If I tell you I’m ok, it’s a lie

I am the mom of a child with autism. I still haven’t come to terms with the fact that this is my life. I think I want to, but I don’t know how because I’m still so angry about it. I feel like most days, there’s this illusion of “normal” because we’ve had a lot of progress with Norah, and so things feel manageable and mundane enough that I actually believe it. Then, one day, it all falls apart. The charade is exposed. Norah has an off day or series of days turning into weeks and I realize my life isn’t normal and how different Norah is compared to typical children is brought into focus. It’s like a one-two punch to the gut. That first hit, the reality check that stuns you, and second takes your breath away. And it’s hard because in those “ordinary” moments, I forget: the pain, the resentment, bitterness and anger; all cleverly hidden behind smoke and mirrors. It’s really shitty, because when smoke clears, I’m still standing in the same spot. I thought I had grown. Changed a little, maybe let go of my anger just a little. No, I’m like Prometheus, tethered to a rock whose liver was eaten daily only to regenerate and then go through the same thing again. Day after day. Only, it’s my anger that tethers me me in the same place and the bitterness and resentment the eagle pecking away at me. 
I remember when I miscarried, how hard, nay, devastating it was. I had just come out of this dark season in my life. I had thought I could walk away from God, and I tried, but God, who is just and demands obedience, is also eternally steadfast, loving and merciful, pursued me. 

Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you. – Psalm 139:7-12

God had brought me out of the wilderness and I had hope. Then I miscarried, and that hope carried me. So much so, that I named the child I lost Hope. I remember going through it though, recalling “advice” that had been given to me anytime I was struggling with something. Advice I’d given others. “Give it to God”. I’ll admit, that while that sounded freeing, I didn’t understand it. How did you give something to God? How do you let it go? How do you know if you in fact, “let go and let God”? I had prayed that a lot, only to say “amen” go about by business still dealing with it and and not handling it any better than before. It was after I miscarried and I was living moment to moment that I realized what that meant, and it was how I survived. There was no one and done, I give my crap to God and from that moment on I’m great. It was more like in one moment “God, I can’t breathe, this pain is too great”, and God’s response, “I will carry and sustain you. I will heal you”. When I had fears of another miscarriage and whether or not I could endure, His response, “I am sufficient”. 
Navigating the waters of special needs and raising a child with autism should be no different. This season of suffering should elicit the same response. Why is it so hard then? Why have I not been able, moment to moment, to approach God and depend on Him for my survival? There’s a wall. Is it because I’m angry? I’ve admitted to being angry with God. I’ll also confess, I don’t know what to do with that. How do i get through that? What do I do with it? I’ve prayed, read scripture, talked about it. This season of suffering had been especially hard. Norah is only four and the road ahead is only paved with more struggles. More therapy, more special education, biomedical therapies and the list goes on. It’s so daunting to look up from where I am and know that this is really just the beginning. We’ve only scratched the surface. 

I have mentioned before that I struggle with depression. I’m prone to it. My body seems to struggle making enough dopamine and keep it bouncing around my brain long enough to keep me stable. The stress of the last year has been unmanageable. I recognize that a chemical imbalance is just part of my problem. I know there’s a heart and sin issue too. I did get some medication, and that has helped me feel more, level headed. I’m still struggling, but I think I’m better able to start dealing with things. I don’t really know what that entails though. Despite being medicated, I’m still stressed, overwhelmed and melancholic. There’s not a pill that helps with doubt and disbelief. I keep going over things. Reminding myself about who God is. How good He is and that He is sufficient. I may not believe it today, but I will be again be confident. 

But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.” – Lamentations 3:21-24

Moving Forward

In my last post, I was approaching the one week mark since getting help for my depression. Last Thursday, I had a follow up appointment with my midwife to go over the results from my blood work and to talk about how I was doing on my antidepressant. We started off by updating her about how the past week had been. Everything was positive. I explained to her that I felt different after the first dose and how I had not expected to feel anything that soon. She seemed surprised too as it normally takes a few weeks to get any results, but that my brain must have really been needing the dopamine. I was happier, and so much slower to anger. I felt more cheerful and not quite so blah. In all actuality, I was beginning to feel like a different person, or rather, more like my old self. I was starting to feel human again.

