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