Dark Days of May – Part IV (Will this story never end?)

February 2001:

If I get pregnant again I’m going to either have an abortion or kill myself.

Stunned silence.

Did I say that? Yes, I’m afraid so.

I don’t know who was more surprised, me or the doctor I said it to.

When I read back through my diary, I can hardly believe that it was another whole year after making this statement to my doctor that I was diagnosed with ‘undiagnosed’ Post Partum Depression.

Ya think?

God, I was so clueless, but so were the medical people I was dealing with.

My regular GP was away on leave so I went to her locum to get some advice on birth control. When I made the statement above, I had been unaware until that moment, how deep my fear and despair was running. I knew that another pregnancy would be the worst possible thing that could happen. While I was nursing we didn’t want to use the pill so we used other means but I wanted something definite and for sure.
So, my dear husband agreed to have a vasectomy that month, I weaned the baby, went on the pill AND we used condoms until we had the six month swimmer test. There was no way in hell I was going to get pregnant again. Poor Ron. It wasn’t easy living with a demented woman ๐Ÿ™‚

Since the birth of our son, Grant, life had settled somewhat. I’m not saying it was easy. It wasn’t. Mary stayed with us until well into August. My Mom came to visit us in September for a couple of weeks. She was totally exhausted but thrilled to be around the babies. Grant was about 4 weeks old and the colic started to kick in. It wasn’t as bad as Nicole’s but still, a lot of misery and pain and crying. I spent a lot of time crying too. I don’t remember much about that time except being tired, loving the babies, and trying to survive every day and every night. I do recall Mom being baffled by the colic. She said none of her babies ever had regular fussy periods except John. I think that was an interesting insight for me into how she survived 8 babies!

Grant was an easier baby than Nicole. Not saying he was better behaved but I think that a baby that is a preemie is just very ‘high need’. It was like her every nerve ending was jangling all the time. Everything upset her and she became hysterical and unconsolable very easily. Grant had his indigestion and fussy times but was much more a ‘text book’ baby (if there is such a thing)

Getting back to the spring of 2001. I weaned the baby and prepared to go back to work. I was tired and struggling but I desperately wanted to go back to work so I could get away from what felt like a prison to me. It just seemed like the babies were sucking me dry and I needed to have an outlet and time away.

I went back to work in April and again, my employer was great about flexibility. One of my colleagues was really overloaded with demanding roles and after I had been talking about how I wanted to get a people component back into my work, offered to give me one of her leadership roles, which was the site labs. I still loved my spectroscopy work but really needed more. That was very helpful to me because it gave me a greater sense of purpose in my work. I couldn’t believe my luck actually! (Thank you M-you know who you are!)
When I went back to work I had a sinus infection that went on for ages. Nothing would clear it up. I even got an absessed tooth from it. This wore me down. I was worried also about my sister Mary. She had been diagnosed with Endometrial cancer.

I noticed myself still feeling depressed quite often. I bought and read a book by Dr. David Burns called ‘Feeling Good’. Its like ‘the bible’ on talk therapy for dealing with depression without drugs. Unfortunately, when I read this book I realized I was already employing all the techniques he talked about. I knew on some level that something was not right with me.

I had survived a tumultuous first marriage and its ugly break up without going into a depression. I had lived with my first husband who wouldn’t/couldn’t leave even though I wanted him to. Every day I went to work and came home to a person who alternately was trying to suck me back into staying with him or describing in detail how he was going to kill himself so as to make my life most miserable. I got through that and didn’t get anywhere near the depths I was feeling in 2001.

So, I used the one thing out of the Burns book that was really useful, the Burns Depression Scale. Every Monday I would take the test and plot my score. Under the timeline I would plot my menstrual cycle. I was suspicious about an apparent connection.

Then something very, very bad happened on September 11, 2001. I was home that day. The events of that day sent me into such a state of sadness. It was awful. Combined with the news that another colleague of mine was diagnosed with breast cancer on that same day, it just seemed to add to the despair.

Mary had had surgery and recovered and was doing well. She and her husband Frank came to visit us that fall.

In October, there was going to be a special celebration back in my home town where the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization that my Dad had been a leader in, were going to dedicate a gift to the church on behalf of him and other man who had died around the same time. I thought it was important to go.

Ron stayed home to care for the children and I went, driving part of the way with my brother Neal. It was really good for me to see the family and visit Dad’s grave. One of the best parts was standing around Dad’s grave with the rest of the family, talking about him with fond remembrance. That was very healing for me.

