Hey there! A few friends mention they’d love to hear some different perspectives on mental health. My sister has graciously agreed to share a snippet of her story, please show her some love.
Hi! I’m Sarah’s sister, Beth. I’m also a Mental Health Professional, which basically means I got my undergrad degree in Psychology and a Masters in Counseling. I topped it off with a hefty exam that qualifies me to call myself a professional.
Sarah asked me to write a guest post about my experience with depression. You would think that since I’m a “Professional”, I would be able to say that I caught my own depression pretty early in my life. Negative ghost rider.
My depression snuck in slowly and then took over my life soon after my daughter was born. Even more ironic to my story is that at the time I was diagnosed, I was working as an adoption specialist. I basically worked with pregnant women and counseled them, including a speech on postpartum depression and how to recognize the symptoms
I’ve always considered myself to have a “dark, twisty” side that I just thought that was the “deep” part of me. I had panic attacks from time to time, but I learned to manage those. But having a child brought more awareness than I was prepared for.
Lucy was perfect. Well, aside from the first two months of her not sleeping due to undiagnosed silent reflux, she was our angel baby. When she was about 4 or 5 months old, Ryan and I noticed change in my behavior and mood. I wasn’t just tired as much as I was a whole new level of irritable and confrontational. Honestly we weren’t too worried, because we knew I was going to have mood swings with all the darn hormones. By month 6 and 7, it was overwhelming and starting to get alarming. We drove to Colorado to a friends’ wedding, and I remember for the first time thinking, “I can’t seem to feel peace. Why is it so hard to relax?”
Soon after that trip I would catch myself fantasizing about beating people. Bear with me for a minute, because I use terms a bit differently than most! When I say fantasizing, I mean that I would get very angry and would visualize myself hitting someone with a soft baseball bat. Also the person would be made of rubber or something and would bounce off the bat. Even in my fantasies, I never actually hurt anyone. It just brought me a weird comfort to think about that. Quite honestly I don’t even remember consciously having that thought; it would just suddenly be there. I now identify that as rage. My version of it anyway.
The other disturbing thoughts I was having was of more death. Not to hurt myself or Lucy (which would be more along the lines of postpartum), but that someone was out to get me. While nursing sweet baby Lucy in the middle of the night, I would suddenly startle after having a vision of someone coming in behind my rocking chair and slicing my throat. Wut.
Nope, that’s not normal.
I can think of two separate arguments with my husband where I went over the top with my anger. I think of myself as a passionate person, but I don’t really see pure anger very often. I nearly broke the door off of our car from slamming it so hard in one of those arguments. Later sitting in an aisle at Walmart (where we had been arguing in the parking lot), I cried and thought to myself, “why doesn’t Ryan come comfort me?” Welp, ya just yelled your bloody head off at him, woman. That’s why!
My final straw was one day when I was at work. I had struggle a bit to stay focused during my days, but for the most part I had been successful. This day I couldn’t do it. I found myself overwhelmed with the desire to cry. So I shut my office door, and I cried.
And I had no idea why.
Beth, you’re a mental health professional…how did you NOT see the signs? I tell you what, depression is a sneaky bastard. It entangles itself with your daily, normal thoughts until it totally takes over. It’s so easy to compartmentalize parts of depression that you don’t realize you’re doing it until you can’t anymore.
That day I called my husband and told him I was going to see my midwife. I sat on the table and waited for her to come in without a clue of what to say. “Um, so life seems chaotic and hard right now.” I fully expected her to say, “yes, darling. You have a baby, work full time, and still breast feed.” When she walked in the room, I burst into tears.
I cried and told her I’m so very very tired. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, but I can’t do it anymore. I want to escape into a world where I’m not responsible for anything or anyone, and I can sleep all day. I want to be held and cry for years. I hate my husband and simultaneously need him desperately at all times. I’m so confused, angry, sad, and very very tired.
I scored pretty high that day on the postpartum test she gave me. She immediately started me on low dosage of Zoloft (which would later become a much higher dosage), a very high dosage of Vitamin D, and strongly recommended I see a therapist to help me cope during this time.
About a month later, I was felt free. It didn’t happen right away, but with time, AMAZING THERAPY, rest, and my new BFF Zoloft, I was able to be myself again. The best way I can describe it is having a dark cloud lifted and being able to be myself again. I didn’t have to fake it. I didn’t have to recover days following a social outing. I had peace in my entire being. If you don’t know what that feels like, it’s like having summer warm your insides. Everything relaxes, and you don’t feel that itchy feeling like there’s something that needs to be scratched.
It wasn’t until Ryan and I decided to start trying for our second child that we realized it might not have been postpartum depression. Upon trying to slowly taper off the meds, I had an incredibly strong reaction. Within a week’s time, I was crying a lot, constantly yawning (general fatigue), and really just kind of hated life. We spoke with my therapist who confirmed that it was likely major depression
It was then that I learned that a lot of women don’t get diagnosed with major depression until after having a child. Because they couldn’t talk about it before then. It’s as if society is more comfortable with us talking about depression if it’s caused by giving birth. Guys, that’s so sad that this is a woman’s window to talk about her sads. Otherwise it’s brushed off.
If you find yourself identifying with ANY of my story, I would consider talking with your general doctor, midwife, OBGYN, counselor, or really anyone in your life about the fact that you’re not sure your thought life is normal. I can’t tell you how excited I am about living a boring life now.
Life rocks, guys.