01 September 2009

The Weepies (Part 1)

Not the band you guys. Altough they are fantastic and you should listen to them. But I'll force my musical taste on you in a different post.

Nope. Right now I want to talk about that thing people like to call "the baby blues." ...Postpartum depression (PPD)...the weepies. I know that there is approximately a bajillion blog posts out there about PPD (My personal favorite being dooce. She was admitted into a psychiatric ward for her severe PPD. I think she does an amazing job describing depression and I love her and I'm moving on now.) but I've decided not to let that keep me from telling MY story. I'm constantly reminded of how little we know about depression. I've had too many of my friends tell me that they've always been such "happy people" that they can't even conceive of being depressed...especially after they've had babies. Not enough of us know that being a happy person has pretty much nothing to do with whether or not you may experience depression of any kind. And so, here's my story:

Let's start with a little back-story. I was first diagnosed with depression and anxiety in graduate school, about 6 months after N8tr0n and I got married. I still tell myself that the combination of marriage, moving (to northwest Washington nonetheless), and beginning an intense graduate program was too much for my system. A wire was tripped and I was depressed. Regardless of the cause I was a panicked crying mess in the fetal position on our bed or the couch anytime I wasn't at school. I was completely overwhelmed by the list of things I had to do, and whenever I tried to open up a book to study I would burst into tears because there was ABSOLUTELY NO WAY I was going to be able to make a dent in my homework so why even try SOB. I didn't even know anything about speech pathology. THEY GAVE ME CLIENTS THE FIRST WEEK OF SCHOOL. I was going to completely ruin some little kid's life. I had to have gotten accepted to grad school on some crazy fluke. I was dropping out. Quitting school. I'll go back later. Right now I just need to go to sleep. And cry. And clean the house. And cry.

I don't remember how long it took me to talk to N8tr0n about what was going on. I do remember sitting on our bed thinking "Okay...you have to tell him. He won't think you're stupid, he loves you. But he might think you're making this up for attention...because that's what you're doing right? Things have gotten a little hard to you're just going to cry and quit right? But you're going to quit school and you can't just quit without telling him. Can you?" I shuffled out into the living room, put my head on his chest and said, "I think I have depression" and started sobbing. I felt so stupid and cliched. So stupid. So cliched. Bless you N8tr0n for saying that you thought so too...and then helping me to make an appointment with the school counselors, and eventually with a doctor.

I didn't drop out of school. Instead I got a full-time TA position and became the clinic coordinator which paid for a huge chunk of my tuition. It sounds like a good deal but it only made things worse. I hadn't gotten my depression and anxiety under control yet. I still wanted to quit school more than anything. Only now if I quit school I would be letting EVERYBODY down. N8tr0n, his parents, my parents, my professors, every client that ever walked through the doors of the clinic EVERYBODY. No matter that all of those people (with the exception of "all the people who walked through the doors" people) had told me that they would support me in any decision that I made. When you are depressed, your brain doesn't operate with a little thing some like to call logic.

Oh and I've barely mentioned the anxiety! Anxiety? You mean like, fear? Over what? I don't know. Driving (terrified). Reading. Waking up. Ruining a child by writing the wrong treatment goals. Failure. Constant gripping fear (remember -no logic- is the key). I remember telling my doctor after a few weeks on Wellbutrin that it was working okay, as in: "I'm still anxious all the time but now I don't cry about it." That is when I started taking BuSpar in addition to the Wellbutrin.

Here's the best way I can describe what my depression felt like back then. It felt like an icy cold grip on my heart. Exactly that. My dad actually coined that phrase. One night he called to see how I was doing and we talked about his brief experience with depression. He said it was like an icy cold grip on your heart. Yes.

Hmm...so I'm remembering that this post is supposed to be about POSTPARTUM depression and not POSTUNDERGRADUATE depression (though I think the latter may be equally prolific) so let's just say that eventually I got the depression/anxiety under control, didn't drop out of school, graduated barely know a thing about speech pathology (yeah I said it) and decided to have a baby. By then I was no longer taking anti-anythings. Nothing for depression or anxiety. I was hoping that living in a sunnier climate and not having the stress of graduate school weighing on me would make me free of daily medications. And for a while, that was true.