In January of 2002, Ron had his tonsils out. That was quite an ordeal for him but he had been sick so much that I hoped it would really help so we could have a healthier household and he could help me more. Selfish, yes, but I was in big trouble in the depression department. I had gone off the pill because it wasn’t helping significantly to reduce PMS but I continued to get worse. I was filled with sadness and despair, was extremely irritable, had rages and irrational thoughts.
Finally, In February of 2002, I took my chart of depression data, good little nerd that I am, and showed it to my doctor. My regular GP was finally back.

 

The bottom of the drawing is where I was at in the spring of 2001. As you go up the chart you see the points going farther to the right and the baseline drifting farther to the right. That’s bad. The tips of those points, the week before my period, are in the extreme danger/suicide zone. The scale is 0 to -100. Normal, feeling good number should be around 0. I was round -20 then the baseline slipped to about -50. Where you see the correction in the baseline, about 2/3 of the way up the page is where I started taking Celexa, an antidepressant. Over several months, we adjusted the dose to try and get the premenstrual spikes into a manageable level.

By the summer of 2002 I was feeling way better. I had started to sleep better and was not anywhere near as moody and volatile. Thank god for that. I didn’t want my children to remember their mother as a wicked witch. To say nothing of my husband. I have no idea how he managed to keep loving me. I’m sure it was akin to having a Tasmanian Devil in the house. They are cute in the Bugs Bunny shows but hell to live with.

Another positive change was that I had gone to working 4 regular days a week and we had found a day home for the days that Ron wasn’t home. I was still working 75% time but this schedule made it much easier to handle all the meetings and be available when people needed me. After about a year and a half of this I went back to full time.
One day in June, I noticed that when my PMS zone ended, my mood didn’t come back to where it should and, in fact, I still felt awful. I was worried. I went back to my Doctor. Blood tests revealed that my Thyroid was not producing enough hormone. In fact, I had also developed lumps in my thyroid. My doctor diagnosed me with Hashimoto’s Hypothryroidism and set me up for a biopsy on the lumps. A low functioning thyroid is a common cause of depression and also very common in women over 40. Yay for us.

About that time, I also went for a mammogram and they found a mass in one of my breasts. That was a bit scary but honestly, by then I was so numb, that I just took it in stride. I just felt in my gut that there was no way anything more serious could be wrong. I was fine. Both biopsies were unpleasant but nothing to write about.

I was fine and really, by the end of the summer of 2002, I finally was back on track to being a fully functioning human again.

After a year or so on Celexa, I wanted to try and get off it. Tried to cut down, but the severe PMS came right back, immediately. In the medical lingo they call it PMDD, premenstrual dysphoric disorder. I will have to live with it until menopause.

Through this journey I learned an awful lot. My next post will not be any more dark days. They are done. Purged. Thanks for listening.

Please come back and read about Brain Chemistry 101 though. Its very enlightening and I think can help a lot of people to understand the connection to depression. Women, in particular, need to know this stuff because every reproductive phase of your life will wreak havoc on your brain. Isn’t that special?? ๐Ÿ™‚

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This entry was posted in Adventures in Parenting, Continuing Education, Dark Days of May, Depression, Family. Bookmark the permalink.

35 Responses to Dark Days of May – Part IV (Will this story never end?)

  1. Whinger says:

    That graph was fascinating, and good for you for taking charge of your own health.

    I’m glad those days are past, ma’am. You deserve happiness.

  2. Kyahgirl says:

    Whinger-thanks for wading through all this dreck with me. Had to got through a lot of rigamarole to get to the other side, eh?

  3. Martha says:

    Bloody hell. Being a woman can just be a right royal pain in the arse.

    It is so interesting to read about your situation. I’m not quite ready to think about my own post-natal stuff yet (denial living nicely here at the moment), but it is really powerful to read about you.

    Good work.

  4. actonbell says:

    I meant to comment on your last entry: Yay for Mary! Everyone needs a sister (or reallyreally good friend) like her! It’s great to be so close and connected.
    Good to hear she’s doing well after her surgery, too.

    I agree with whinger: good job in keeping track of your symptoms so diligently.This activity probably helped you make it through ordeal, as well. I’m impressed.

    When dddragon first had her twin girls, the way it stopped and changed Life as Usual in her home scared me to death. Having kids IS an ordeal, as much as a joy for anyone, even without the added sorrow of depression! It’s so good to hear that this is all behind you.