My blood work all came back normal as can be, which is both disappointing and a relief. Disappointing, because I was hoping to have some more answers into why I had felt the way that I had for so long, but I was relieved that there was  nothing else wrong. My thyroid, cortisol, everything was as normal as can be. The only thing that was ‘off’ was that I had a vitamin D deficiency, but that’s as exciting as it got. So, while I may not have gotten the ‘answers’ that I hoped for, all in all, the appointment was positive. She did say that my vitamin D deficiency could be contributing to some of my symptoms, like my fatigue, sleeplessness, poor concentration, and even my depression itself. Since I had an improvement in some areas and not others, she decided to increase my dose of the Wellbutrin (antidepressant). She also prescribed Vitamin D2, 50,000 units per week! On top of that, I am taking 1000-2000 mg of DHA/EPA and Omega 3’s. So LOTS of vitamin D. The point of this was to get my vitamin D levels up where they needed to be, but to also help my body start producing more on its own as well.

My midwife also encouraged me to see our homeopathic doctor as well and even start seeing my chiropractor. She said that even though all of my blood work came back normal and I don’t officially have a diagnosis, based on Western Medicine, all of my symptoms are congruent with Hypothyroidism and Adrenal Fatigue, and would most likely benefit treating those with alternative medicine. I haven’t done this yet, but I intend to. She also didn’t want to get hung up on being depressed, so she didn’t even give me a diagnosis of ‘depression’. I am appreciative of that, although, if that is what this is, than so be it. I am not defined by it.

So today marks two weeks. Two whole weeks of feeling human again, two weeks of a happier me, and two weeks of me actually giving a darn! The first couple of days were rough, with the new dosage; I felt pretty crummy with headaches and nausea, but I am so grateful that I am feeling more and more like me every day! I am looking forward to more good days!

Update

So tomorrow will mark one week since I got medical help fory depression. Tomorrow I go in again and will get the results from my blood work. I’m not anxious but I am. Well, maybe anxious isn’t the right word, but I am nervous.  Normally when you get blood work back you are hoping for everything to be normal and that everything checks out. I on the other hand, am hoping that they find something that will give us some insight in to my depression. I think I would be discouraged if everything came back normal and I was just ‘depressed’ with no real answers. 
 
I will also discuss my medication with my midwife. Tomorrow also marks a week that I have been on antidepressants. So far I have had a positive experience. I am definitely feeling better. My stress is going down, I am slower to anger, I am feeling happier and starting to enjoy things again. I am still struggling with sleep. I can lay in bed for hours before falling asleep and with a baby that still wakes frequently in the night, this is very hard. I also still have a really hard time focusing. I seem to have moments that ‘disappear’. For example, I can be having a conversation with someone and at some point in that conversation, I completely zone out to the point that I have no recollection of what was said. I see the person talking, their lips moving, but I hear nothing and don’t remember what was said, if that makes sense. Maybe that has nothing to do with depression itself, it could be that it’s just a coping mechanism I have developed over time to manage stress and anxiety, but again, I don’t know. And while I am am slower to anger, when I finally do hit that breaking point, there’s not a lot of variation in the emotion, it’s still pretty intense. All things that I will bring up tomorrow. 
 
I have been sharing my experience and struggle with depression this past week and I think there’s a lot of ‘baggage’ that comes with depression. People don’t really talk about depression, or at least very few do. People seem much more willing to talk about cancer or some other sickness than discuss ‘mental illness’. Maybe I just haven’t known enough people who have had depression, but I am finding it encouraging to share my struggle with it. First off, it’s sort of therapeutic. But it also lets people know how they can pray for me, they can ask me how I’m doing, but be specific so that I am actually forced to give a real answer instead of “I’m fine.” I think being open to sharing helps others too. If my being brave and saying, “I’m depressed” gives someone else the courage to seek help, then that’s a great thing! Being depressed sucks, being depressed and alone really sucks. I was alone in my struggle for a long time, it wasn’t good and I certainly didn’t benefit from it. 
 