Z-cakes was born in February and six weeks later I was on medication for depression/anxiety yet again.


***I've divided this into two parts for two reasons (1) getting ridiculously long and (2) the second part has been much more difficult to write. But now I'm committed because you all want to know what happens next see?


Serin said...

You almost had me in tears with part 1, I'm doomed for part 2. And yes, now you are commited.

siberianluck said...

Thanks for writing this post. It was good for me to read, because I think you know that I also had some post undergrad depression.

I'm feeling anxious and down lately (especially of the just now variety), but reading this made me remember what real depression is like, and that now I'm just being a whiny cranky baby.


I'm probably not going to get much out of pt. 2

Crystal said...

After I had the boys, I was diagnosed with mild depression and severe anxiety. When we received the first medical bill from the hospital, I literally had a panic attack. Until the meds kicked in, I didn't feel like I could do anything for myself. I was afraid to be alone with myself in a room. Kudos to your for telling your story. PPD is more common than people realize. I'm grateful for a husband who talked with me about it BEFORE the babies came, so that when it did happen we were prepared.

Korbi said...

I think you are great and yes, I am at the edge of my seat for the next part... ;)

Laurel said...

I love you dude. I've always really appreciated how open you are with everything; I sometimes have a hard time putting everything out there and you totally inspire me to be better about it. Also, I really wish we'd known each other better when we both lived in Washington.

michelle said...

1. I love The Weepies!

2. I hate depression. It does feel like an icy cold grip on your heart! I too was first diagnosed during our first year of marriage. I had dropped out of school, we moved to Seattle, and I started working full-time. I think that somehow, it all tripped a wire and suddenly it all was just too much for me too. I was confused at first, though. Getting married is a good thing, right?

I have experienced some pretty bad postpartum depression as well. I started taking my meds again at the end of my pregnancy with Eva to stave it off. I've been on meds for 17 years now, wow. Several times, I felt really good and thought I didn't need them anymore. Major crash. Back on meds.

Femme Facetious said...

Yep, yep, and yep. Except I didn't go to grad school (yet) and I haven't had a baby...but I think when it's that severe, depression is just depression. A concentrated mixture of Suck and black holes and paralyzing fear. For me it started like basically a week after I got married and didn't let up until 6-8 months later. Awesome wedding gift for my new husband, eh (and it wasn't even his fault...just bad timing I think, too much change all at once)...and then it's been off and on since then. Thank you for sharing your story. It's a brave and scary thing, to share these parts of us, and you done good m'am.

I feel that these things aren't shared enough and there's a lot of shame (leading to more depression, woo!) that goes around when you find you can't get out of bed in the morning. So its nice for us to know we're not alone in all of it.


Jaime said...

Mandy, my friend, I had no idea that you were suffering so.... I mean, I was in grad school when you were (which I'm still trying to recover from--it ruined me in many ways) and had a baby when you did (which from our long talks on the phone back then we both realized was a tough time), so yeah, I knew you were suffering, but I didn't know. Yet one more reason I'm sorry we live so very far apart now. You know I'm your bff right? One of 'em... ;)

Kimberlee said...


I, like Jamie, wish I would have known you were suffering. I don't know if anything that I would have done could of helped. Probably not. But, I would have tried. I would've at least cried with you.

You are SO right; happiness and depression have nothing to do with each other. I wish more people understood that.

Thank you for sharing your story. Can't wait for the next post.

hannah said...

i have never suffered from ppd personally, but many of my friends have. i am so sorry you had to go through that, but thank you for being brave enough to share it with the rest of us!

~j. said...

found you from oma -- can't wait to read part 2. more people should write about their experiences, to be certain...

{amy k.} said...

i found your blog through hannah's...

just wanted to say thanks for writing about depression- i can only imagine it is not easy to put yourself out there for the world to judge. i too struggle with depression and anxiety- although not postpartum.

i admire that you were able to stay in school, i had to withdraw, twice. someda i hope to continue.

thank you for sharing your thoughts and feelings- now i'll go read part 2. :)

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