I had tried to deny it throughout the months of November and December but it is now clear that I am once again going through another one of my depressive episodes. Honestly, I kind of expected it. These episodes have been happening since I was 15-years-old and even though some people in my life don’t fully understand why, they will continue to creep up and knock me (and any confidence I have) on my ass.
That’s just how it goes when you’re dealing with bipolar II disorder. It can be controlled but there is no cure. This is something I will have to manage for the rest of my life, like millions of others in this world. That thought both frustrates and saddens me. Frustrates me because oftentimes, especially during these episodes, I feel like a victim. Why did God choose this path for me? Saddens me because I just want to be a happy positive person but my brain chemicals won’t let me be who I want to be!
Since I can’t take medication right now I was holding out hope that my pregnancy hormones would ward off depression just as they did when I was pregnant with Landon. No such luck. But I am thankful that I have been through enough of these episodes to know the difference between a bad day and full-on depression. I am thankful that I have done enough therapy and research to recognize when getting better is beyond my reach.
I have all the classic symptoms, i.e. random spurts of crying, sudden internalized anger, unable to muster up enough energy to perform basic life skills (taking a shower, doing the laundry or dishes), loss of concentration, no desire to talk to or be around family members or friends. Basically feeling so overwhelmed with the thought of doing anything that I just plain can’t pull myself out of bed. Is that what you would consider a bad day? What if you felt like this for a week or an entire month?
I just want to note for any worry warts out there that I DO get out of bed. I DO take care of my son. I feed him, play with him, change his 12 diapers a day and hug and kiss him all day long. I’ll admit that sometimes I have to force myself to do it. But he is my greatest motivator. Sometimes I will roll out of bed at 5:30 a.m. even though I don’t want to because he is up and jibber-jabbering. I will walk into his room and see that huge grin on his face and suddenly I realize I’m actually smiling! Oops, wait, stop smiling Molly because you’re supposed to be depressed! I will sing our usual morning songs while changing him and getting him his milk. It’s nice to know that even though I am having a really rough time right now there is still sunlight in the shadows of this disorder.
One positive about having had this disorder for all of my adult-life is that I am armed with the perspective that I CAN and WILL get better. That’s why they are called “episodes.” I’m convinced that much of why I feel the way I do is circumstantial. Unexpectedly leaving my job (and my nice salary), rarely seeing Naaman because he has to work so much, trying to sell our house in a down market, and how about we throw an unexpected pregnancy in there? I am happy to have this surprise blessing in our lives and I feel certain this baby is here for a reason. But I am still pretty upset about the timing of it all. All of these circumstances at once could drive anyone to their breaking point. But someone like me who doesn’t come wired with the usual coping skills? It’s a recipe for disaster.
Blogging about my struggles and strengths with this disorder is something I think I need to do more of this year. Maybe it will help someone else out there to know that they are not alone. That you can manage motherhood AND mental illness successfully. I do realize that writing about this on my blog subjects me to the awful and unfair judgment of strangers. There are still so many in this world who don’t understand mental illness. They never will. They see it as a weakness or a fault. They see me as someone who doesn’t deserve a loving husband or a beautiful family. They assume that if I can’t be happy then I don’t deserve what I have. But they’re wrong. Just because I suffer from depressive episodes through no fault of my own does not mean that I don’t have the same right to happiness that everyone else does.
I desperately wanted to reach the same milestones as most everyone else. High school and college graduation, successful career, engagement, marriage, babies. I am still a human being with feelings and a heart and I am convinced that I deserve the same happiness as everyone else.
One misconception is that I can turn the depression switch on and off. That I can “snap out of it” or “get over it.” Oh, if it were only that easy. I do not choose to feel this way. I was born this way and had some horrible things happen to me when I was a teenager that exacerbated my symptoms. Do you think I don’t try to wish these feelings away every day? I would give anything if I could just snap my fingers and feel happy. I know what it is to be and feel truly happy. And I want those feelings back as soon as possible. But I’m smart enough to know that this won’t just disappear into the background. Not without regular therapy and medication. I suffered through many years of agony and the darkest pain before I was able to come to this realization. But now I can get help before I reach my lowest of lows.
It’s a New Year. 2010. There is so much to look forward to this year. A new little miracle will enter my life and I want so much to be ready to welcome him into the arms of a happy, more centered mama. I want to feel the unspeakable joy that I felt the day we brought Landon home. I don’t think I’ve ever smiled a bigger smile in my life than on the day when we came home and put him in his crib for the first time. I want that with B and I’m trying to remain hopeful that I’ll get that chance.
But right now it’s oh so tough. I am once again feeling resentful of tragic things that have transpired in my life. So much so, that I start to forget that my entire life sets within an hourglass. I have no way of knowing how much sand is left. All I want is to be grateful for every particle that falls to the other end because that means that God has given me another day. Not the ones that are still waiting to go through. Not the ones that have already fallen. I want to be grateful for the sands that are falling through the hourglass right now.
My next OB appointment is Tuesday. She knows all about my history with this disorder and is ready and willing to talk about treatment while I’m still pregnant. I will let you all know how it goes. I am hopeful that there is a solution for me so that I can get better. I am smart enough to know that I have to act now. I cannot wait until after B arrives. Thoughts and prayers are always welcome. Every good vibe sent my way helps a bit.
At the recommendation of my OB who was extremely supportive of antenatal depression I took a small dose of antidepressants and received weekly talk therapy. Brigham (Baby B) was born on May 2, 2010 to a happy, stable mama. Please talk to your OB. At the time of my pregnancy I thought there was no way I would ever be happy.
Antenatal depression exists.
Just know, you’re not alone in this struggle.
December 1, 2010 at 11:11 am
Way to go Molly! Thanks for sharing this. The more stories out there about depression during pregnancy (also called antenatal depression or antepartum depression), the more people will realize how common it is and that you don’t have to live that way. Antenatal depression is temporary and treatable.
Since I know reading the stories of others really helps, here are a few resources for those who need them: