My first very first baby! A perfect pregnancy! It seemed a perfect life until the day I delivered my first baby and everything changed, and it wasn’t fun!
It couldn’t be that POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION was on my agenda?! Yep…it was…ready set GO!
April 13, 2006, exactly eight months and twelve days after my daughters delivery I wrote the following words an appointment with a new nurse practitioner.
My goals for getting help included: “Overall, to feel better, to be able to enjoy life, not to sleep all day, decrease or stop my headaches and constant feelings like I have an EXTREMELY BAD HANGOVER. Be able to carry out NORMAL roles as a mother and wife. To have energy to do things for others, to feel alive again, and not to feel so sick and miserable every single day of my life.”
I further went on to describe what I had been expereincing the past eight months.
I would only eat 3-4 good healthly meals per WEEK. I would eat junk food such as sweats, starches, tons of coffee, ice cream, skipping meals, and hardly drinking any water. I would try to exercise everyday, but every time I do I get so tired that I have to sleep for hours. Exercise used to give me energy, now it makes things way worse.
I had a new onset migraine daily, all day since the birth of my baby. When I worked I would sleep 6 hours per night because I would lay in bed worrying all night long. When I was off work, I would sleep for 10-16 hours a day/night. I ALWAYS felt SLEEPY, NAUSEATED, AND SICK!
In the past eight months, I had experienced loss of balance, brief periods of loss of consciousness and fainting, frequent episodes of confusion, inability to talk (unable to put words together to form a sentence; the thought is there, but I can’t verbally express the words), loss of interest in ALL activities and ALL people (ALWAYS prefer to be alone sleeping), loss interest in any intimacy, no interest in ANY social activities. As a matter of fact, I would fall asleep during conversations! I couldn’t keep my eyes open. I felt as though I needed tooth picks to prop my eye lids open during conversations.
It is very difficult for me to carry out NORMAL activities of life— EVERYTHING was a HUGE PROJECT and I COULDN’T GET A THING DONE!!
I had loss of interest or not enough energy to take care of myself and the look and feel beautiful.
I had a very flat affect and very little emotion.
Absolutely no interest in hurting myself or others because I already truly FELT AS THOUGH I WAS DEAD (I felt as though I I didn’t even exist-as though my body was present but NOTHING or ANYONE was there— just constant pain and suffering). To be brutally honest, I didn’t have enough energy to even do anything harmful to myself. Maybe if I would have had harmful feelings I would have gotten help sooner!
I had no interest in doing things for myself or others… let alone my baby.
Every thought I had felt like mixed up alphabet soup… I couldn’t seem to link thoughts and ideas, they were all jumbled up!
Everything appeared gray and dull. I frequently had blurry vision, weakness, upper extremity numbness and not feeling well.
I have an intention to do something, walk to go do it and then forget what I was about to do. I’ve put the vegetables and milk in the spice rack and then wonder where I put it!
When someone talked to me I had no idea what in the heck they said or what they were talking about.
Inability to care for myself, others, my baby, my bills, my work… or ANYTHING!.
As a matter of fact I was a huge burden, some of friends wrote me off and thought I was rude and inconsiderate — really, I just wasn’t there and I physically was unable to be a friend.
Thank goodness for the unconditional support of my other friends and family who never gave up on me! Those who loved me and helped me even with the littlest things that I couldn’t do for myself or family.
To be honest, it would have been really easy giving up on me because I had become absolutely useless to myself, my family, or society.
The support I received now reminds me of a famous poem, “Foot Prints in the Sand” by Mary Stevenson.
“One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with the Lord. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky. In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there were one set of footprints. This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints. So I said to the Lord, “You promised me Lord, that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there have only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, you have not been there for me?” The Lord replied, “The times when you have seen only one set of footprints in the sand, is when I carried you.”
Could it be that I truly was being carried by many?!
And, what truly was the purpose of ALL this MESS???!!
I could go on and on! But, most important, none of this was normal for me at all!
This was NOT my normal personality. I’m usually upbeat, happy, caring and giving individual. Also, I used to be extremely energetic about learning new things and then, I have no interest at ALL!