  5. Carolyn says:

    L, I am just catching up on these posts. I am so glad that you are writing all of this down. I know it must be good for you, and it’s great for others too who may be struggling or going through dark times of their own. ((((hugs))))

  6. IDV says:

    Gosh! What an ordeal for you & Ron.

    Yay for Ron, Mary and all the others who were so supportive to you. I got all caught up in your narrative and found myself wondering if you’d make it – Dur! Of course you did. Just shows how good your writing is.

    Glad you’re a functional human being again, now ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kyahgirl says:

    Martha-Hi and welcome, I haven’t seen you here before. Yes, denial is powerful, I’ve been there ๐Ÿ™‚ If it helps you to hear me talk about this stuff, I’m glad.

    Actonbell-thanks for your kind words. I do know people who sail through it a lot more easily but I think it can be a pretty huge upheaval. I don’t know if I could have coped with twins. Thank goodness dddragon has a loving and supportive family like yours!

    Carolyn-welcome back. I’ve missed you. (((hugs back)))

    IDV-I did make it and thanks for caring. Yes, it feels wonderful to be functional. I highly recommend it ๐Ÿ™‚

  8. Cowgirl says:

    *gives you a big hug*

    I have been reading all of your posts…didn’t want to comment on them. Instead just took them in.

    You are one strong woman.

  9. AP3 says:

    “Ditto” what cowgirl said. Good for you for making it through all this hard stuff, stronger for it.

  10. frangelita says:

    It’s hard to believe someone so happy and sunny was so sad and depressed for such a long time. I’m really glad you made it out the other side. Big hug from me too.

  11. Jamie Dawn says:

    So much pain and drama. We never know what someone else is going through or has gone through by just knowing them on the surface.
    You really have gone through a major ordeal with your depression.
    I did not experience post partum depression at all. It is so foreign to me to read about how it felt like “prison” to you to be home with the babies, and that work seemed like a freedom. The depth of your sadness was so real.
    Depression is an awful thing, and it is compounded when other events with family, etc… even events such as 9-11 make the depression even worse.

    My mom had tests Thurs and Fri. She found out that she did indeed have several small strokes. The Canadian doc totally missed it. I am so glad she is being helped now before a big stroke occurs. I talked with her last night on the phone. Health problems are just scary!!

  12. g says:

    Thank you so much and I will be back to read up in your next post. Of course I too am a 40 something woman and have shared some of these “joys”- now isn’t that special?! I have indicated before what a strong woman you are and how well written these posts are, but I also want to thank you for educating everyone as you may reach someone who need this. Further proof – t’aint easy being a woman.

  13. H.A. Page says:

    My first visit to your site and you write very very well… It is something that others will read and hearken to, as many of your commentators have written…

    Cheers…

  14. neva says:

    My sister did her doctoral dissertation on PMS, which turned out to be enormously helpful to me, in terms of dealing with some of my bizarre mood swings. However, I, too, experienced a deep deep depression a few years ago, which led to medication. I was given Paxil, which is an evil evil drug, as far as I’m concerned. I gained weight, had no sex drive (yikes!), and slept all the time. however, despite the discomfort of “discontuation”, I was able to successfully change over to another medication… my son also took Celexa for a couple of years, but is now doing extremely well on Zoloft. Is that an option for you? (unless, of course, you’re happy with celexa!)

    Also, my husband was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s many years ago, and has been doing extrememly well… it’s amazing what the right meds can do for one’s sense of well-being!

    Again… i know i sound like a broken record here, but this has been a very powerful emotional journey you’ve taken us on, Laura! And, I agree, it’s amazing what havoc a woman’s hormones can wreak upon her psyche. My sister taught Women’s Health in a California university for 18 years (as well as a variety of Human Sexuality courses) and is currently working as a “life coach”. As such, she “sees” a lot of women sorting through many of the issues you’ve had to deal with! Bravo to you for doing so in such fine fashion! (I assume this, because of what I know about you… and the fact that you said you were now out of the “dark days of May” mode!)

    Thank You Thank You Thank You for sharing! And may you always find yourself able to rely on that magnificant emotional strength you gained through that difficult time in your life!

  15. Doug says:

    You know, reading that post, I realize how hard it must be for someone who would track herself on the burns scale against her menstrual cycle to deal with a mind full of irrational thoughts. I wonder which was your strength then.

  16. karma says:

    honey, thank goodness there are other fun things about being a woman. we don’t have to change lightbulbs :))

  17. Fred says:

    Wow. You’ve overcome so much. Thank you for sharing it with us, and I hope in some small way we’re helping by being here.

  18. Kyahgirl says:

    Cowgirl-thanks, hugs are ALWAYS welcome here.