Tonight I shared with my City Group. It wasn’t hard to share content wise, oh but how I hate being the center of attention! I’m proud of myself though. I told everyone there and got through it with out crying too much. And I was able to explain it and make sense! Normally I get so nervous I think I end up babbling. I am so grateful for the people that God has placed in my life. I have some amazing friends. It was encouraging to be able to share and then be prayed for and know that these people love and support me. I’m so very grateful. 
 
Anyways, this was supposed to just be a quick update and it’s become a lot longer than I planned. Tomorrow I will know more and then I can give a more detailed update. Until then, thank you to everyone who has reached out. It has meant a lot to have your support and encouragement. 

Depression

How does one even begin a post like this? Is there really a way to gently ease into the subject or some joke or metaphor to make it less heavy? Probably not.

On July 27, (I know, specific right?) I was in Houston visiting with a friend before heading off to a beach vacation with family, when I had finally got enough courage to tell her that I had been “feeling” off. I say “feeling” because I really wasn’t feeling much of anything these days, except for maybe, guilt, apathy, anger and an extremely overwhelming emptiness. After a long conversation and contemplating what could possibly be wrong, I ventured down the road of depression.

Truth be told, this wasn’t something that had recently developed. I had been feeling this way, with gradual intensity, for the last 10-12 years. I had always wondered if I was suffering from depression, but would quickly banish those thoughts from my brain as I did not want to have the label “depressed” attached to me. I had only negative associations with the word and thought that surely I would be judged if I had spoken up. So, I brushed it off as just needing to try harder and make my own happiness. Naturally, I tend to lean more towards being an introvert, so I used that as my scapegoat with excuses like, “I’m just not good at being social”, “I am not good at small talk”, to even exaggerating on the good qualities that I already possessed, like being a good listener.

Of course, in the beginning, I didn’t always feel depressed. I would have days, maybe weeks, where I felt happy, creative and energized. The more time that went by, the fewer good days there were. I started to lose interest in the things that I loved and was so passionate about.

Fast forward a few years. In 2009 I got married. This was an exciting and VERY much anticipated event for me. I had been dating my husband for six years before he proposed, so I was ready. The morning of my big day that I had been waiting for so long for, was here! I remember sitting down to breakfast with my parents and them asking if I was nervous or excited. I was excited, I had wanted this day more than anything, but it wasn’t the exhilarating excitement I was expecting. I have a lot of moments like this. They have increased in length over time.

Eventually, it got to the point to where I needed to force, and over compensate for my lack of happiness or excitement. I didn’t want people to think that I didn’t care or that I was not happy for them. I was…….but, I wasn’t. Depression is a strange thing. Depression doesn’t always mean that you feel sad, but empty. I certainly felt this. Sometimes, I think that I mistook my lack of sympathy and emotion for an “I don’t give a crap” attitude. I thought that I was “tough” or “thick skinned”. Truth was, I was neither one of those. I was so weak. I constantly felt scrutinized and judged. I was racked with guilt and self loathing and eventually saw myself unworthy of happiness. I started to have paranoia, I feared that my husband, then boyfriend, was cheating and that at any moment he would break up with me. I began to read in between the lines of conversations I had with people, assuming that they meant something other than what they said, and felt like I deserved their scrutiny and judgement. Depression can really distort your perspective and cloud your judgement.