On the intake form, I commented that the following items were “SEVERE”- headaches, low libido, moodiness, fuzzy thinking, depression, food cravings, anxiety, fatigue, lack of energy, shortness of breath, sleep disorders. “MODERATE” -irritability and emotional/mood swings, short term memory loss. “MILD”- dry skin, hair loss and weight gain.
Prior to this appointment with a new Nurse Practitioner, I had seen numerous providers including, my Obstetrician, Family Practice Physician, another Nurse Practitioner, Multiple Insta-cares, Multiple ER visits, Psychiatrist, Massage Therapist, Endocrinologist, Neurologist, Ophthalmologist, Weight Watchers, and an Acupuncturist.
I had been treated with many medications including: Topamax (for migraines, seizure, bipolar), Prozac (depression), Keppra (seizures, epilepsy), many different types of birth control, and Clonazepam (anti-anxiety, anticonvulsant, muscle relaxant, sedative, hypnotic).
I had many diagnostic tests done including: Brain MRI (x2), Brain MRA, Neck MRA, Neck Ultrasound, EEG (electroencephalography to measure brain electrical activity), Cardiac Echocardiogram to evaluate heart structure and function, Tilt table test, Continuous EKG Telemetry (cardiac electrical activity) and X-rays.
Some of the many POSSIBLE diagnoses that were consider and tested for were: Complicated Migraine, Altered Neural State, Electrolyte Imbalance, Meniere’s Disease, Anxiety, Depression, Tumor, Brain Trauma, Stroke, Seizure Disorder, Clinical Epilepsy, Central Nervous System Vasculitis, Heart Defect, POTS Syndrome, Autimmune Disorder, Multiple Sclerosis, Orthostatic Hypotension, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Near Syncope (fainting, passing out).
Many stressors I had were: Recently married, a new baby, a new job (I had just graduated as a Masters Prepared Neonatal Nurse Practitioner), remodeling of our house (living in the home while we did the our remodel ourselves for ~2 years), and significant financial hardships.
I still remember my mom repeating over and over, “The second you were wheeled out of the OR from your C-Section, I lost my daughter.”
Retrospectively, I’m not really sure what hit me and what went wrong. What I know is that I was MISERABLE for a LONG time and I lost a huge chunk of time that I could have otherwise be bonding with my baby and enjoying life.
I was constantly embarrased to express how I felt with others. I was not about to admit that, “I had a problem…mental problem that is!” For each possible diagnosis a doctor would tell me I would feel temporary relief realizing that the reason and treatment for my pain and suffering was available. I constantly tried to use each of these possible diagnosis to explain my odd behavior and constant sick calls. You know, I was a Neonatal Nurse Practitioner, working in the Newborn Intensive Care… this kind of thing shouldn’t happen to me… I help people… Not “AM the PEOPLE”! — I knew all about this stuff, I was educated, middle class, and “Normal”!
It wasn’t until eight months and twelve days after my baby was born that I began to feel a sense of relief.
It was after deep soul searching, diet management, appropriate sleep patterns, counseling, physical therapy, holistic modalities, traditional medicine, family support, and my deepest desire to feel good again! Most important, my willingness to be honest, do hard work, and to Never give up on myself. The final touch was a new Nurse Practitioner that helped determine the physiological process that was contributing to my suboptimal health.
At my initial visit my new Nurse Practitioner looked at me and said, “Honey, you are really in a huge Crisis! Imagine what you would do for a baby who was coding! You have to treat it….!!! You need help and we are going to work together… It’s not going to be one treatment, it’s multi factorial. I was where you are once and I had to go to another country to get help… But, I never gave up on myself and we are not going to give up on you!!!”
She then gave me an intramuscular injection of natural projesterone. I can vividly remember immediately taking a huge deep, relaxing breath. Suddenly I felt as though the ceiling started to lift. Suddenly I could percieve colors and smells. I remember feeling as though I had just taken the most amazing recreational drug in the world! But, in reality, this medication took me from the lowest bottom to just at the base of who I was before I became pregnant. I felt the most amazing peace, joy and comfort come over me. My body was comfortable… my headache and nausea was decreased. How could I have been so low?
