Thursday, September 6, 2012

I want to take a couple of minutes...

to discuss something with you.

I started this blog to talk about our journey with Miss Sunshine's cleft.  I know that as of late, it's been more about family life and less about cleft life.  But life is full of seasons, and right now it's not a cleft season for us.  Things may change soon, or they may not.  I will not have a lot of updates about cleft happenings until they do, as for right now, Miss Sunshine is considered successfully post-op with no further specialized treatment needed.

What I want to do today, instead, is talk about something else.  Something that most certainly can be counted as cleft related, but also is not.  Confused yet? 

I want to talk to you about depression.  If you have read some of my earliest posts, you may realize that I battled some pretty severe post-partum depression mainly brought on by finding out about Miss Sunshine's cleft.  However, this isn't my first time around the depression track.  I also had delayed onset PPD with Monster Boy.

Depression is that silent monster.  The skeleton in the closet.  The elephant in the room.  People see it, but they don't want to talk about it.  PPD is especially hard.  Because, as a mother, you are fed all this "You should be so happy!  This is the most special time of your life!  Enjoy this all!" mumbo jumbo, and it just leaves you feeling even more guilty when you don't feel that excitement, happiness, or joy. 

The reality is that depression exists.  It can be very hard for people to admit they are suffering from it.  It can be very hard for people to realize they are suffering from it.  With Monster Boy, I was ANGRY.  SO angry.  All the time.  Never at him - he was my joy, and I did find joy in being his mom.  But at the world in general, I was just angry.  And I reached a point when he was about 18 months old, that I said to myself, "This isn't normal.  You should not be mad all the time."  And so I went to see a counselor.  Imagine my surprise when I was told I was suffering from depression!  That was not the answer I thought I would hear.  But after several counseling sessions, it was decided that medications were in order.  I spent six months taking an antidepressant, and I finally felt back to my old self again!  After six months, I was able to stop using anti-depressants and regained my equilibrium.

When Miss Sunshine was born, depression set in almost immediately.  I really struggled with it.  I had the typical "baby blues" - crying, sleeplessness, lethargy, a general down feeling - only amplified about ten times.  I honestly think I cried at least once every day for the first three months of her life.  I had a very hard time bonding with her - something that still causes me grief to this day.  I blamed myself for her cleft - what had I done wrong?  I had failed her somehow, I was sure.  The truth is - I did nothing wrong.  It was not my fault.  It was just one of those things that happen, and we will probably never really know why.  But to a new mother, whose hormones are already crazy out of whack?  Those answers just aren't good enough.  After about six months of really struggling - with daily and weekly crying spells - I finally went to my doctor.  He told me that he was going to give me one more month to come to him before he came to me himself - and said he was surprised I made it as long as I had.  We started antidepressants that were safe for breastfeeding.  After about four months, they really weren't helping.  We switched to another antidepressant, and again, I didn't feel a change.  After the third antidepressant, I finally made the decision to just stop.  I was getting all of the side effects of antidepressants, and none of the benefits.  I am still operating under a diagnosis of depression, but I am unmedicated.  At this point, the depression is not significantly interfering with my life.  I more likely have a condition called PMDD than true depression now.  My levels of depression fluctuate with my monthly cycles.  I do have weeks where my temper is too short, where I get angry too easily, where I cry at the drop of a hat, where I just want to stay in bed all day long.  But, it is not continual, and I don't let it define me.  I make myself get out of bed (because honestly, I don't really have a choice), I try to seperate myself when I can feel that my temper is getting to a breaking point.  I have coping mechanisms and I struggle to use them.  I may, in the future, attempt the use of medication again - after all, I did have success with it the first time around.  It was truly life changing for me back then.  But for me, for now, simply admitting to my depression is working enough. 

I guess I just want to give a face to the concept.  So many women I know have struggled with depression, but are afraid to admit it or to seek help.  There is such a stigma surrounding depression - as if it is somehow our fault for being this way.  As if we are too weak to handle life.  The truth is that depression is a REAL illness - there is a physical reason for why we are depressed.  It is a chemical imbalance - our body either does not produce enough of a specific hormone, or does not accept enough of the specific hormone into receptors.  Depression is nobody's fault - it just is.  And having it does not mean that we are weak.  It means we are real.   We are human.  And sometimes, we just need a little understanding.

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