, I might have learned to love my son before he turned a year old.

Unfortunately for me, my nothing was that I got everything done (including continuing to be the sole financial supprt of the family) and felt nothing but rage and sadness for 9 months.

i i eee said...

I hope this works out well for you, and that you won't have to experience the PPD ever again.

My two cents: Remember that different meds can do different things, and to not give up right away if the kind you start off with doesn't seem to help. (Also, remember there are some supplemental meds to take with antidepressants for them to work better--I take Deplin with mine.) For example, I learned I had to take an older version of the drug I'm on because my body absorbed the newer version poorly; the newer version only made me a somewhat high-functioning depressive, it didn't bring me out of my misery. I've blogged about all this before, so you might have heard all of this from me already. Broken record, I know. Just want to shout out my support.

Kristi said...

I had PPD after my first baby and denied it. I just kept thinking I was tired and stressed. "Meds were fine for other people, but I could handle it myself. I was strong enough!" I got pregnant with my second when my first was only a year old. My depression went on through my entire 2nd pregnancy and I wasn't looking forward to my sweet baby...all I could think about what how hard it was going to be. When I was 37 weeks, I finally talked to my doctor and he put me on Zoloft. I had my baby 3 weeks later and it made a huge difference! I also was on it during and after my third baby. It helped so much! It was amazing! Good luck to you!

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I am certain it will help others. This is why blogging is so awesome. xo to you and wishing you all the best. :)

Jan S said...

I cannot thank you ENOUGH for this post! I don't have children yet, but I've had depression my whole adult life and am at a very high risk for PPD. I didn't know if you could take antidepressants during or after birth, so am so heartened to hear of your experience. (I am also equally thrilled that a mid-wife suggested your antidepressants. I was worried if I went with a midwife they might be against it.)

I also take Deplin with my antidepressant since I am among the many that can not metabolize antidepressants well. Just something to keep in mind if your med "stops working."

THANK YOU for your honest and beautifully written post! I'm so sorry you had to endure such difficulty in the past but please know that your posts help SO MANY others...like me! :)

Tonya said...

I lost 9 months after my first. I had no idea that something was wrong -- I thought every new mother "felt" (quotations because I couldn't actually feel nothing) the way I did. My mom, who lives 2 hours away, kept insisting something was wrong when we would talk on the phone. I think my husband thought all new mothers acted like the way I did. It wasn't until I "woke up" - that's exactly what it felt like! - 9 months later that I realized something had indeed been wrong with me. Like you, I barely remember anything from those 9 months. I have only a few memories, and that breaks my heart.

Five and half years later, I had my second. Yes, it took that long for me not to feel sick to my stomach at having another child. I made a plan as soon as I found I was pregnant. I talked to the nurse and the dr at my very first ob appt.,and I talked to my mom, my husband, and my friends. I was going to be ready to stop the time/feeling-sucker!

Thankfully, after I had my second, I felt wonderful. Honestly, it's the best I've ever felt in my whole life. In fact, I was on such a high, it was like I was like I had the very opposite of PPD.

Thanks for sharing your story. PPD used to be such a taboo thing, and many people just truly don't understand it. It feels so good to be able to hear others stories and share my own.

Jodi said...

This was a beautiful post. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I'll never forget what the nurse at my ob/gyn's office told me when, ten days after the birth of my second, I finally called in to ask for help. In response to my sobbing something along the lines of yes, I had this with my first but I figured that was because I was new to the whole "baby thing" she said, very gently, "it's hormones, and it's very often worse the second time."

She helped me realize that I didn't have to spend months waiting for the fog and anxiety to pass. I went the route of an SSRI and talk therapy, and it definitely helped.

You're smart to have a plan. You're on the right track, and keep those wonderful friends close at hand!

Mojo said...

I get PPD every time I've had a kid. So I feel you. Big time. I can honestly say that I have the world's best Mormon Female therapist ever in the whole universe period. That made all the difference.

Natasha said...

It's always comforting to find someone knows what it's like to be truly depressed, but I'm sad to read this. Way to be proactive and I pray that it works for you.

I would totally do your dishes if I were there. And I hate dishes. Even better: I would cook. And you'd like it. ;-)

Warmly,

N.

P.S. My captcha is real word! "coatings". Love that!

Genevieve Gamboa said...

I know it's been said 51 times by now, but I am so incredibly, incredibly touched by your words. I'm single and have never had a baby, but I know what depression is like and I've seen my sister deal with PPD.

Thank you for helping women everywhere to realize it's ok to need help. We don't have to feel so alone.