Saturday, October 2, 2010

Earning My Badge

Hey everyone!

Do something for me?

Scroll down just a bit and look at the "badge" thingy on the left right below my "About Me."

Click on it. Please?

Ya back?? Cool website, huh?!

I really have "earned" that badge. You see I suffered from Postpartum Anxiety after my 1st and 2nd children. With my first it was much more severe and I didn't recognize a problem for about 7 weeks. I just thought I was a new mom and so I was, of course, anxious. 

But then I could reason with myself after about 7 weeks. I'd think, "Okay, Candace, everything is FINE. Your daughter is doing great, you are doing great now. Jonathan is doing great. So why do you wake up filled with feelings of DREAD (when you can actually sleep, that is)? Why don't you want to eat anything? Why is it that your chest feels tight and you feel like you can't get a deep breath in?"

Jonathan noticed something wasn't right so he brought it up one night and we both agreed I needed to see a doctor about it. So I did and after trying a couple medicines felt like my old self again and loved being my daughters mommy!

2nd baby: 6 weeks postpartum started to have racing, intrusive, obsessive thoughts and that same tightness in the chest. This time I nipped it in the bud after a couple weeks and started the same meds, did some cognitive behavioral therapy with a counselor, began exercising regularly and eating well. I felt great!

So what about baby #3? Any of the same stuff postpartum, you ask? Still get to keep your "badge"?

YEP! Not a lick of postpartum anxiety. Hurray!

(I have to enter a big BUT here now.....but you saw that coming, though, didn't you?)

But, let's talk about my 3rd pregnancy, shall we? 

Let me set the stage: We have just started the 2nd semester of our first year of dental school and it is still HARD but better, since we've now adjusted. We feel like it really is time to invite another spirit into our home and are definitely a little fearful but our faith outweighs our fear that we are doing the right thing. We get pregnant in February. I am MUCH more physically sick this time, with daily headaches, all day nausea and just blah for the first trimester. First trimester ends and I am feeling MUCH better physically! People at church ask how I'm feeling and I answer, "Fine."

But inside I am screaming, "But not really!!!! I hurt inside!!!!!!!!! Can you just see it without me having to tell you?" No one, except my husband, knows. Because when you're feeling awful's hard to talk about openly in the moment it's going on. (I'm GREAT about doing it after!!! See, look at me!! :)

After a few weeks Jonathan and I can see that something is not right. But these are totally new feelings for me! What is wrong?!! 

So I do a little online research......some of my symptoms include wanting to sleep and eat all the time; little to no interest in things I used to love (including, but not limited to, music, intimacy, social events, reading); irritable and easily angered; guilty about what I'm doing to my children and my marriage in submitting them to this; and worst of all, for me: Emptiness. Not sadness or crying. Just numb and empty. I despise that feeling. I would rather feel SOMETHING than nothing.

I self-diagnosed myself with "antepartum depression" (depression during pregnancy). It really surprised me that I was depressed! I am not a depressed person! The anxiety fit me much better but this was definitely different, not anxiety. It was depression. 

So at my next prenatal appointment I talked to the midwife about it. I didn't want to take the medicine I had used before (Wellbutrin) while I was pregnant, since it is a "Category C" (which means not enough studies have been done to show if it harms the baby), so I agreed to try Zoloft first. It is a "Category B," and much more commonly used in pregnant and nursing women. I also am given the phone number for a Perinatal Mood Disorder Specialist who is a nationally recognized expert on the subject and happens to work at an Indianapolis hospital. So I am feeling hopeful that I will get better.

Except.....Zoloft does NOT work for me! If you look up the side effects of Zoloft.....I experienced pretty much every one of the most common ones. NOT fun. I called the OB office after taking it for 4 weeks and asked if I could stop. They said to wean over a weeks time so I did. 

During this time I also had an appointment with the specialist, which was helpful in reassuring me that I was not crazy and this was more common than I was aware of. I discussed my issues with Zoloft with her and wondered outloud if I should just take the Wellbutrin, since I knew it worked for me. She told me that it was a personal decision but if I felt the benefits of taking the medicine outweighed the risks of NOT taking it (babies growing inside depressed mothers are affected by it!) than maybe I should try it. I knew I needed to make it a matter of research and prayer and discussion with my husband, which we did, and we felt good about trying Wellbutrin.

It worked! I was feeling close to normal again within a few weeks! I stayed on it during the rest of my pregnancy and continued after the delivery. My postpartum recovery soon after was great! 

So I should get to earn my "I Survived Postpartum Depression" badge (or in my case antepartum depression...but they don't have one for that....they should....), right??!

