My case of postpartum depression

Chaos © Aggie Armstrong (Cablearms), 2011
You know when someone tells you they’re going through some issue in their life, and although you can try to relate or imagine what they’re trying to convey, you just can’t seem to understand it for the reason that you haven’t experienced what they have? That’s motherhood for me, in a nutshell. Friends and family may have told me stories about their experiences but I could only muster a smile or a polite comment until I’ve come across the playing field myself. Then, I become an active participant versus an at arms’ length spectator.

You may already be familiar with my story: I tried to get pregnant for three years, I had problems and had three miscarriages. Just when I thought I’d never be a biological parent after numerous fertility procedures, I get pregnant on my own. It seems all simplistic and black and white when I put it down like so, but the struggle to get pregnant, although difficult and frustrating, seems like a world away now.  But I haven’t forgotten. Nor will I.

It is evident by my daily successes and challenges in raising my beautiful little daughter, who just turned 16 months.  It’s cliche´, but nothing ever prepares you for your birth story, much less motherhood. Nothing. I went ahead and read the books, had my birth plan, made a playlist for my delivery – made with such earnest choices of which Radiohead, Jeff Buckley, or Bon Iver songs to include. So how naive and ignorant was I to face motherhood like it was going to be a mere peak and valley challenge like a setting on the treadmill? Incredibly. It’s more survival of the fittest. The faint of heart need not take part.

I was always wary about postpartum depression as I’ve had episodes of depressed states in my twenties. In the first few months after giving birth, I was always on guard of how I was feeling – I was in a soupy mixture of sleep deprivation fog and haze of bliss. I do remember having a big fight with my husband within the first 6-8 weeks at three in the morning. Looking back, the was the first time we had that big a fight in our marriage. I chucked it up to hormones and severe lack of sleep, which was the obvious thing to do.  I hadn’t really felt like I was out of control until another fight, close to a year ago. It came out of nowhere.  I was giving proclamations of my love for my little family one minute, and then all of a sudden, my kid was crying, the cat was whining to go outside and all the dishes from breakfast were coming at me and my mind was full of loud noise and chaos.  I felt cornered and had nowhere to go for a quiet respite, and I lost it, 15 minutes before we were supposed to leave for a day out.  The rage I felt was so real and so strong, that it even scared me.  My husband, in his attempt to calm me down and shepherd all of us out of the house and into the car, came towards me to seemingly give me a hug to tell me it’s ok. But I swatted his hand so hard, it sounded like I slapped him in the face. That was also the first time I ever told to get the fuck away from me. The look in his eyes – it was pure devastation and confusion.  He couldn’t understand how one minute I was fine and then a raging lunatic after.  I couldn’t either. I started hyper-ventilating and had to go upstairs to try to collect myself and figure out what the hell just happened. Since then, I had incredible fits of rage on and off. Then I’d feel incredibly guilty for it. Couple that with growing anxiety for my baby’s safety at all times.  I had visions of her getting really sick and hurt, that it would keep me up at night even when she would sleep right through.

I had been going on like this and was thinking that it may just be my new norm – always worrying about her state, and yet was short on patience with her; she was getting more vocal after all, not in a talking state, but she was developing her personality and had her ways of being heard. I loved her immensely but I noticed myself feeling a bit detached from her; caring for her as a duty but short with compassion and patience. I also grew a bit more jealous when she preferred her dad over me; I was beginning to take it personally.  The whining was something I couldn’t stand. It made my head spin. My mind seemed like it was on overdrive most of the time and adding ‘one more thing’ was like cutting the last thin string holding everything together. As the moon would wax and wane, my fits of rage would ebb and flow, only to increase in intensity the next time it came about.  I’ve also noticed that the dormant stages became less and less, as I would find myself very quick to anger more often.  I’ve always had a temper, but this was different – anything could set me off, and it took me a while to get my composure back.  I would seethe and feel my whole body heat up and shake in such rage. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me, with all the struggle to keep my wits about me.  Running did little to help. The reprieve was only temporary and because of my decrease in energy, I wasn’t running as often as I should have to garner any effects of exercise endorphins.

