Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Fighting Depression Yet Again

Last week I got diagnosed with Post Partum Depression.  I actually needed to have my C-Reactive protein levels run and I asked them to run progesterone levels since I have been fighting low progesterone for years now.  Dr. Thomas Hilgers has found a correlation with low progesterone and depression levels in women.  Of course, our local hospital screwed up the bloodwork once again and didn't actually run my progesterone correctly.  The Pope Paul VI Institute nurse went through a questionaire with me over the phone and I had some of the symptoms for post partum depression (PPD): general weepiness (which I knew) and the following three that I didn't know about in connection with PPD: insomnia, night sweats and hot flashes.  Thankfully I hadn't gotten to suicidal thoughts or wanting to hurt any of my children yet, but I had been fighting the feeling of "just wanting to run away."

I had suffered from night sweats and hot flashes after both Katie and Anna was born.  I had approached several different doctors regarding it, but got told that these were just from "my hormones changing back to normal."  There is nothing normal about a hot flash or waking up drenched in sweat and needing to take several showers a day when you don't even have time to take one shower while taking care of your nursing newborn and other children!  This kind of medical attitude has to come from health professionals that haven't experienced a night sweat or  hot flash.   I am frustrated to have not received the proper treatment two years ago, yet relieved that I finally have a diagnosis and solution by being treated with cooperative progesterone therapy.  Unfortunately I had a previous bad reaction to taking the progesterone shots, so I am just taking compounded progesterone pills twice a day....but these "happy" pills seem to be working! I have had far fewer night sweats and hot flashes than what I was experiencing last week.  My insomnia is also decreasing-I have been able to fall asleep earlier each night.

I am so tired of "feeling sick and tired."  Just prior to my diagnosis I had told Jason that I just didn't feel right.  Part of that is my exhaustion from having a newborn and two toddlers under the age of three and from my infection, but most of that is from what we now know to be depression.  Hopefully when my bloodwork gets run again at the end of July I will have the diagnosis that my infection levels are back to normal and that my progesterone levels are increasing as well.  I want to be able to start exercising again and enjoying life with my kids again as well.  The horrible thing about depression is that it affects the entire family.  The saying "When momma ain't happy ain't nobody happy" is so very true....everyone can sense the unhappiness and many times both the spouse and the children blame themselves for your unhappiness.

I don't want either Jason or any of our kids to ever feel as if "they ruined my life" because I chose this life every step of the way.  While there are many days when I would like to be anywhere but here at home dealing with all the messes of everyday life I instinctively know that if I was off "having a career" I would still be unhappy and wish that I was back at home with my kids.   It's a classic catch-22 problem.  Mary Hood in The Joyful Homeschooler talks about being "bound by chains she created for herself."  (I may be paraphrasing that quote a little bit. If not exact it's basically what she writes when talking about fighting her own depression/unhappiness with her life.)  Some days that is exactly how I feel-bound by chains I have created one decision at a time....yet if challenged, which decision would I undo: homeschooling, having any of my five children, buying the farm, having our own business, teaching Creighton Model???  I wouldn't change any of that....I want to change myself: be a better teacher, be a better homemaker, be more patient and loving, get rid of my bad temper, be a better mother, lose weight, be prettier and stop feeling so inadequate compared to all my friends whom seem to be so much better at everything than I am....

I am by nature an optimist and I am also someone who always gives other people the benefit of the doubt. I also made a conscience decision after my first husband Chris died that I was not going to let his death be a part of my top three moments in my life.  What I mean by that statement is that I didn't want either myself or my children to become one of those people you meet on the street and you wonder, "What the hell happened to you?"  I had to make a conscious decision to choose to be choose to live again....because otherwise I was going to be miserable forever.....I wanted to die.....I wanted God to turn back time and kill me instead of my husband....I was terrified that I was going to screw up my kids forever because I was so unhappy.

I remember that I almost didn't put up Christmas decorations the first Christmas after Chris died.   I couldn't imagine putting up a Christmas tree without him.  Thankfully my "catholic mom" Barbara challenged me on this issue.  Barbara attended our church in Pensacola and she "adopted me" after Chris died.  Barbara's father had also died when she was a young girl, leaving her mom to raise five kids by herself.  Barbara gently yelled at me, "My mom still celebrated the holidays after my dad died."  She reminded me that I had two small children who deserved a Christmas tree even at the ages of two and one.  After thinking about it, I did decorate-but I did it differently.  I didn't get a live tree.  I went out and bought a small artificial tree.  We still use the artificial tree even though we have another much larger artificial tree now.  The kids hang all of Chris' childhood ornaments on the small tree each year.  We also put up Chris' stocking from his navy ship deployment that has his call sign painted on it.  Barbara was right....after I decorated for my kids I actually was happier.  The pain of celebrating Christmas alone was still there, but in many ways I felt more connected to Chris.  I also saw the joy of Christmas through the eyes of my children and I felt happiness.

The problem with fighting depression is that even as I try to choose happiness each day, everyone around me still picks up my underlying unhappiness.  I also used to judge people that took antidepressants, but now I don't....sometimes you truly need help to feel better.  While I personally wouldn't take many of the traditional AMA prescription medications I do feel the difference with the progesterone that I am now taking and the naltrexone that Dr. Hilgers has prescribed me in the past to help deal with severe PMS depression each month.