Well, I know I WILL earn it eventually; hope is one thing I have.

But I haven't survived it yet. 

A few months ago I had a big relapse.

Weird, right? Well, no, not really.

Postpartum depression can strike anytime during the first year of your baby's life. And it struck me around 7 months postpartum, after I thought everything was going to be fine.

It wasn't terrible but it was there. I knew I wasn't 100%. Some days were better but some days were MUCH worse.

I have come to learn from past experience and probably the cognitive behavioral therapy, though, what is normal for me and what is not. I can usually "observe" myself from "a far", so to speak, and see that there is a problem that needs fixing. 

SO I went to work. I was still on medicine but still needed more help so I decided to seek out other resources, like the peritnatal mood disorders support group that the specialist organized. Tried that out and.....just wasn't for me. Group settings just aren't my thing.

So what next? Maybe one-on-one counseling? But I didn't want to go to just anyone....I really wanted one who took into account my faith, an LDS counselor. So I got in touch with the LDS Family Services office here in Indy. They were full but referred me to an LDS counselor they contracted out to. I called her. Set up an appointment and..... hope and healing has multiplied by a thousand times over the last month or so of visiting with her!!! She is amazing, and a perfect fit for my situation and personality. She uses a manual published by the LDS church called the "Addiction Recovery Program" for my therapy.

I know what you're thinking: "Um, but Candace you are depressed not addicted to something."

And you would be right. It is different but not really. Look at page 5 of the manual but instead put in the word "depression" in the place of "addiction." It still fits, right? But to take it a step further....I could venture to say that I am "addicted" to depression. I am powerless to over come it on my own.

That is where the atonement of Jesus Christ has stepped into my life more than ever before. Because remember: Yes, he most certainly suffered for our sins. But he also suffered for our pains, our heartaches, our sorrows. Really. He did. And what I have learned this past month is that he meant what he said and he meant  it to be for ME when he said, 

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

Yep, even postpartum depression.

Yep, medicine is often necessary to help correct chemical imbalances and I am SO grateful for that.

But a much deeper healing is taking place inside me now.

Through my Savior who knows me and loves me and will take my burdens away IF I give them to Him.

Guess I'm not going to earn that badge....on my own, that is.


Allison @ Allie Browns Layouts said...

*Sending you an email right now!*

You are a Saint!

Tiffany said...

Thank you for this post! I've been wanting to write about my issues for a while now but I'm not out of the woods enough yet. I have been experiencing some weird things and have learned that they are side effects of my medication (yeah....heart palpitations and irregular heartbeats? not normal). You have definitely provided me with some inspiration. I love you!

Bryce and Jenalee said...

I think you earn your badge and I think you're so strong! Keep it up. Love you!

Katherine said...

Yay Candace! Love the badge. You have reminded me that I definitely need to have one created for antepartum depression. I'll get on that!

Scott and Jamie said...

Sorry you had to go through this. I have a sister that is WAY depressed and pregnant, but doesn't want to do anything about it. Glad you took the initiative to make yourself happy! We need to hangout sometime!

Andrea said...

Candace, it's so great that you are now able to share your experience with others-as I know that will greatly help many people.
Having been in your shoes I know how extremely difficult it is to struggle with depression-especially while trying to 'hold it all together' for your family.
You're an awesome person! I'm so glad my brother found you. Keep on plugging away, each day will get better. Love you!!

Brian and Janette said...

Thank you for your complete honesty, Candace. I know that there is frequently a stigma attached to any type of mental illness in our society and it makes it difficult for those who suffer with it to talk about it. I appreciate your honesty because not only do I believe it will help so many others who may be in a similar situation, but I believe it helps you in the process. It also helps individuals who don't suffer with those sorts of things to have compassion on others who they consider to be "just a normal person" who they love and adore. It helps to break down those stigmas. You are amazing!

Em said...

Love you THIS much! Thanks for sharing your experience. I admire your honesty and your perspective and persistence. Hugs!

Martha said...

What a great post, Can. I am amazed at your ability to see what is happening inside you and assess how you are feeling and get it taken care of. You're an inspiration me! Thanks for your encouraging words and I'm proud of you and all you've overcome. Pregnancy and motherhood are never easy undertakings, even without emotional and mental conditions. Thanks for sharing your story! I love you!

DawnSheree said...

Candace, I was really touched reading your post. I am not only glad that you are an incredibly intelligent person who can figure things out, but I am grateful that you have an awesome hubby that is able to be there for you. I love you. Your kids are adorable.
PS- You are an awesome writer.