As I drove home, I can’t describe the beauty of all that I visualized along the way. The colors of the trees, the cars, the people, the grass…everything was absolutely splendid! I began crying… I truly rejoiced… for I had not FELT peace, love, and comfort that I hadn’t felt for months! Was it real? What in the heck just happened to me?
The next morning I woke up and was back to the same old “Sick Me”. About the same time, my nurse practitioner called me and asked how I was doing. I told her. She asked me to come back to her office to learn how to give myself projesterone injections.
So, it was with Physical Therapy, Counseling, Weight Watchers, Holistic Modalities, Traditional Medicine, will power, unconditional love and support, time off of work to heal, daily Progesterone injections, Synthroid for (hypothyroidism) and Provigil (a wakefulness-promoting agent) that I was able to finally begin to “feel well again and begin to enjoy life in a new way”!
With my new start, I was able to start finding other new ways to improve the quality of my life and my health. Why did it take me 8 years to write my story? I was trying to figure out a solution for all. To be honest with you, I have realized that “A Single Solution” is NOT the best answer and that EVERYONE has different NEEDS!… And Needs that change day to day.
I also kept waiting until I was what I would refer to as the “Perfect Role Model”… well, that never happened! I realized that I likely will always experience differing forms of anxiety and depression.
It is my life.
But, what is true, is that I have and continue to realize ways to control, eliminate and decrease the symptoms. I have also learned and experienced many beautiful ways to feel peace, joy, love, happiness, comfort, and bliss every single day!!! And most important, I have realized how important it is for me to be honest with myself… and to constantly seek new strategies and techniques!!
What I have also learned is that any healing and optimization of wellness is MULTIFACTORIAL. Everyone is different. What works for one doesn’t necessarily work for another. What works today…may not work tomorrow. You need to take a multi factorial approach for yourself, and never give up!
Now, I realize, it wasn’t just the Projesterone, Synthroid or Provigil that gave me back my life.
It was EVERYTHING, EVERYONE, and EVERY EXPERIENCE. It all had to happen to get to me to where I am now!
It takes time to discover what works for someone. What is important is to realize that there is help and a multitude of treatment options.
What is even more important is to realize and be aware of “YOUR OWN TRUTH”.
It is my “TRUTH” that I was VERY SICK.
None of those POSSIBLE diagnoses turned out to be true except…Hypothyroidism, Severe Postpartum Depression and Projesterone Insufficiency.
I needed multiple medications to help me during those difficult times…currently, I am only taking Synthroid.
I needed NOT ONLY Modern/Traditional/Western Medicine, but also Comprehensive Holistic Modalities and Meditation! I discovered the importance of combining the benefits of both every single day of my life!!
I had a lot of stressors in conjunction with pregnancy and delivery that sent me over the EDGE!
I had NO reserve!
I have had to learn many, many different coping mechanisms… and continue to learn and utilize them EVERY SINGLE DAY!
I needed to keep asking for help until I found something that worked for me!
I had to also learn what it felt like to feel peace, love, comfort, and bliss so that I would continue to seek to “feel great” on a daily basis— I learned this most from Meditation and Reiki.
EVERYONE has ups and downs, storms and sunshine! Everyone has the ability to learn new was ways to enjoy and expereince life! This blog isn’t just about Postpartum Depression… it is about LIFE! When I told my friend that not many people had visited my blog… maybe I should stop. She replied, “Brittany, maybe this is only for you… maybe this is what you need to continue to heal.” Yes, she was correct… this blog is for me… to help remind me every single day of ways to remain happy and healthy! But, maybe, could it also be for you as well? To realize in just another way that you aren’t alone and that there are so many ways for each of us to learn to be EVEN happier and healthier?!! To realize our own TRUTH and to feel the BLISS that is truly intended and available for ALL!!!
May your journey be filled with much LOVE, LIGHT, HAPPINESS, COMFORT and PEACE!!!
“Some changes look negative on the surface but you will soon realize that space is being created in your life for something new to emerge.”– Eckhart Tolle
“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” –Eckhart Tolle
“When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Eckhart Tolle
With Much Love and Light! bmj.