An uninvited guest wears out its welcome.

2 Aug

Fact: I’ve been a mother for 15 months.

Fact: I accepted the fact that I had postpartum depression after about 12 weeks.

Fact: I never considered that PPD would linger past one year.

Fact: It did.

Yes, PPD has reared its ugly head again.  I’ve been on OB-prescribed anti-depressants for a year now, and have intermittently attempted to go off of them under my doctor’s supervision.  But it never went well.  Once, my experiment coincided with a surprise business trip for Jake and torrential rains.  Not good odds.  But this most recent time I tried in the sunshine of summer with Jake here to support me.  And still, no dice.  It’s like a big, heavy cloud is following me around, keeping me from being fun for Seabass, helpful to Jake, or even just accepting of my own skin.

But in between those dark days, there have been wonderful days.  Days when the medication was really working and I stupidly thought,  Check it out: I’m a normal person!  I’m mothering!  Nicely, even!  And I look like I fit in with the rest of society!  Whooppee!

But it’s all a fantasy. In fact, it’s the most misleading fantasy I’ve ever had.  To go off antidepressants and look at myself in the mirror – hair unwashed, eyes red from pointless crying – and realize This is the real me, is pretty freaking discouragingThrow in a glance to my gorgeous, demanding son and another at my gorgeous, supportive husband, and I’m fit to be tied.  The guilt is crushing.

When PPD entered my life, holding hands with Seabass, I had no reason to believe it would last this long.  Kids get easier, right?  My doc says yes and no – an answer I loathe.  Yes, kids get easier, and no, it’s not about the kid.  It’s about me and my chemical balance, which is currently out-of-whack.  Doc then handed me a double prescription of Lexapro and said “Have a nice day!”

This has bothered me for a while.  Why hasn’t he recommended a counselor?  Or followed-up with me when I’ve changed medications?  It’s frightfully lonely in PPD Land with just my OB as a buddy.

So I recently called ALPHA Pregnancy and Parenting Support.  I’ve never been a hotline-caller, but when I told Jake I couldn’t go on anymore, he made me promise I’d do whatever it takes to get well again.  And I’m so glad I did.  The nice woman on the line said ALPHA would cover my first call and first session with a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who specializes in PPD, so I called her and she heard me out.

“You need a plan, girl,” she said.

Score one for the therapist.  God knows I love a good plan.

“Are you sure this is an okay time to talk?” I asked, refering to the loud voices in the background while we spoke.

“It totally is.  I’m on vacation with my kids, but this is more important right now.”

Score two for the therapist.

“I come home Monday.  When we meet on Thursday, we’re going to put together a comprehensive plan for you.  We’re going to look at your medication, your diet, and your physical well-being.  I’m going to order a full panel of bloodwork to be done on you, because I suspect thyroid complications.  And our end goal is going to be getting you off those meds.”

Score three.

“That sounds great,” I said.  “I’m nodding yes to all of this.  But how much will it cost?”

“Don’t worry about that.  ALPHA will pay for our first session, and after that, we can meet on the phone to keep your costs down.  We’ll do whatever it takes.”

Score four.  Therapist wins.

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21 Responses to “An uninvited guest wears out its welcome.”

  1. Megan Stiles August 2, 2011 at 8:40 am #

    never underestimate your thyroid. I don’t even HAVE one, and I am learning this lesson THIS WEEK. (after not having had one for 23 years.) (and you do know who Heather Armstrong, is, right? The mother of all mothers with PPD??)

    • jaimeclewis August 2, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

      Love Dooce.

  2. Kim Fahrni August 2, 2011 at 9:20 am #

    Wow, you seriously are talking about the exact issues I had after the birth of my daughters 20 years ago.. The loneliness, the sadness, the confusion… My doctor just wanted to prescribe drugs for the problem, never talking about counciling, or any other options. So heres what I discovered from my experiences:
    1. NEVER be ashamed of what is happening to you! It is not your fault. It is an imbalance inside of you.
    2. Talk, talk, talk! For too long, this issue has been hidden, brushed under the rug. Woman feel that they are the only one this is happening to. If we’d talk about the issues, I believe there would be less stigma attached to them.
    3. Take time for yourself. You have a beautiful son and the best gift you can him and your hubby is a relaxed, happy you. Yoga and simple exercise do wonders.

    Sorry about the long response :-/ This is a subject near and dear to my heart. If I can help 1 new mom enjoy the Blessed experience of being a mom, its worth it. Good luck and ENJOY!!

  3. Monika August 2, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    I got diagnosed with anxiety/depression in high school, and the psychiatrist I saw did the same thing, just kept prescribing meds. I was on them for years before I realized that I hadn’t seen him in years, yet he was still prescribing them to me. I’ve been on them for 15 years, and recently after my own bout of PPD, had the dosage increased. I have also tried to get off of them several times, to no avail. I’m not sure if this is because I’ve been on them for so long, or if my brain really just NEEDS them.

    Either way, your therapist sounds fabulous. Can I have her number? Haha.

  4. Gina Mason August 2, 2011 at 11:35 am #

    I’m a “lurker” on your blog and I don’t usually leave comments, but for this post I had to make an exception. Pat yourself on the back for recognizing the situation you are in and having the courage to speak up about it. The “real you” is NOT the chemically out of whack person staring back at you in the mirror. The real you is the person who understood that the problem she was facing was greater than herself and RESPONSIBLY made a HEALTHY choice for herself and her family. Coping with the guilt of having depression is difficult, but you have nothing to truly feel bad about since you are fixing the problem. 🙂 Whenever I am faced with the guilt of taking medication for depression (Why can’t I be normal and happy like everyone else??), I remind myself that I am creating happier childhood memories for my two boys by taking care of myself.

