Help: Depression, Motherhood & Upside-Down-Me

When I saw the exoression on my face and dark circles under my eyes in this self-portrait of us, I was totally shocked.
When I saw the expression on my face and dark circles under my eyes in this self-portrait of us, I was totally shocked.

I am writing this well after my bedtime, because I don’t want to go to bed. I don’t want to go to bed, because if I go to bed, then tomorrow will get here faster. I know that this is untrue, and that being exhausted tomorrow will not make the day any better. But I have been staying awake to put off Tomorrow since I was a little girl.

What happens tomorrow? I meet with my psychiatrist. I am terrified. Not of her–she’s such a lovely person and so good at her job that my midwife started handing out the doctor’s card to local moms/moms-to-be who need help after speaking to her just once or twice. I am terrified of what she might say, and of what she might not say. It’s been a month since I saw her last, but it feels like six. Two weeks ago (again, feels like six) I told you about my anxiety attack after locking myself and my son out of our apartment. That blog entry is proof that I recognized what was happening and opened up my Anxiety Tool Kit to start dealing with those feelings right away. But they multiplied. I talked through it, but I kept crying. I felt foggy. I didn’t realize how terrified I felt about leaving the house until my therapist challenged me to leave with my son, walk out the front door of the apartment building, turn right around and open the two doors between us and home. I still haven’t done it. I can’t even do it with Nathan inside the apartment, ready to buzz us in. Since the point of the whole exercise is to prove to myself, to that doubting voice, that I can remember my keys, it’s unlikely that I would forget them. I can’t imagine it going wrong. I can imagine doing it. But I haven’t done it.

It took me awhile to realize how terrified I felt of going outside in general, because we were snowed in. As you may have heard, the East Coast, from New York to Boston (and us in between) got a lot of snow. I grew up in Minnesota, so a blizzard is not a scary event, and I can deal with snow. I know better than to drive during a blizzard, but I was not exactly panicked about the weather. In fact, I was thrilled. Thirty inches of snow fell in as many hours. It took days and days for a plow to get to our driveway. There are still major streets here that become one lane due to massive mountains of snow left behind by the plows. My husband, Nathan, couldn’t leave the house to do his grad school work; he usually leaves for a few hours every morning to work at Starbucks or the library.

Here’s the chronology: on Wednesday night, I locked us out. On Thursday, I had a therapy session about that over the phone because I felt too panicked to leave the house to go to therapy. On Friday, a blizzard dropped nearly three feet of snow on our heads. On Saturday, Sunday and Monday, the streets were too blocked to drived anywhere. But on Tuesday, he didn’t go in to school. He probably stayed home in part because of the snow; he had no idea how things looked up north on campus, and our car is notoriously bad in even a few inches of snow. He also stayed home because the thought of him leaving brought me to tears.

In under a week, I spiraled from Thriving all the way down to Crying At Random and shrieking “Take him!” whenever our baby fussed. I suddenly felt like a complete and utter failure whenever he wouldn’t be soothed by nursing or bouncing. I stopped sleeping at reasonable hours. I’d be awake at 3:00, 4:00, 5:30, hours after Walt had fallen asleep, playing games on my phone (and often crying). But this is where it gets weird, for me, because I didn’t feel my heart racing or recognize any anxious thoughts on a loop. I just felt… numb. Or sad. Once, I woke him up so that he could talk me out of self-harm; my urge that night was minor, in the scheme of such things and compared to what I felt in the past. But I have only ever felt those urges when I have also felt trapped and hopeless.

I felt depressed, obviously. But was this depression? Was this postpartum depression?

Obviously, the snow made going to therapy impossible, so I talked to my therapist over the phone. I told her about the crying (mine and my reaction to the baby’s), the fog, the feeling numb. I told her how surprised I was that the change had happened so quickly. I told her about my sleep and losing track of time.

