Monday, August 2, 2010

Healing Depression

 it has come to my attention lately that i may be in a depressive episode.  depression can be tricky to recognize and treat during pregnancy because of the myriad of "symptoms" that manifest due to hormones and other pregnancy-related factors.  chronic fatigue and mood swings are normal for a pregnant woman, but they are also a symptom of depression.  so, which is it? 

the other day i pulled out my trusty, tattered old copy of How to Heal Depression.  i have owned it for over 10 years, and revisited it several times.  i love the format: lists.  bulleted lists of no more than a page or two for a gazillion sub-headings.  short, sweet, easy to skim and skip to the most useful parts.  i have made notations and put post-it tabs in relevant areas over the years.  it's interesting to see how my chronic depression has evolved.

last night i was helping hubby study for an exam (police academy).  we covered the 3 types of stress, and then i asked him coyly "and which of these does your wife suffer from?"..."all of them!"  yes, i am stressed.  all the time.  ALL the time.  chronic high stress.  messy house, unruly children, fatigue, back pain, loneliness, abandonment, childhood traumas, adulthood traumas, PTSD, guilt, low self-esteem...i could go on and on.  and it's allllllll intertwined.  i am seriously fuctup.

it was interesting to see a part in the book about negative thoughts and blame-laying by the depressed person.  yes, i am full of negative, pessimistic thoughts, some of which i verbalize (unfortunately, usually to my children).  i am afraid to sound too negative to my friends and most family, because i do not wish to either invite criticism or drive someone away for being too high-maintenance.  both have happened to me before, and that traumatized me (hello, abandonment!) now i'm stuck holding all these thoughts and feelings in, or taking them out on my immediate nuclear family.

but usually holding them in.  most of them.  i blame the children's behavior, the messy house, my husband and his ADHD/insensitivity/lack of common sense, and my craziness in general for making me such a fuck up that i can't keep friendships.  i have often thought that my depression is almost completely "situational", and that if i lived alone, no husband, no kids...there would be no mess, no unruly children, no sloppy husband to supervise and take care of.  seeing the page in the book that talks about how it's no one's fault and such...well, it makes me feel a little angry ("but you just don't understand MY life!"), but relieved too...?  like, well, i'm obviously not unique in blaming everyone and everything else for my depression...but it's not MY fault either.  it's my brain's chemical reaction to these events and circumstances.

and that brings me to a very recent epiphany.  yesterday i forgot to take my morning meds until after we'd already left for UU.  i had klonopin in my purse, so i took one and figured i'd take my wellbutrin when i got home.  i never took it because nothing happened that obviously reminded me that i hadn't and needed to (which is usually what i count on when i forget -- it's never long before i'm ready to blow my top and realize i've forgotten my meds!).  incidentally, robby is at his dad's for a long weekend and so the children-conflict level was decidedly lower than usual.  and the topic at the service was....depression(!), and i had already suspected that i was in the middle of an episode, so in an effort to assure that the rest of the day would be as peaceful as possible, i asked hubby to refrain from demanding anything of the children, chore-wise.

that is one of the sources of major conflict.  messy children + tired pregnant mama = super messy house.  enter drill instructor daddy who thinks he can fix everything by facilitating a  terrifying, argument- and resistance-filled "clean-up" time, which makes mama want to retreat into the bedroom and shoot herself in the head.  nothing gets done except a lot of yelling, threatening, punishing, and angry daddy resentfully cleaning all by himself (but ALWAYS half-ass'edly and NEVER completely).   the cycle never ends.

so yesterday, i decided i would rather live another day in the chaotic mess (that will only continue to get worse) instead of experience another "family clean-up time".  *cry*  that's a huge step for  me.  defeat is what it is, really.  anyway, the day was rather uneventful, i even ended up falling asleep on my IL's couch when we went over there for dinner and watched a movie before hand.

today i decided not to take my meds to see what happened.  robby is still not here -- i will pick him up this evening after dinner.  so that will have given me 2 whole days to withdraw from the wellbutrin, if that is what is happening.  i don't feel a thing.  the twins have had some squabbles this morning, and connor has acted like his usual sick 2 year old.  not once so far have i had the rage creep up.  and that's just WEIRD.  so i'm thinking...OMG, the only reason why i need klonopin is to counteract the agitation that the wellbutrin causes.  i'm remaining calm with the children without even trying.

i've known for a long time that many BP'ers can't take antidepressants because of the mania-inducing risks, but i have ALWAYS taken an antidepressant, and i've always fallen into a mild depressive episode when the dosage was lowered or the mood stabilizer dosage was raised... so i assumed i was an exception to that rule.  why would i be???  perhaps all this time i have been full of such rage requiring klonopin to balance out simply because of the hypomanic/mixed episode symptoms that the wellbutrin has been causing!!  the true test will be day #3 (tomorrow), because robby will be home.  if i can make it through a whole day with all of the children home and not have a violent-urge physiological reaction to the stressors of the day, my theory will be confirmed.  and does that mean i can stop taking klonopin, too?  then i can report to the asshole OB that i am no longer taking the dreaded category D medication and he can pull his head out of his ass and sign off on my homebirth already.  wouldn't that be nice...

in the mean time, i still want to start thinking more about the self-care suggestions from the book.  like laughing more -- i try to watch funny stuff regularly, but i think i need to set the tivo to record south park and family guy, and not just scrubs.  maybe friends reruns and reba, too.  any show that makes me literally LOL will do.

the intense summer heat has been making it very difficult to get adequate "fresh air and sunshine" treatments.  i'd much rather stay holed up in the darkened, A/C'ed house all day than brave the 110'F heat index -- i'm very heat sensitive, and i don't need daily heat strokes!  only another 6-8 weeks before i can tolerate being outside for longer than 5 minutes...  swimming is the only solution, and taking 4 kids to the YMCA by myself can be a feat, and is always time-consuming.  ugh. i think i just need to MAKE it a higher priority, though.

yoga and meditation.  those are things that i love, but have not actively participated in in a looooooong time.  i have 2 different postpartum yoga/exercise dvds ("with your baby"), but no prenatal ones.  i would totally do it if i had them (or so i say now, when i don't).  meditation is something that i usually only squeeze in at UU services, during the moment of silence or during the musical performances.  choir was a great release for me, but it doesn't happen in summer.  it starts back in about 3 weeks, though, i think.

knitting and reading are a few "coping strategies" that i use regularly, but i always end up having to neglect something else in order to do them, and that fosters guilt.  can't win.

i know i need to devote more time to grooming/self care.  i dyed my hair the other day.  today i was thinking how nice it would be to make it more of a priority to take relaxing hot baths.  i can't even remember the last time i did that.  :/  maybe i could start painting my nails again.  those things always make me feel better.

i do notice that i am more productive when i get dressed and put on an apron --  it's like my homemaker uniform.  :D  but these days i'm thinking more about how to squeeze in a little rest here and there.  that, or i just reach for the caffeine...

i must go now.  i'm getting sleepy......