    Hugs from one PPD mom to another 😉

  5. Kacey August 2, 2011 at 11:39 am #

    Jaime, this sounds like a really positive move in the right direction. I’m sorry you are battling wtih PPD but I know you will win this one. Good luck, my friend.

  6. Kristin August 2, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    Way to be proactive Jaime!!! Depression runs in my family and has been part of my life forever, mostly with my mom. I can say that having a plan ASAP and seeking care that is more comprehensive than the occasional visit to grab the next prescription is so so important. It takes a lot of courage and motivation to ask for help and actually follow through. Proud of you. : )

  7. Marta August 2, 2011 at 1:35 pm #

    Good luck, its great that you found this wondrous therapist, hopefully you’ll be able to be pill free and lighthearted one day soon!

  8. Debbie August 2, 2011 at 3:24 pm #

    Jaime, I am very proud of you for opening up about PPD. So many women suffer from this in silence and think they are alone. I’m also proud of you for going beyond your doctor to look for help. You are a beautiful person.

  9. Valarie August 2, 2011 at 4:13 pm #

    I appreciate how honest you are about PPD. I admire you for calling the therapist. I wish I’d done that. I tried and failed to be get off my meds for PPD three different times. After my last attempt 8 months ago, I thought I would just be permanently insane. Now, Aleah is over 2 1/2 yrs old and I finally took my last pill (after two months of slowly weaning off) last Thursday. So far, so good. If you ever want to talk, you know how to find me.

  10. Rachel K August 2, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

    While I believe that some people suffer from depression that is caused by outside things (not enough social time, ruminating, etc), depression is a DISEASE caused by CHEMICAL imbalances.

    Have you ever heard of a person with diabetes having a goal of eventually being “pill-free?” Some people just have the type of depression caused by an imbalance which requires pills to correct it. What is so wrong about taking medicine for your disease just because it’s depression and manifests in psychological symptoms?

    Don’t sacrifice your well-being for your pride. If you need to continue on the pills, do it until your body no longer needs them, if that happens for you. Just remember that depression is a disease like any other disease.

    With that said, I got out of my depression with a book called The Depression Cure. Sounds crazy, huh? A professor at my school wrote it (Rock Chalk!), and I didn’t even have to read the whole thing. I just made the changes in my life that he thinks lead you out of depression, and it worked.

    To end this long comment, I’ll say this- I REALLY hope you find your way out soon and know that there are so many of us out here who are with you. We know how you feel, and we know that you too will find your way out. Good luck!

    • jaimeclewis August 2, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

      Thanks for your encouragement, and for the book recommendation. Just for the record, since you suggest that I “don’t sacrifice my well-being for my pride,” I’m ‘unna open up this can of worms: There is more at stake than my pride with these pills. They destroy my sex drive, are expensive, and prohibit me from drinking alcohol. (No small sacrifice when you’re a wine writer.) I have every reason to want to be off of them. Some people believe that there are natural alternatives, and I’m just saying I’d like to see the full picture to ensure that I’m not missing the forest for the trees. That is all.

      • Rachel K August 2, 2011 at 7:24 pm #

        Oh crap, I did it again. Sorry! I’m a year away from being a pharmacist and have gotten in the habit of preaching what good the drugs can do and, in the real world, completely forget to take into account all the bad they can do too. Those are the same reasons I avoided medication while I was going through depression.

  11. jaimeclewis August 2, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

    Ha! No sweat, spicy pharmacist girl. Thanks for the comments.

  12. Monika August 2, 2011 at 9:18 pm #

    I drink a glass of wine daily and I’m on Celexa. My doctor said it was fine. Just sayin 😉

    • Anonymous August 3, 2011 at 12:44 pm #

      OK, full confession: I started out drinking on Lexapro. But I noticed I would fall into a mini-depression the morning after I drank. Trust me, nothing gets between me and my beverages unless it’s a big deal. This was a big deal. If it works for you, not only am I happy for you, I’m positively jealous.

      • jaimeclewis August 3, 2011 at 12:45 pm #

        That comment was from me, by the way. I don’t know why WordPress insists that it was anonymous.

  13. Kat August 2, 2011 at 10:09 pm #

    Oh, I love plans, too. Sounds like you’re taking a great and very brave step.

  14. Anne Keo of Always Half Full August 3, 2011 at 5:45 am #

    I am so glad you feel comfortable enough to open up about your battle. Good for you for seeking more help without the doctor recommending it. I feel like some things have become so “common” that a pill is prescribed and that’s that. But it doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. I am hoping that you find the peace you need to accept yourself – a good mother, a good wife, a good person – whether it’s a bad day or a good day. Keep fighting for yourself! You will win!

  15. Monika August 4, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Please keep us updated with this situation. I’d love to know how the Therapist helps!

  16. Kendra Williams August 10, 2011 at 2:31 pm #

    I think I have shared this with you, but maybe I just thought it when I was reading another one of your posts. Alternatives to meds can be alot of trail, error,and sucess, there are some that even have research to back them up. I have a book call Yoga for Depression, by Amy Winthraub. She is a yogi and an LMFT, she has been working with researchers at UCLA and Harvard showing the signaficance yoga,and meditative breathing, along with talk therapy have on reducing sxs. of depression and other mood disorders, and the findings are similar to the impact on mood as meds with talk therapy. The book has case studies, featuring individuals who have gone off medication for various mood disorders, replacing them with a yogic practice tailored to mood restoriation. Let me know if you want to take a peek at it.
    Proud of you,
    Kendra

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