I actually saw her today. Things are a little better, because I’ve been taking Benadryl to get to sleep. Yes, we co-sleep, and taking “something” to sleep isn’t safe for bed-sharing. But Walter is sleeping in his co-sleeper, now, if he must, so it’s safe for me to take something like Benadryl that makes me extra sleepy for a few hours. The sun is out, and I’ve gone outside to appointments (chiropractic! fun!) and even twice just to prove that I could (just not with Walter in tow). I’ve gone out for lunch and shopping with my mother-in-law. But I still feel all wrong.

There was a lovely moment today, with our gorgeous little family all snuggled up for a nap, when my husband told me that he was blissfully happy. The three of us, cuddling, was the best thing he could possibly wish for. He had never been happy like this before Us. I started to cry, because I saw but did not feel that joy. I knew that I should. I knew that I loved my family. I knew that a month ago, I would have felt the same rush of joy he was describing. But I cried today, because I could not feel the joy I had earned.

I’m crying now, as I type this. I’m doing everything I’m supposed to do, and I am not in any danger. I thank God that I have no intrusive thoughts about my son. Most of my smiles have been because of my Walt. He loves to smile up at me during breaks from nursing, and I get a special smile he saves just for me. I have fantasized about being far away, alone in a quiet hotel, because he is fussy almost every night around sunset, sometimes for over an hour, and hearing his cry hurts my heart. It hurt my heart a month ago, too, but I had perspective, then. Now, if I can’t comfort him, I can easily loose all perspective and start picturing a teenager who will hate me for every mistake I have made and will make. I have even wondered, at my lowest, how long it would take before my family realized that I was just weighing them down and left.

Part of me wants to hear my psychiatrist respond to this information with the words “Postpartum Depression.” I want those words as proof that it’s not my fault; a voice in my head has always told me that I am “faking it.” If I just tried a little harder… But do I need the diagnosis? Is it even possible to tell, yet? This could be a relapse of depression–Major Depressive Disorder is already in my history. My major depressive episode had prolonged and extreme triggers, and this just feels chemical. I feel like I got hit by a truck, or by a magic spell that erased my mental-illness-fighting powers. My therapist agreed today that, had I locked us out a month ago, I would have bounced back by now. She has a social work degree and does not diagnose things like PPD.

Something unfamiliar is happening. Suddenly, there’s a kind of distance between me and my own life. Underneath all the chatter in my head about diagnoses and justifications is one desire: find help. I just want to know that it’s going to be ok. I want to know that there is a path back. I want the mood swings to stop–I am scaring myself by feeling so full of rage and sadness that my face actually flushes hot and red. I don’t want to dissolve into tears every time my son cries. A month ago, I was pitching ideas to other blogs and excited about attending a conference, BlissDom, after winning a ticket in a contest. Tonight, I can hardly remember where this post started or where I wanted it to go. Hours go by without my noticing, or I feel like hours have passed after just one. My world is upside-down. I will do anything to make it right again.


  1. claire said:

    It will get there, you are fighting a slimy beast but one day at a time that beast slowly turns into a puppy. this coming from the mom who locked herself and kid out of their car at target twice and called her MOM hysterically crying. did I mention I did it twice? Same. target.

    so, hug! You are doing great :)

    February 15, 2013
    • Anne-Marie said:

      Oh, Claire! At least Target is a nice place to hang out. (I might be a fan…) It really does help to hear that mistakes like this are People Mistakes, not Bad Mom Mistakes.

      February 15, 2013
  2. Laura said:

    Remember that you have all of the tools and support that you need to get through this. These feelings always pass and things always work themselves out. It’s hard to see or feel this when you’re in the throws of it but trust me, I’ve been there, and this too shall pass!

    February 15, 2013
  3. You’re so strong, and you’ve conquered so much. You’ll conquer this too. I’ll be praying for you comfort, peace and joy.

    February 15, 2013
  4. Anne-Marie said:

    Thank you for being so supportive, everyone! These comments really do help.

    February 15, 2013

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