    AP3-thanks

    Fran- hugs back

    JD-I’m glad your Mom is in good care now. Thanks for letting me know

    g-sharing the knowledge is part of why I’m sharing this…people don’t talk enough about it.

    H.A. Page-Welcome, I appreciate you dropping in ๐Ÿ™‚

    neva-as always, you’re kind and supportive. I’m interested in your sister’s research. I’ve only ever tried Celexa and feel well on it. It has some impact on libido though which is a bit of a downside.

    Doug-good question, if you figure it out, let me know amigo. Probably a mixture of instinctive will to live, spirituality, and pigheadedness.

    Karma-yes, I still like being a woman ๐Ÿ™‚

  19. Kyahgirl says:

    Fred-I didn’t see you there, must have been commenting at the same time.
    Thanks for the support. Yes,it does help to have such caring listeners.

  20. The initial statement seemed perfectly reasonable to me. I got myself sterilised quite quickly after my second child was born. I didn’t think there was much wrong with thinking this way. Lucky for me my GP trusted my opinion (or maybe he should’ve investigated my unbalanced state of mind?) and I got the surgery even though I was only 21. Lucky I stand by the decision now I’m a little better balanced, hey, the world’s full already, they don’t need more of my offspring.

    So thanks for sharing. It’s helpful to find out you weren’t alone, even after it’s over.

    Is it over? I’m not sure I’d feel very differently if by some wicked miracle I became pregnant. *shudders*

  21. Sharon J says:

    Bollocks! I just wrote a long comment only to be told “Answer the question!”. What question?

    I’ll try again another day.

    ~Sharon xxx

  22. Barbara says:

    Thank you for sharing, Laura. You are an incrediably strong woman and I admire you greatly.
    At some point, I would like to hear more of the family dynamics that took place when your father was dying. I’m especially interested in the gender differences when dealing with such an emotionally difficult situation. I’ll give you a call soon…

  23. kyahgirl says:

    Hi Jemima and welcome. Thanks for visiting. I agree, chances are I could never consider another pregnancy (even if I wasn’t an old git!)

    Sharon J-I’m sorry the anti spam thing tangled you up. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

    Barbara-thank you. I would easiest on the phone probably since we never seem to be on at the same time. hugs.

  24. M says:

    I had no idea how dark those days were for you, Kyahgirl and I only wish that I had realized at the time and reached out more to listen, to offer support and be a better friend than I was.

    Thanks for sharing this. You inspire me to start a blog – perhaps a retirement project?

  25. mig bardsley says:

    You’re amazing Kyah. It’s wonderful to read your story knowing that you’re such a positive person from reading earlier posts. Well done for beating the bastard depression.

  26. kyahgirl says:

    M-thank you. You were always a good friend to me. I didn’t ask for help or let people know how bad I felt. How could you know? I’m always grateful to have had you as a colleague and a friend.
    And yes, I would love to see you start bloggin!

    Mig-thank you. I appreciate your kind and supportive presence in my world!

  27. Claire says:

    wow – i just went back to read the whole story.

    kyah, it must have been so difficult for you with the pregnancies and your father at the same time. I couldn’t imagine going through that. Though it must have been a huge help to have such a loving family helping; especially Ron and Mary.
    Good for you for getting through it in one piece.

  28. Kyahgirl says:

    Claire-thanks so much. Yes, it has been hard but I am grateful for my family .

  29. Terry says:

    Laura,
    You have been through some very dark days, but what a strong woman you are to have kept on slogging away. It’s that hen in you ๐Ÿ˜€

  30. phlegmfatale says:

    I know you’re not a potty mouth, but I hope you’ll forgive me for saying “holy shit!”
    Yeah, that reproductive-related depression is a staggering, steaming pile of horse-poo, and a gift that keeps on giving. I’m going through Lexapro withrdrawal at this very moment. Got depressed around, oh, the mid-90s, and it really went south after that bad day in 2001, and I finally went on anti-depressants a year ago. My conclusion today is that coming down from Lexapro, I’m meaner than a wet hen. Lookout world: I’m loaded for bear!

  31. weirsdo says:

    That was an interesting and brave post. I wouldn’t say I experienced postpartum depression, but I was occasionally totally fed up with Toyplayer’s screaming, and if he had not had a father. . . .

  32. An excellent website.

  33. WaltDe says:

    Very good reading. Peace until next time.
    WaltDe

  34. Pingback: Pissy Mean Deranged Distressed | Mother Hen's Place

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