So, now I have been married for four years, and we recently welcomed a daughter. Another excuse that I told myself was that maybe I am just a super mellow person, and I just don’t excite easily, but surely a life changing event like finding out your pregnant would cause some over the top excitement. Nope. I WAS happy. I couldn’t believe it, but I was happy that I was expecting. Again, the excitement that I had hoped to feel, just wasn’t there. I was disappointed, sad that I couldn’t feel the joy that I was sure everyone felt. Now, I didn’t have the easiest pregnancy. I was sick for almost all of it. It was either morning sickness, the stomach bug or a staph infection. I felt like crap the whole time, and then had several stressful incidents throughout the pregnancy concerning her development and testing for chromosomal abnormalities to finding out that she was breech a week and a half from my due date and scheduling a cesarean days later. It was devastating. Everything that I had been planning for, hoping for some fluctuation in emotion and a sense of empowerment had been stripped away.

So, now, I have my beautiful baby at home and we are adjusting to a life as a family of three. I am not only learning the ropes of caring for a newborn, but am recovering from surgery, which was not easy. I got an infection due to an allergic reaction that I had to my sutures and was in pain for a couple months. Having a new baby is hard. Having a new baby and having the baby blues is really hard. During my pregnancy, I wondered if I would have the baby blues or postpartum depression. I wondered deep down if I was depressed, and felt like I might be predisposed to them. While I was convinced that I was suffering PPD, for reasons I had never told anyone, people assured me that it was just the baby blues and that it was normal and a common thing. I left it at that.

My daughter is now six months old, and the “blues” have not gone away. In fact they are worse than they have ever been. I had no joy, no happiness. I was angry and impatient all the time. My bad days were terrible and my “good days” were just less so. I had bad days and blah days.

Three weeks ago I decided that I had to say something. I had been having an exceptionally hard time. I was not necessarily suicidal, but was having thoughts of my own death. Since I obviously couldn’t feel happy, I thought that maybe I didn’t deserve to feel happy. Maybe everything and everyone would be better off if I was just not here. I was angry all the time. I was always in a bad mood and short with my husband. I was impatient with my child, and my anxiety was at an all time high. I didn’t want to be around people. I just wanted to be alone. But I didn’t. I was broken over the fact that I just didn’t have joy in anything. I didn’t even enjoy my child! This broke my heart, but I just couldn’t get out from under the dark cloud that has followed me for so long. So I spoke to a friend, I spoke to my husband and I spoke to my mom. I think that I am depressed. I have no idea who I am anymore, the person that I was has seemed to disappear. I don’t like myself and I don’t want to feel like this anymore. Something is wrong with me. I shouldn’t feel this empty.

So, here I am. I spoke to my midwife on August 8. Explained to her everything, relived moments over the past 10-12 years that made me pause and wonder about depression. I am depressed. I have realized that this is not something that I should be ashamed of. While depression by no means, defines me, it is a part of me. Treatment, generally, is medication, but does not have to be forever, which is positive. I had some bloodwork done and I am currently waiting for results. My midwife thinks that possibly, I may have a dopamine deficiency which would explain my lows and mediums but not “highs” or enjoyment. She is checking for other things as well, like my thyroid and cortisol levels. I also only have one kidney and one adrenal gland which could be problematic as well. The one adrenal gland that I have could be over compensating creating an imbalance. Thursday I find out the results and hopefully will have a bit more insight into my depression. Thursday will also be a week that I have been on medication to hopefully help my brain keep what dopamine I do have, circulating long enough to use it. Instantly, I seemed to feel better. I was lighter. I was not as impatient and angry. The more days that I am on it, the better I feel. By no means am I rainbows and sunshine, but I am seeing more and more of my old self each day.

I know that this is a terribly long post, and if you have made it all the way through, then thank you. I do not seek pity or special treatment, I am not ill. I have held all of this in for so long, that a post like this was a long time coming. I was not prescribed therapy, but in a sense, sharing is therapy. Depression is not a skeleton in the closet, you don’t have to hide it or be ashamed of it. I should have brought this up a long time ago though. If by chance, there is anyone who reads this, and suspects that maybe, the person you are now is not who you REALLY are, and there is a chance you are depressed, there is no shame in seeking help. It is OK to not be OK, but you don’t have to let it be your identity.