Monday, 23 October 2017

Coffee Grounds and Post Partum Depression


"Oops" he said with a nervous little voice.

I turned around to see our refillable K-cup spilled onto the ground. Elliott had tried to help me by taking it out of the machine and dumping it into the garbage, but it was too hot for him and he dropped it. Two months ago I would have reacted in anger. I would have exclaimed "Elliott!! What did you do?" and caused him to flee the scene in fear of a time out or having me tell him in seventeen different ways why he shouldn't have touched the k-cup in the first place.

Today was different. Even though I had two whiney one year olds in front of me, both upset at my lunch offerings and protesting loudly while throwing food on the floor... today was still different.

"Oops! You dropped it! I said in a calm voice."It's ok sweetie. It was an accident. Mommy makes messes too sometimes. Here let me help you clean it up." 

He happily helped me wipe up the mess and remarked at how tiny the coffee grounds were. 

"I need my magnifying glass!"  (I surprised both him and I by agreeing enthusiastically.) 

I asked him what he could do differently next time so this didn't happen.

"Ask Mommy" he said sheepishly. He gave me a big hug, and we both smiled and squeezed.

I would love to say that this is a result of the Positive Parenting seminar I recently attended (and I'm sure that in part it is- SUCH a good seminar!) but the truth is that two months ago I walked into the emergency room in my small town and nervously told them that I thought I needed to go on medication for Post Partum Depression. 

You may remember reading a post from a couple months ago where I felt as though I had "come out of the fog" and I was feeling immensely better than I had in months (maybe over a year) Unfortunately it was shortly after that post that I once again felt like I was overwhelmed and anxious all the time. I couldn't accomplish typical daily tasks. I was quick to anger with Elliott, and reverted back to yelling and numerous time outs each day.

I just want to pause right here because I feel the need to add something in I missed in my previous posts on this topic. You may remember that I run a dayhome. A lot of people joke and ask me how I do it, or make comments about how they could never do it themselves, and I often return with my own jokes about how it's a survival technique because if left alone together, Elliott and I would be at each others throats all day. While this may be a light hearted exchange, it is very true. I've gone through seasons of truly enjoying running a dayhome (love summer/park season!!!) and feeling lonely and isolated and not wanting to continue. What I have learned since we moved to Westlock (and going through a long time of having zero/very few dayhome kids) is that Elliott and I are both happier when we have dayhome kids in the house. He has playmates and I have a chance to get things done while he happily plays. Also, I've noticed it gives me a sense of accountability- I don't yell at my kid when there are other kids around! I don't want them to feel nervous or scared by my harsh tone, so I am all around a gentler parent when other people's children are around. So, in case you have wondered if I yell and give time outs to dayhome kids, the answer is a resounding no. Absolutely not. 

Moving on.

So, I was back to where I started. And now I was feeling ashamed because I had recently announced to the world that I was "better" and I had worked through it all on my own (with Jesus.) And once again Jesus actually felt quite far from me. I wondered if it was a spiritual attack. Perhaps because I had claimed that it was God that helped me, now the enemy was trying to discredit the work He had done. I prayed so hard. I begged Jesus to help me. 

The timing of my reprieve also coincided with a diet I was on where I cut out all sugar and grains (Ketogenic Diet) and so I wondered if my mental clarity had to do with the foods I was eating. Honestly, I'm still unsure about that one. Either way I felt so discouraged and so stuck. Until one day I came across an article titled "I Thought I Was Turning Into A Rage Monster. Then I Was Diagnosed With Anxiety." and it felt like it all just clicked. Especially this excerpt:

"Or imagine you’re trying to get out the door in the morning. Your youngest left his shoes somewhere unimaginable and can’t find them. You start to get mad. Then you get outside and realize you’ve forgotten the car keys, so you have to leave the kids in the yard while you unlock the house with the hidden key and go dig the real keys out from the debris cluttering the kitchen table. You don’t have time to pick the mess up. The rage begins to rise in you. Then the youngest won’t climb into his car seat, and all of the frustration of the morning builds up and snaps out: “Why can’t you do this right? You’re not a baby!” you demand of your all-of-3-year-old. His lip trembles. And you just want to cry with him because your anger has nothing to do with him and everything to do with being anxious and overwhelmed.

This is what it means to live with an anxiety disorder that manifests as stress and anger. Every single day, you try your damnedest to keep a lid on your emotions, try not to mind the clutter or being late, try to stay on top of yourself and ask, “What am I really feeling?” That takes a heck of a lot of effort and a hell of a lot of metacognition. It’s exhausting. Sometimes you’re too far gone to manage it. And you yell, and you lose your cool. You yell at the ones you love the most. The ones you would literally do anything for."

