Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The baby blues didn't go away

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Sixteen months ago, I was like all new moms: I had the cutest baby on the planet and I couldn't stop crying. Most women OD on post baby hormones and they can't stop themselves from a little daily cry. This goes on for a few weeks and then slowly fades away as the sleep deprivation sets in.

The blues lingered for me, never escalating to the point that I would tell someone but also never really getting any better. I recognized depression, I've had it off and on over the years and treat it myself with regular exercise, a few drinks now and then, and just generally living a nice lifestyle where I pursue my interests and spend time outdoors. The problem was I wasn't enjoying the things I enjoy. I was forcing myself to get through life.

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We decided to leave the comfort and rain in Oregon to return to my hometown in Spokane, WA to be near my family. We made an offer on a house there and I was about to resign from my job when my husband got laid off. We decided to do the move anyway, I managed to get a telecommuting agreement so I could keep my job and I thought we were through the worst of the stress.

Settling in to a new place and new lifestyle was a good distraction from the miserable feelings but it didn't cure what was really wrong. I was starting to feel strung out on stress and I had to admit to myself that even though I had everything I wanted, I wasn't grinning from ear to ear happy. Why?

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I was having small anxiety attacks so I went to see a therapist who listened to me but then started talking about medications I could take for depression and anti-anxiety. I stopped going to the therapist because that was not what I was looking for, I needed advise on how to cope with life, not medications to blur reality. I was not doing well at this point.

I had been on a stress train for so long, I had tried to get pregnant for almost 3 years, suffered a miscarriage and then an uncomfortable pregnancy before delivering via emergency c-section after 30 hours of labor. Breast feeding wasn't working, I lost the ability to sleep properly, life just uh! It wasn't easy. In fact, the past 4 years have been an anxiety laden roller coaster of emotions. It was time to change things.

We went to Arizona for 4 weeks over the holidays to help Bill's parents get through a surgery. My stress levels peaked to their highest level at Christmas when I was trying to keep up with a tough deadline at work, handle a house full of in-laws and kids, and wrestling with a baby who couldn't handle the new environment so he wouldn't sleep well at night or nap at all during the day. To top it all off, Liam was in a mommy stage so he only wanted mommy and he wouldn't let anyone else hold him and he was about as miserable as I was. I wonder how many people literally lose their minds over the holidays?

By the end of the AZ trip, my nerves were so frayed I was actually worried about my long term mental health. So I came home and did something drastic: I slowed everything down. Bill made sure I got plenty of sleep and had time to exercise everyday. He tried to sidestep me and give me space so nothing would stress me out. I stopped making future plans, stopped obligations, and just lived an easy day to day life.

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So far its working. The fog is lifting and I haven't felt anxiety in weeks. Running gives me the best physical high so I try to run 5-6 times a week to keep the good feelings going. Oddly, I think that another thing that helped me is slowing down on caffeine.

I am so much better now and the answer for me was simple: live the way you are supposed to live and things will get better. If things get worse in the future, I will go to a Dr. for medication. But for now, we've got it handled and that is a huge confidence boost. I still cry easily and struggle at times when things get difficult around the house but who doesn't struggle a bit with daily life? I just tell myself living ain't easy honey, but when the cutest baby on the planet yells "Mama! Mama!" the moment he wakes up that keeps things in perspective. Perspective is everything, people climb mountains to get the best view and I get it now. I just needed to rest a bit to enjoy it.

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r-fleck said...

Hi Erika, can so relate to all you say except for the sleeping baby part for the first two. Sorry, I guess you'll have to hate us. Cam, our third, was our poor sleeper. I can so relate to the depression part, still struggle with it a lot, 20 years later. Meds do help tremendously but it has to be what you want. Love ya, Susan

r-fleck said...

P.S. A great therapist helps a bunch too. :)

cherelli said...

OMG I love these last two posts. THANKYOU for the honesty; I'm sorry you've had to go through this "other mommy stuff" but I'm also glad that having been through it you can recognise how to deal with it (some might not have that ability to take stock?) Geez, I'm going to have to bookmark these two posts for their advice...update: we are still trying to conceive after my m/c, currently balancing my thyroid hormones and I am hopeful this will help a lot....we'll see!