Tuesday, February 28, 2017
Digging in Deep - Anxiety, Postpartum, Depression
Fair warning, this post may get heavy and it will probably go deep. It is my hope that writing about my experience will help others, as well as help me open up finally and share another part of my story. So, here goes.
Anxiety, postpartum and depression. Most people don't know that I have had them and continue to do so in varying degrees. It took me until June of last year to finally agree with the fact that something just wasn't right. I couldn't put my finger on it until after talking a little more with my doctor. She knew in an instant when I started talking that there was more going on than met the eye. She also knew my history since having Samantha. She said that with all that I had been through, recently and over the past five years, it makes sense.
I have a hard time taking care of myself most of the time. When life throws me curves, I retreat inward and put on a happy face. When we miscarried Samantha, I never really let myself process the grief. I was admitted on a Wednesday, had her Thursday, and went home Friday. I was able to take until the following Wednesday off. My boss told me if I needed more, I could take it. But in reality, I didn't feel like I could and they really didn't want me to be gone any longer. Luckily, my co teachers were a great group and very understanding. They did everything they could to make the transition back go as best as it could under the circumstances, the parents were there when I needed support, and my co teachers did what they could to make it so I could be in to work early and leave early for the first few days. My way of coping was calling for bathroom breaks and crying alone in there. Bolting the second I could at nap time and getting a coffee. And running even faster at the end of the day to my car, once again most days for awhile crying all the way home. It wasn't until nearly nine months later I finally decided to take the time I needed to take care of me and deal with what all had happened and more of the grief. By the end of that Summer I knew something wasn't quite right. I couldn't put my finger on it. I decided what I needed was time. Time my work didn't or wouldn't allow. So, with the help and support of my husband, I stepped out of my classroom. I had become a jack of all trades so to speak there. So it made it really easy to step away, but still have the hours to work when I needed. I could take the time away to begin to heal. My husband and I could take the time away to heal as well. I also found a couple of outside resource groups to help work through the grief.
Move forward to finding out we were pregnant the second time. Shortly in, I started bleeding. This after praying for so many months that God would give us a child. It was minor and because of that and prior, we were put on high risk. I could even stop just to hear the heart beat if I needed. The whole pregnancy left me filled with anxiety. So, I did what I do best. Sank myself into working as much as I could and then at the end of the day going to sleep or taking a nap. I did this until a couple weeks before. Which then I spent my days vacuuming, visiting my hubby, and just plain waiting. After my oldest son was born, I faced the normal postpartum that is typical. Sure I was anxious, worried, and somewhat self critical. But Summer came and went. Before I knew it our days were filled and busy. I would be harsh on myself for mistakes I made. Yell out in frustration when I didn't understand. But overall, things went pretty good once we settled into a new routine. I will say though, that I had (still do) a hard time letting go of the control. I wanted to be the one to tuck him, I would check in on him before I would go to bed, I didn't want to go on date nights, I didn't always let other people hold him (especially at the beginning). It had to be me. I took my anxiety and turned it into being a control freak.
I have to admit, these past 16 months have been the hardest and roughest ones for me by far. Most of the time it's not noticeable on the outside. But if you got into my head, you would hear a different story. So much so, I couldn't hear my own heart, my own mom instinct, or could even trust that gut feeling. Even right now as I type this, I am finding it a challenge. Like I said early, it took me nearly eight months to finally say something about it. But that is as far as it went. I told my doctor, she wrote me a prescription. She told me I didn't have to fill it right away, I didn't have to be on it forever. When I was ready, it would be there. It took me another two or so months to admit that maybe I did need to get it filled. Even then, it took me a good week before I made a decision. I decided to try it, just one night before bed. It was one of the worst nights of sleep, even worse than during the newborn phase. I was filled with so much anxiety and guilt. I never took another one. But, I also never dealt with what was going on. Instead, I did what I do best. I retreated inward and put on a happy face. I bought coffee almost daily. I spent money when I didn't need and probably shouldn't have. Gave in way to easily to my oldest or was too critical. And more. All the while crying myself to sleep. Being extremely self critical and full of negative self talk all day and all night. The slightest mistake I made snowballed into an avalanche. To be honest, I still don't deal well with my mistakes and my emotions. And some of the behaviors, the coffee and spending money, the giving in to easily have all become habits. Not good ones either and have left me with a mess to clean up now.
To be honest, this is where I am at right now. I know that I have anxiety problems, I know I've dealt with postpartum depression, and I know that I am still sitting with the weight of all of this. I haven't wanted to take the prescription, I've tried oils, I've tried working out as a relief. But what it comes down to, is I've never opened up about any of this. I just let it roll around inside my head. It truly affects me daily and I have a lot to learn, as well as work through. Fear has kept me from saying anything. Fear has kept me from admitting to myself.
Life is hard. Parenting is hard. It takes a lot to care for a child, let alone two, or more. I think it makes it even harder, when you have been touched with the reality of how short life is and when you've face a pregnancy loss at any point. You've faced dreams dying when your child died. And sometimes we push that into our next kids. This happened the first time around, I am going to change it so it doesn't happen again. Or, I am going to do everything to give them everything (this goes beyond the basic necessities of life, it's the special treats every day, saying yes after saying no because you didn't want to deal with the emotions that followed and it seemed easier, and so on).
The guilt that we feel can be such a huge load to carry. Splitting my time between two was something I didn't balance well at the beginning. Might be a little better at it now, but still have a ways to go. Any time my focus was on one kid, I felt the immediate guilt rush over me for the other one. I haven't been able to put my focus into one person at a time without feeling guilty and thinking of the other, as well as all the what ifs or the I shoulds. Bonds have suffered and aren't as strong as they once were or could be. All the while I keep thinking, if I can't manage my emotions and work through them, how am I going to help my kiddos. My oldest will be four in a few short months. He feels big emotions. He needs to know how to work through them. I need to know how to work through them. But I need to work through mine in order to do that, while at the same time putting mine aside to help. He can learn a lot from watching how I deal with mine. And when it's time to deal with his, I need to lay mine down to help him work through them. Draw him in closer to draw them out.
I am hoping by writing this, I have begun to draw mine out. To make it okay to open up about something that nobody really wants to talk about. Sometimes the best way to let go is to open up and let in. Draw it of you, draw those you love in closer, and be truly heard.
If you are struggling in any way, please find a way to open up. Find someone. Find somewhere. Let it out.