Chris came home for lunch shortly after I read it and I told him I was going to go see a doctor after dinner. Because what really clicked for me is that I didn't have the strength for the metacognition all on my own, and I was going to keep failing at it everyday and feeling guilty everyday because I knew I was hurting my relationship with Elliott, and I didn't want to go another day knowing that and not doing anything about it.

We didn't have a family doctor in Westlock yet, and neither of the medical clinics take walk ins for non-patients. Plus the fact that I run a dayhome, and by the time I'm done work, they're closed anyways. So my only option was to walk into the ER and ask to see a doctor. 

It was terrifying.

They told me to take a seat, and then a couple minutes later they called me over to the nurse's area where she took my blood pressure, temperature, and asked me why I came in. I didn't expect to have to talk about it in the open like this. There were people close enough to hear me. Still, I said in as steady of a voice as possible that I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious and I thought I needed help. She was kind and didn't ask much more. She told me to take a seat again. So I sat down. My heart beating out of my chest and hot tears in my eyes. One tear fell down my left cheek, but I waited a minute to wipe it. Hiding in plain sight. No one was sitting on that side of me and I was hoping that if I waited long enough it would look like I just had an itch. I sat there in the waiting room for just over an hour and a half, feeling more and more stupid as each minute passed. Of course they took in the boy with a hurt ankle first. He was actually injured. Of course they took in the elderly woman before me. She looked sick. I knew I wasn't wrong for seeing a doctor, but it sure felt silly to be in the emergency room for something so... non-emergent. I texted Chris and asked him to pray for me. I tried to read my book to distract myself. And I waited.

Finally they called my name, and I was brought into a room. I sat in the chair beside the bed. The doctor came in. He was young, and so kind. He closed the door and sat down on the bed, with his back against the wall, his ankles crossed, and his hands folded casually in his lap.  His voice was calm and comforting. Everything about our interaction told me that he was in no rush and he was genuinely concerned and ready to listen. I'm so so grateful for this. I know God really took care of me with this, as I've heard too many stories of abrupt, dismissive doctors- especially in emerg. He assured me it was not wrong for me to be in the emergency room, He asked me all the questions I expected and gave me the time and space to answer them honestly. I cried and cried, and he listened patiently. I'm sure I was in there for at least half an hour. In the end he suggested an antidepressant. I took the prescription and was on my way.

It took me nearly a week to take it. An antidepressant? I thought I had anxiety, not depression. I looked up the medication and saw it helped with both, and decided to just trust the doctor that God gave me, and I filled the prescription. And then I let them sit on my counter for a few more days. I have a number of friends and family on antidepressants, and I have lovingly told each of them that it is not a weakness to take medication, but in fact a choice of strength. And yet, when it was for me I heard all the same doubts and fears that I have genuinely and sincerely disagreed with for others. For others I could clearly see how medication was not a bandaid or crutch, but a necessary step. For others I could easily point out how they wouldn't question taking medication for heart failure, and so why treat this illness differently. For others, I could objectively see the pros outweighing the cons. But for me, I was terrified. What about the side effects? What if I feel numb, or like I have no emotions at all? What if I go on medication and never come off?

Thankfully the Lord is always faithful, and cares for me so well. The day after I stepped into that emergency room I had a friend reach out to me- a friend that I hadn't spoken to in over two years because of a falling out, which coincidentally had to do with a period of time that she was struggling with post partum depression and anxiety. She apologized for what happened and offered support for what I had written about in previous blog posts about feeling anxious and overwhelmed. She was exactly what I needed, and I explained everything I was going through and how I had a prescription I was scared to take. She calmed a lot of my fears and gave me the courage to take it. I'm so so grateful that I did, because now here I am, 2 months later feeling like myself.

I had almost resigned myself to thinking that I was just an angry yelling mom. But the truth is that I was feeling overwhelmed and anxious and now that I am feeling normal again I am parenting from a place of grace, not a place of anger. Of course there are still days when I get caught off guard by something and use a harsh or impatient tone, but it has been weeks since I have raised my voice, and I think that Elliott is starting to expect the best in me again. Also, I'm pursuing counselling - something that I have done a number of times in my adult years, but didn't feel able to until now. I knew I needed it, but when daily life feels overwhelming, the thought of finding a new therapist (because I'm not driving to Jasper Ave!) felt impossible. 

I am so grateful for where I am today, and I don't have the feeling that it could go away at any moment like the last few times I felt better. (Who knew anxiety about anxiety was a thing?) I've started taking self care a little more seriously- I started a Mom's group here that meets one evening a week, and I also get a "Mommy's Night Out" one night a week. I leave the house and go for coffee or dinner with a friend or by myself, and the only rule is that I don't come home until after the kids are in bed. I am so thankful for my loving husband who didn't just agree to these nights away from the home, but actually suggested them. I am so blessed and so well loved by him. I couldn't have asked for a better teammate at this thing we called life!

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