This went on all through the dreariest winter we had and not until my fifth anniversary this past week did I realize that I really needed to get some help.  I’d been so sluggish after my sister and niece visited for two weeks, and I woke up still groggy from a difficult sleep the night before, with my husband, greeting me with a sleepy smile and an anniversary card as he handed me a cup of coffee.  I’d forgotten our wedding anniversary, and to top it off, I’d been such an insufferable bitch to him leading up to that morning.  To be honest, he had been living with an insufferable asshole for the last year – and who wants to be around an asshole all the time? I made an appointment that day with my GP, got in and as soon as the doctor went in to see me, I burst out in tears because I had been trying to keep my wits about me until I felt safe for some release.  She made me take the Personal Health Questionnaire Depression Scale (PHQ-9) to which I scored a 21; meaning I had severe major depression.

I know that this doesn’t excuse my outbursts, but it was such a relief to know that there was a reason, and I wasn’t just a crotchety, mean asshole especially to the people I loved the most. Having been diagnosed with postpartum depression, I was prescribed Cipralex to help me feel more like myself again.  Studies say that this drug takes about 2-4 weeks efficacy and I’ve only been taking it for a short while but placebo or not, I feel like it was almost instant relief; I’ve been given something to take the edge off.  I don’t feel agitated or annoyed; nor do I feel dull or hazy. I feel stable. I feel clear. There’s a lot less teeth gritting and heavy and deep sighing the last few days.  I can curb my instinct to shut my daughter down with a mean “NO!” right away. I look at her with less annoyance, but with more wonderment and awe again.  I never wanted to be a mother who relied on her offspring for validation, nor do I want to be a mother who was resentful and angry all the time. I was starting to be that kind. And it really gutted me, that this early in the game, I was already telling myself that I wasn’t cut out for this when only a couple of years ago, I was in such despair for not being able to maintain a pregnancy for more than two-three months.

As a (self-diagnosed) type A personality, it is incredibly difficult for me to ask for help so figuring out for myself that I did indeed, have to take medication didn’t come so easy.  In fact, I didn’t want to, because I wanted to do it all on my own. Clearly, that wasn’t working for me, so here I am.  I’m not a paid spokesperson for any drug company, and it is very early on yet for me to say for sure that this is the medication that works best for me. But I will take giving a more patient pause and reaction than a curt negative response; or a tender contact than a rough dismissal for my family any day. They deserve better. And more importantly, I deserve better too.

© Aggie Armstrong (Cablearms), 2014

If you suspect you have postpartum depression and want more information about it, read up on it here and here. It would also be helpful to contact your healthcare provider as soon as possible to get you the help that you need. You deserve it.

Three Hundred and Sixty-four

ECA

364. That’s the number of days my life has been changed forever, as of today. That’s how many days I’ve been graced by her presence. The number of days that I’ve been responsible for somebody, other than myself. Tomorrow, she turns one and she has become more and more confident and self-assured. Thank you for the best (and most challenging) 364 days, my dear beautiful, sweet Eleanor Claire. I just want to remember this last day of your infancy. Thank you, you have made me a mama.

 

Choice

20140105-165038.jpg

20140105-165054.jpg

Unravelling the Year Ahead by: Susannah Conway

Happy New Year! Five days into 2014… how has yours been so far?
Before we completely let go of 2013, let me quickly take stock of the year that was.

2013 was a gift. The first quarter was about anticipation. The better part of the spring and summer were about diving in the deep end, whilst hazy with sleep deprivation, coming up for fits of air only to find out that you’d have to start all over again with getting used to a new score of routines.  This in essence, was my life with my newborn.  I was a blissful, anxious, ecstatic, paranoid and haggard hot mess. It sounds a bit psychotic – and it is.  This is the beautiful roller coaster that my life has become, and I am nothing but better for it. I felt so fortunate for this experience.

