Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The heavy fog of postpartum depression

This is the face of PPD...

I don't look terribly sad, do I?  That's because I'm not terribly sad.  But something is definitely off. I've never really posted about what tends to happen to me postpartum.  I'm not sure if it's because I've never received an official diagnosis, or if it's because I'm embarrassed to admit the crazy thoughts that swirl through my brain, or if it's because I've assured myself that my PPD isn't as bad as most, so I need to just get over it.  Nevertheless, the other night while in a conversation with Andrew, he asked me why I don't tell more people what I'm going through.  "After all," he said, "people can't support you if they don't know you're dealing with stuff."  I guess that's right.  So here goes nothing.

So that sweet baby above is child #4 for me.  Each pregnancy and each postpartum period has been different.  I've been most messed up after pregnancy #2 and this pregnancy #4, and probably a little bit after #1 and #3 but not to this extent.  And here's where I tell you what I mean by "messed up."

My entire life I've been a hypochondriac.   When I saw some terrible disease on tv, I usually believed I had it or would get it. When my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer when I was a preteen, I was convinced I too had it (I didn't even have breasts yet by the way). Freaking out about my health and the health of those around me has been a way of life for pretty much as long as I can remember. But it was never constant or bad enough that I actually went to the doctor for my crazy symptoms.  And then I had babies.

Somewhere between 3 and 9 months postpartum, something switches in my brain that causes me near constant anxiety.  There's rarely a day that goes by that I'm not seriously convinced that either I or one of my children has some terrible illness.  You see, my postpartum depression isn't mostly tears and sadness, rather it is the gripping anxiety of hypochondria.

And while I know they mean well, the reassurance of my friends with words like, "It's probably nothing,"  "You're overreacting," and "I think that symptom is normal," just don't provide me a lot of solace.  The strange thing is that it isn't like I just come up with symptoms.  Weird stuff (or at least what I deam weird) is actually happening to me and my kids.  For example, the baby does this thing where she stretches/spasms at random times.  My mind automatically jumps to autism or brain tumor or infantile seizures.  In reality, I'm pretty sure that it's just her way of expressing excitement or sometimes pain (teething.). But even though my rational brain can kind of talk me down from freaking out, the constant worry that something is truly wrong won't let go of me.

This postpartum stuff I'm dealing with now happened after #2 was born as well.  About three months after his birth I was diagnosed with high cholesterol.  I drastically changed my diet and started exercising more, but in the 6 months following that diagnosis, I visited my doctor at least three times just sure I was having heart problems.  Each time she told me that it was likely anxiety and I should take an antidepressant.  But I figured I didn't need pills... I just needed to trust God more and I would feel better.  Eventually the anxiety tapered off and I felt better.  It would come and go, but it was less noticeable once I got on some great food supplements.

Unfortunately, it's back in full force right now.  Even this week I'm dealing with it.  For the last 8 days or so my right leg has felt tingly or achy or strange.  I've been convinced on multiple occasions that I'm suffering from a blood clot, but I've been able to talk myself down from that overreaction.  Just today though I was in a near full blown anxiety attack worrying about it, so I've made my first doctor's appointment in  very long time.  God willing, words from an MD that I'm okay will be enough for me to believe that I actually AM okay.

I'm sort of sad that this blog post has no good ending right now.  I just needed to get the crazy out of my head for awhile.  It isn't as though I'm in a constant state of anxiety, but these days it's more often than not.  I'm desperately looking forward to the day when this postpartum fog breaks and lets me live in a good place for awhile.  God willing, that day will be here soon.  Bring on the spring sunshine... That will certainly help!