For me the most important decisions that I have made in my life are these:

converting to Catholicism from being a "generic" Bible-banging Protestant and now trying to live an authentic Catholic liturgical life
Marrying Jason and Chris
Having each of my kids
Homeschooling my kids
teaching the Creighton Model FertilityCare System of NFP
(though buying the farm and living a farm life may soon bump Creighton Model to number six)

What are your top five life decisions?  If you have fought depression what suggestions do you have for getting through the dark times?

From the sweetness of our hot summer house to yours I am always,



  1. Dear Stephanie,
    I am sorry to hear you suffer from this and will ad dthis to my prayers. I would like to thank you for sharing this post and your heart, even though I don't suffer from depresion I live a full life and understand your conscience descisions issue. Soemtimes i wonder about these things too.
    I am curious abou tyour Creigton Model Fertility stuff. How is it different to NFP as I know it?
    Praying you have a happy and contented week with your precious family.
    God Bless

  2. Depression just rots. Clearly, I have no experience with post partum depression. But I've been fighting plain ol' depression since I was about 12 (though until I was about 22, I didn't have a name for it). I like your attitude. I also like that you've recognized that it's also a medical and chemical issue. It truly is both and needs to be treated as such. Have they checked your vitamin D levels, too? If you're even on the low side of normal with D, that can increase depression levels significantly, and a vitamin D supplement can make a huge difference.

    Hang in there. This, too, shall pass.

  3. I had PPD (or finally noticed it as such) when Felicity was 9 months old. I started taking 5-HTP which is a supplement, related to tryptomenaphine (the stuff in turkey that makes people sleepy). I still take it on an as-need basis, which for over a year has been daily. It helps tremendously and there are no zombie-like side effects. I also have low progesterone and take that as well.

  4. Hey Steph, I am sorry you are going through this but glad you are starting to feel relief. Thank you for sharing your experience. I know God will use it to help many other women.

    Prayers ascending for you and the family. I miss you guys!

  5. Dear Gae,

    Since it's been such a crazy week I am "copying and pasting" my response regarding the Creighton Model from a blog question last month then I will add some new info:

    "I am trained to teach the Creighton Model FertilityCare System of natural family planning to couples. Our system is a mucus only based method of natural family planning and we teach couples one on one. The founder of the Creighton Model System, Dr. Thomas W. Hilgers, has also developed NaProTechnology, which is a new reproductive science that works cooperatively with a woman's cycle to help when there are infertility and/or medical problems. Everything is done within the teachings of the Catholic Church and Dr. Hilgers actually has a higher success rate than invitro for helping infertile couples achieve pregnancies. I taught for six months at the Pope Paul VI Institute in Omaha, NE (where Dr. Hilgers' practice is.) Then the military transferred my first husband to Pensacola, FL and I taught there as the only practitioner for the entire Diocese for three years. I then joined the Steubenville FertilityCare Center as a practitioner when I moved to get my masters in theology from Franciscan University after my husband died in a military plane collision nine years ago. I have been working on my conversion story to Catholicism which also goes into lots of info about Creighton Model FC System and NaProTechnology because the only reason that I have managed to carry all five of my children to term is because of Dr. Hilger's treating me long distance for low progesterone. During this last pregnancy he also helped diagnose me with an impacted uterus that was cutting off urine flow and an infection in my placenta/uterus that was causing continuous contractions/spotting. I also opened myself up to the Catholic faith because of being convicted about the truth of contraception. Hopefully I will get it finished soon so that I can start posting weekly blogs about it."

    So, to answer your question more specifically Creighton Model research was developed using the Billings Method as its starting point with the Australian Drs. Billings permission. I think the biggest difference is the way we teach and the implementation of NaproTechnology. We are different from Couple to Couple's Sympto Thermal method because we don't do temperatures or cervix checks and the way we teach couples always one on one. Plus we are required to get continuous medical training.

    Hope this helps.

    Thank you for your prayers!!!

    God's blessings,


  6. Dear Gae, Carol, Marie and Libby:

    Thank you all for your responses!!! I greatly appreciate your comments and prayers! It became a crazy week here at the farm. After I posted the blog Libby went on her one month growth spurt with constant nursing. Joey is away at boy scout camp, Jessie had a tumbling day camp, I began fighting a cold and our cows and horses escaped twice. We are still missing one bull calf. Basically the three youngest "put me to bed each night:)"

    Libby: I will start taking a vitamin d supplement with my progesterone. I've been inside for seven months now so it would make sense that my vitamin d would be low-besides the fact that my body is giving baby Libby the nutrients she needs in my breast milk as well. I probably can't digest enough calcium right now to meet all the needs via breast milk, etc. I definitely believe that there is a chemical inbalance with depression after my past few years! I will keep your depression fight in my prayers as well!

    Marie: I will definitely look into your vitamin supplement as well. I prefer using supplements and herbs first before going the medication route. Thanks for sharing about your post partum depression fight! Your fight will remain in my prayers!

    Carol: Thank you for the prayers! We miss seeing you guys too!!! Hope all is well in New Jersey!

    Gae: Thanks for following me! I love your beautiful blog! Your family is beautiful and inspiring! Will keep your journey and intentions/needs in our prayers as well!

    Thank you all for your encouragement! May you all have a blessed weekend!

    God's blessings,



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