More on Depression

Looking back, I know that it probably sounds a bit weird that I talked mostly about my mom’s reaction and not so much about my husband’s. In fact, I told her that I was going off the drugs before I told him; not an intentional thing, but I’m not surprised that it worked out that way. My mother currently pays for my antidepressants, and it took her a long time to figure out what was wrong with her strangest and most broody child—but once I ended up in the hospital, she really started to get it. She read a book called something like When Someone You Love Is Depressed and told me that she thought I must have been depressed even as a toddler. Certainly I don’t remember a time before depression.

My father knew David Foster Wallace slightly, and his death caused my parents’ concern for me to kick into high gear; Dave had apparently gone on and off the only antidepressant that worked for him often enough that it stopped working. I hadn’t known that that could happen, but my mom (a healthcare provider) has become terrified that it will happen to me. It’s not an unreasonable concern, I guess. I went through several brands that did nothing for me before hitting on a useful cocktail, although there are still a number of meds I haven’t tried. I have gone on and off several times, sometimes because my insurance has ended, sometimes because I feel awesome and totally don’t need them (yes, that is the one that freaks my loved ones out, because it’s sort of spookily dumb), and once because I was pregnant.

Part of the problem for the people who care about me is that I hate the idea of antidepressants. I used to worry that they would scoop out my personality and leave me some kind of Stepford Lady, but that’s not something I worry about anymore. I’m still me, just with more energy and less despair. When I was a teenager, it was hard to accept that my depression doesn’t make me interesting, but now I can accept that it in fact makes me phenomenally boring; I sleep too much and lose affect and withdraw. Wow, how artistic and enviable. But I still hate the fact of being on drugs, and no number of comparisons to diabetes/insulin is going to help. So my mother’s concern is twofold: she is worried that I will become suicidally depressed and she worries that I am glad to have an excuse. And in some ways she is right to—I certainly think about staying off until I’ve had two kids so that I don’t have to go on and off an extra time. Heck, that was my plan after Cricket was born: just stay off until I’ve had a baby of my own and weaned him or her to solid food! That was not a good plan; this one may not be much better.

There’s an online community I’m part of that includes a number of parents and pregnant ladies. One woman in particular wished to become pregnant, did, and then had a stillbirth—and then was yelled at by several people in the community for choosing to have a baby while having MS and being on several drugs known to cause birth defects. It was complicated, and I didn’t join in the screaming at a grieving woman, but I did worry (privately) when she got pregnant again about ten months ago. She had her son about a week ago, and was confident that she would not get PPD; once he got to be a couple of weeks old and stopped sleeping all the time, she fell hard. Luckily, her family had been expecting it, and she’s getting treatment, and it’s all going to be okay. Several woman in the community have gone through PPD, and my anecdata suggests that the thing most likely to end in PPD is a woman being 100 percent sure that it won’t happen to her. I’m trying to inoculate myself with self-awareness and concern. Also, I am completely onboard with a “sleep when the baby sleeps” plan; if the apartment looks like hell for awhile, well, we do not often entertain. As long as everyone’s eating and sleeping, we’ll get by. I do know that a high-needs baby can trigger PPD, and while Cricket was exceptionally mellow, I was a firstborn and exceptionally mellow baby—my next sister was a screaming, colicky infant. I’m trying to figure out which precedent applies to the little bird. I know, I know, there’s only one way to find out.

We are doing some things that may help—we are going to cosleep, I am more than ready to let the housework go and sleep whenever the baby does, and I can keep taking my prenatal, which is chock full of B vitamins. I’ve also got my loved ones keeping an eye on me, and if I start to go south, I’ll go back onto drugs and switch the sprout to formula.  It’s not what I want, but I know that I need to be able to function as a mom more than I need to be able to breastfeed.

This part is completely irrational, but I want to be protected by the fact that I’m super happy that I’m going to be a mom. It might sound goofy, since as my midwife so tactfully put it “You certainly have no problem with fertility,” but I spent a long time thinking that I would never be a mom, and this little bird feels like a miracle. Yeah, they’re all miracles—but he is my miracle.

That feels like a pretty good note to end on.

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9 thoughts on “More on Depression

  1. That is a good note to end on and little bird IS a miracle!!! It sounds like you have a good, solid plan together and that puts you way ahead of the pack. You rock!!!

  2. I’m with Dawn. Good plan, good eyes watching.

    And happy but depressed is to me not an unreasonable way to feel with a newborn: it’s so exhausting & endless & miraculous & fun all at once, even with brain chemistry’s quirks somewhat removed from the mix (impossible but you get my meaning).

  3. It sounds wonderful Susie! Great ideas, including co-sleeping, using formula if need be and shifting housework down the ladder of priorities. Random thought: I think I’ve read that the little bird can start hearing your voice around 20 weeks. That’s pretty exciting!

    • Yeah, according to my preggo book, next week he’ll be able to hear us! I’ve told the Mister that he needs to make a mix cd for me to play to the kiddo; I’ve already got one ready to go.

      • That’s so awesome that he’ll be able to hear you and then recognize your voices when he’s born. It’ll be fun to see if there’s any music the little bird is partial to in terms of movement. =)

  4. Want to chime in with another thought, maybe to keep in your back pocket … pregnancy, breastfeeding, and anti-depressants are not mutually exclusive. Please be gentle on yourself with this all-or-nothing thinking. Been there, done that. I have nursed and used anti-depressants simultaneously and know other women who have done the same. A good psychiatrist (or even ObGyn, if resources are limited) will know which drugs are considered “safe.” Certainly all medications have potential risks, but studies have also been clear about the possible danger to babies who have a depressed primary caregiver (speech delays, difficulty bonding, etc.). Like so many things in life, a matter of weighing the costs and benefits …

    • I strongly agree with Lucia. I posted something similar on your post a few days ago. There is very clear research that shows that babies with depressed primary caregivers are a significant risk for developmental delays. If you are feeling good now is the time to research med options further. Don’t look to your psychiatrist for answers as they may not believe breastfeeding is at all important and may not be well informed about the topic. I would suggest talking to your midwife to see if she knows a lactation consultant who perhaps works with a pharmacist.

  5. I’ve not had the time to catch up blogs lately, but wanted briefly to chime in with support, too… and big congratulations on the boyness of the babe! Very exciting.

  6. I really really loved this post. Depression was a frequent companion in my life and I too took awhile to realize that it did not make me interesting. And I HATED the comparisons to insulin. But you put these ideas into words so well. Thank you.

    I also love the way you talk about your pregnancy being a miracle… I too worried and worried that I wouldn’t be able to have kids (in my case it was true, but the flip side was the depression, not the grief, but the depression lost its bite with the menopause). Congrats on your miracle and for being so sensible about the possibility of PPD, and may that worry also not materialize!!! I have such respect for people who think ahead about the various possibilities and not assume that all will of course be right because its ME! and always hope that the thought of such outcomes is the closest they ever come to experiencing them.

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