|Pregnant with Bubby, September 2007|
I wish I could say the Zoloft and counseling sessions cured me, but they didn't. What DID help, oddly enough, was pregnancy. I would later find out that this wasn't so strange after all, but at the time, it seemed rather ironic. Wasn't I supposed to feel especially crappy during pregnancy? I mean, don't get me wrong -- I had my fair share of crippling morning sickness, pubic symphysis diastasis and faint-inducing anemia. But mentally, I felt totally together. In fact, during my pregnancy with Bubby, I finished a full load of classes, including voice lessons, University Chorale, New Testament and flexibility. I also reported for the Daily News (student-run broadcast) twice a week, shooting, editing and voicing all of my packages. I was Superwoman.
My pregnancy with Smush was equally as productive. Once the morning sickness was over, I felt like I could do anything. Pack and clean an entire apartment? No biggie. Potty-train a 2-year-old? Got it. Run all over town in search of the best deals on paint and flooring for our new home? Done (you should have seen me wheelin' and dealin' with my big ol' belly). All of this while publishing several online articles each week for my freelance writing job.
It just didn't make sense. How could I do so much and not even bat an eye? All these responsibilities would have had me weeping in a corner in the past. I didn't understand it, but I was glad for the extra energy and zeal pregnancy gave me. Both times, I had a LOT to do.
But as you know, pregnancy eventually ends. I was terrified to have my babies. I'd heard horror stories of post-partum depression and even psychosis and I just knew what was in store for me, the "mentally ill" woman. Both times, giving birth was followed by a horrific paranoia of death and dying. If I put my baby to sleep incorrectly, she'll die. If she spits up while lying down, she'll die. If I don't buckle her into her car seat correctly, she'll die. These were my constant thoughts. I couldn't sleep because I feared my baby was suffocating. I didn't want to go anywhere because I worried about car crashes (and it didn't help that I actually did get in a car accident when Bubby was 3 months old). After Buckwheat was born, my irrational panic was worsened by his traumatic delivery, my slow and painful recovery, and the death of two close family members. A black cloud of sorrow and worry loomed over my head for months.
There was one main difference between post-partum Bubby and post-partum Buckwheat: I was only able to nurse Bubby for a month and a half, but I continued to nurse Buckwheat for a whole year. Nursing supposedly can create a sense of euphoria for new mothers and ease post-partum depression. This was true for Buckwheat but not for Bubby -- formula literally saved my sanity with her. But after Buckwheat's birth and the loss of my grandmother and uncle, breastfeeding helped to blow that cloud away. It gave me a purpose. It eased the pain of my grief and brought me back to life. Even with the stress of a nursing infant and an energetic toddler, I soon felt capable of handling my responsibilities again.
When that year was over and Buckwheat decided he'd had enough of breastfeeding (and I'd had enough, too), quite a few physiological changes took place all at once. The first and most noticeable was my acne. You guys all remember that. I'd never really had acne before and suddenly, I was a veritable pizza face. WHY?! I couldn't figure it out. I was doing nothing different from before ... except I wasn't nursing.
The second was my shoulder and neck pain. It started a few months after the acne explosion. I couldn't lift my arms a certain way or I'd experience a shooting pain in my shoulders. Soon, it would even affect me even while I was sleeping. Before too long, the pain became so intense and constant I was sure I had some serious problems in my back and neck. The pain peaked in April of this year, right about the time of my spring EVMCO performance. My general practitioner put me on a steroid which was supposed to drastically decrease whatever inflammation was causing my pain. It did its job and the pain was gone for about two weeks. Then, it came back in full force.
In May, I had an MRI on my neck. I just knew the test would show some drastic problem -- bone spurs, bulging discs, maybe even a severed something-or-another. But it came back almost completely clean. A slightly pinched nerve and some arthritis, but nothing that would explain what I was feeling. I became hopeless. I stopped trusting my doctors and decided I would have to live with the pain.
In the meantime, I couldn't get out of bed in the mornings. I was having trouble sleeping again. After teaching music lessons, I'd get an immense headache and I couldn't do anything for the rest of the day. I didn't want to go out or do things I used to enjoy. And the worst part? I didn't feel like I loved my kids or my husband anymore. I just wanted to be alone.
I'd had these feelings before and I immediately recognized them as signs of depression. It was back. But this time, something -- God, my instinct, a combination of both -- was telling me I needed different treatment. Zoloft was not the answer and it never really had been. My problem was deeper than that -- it was my hormones. With zero medical training, I knew it. I can't tell you how. I just did.
But what doctor was going to listen to me, validate my feelings and get to the bottom of this no matter what? I had to find one who would. My life depended on it.