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 happy.....to 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,