It was about four weeks ago when I realized I had a hard time recognizing myself anymore. When my children were home from daycare, I found myself resenting the time I was expected to spend with them, wishing I was working instead. I would hurry to the kitchen to make dinner so I didn't need to be around them, offer to do the dishes or ask my husband to take them out so I could be alone.
I would snap at my daughter constantly, expecting behavior from her that no three year old really should consistently give: I'd argue over her food, her clothes, even the books she wanted to read. I didn't want to do story time at night anymore, knowing I'd have to sit and talk and make up stories and do the typical bedtime fight to get her to sleep, preferring to just rock her brother because it was so much quicker and so much quieter and took so little effort from me.
And then I would lie awake at night, wondering when I had turned into such a bad mother, how my children could even love me, and if it would all be better if I just left the family for a while. Surely, they could all do better without me.
I didn't recognize it as depression at first. Nearly seven months after the birth of my son seemed like a very long time for potential postpartum depression to rear its head. But all of the signs were there if I could have just opened my eyes a little sooner. I wanted to spend all of my time in bed. I could barely make my deadlines. I didn't want any contact with anyone, physically or emotionally. I hadn't left the house to see friends in over a month.
And worst of all, I felt like this was how it was always going to be.
That was when I realized that it was a chemical issue in my brain, and not just a rough patch in day to day life. It wasn't something that was being caused by a baby who wakes up at 4:30 every morning, or putting too much time and energy into my freelance work. It wasn't period of temporary stress, or a sign that I needed more me time, or a daily walk, or more sun.
I could not ever, ever, see this ending. I could not imagine a time when I would ever feel better again.
It was this utter loss of hope that made me talk to my doctor. I've dealt with hormones, I've dealt with stress. But the last time I felt like I would be down in the pit forever, I knew I needed help.
My doctor quickly put me through the "depression quiz" and after a short discussion we decided on Zoloft, a drug that worked well for me when I experienced the same issues back in college, and a referral to find a therapist to help me climb back out of my hole. Even just that -- admitting to someone that my depression was more than I could handle alone, a prescription in hand, a next move to continue in making progress towards being me again -- even just that much allowed me to turn the corner.
I've been on medication for over a week now, and I did my first session of therapy yesterday with Dr. Marcie Stresemann at Affiliated Counseling Center. We were already able to sort through my actions and emotions enough to come to the conclusion that my problem was anxiety, which was actually causing the depression, rather than the straight diagnosis of postpartum depression my doctor diagnosed, making my treatment (Zoloft and therapy) even more effective. And, considering the major life changes we've been experiencing in our family, the diagnosis makes perfect sense.
Of course, I'm not healed, but I can already feel it beginning. I am able to hug my daughter again, read her stories, and yes, even discipline her without the dread that I'm a bad mother who doesn't deserve her children's love. I find it easier to pick my battles with my Vi, able to see the humor in her need to put on yet another outfit when she comes home from daycare, rather resenting the extra work it makes for me.
I still cry, but not as long. I still worry, but not as much. And although I can feel that I am still a ways down in the pit, and that I have a long way to go to get out, I no longer feel like I will be in it forever.
I got back my hope.