No humor here tonight people, it's confession time... for reals...
The movement toward awareness and treatment of Postpartum Depression grows by the day. Thank goodness for that because mothers with PPD need serious, immediate help so they don't, well, for lack of a better way to put it, kill their babies. It happens, you know. We read about it or hear on the news about mothers who drown their kids in bathtubs, shake their babies till they die, or run their cars over cliffs while struggling with undiagnosed Postpartum Depression.
For those who don't know, PPD is purely chemical. It's a brain response to giving birth and the hormone fluctuations that happen during that time. Symptoms are pretty clear cut; wanting to harm you baby, excessive exhaustion, anger, anxiety, trouble with self-care, loss of appetite, etc. PPD is scary and requires immediate attention and, often, medication to balance the brain and get mama back to happy, healthy self.
There are many ways to decrease the likelihood of developing Postpartum Depression. I have done quite a bit (breastfeeding, communicating with my partner, yoga) to prevent the development and PPD and I'm thankful that with both births, I haven't experienced anything more than a weepy day or two as hormones worked themselves out.
Right now, however, at 7 months postpartum. I'm depressed. For real. And it's not PPD. And there's no one to help me.
Why on earth would I of all people be depressed? I have two beautiful, healthy children, an incredible husband with whom I maintain an open, honest, intimate relationship, a job that I couldn't love more or be more proud of, and a whole host of accomplishments to brag about, if probed. What do I have to be down about?
That's just the thing. People don't understand depression, where it comes from, why, and what to do about it! Especially for mothers and especially when everything seems to be going so well for them!
Here's the deal... I have a lot working against my mental health and I'm there, I'm diagnosable, I'm sick.
Dysthymia runs in my family. That means I'm genetically predisposed to be mildly depressed pretty much all the time. While I don't believe I've ever had an episode prior to this one, I'm a licensed counselor for goodness sake, I know depression when I see it, even and especially, in myself.
Also, I'm fucking tired. In case you haven't heard, Annabelle wakes up every 2 hours all night long. She is 7 months old and has never slept more than a 4 hour stretch which has happened twice in her life. Before she was born, I was pregnant (we know pregnancy makes sleep a fantasy we try to dream about if we could just get to that illusive REM cycle). Before I was pregnant, I was up nursing Emmaline 2 or 3 times a night (which continued through my first trimester of my second pregnancy, by the way). When I say I'm tired, I don't mean I feel like I've pulled an all-nighter. I mean I feel like my eyeballs are made of sandpaper, my arms are not physically strong enough to carry my child, and I can no longer stick to our grocery budget because simple math eludes me. We're talking almost 3 years now (if you include my pregnancy with Emmaline which started in March of 2010) of severely compromised sleep. That leads to insanity... or narcolepsy... or depression.
Something else? I don't get breaks. Ever. Okay, that's not fair. About once a month (maybe), I convince the husband to let me leave the house for 2 hours to go shopping, go work at Starbucks, or go to a yoga class. That's it. I don't get my haircut or my nails done or even get to go to the gym on a regular basis! When the girls go to sleep at night (or if I can get them to nap at the same time), I work. A lot. And I love my job but it's not a break.
In addition, I'm still fat. Don't hate me for saying that, I'm being honest. I have the hardest time losing weight while breastfeeding. Add to that the fact that I crave sugar all the time from not sleeping and it would be unsafe for me to do intense physical exercise because I'm so tired I'd probably impale myself on a piece of equipment or trip on the running path, giving myself massive road rash, and there's no way I could lose weight right now.
And if we're being really honest, and I always am, our living situation sucks so bad right now. Because of Annabelle's awful sleep habits, we've given her our room and we sleep on our air mattress (with a hole in it) in the middle of the living room. Emma needs her own room, she wakes up a couple times a night sometimes without a roommate, we couldn't move Belle in there with her. Belle was waking up at every little peep we made in our bed when we shared our room with her. We tried moving her to the living room but her cries echoed down the hall and woke up her sister. So... we sleep in the living room on a fucking air mattress.
I hate my life.
I have no patience.
The other night, after being up 5 times for 3 nights in a row, I told Ryan that I hate our babies sometimes. I wasn't lying. I love my daughters more than anything in the world but the other day I got so mad at them because they wouldn't stop whining and crying and there was really no reason why that I kicked and broke the drawer below our oven. I'm not a violent person. I'm depressed.
I know things will get better. We're closing on our house soon and will be moving as early in March as possible. I'll have an office and Annabelle will have her own room AND we'll have a yard with a fence for Harley and the girls to play in. We'll get our bed back. Belle will be older and sleeping better and, if she's not, she's just going to have to cry it out for a waking or two a night (after all, she's got more than enough baby fat on her to sustain her for plenty of time, according to our pediatrician). We'll have more than just one bathroom and we'll be living in a beautiful, safe neighborhood right next to our girls' future elementary school. It's a dream come true and I know it will help me feel better, if I can make it till then...
There's only so much that helps though. There's only so many times I can look at Ryan and say, "It's going to get better. It has to get better. We're surviving. It's going to be great," before I stop believing it and grow impatient.
So, here I am, word-vommitting all over you and the internet. Do I feel better? Perhaps... Am I safe to be watching our daughters 24 hours a day every single day? Probably not, if we're being really frank, so I'm asking for breaks. My sister and I are having dinner and seeing a movie tomorrow. Ryan and I are working on a plan for me to head out on Sunday mornings to sip some coffee and enjoy the local bookstore (and probably work, if I know me). I'm making progress on my life goals and have a manuscript being edited as we speak.
No, I'm not getting medicated. I'm not going to therapy. I'm not really getting help. I can't. I have no health insurance. Universal health care would be really nice right now... Also, I'm dedicated to breastfeeding and there aren't many options for safe treatment of depression for breastfeeding mothers. I'm still functioning. And I'm very aware of what's going on in my head. It's going to be okay. I'm going to be okay. This is temporary and everything really is going to get better in time. I'm doing the best I can...