Thursday, April 12, 2012


I've mentioned before that I was a worrier as a kid. A close look at my teeth reveals extensive wear from years of grinding them and if you get too close to the frown lines between my eyes you might fall in. I never really considered it to be a big issue, rather just part of who I was.

While I was pregnant with Brighton, it began to be something more. I spent more than one night quietly crying into my pillow, wondering how in the world I was going to cope with everything once she was born. My life felt barely manageable as it was and, though Chris and I were both fully on board with having another child, it began to feel like a big mistake.

After she was born, things got worse. I spent a lot of time in my hospital room crying, which I chalked up to hormones. I have mentioned before how frightened I was during my c-section; that feeling of impending doom lingered after the risk period for a blood clot or other complication passed. I'm sure that because she was my second baby, there was a certain amount of assumption that I sort of knew what I was doing and people left me to get on with it (I don't mean I was abandoned, but there was Pacey to take care of and my husband, for all his wonderful qualities, just can't sit in a hospital room for hours). In reality, though, I'd never taken care of a newborn on my own before. With Pacey in the NICU and unable to be held even, I spent my post-op time focusing on my own physical recovery and accepting the support and good wishes of countless friends and family. I felt completely out of my depth trying to heal and attend to the needs of my newborn daughter there in the hospital.

It didn't get a whole lot better once I got home. It was ok while my parents were still in town, but once I was on my own with the kids it was terrifying. I would drop Pacey off at school and come back home with the baby, where I proceeded to spend the day watching her sleep and worrying about when she would wake up. One of the hardest things about infancy for me is a lack of immediate connection and feeling of competency. I just don't feel like I know what to expect from a baby and that makes it difficult to feel in control.

So time went on. Several months later I felt like maybe I should talk to someone about how I felt. I found a therapist through my work mental health benefit program and saw her a couple of times. Frankly, she wasn't super helpful to me. She was very understanding and it was good to unload some of my stresses, but I didn't feel like she gave much feedback other than to acknowledge I was under a lot of pressure. I gave up after a few sessions, and when I went back to work I didn't really have time to think about how I was feeling.

Things didn't get better though, they got worse. I cried a lot, and started to feel uncharacteristic rage. I had a constant gnawing pit in my stomach. I never had specific fears - didn't really worry about the safety of my kids or husband or terrible things happening. I tried another therapist and only saw her once. I don't think I really knew what I wanted or needed to get out of therapy but it just wasn't working for me. One evening I got so overwhelmed and angry and felt so bad I kicked a hole in the wall. Anyone who knows me will appreciate just how out of character that was, and it shocked and horrified me. I went to bed that night and Chris stayed up until 3 am, patching and painting the wall so I didn't have to see the evidence in the morning. Shortly after that was Mother's Day, a day I spent largely in tears. Because Brighton was born the Tuesday after Mother's Day, it hit me that it had been a full year I'd been struggling with feeling awful. Chris and I talked that day and decided together that it was time to see a doctor.

Summarizing the rest, I saw the doctor, she started me on the lowest dose of Zoloft and within three weeks I was literally feeling like a new person. Shortly thereafter Chris got the job offer here in MN and we decided to move. I dread to think how I would have coped with that transition in my prior state of mind.

I experience relatively mild side effects from the medication. I did notice throughout the first year that my reactions to positive things felt a bit...muted. Like the medicine took away my overreaction to negative things, but also dulled my ability to appreciate the positive stuff. That seems to have passed though, and I am sometimes amazed by how good I feel. I did try weaning off the medication six months or so after we moved. I thought it was worth a try, given how many stresses I'd been able to remove from my life. It was ok for a few months but the darkness crept back in and after one too many crying sessions, again my husband and I discussed that I was not doing ok.

I am so grateful that Chris was there for me and coped as well as he did. I mean, we wrote our own marriage vows about how we would step up for each other when life became difficult, but it's much different to put that into practice. He actually remarks to this day how rarely I cry anymore. It must have been so hard for him, having a typical male desire to fix things as well as a genuine desire to make ME happy (happy wife = happy life) to acknowledge that he couldn't fix that.

I feel like, in a way, this experience contributed to the especially close bond I have to my daughter. I always attended to her needs and felt loving and affectionate towards both kids through that difficult period. But I know that they pick up on the emotional state of their environments and there was more than one time that I cried as I rocked her. Somehow, still, she became very attached to me and remains so to this day. To me, that's the definition of unconditional love and I'm so grateful that what I was experiencing didn't damage any of my relationships.

Anyway, for awhile there I indulged in a little self-pity, wondering why my make-up prevents me from feeling happy and normal without medication. But now? Now I just feel grateful that my brain responds to a low-risk medication that allows me to fully appreciate the wonderful life I have.


Paula said...

I'm glad your brain is doing better too. And, if after a while the Zoloft stops working, don't be afraid to try something else. It didn't work for me and made my hair fall out -- not something you really want when you're already feeling horrible about everything. I had an incredibly patient and helpful doctor, though, and we eventually found something that worked. (Wellbutrin.) Apparently it also helps people who are trying to stop smoking. I have never smoked, but told the doctor that I was considering starting and then stopping just so I could say it worked. She said my ability to joke about it was a good sign. Hang in there!

By the way -- I love the picture of your daughter with dirt in her mouth!

Navigating the Mothership said...

I can't believe I missed the wall kicking bit the first time I read this! Ha! I mean, not funny, but you know...funny :)

I do want to pick your brain a bit about the weaning/not-weaning and pregnancy. I have a history of taking other anti-d's in college but I was the worst about taking them regularly so going off meds never really impacted me in a clear way since I don't think I was ever receiving clear benefits from the meds. Anyway, it's something we'll have to chat about!

Thanks for re-pointing me to this post :)