20140105-161305.jpg

2013 was also a year of humility and digging deep.  Eleanor has opened me up so much to unconditional love and daily forgiveness – of others, and especially of oneself.  There were so many times that I beat up myself for not knowing what to do, but how could I have when she is my first child? I needn’t be the perfect mom and Stepford wife. As long as my child is happy and healthy, and my husband feels loved and appreciated, I have done my daily job.  I know this will prove to be difficult mantra all the time, but when this is what i see at the end of the day – then I am happy:

20140105-160154.jpg

20140105-161005.jpg

2014 is the year I start to purposely choose for myself.  I choose JOY. I choose LOVE. I choose FUN. I choose FORGIVENESS.  The CHOICE is mine and I will practice it. The choices I make will not only impact me, but my child, my family.  My choice is to live life to the fullest and show my daughter by example that life is beautiful, especially because I have her in in mine.

20140105-161412.jpg

20140105-165656.jpg

20140105-165725.jpg

20140105-161500.jpg

Always Choose Joy

The Distance Between Us

20131125-220658.jpg

This space seems so distant (and neglected) to me these days. It’s not a matter of not having anything to say… there are so many blog posts waiting to happen. There just doesn’t seem to be any time to do so.
How do mothers with more than one child do this – this whole balance thing? How do they manage to keep everything together and still find time to do their make-up before they leave the house? And to you single moms, I take my hat off and worship the ground you walk on.

Tonight, with the babe asleep and my husband away at a work conference, I find myself in front of my computer, in a relatively familiar space yet seemingly peculiar surroundings.  Does that make sense? I liken it to coming back to my apartment that has been on sublet to someone else.  I know the space is mine, but I almost feel like I’m encroaching on somebody’s territory.

It seems like most women who’ve had the same experience as myself – having gone through some emotional turmoil with (in)fertility and using their blog as a ‘haven’ to air grievances, then find themselves successfully pregnant, have the baby and all of a sudden feel detached from the very place they used to call home.
Part of it is the “now what” plane. It seems like all my past efforts were solely dedicated to becoming a mother; it feels rather hypocritical to now divulge the new trials and tribulations of this new phase.  It would be rude and ungrateful, knowing that there are still women left out in the trenches, to write about sleep deprivation and the emotional highs and lows of watching a little bean grow and thrive to be a gorgeous little human.

I have received great love and support when I announced that my husband and I were having a baby.  What I didn’t mention was the one comment that I received from Ms. Anonymous about how I should now shut this blog down and that I should stop all affiliations/links with the ALI community. I promptly deleted that comment because I get it. It hurts to see or know that someone else came through to the other side while you’re still wondering if you are even going to get your turn.  But to be fair, I have been there too. Shouldn’t I have a go at this new stage in my own little space that I’ve carved in this vast internet?

Unfollowing is inevitable. It’s par for the course. I get it; go and un-follow; stop reading; move onto the next. It’s okay. I’m getting used to it.
I’ve had real-time friends who’ve seemed to unfollow me once the baby was born. I don’t understand what I did or why, but it seems like they’ve disappeared into thin air. Not a word, not even a peek at the baby and then poof! All that I was left with was a cloud of smoke.
It bugs me, but what can I do? People leave, it’s nothing new. I just hate it when they’re so adamant about being there for you during shitty times, so it’s utterly discombobulating when they disappear when something good actually happens. It’s almost as if they only like being around when you’re sad and miserable. That, I don’t get. But to each his own…

Point is — this is a new phase.  And I’ll have to learn to navigate it, with the new challenges and accomplishments that it brings. It would be amazing to have you along for the ride, but I would be alright if you decided to step back and take a different route.

To you who do stick around. Thank you, you are awesome. There will be some shifting, updating and wardrobe changes; but it’s still the same Cablearms… maybe just a bit sluggish and delayed in with the retorts, as 85% of my brain capacity is dedicated to keeping another human alive but trust — this bitch ain’t going anywhere.

Naïveté aside…

I have to find good in the world.

The news of an 8-year-old Yemeni girl who died on the first night of her forced marriage to a 40-year-old man has sent me into a tailspin last night.  I shed tears for this girl… and for all the girls and women like her who are believed to be nothing than commodities who need to be shaped into subservient chattel or odalisques.

There’s still a lot of good around us, right?  There has to be. Because I refuse to raise my beautiful daughter in a world that is devoid of humanity, compassion and dignity.