Thursday, October 19, 2006

Mental health update

Warning: this is a serious post. If you just come to this site for cute baby pictures, scroll down to the posts I put up a few minutes ago.

Are the new readers gone yet? Good.

As many of you know, after Liza was born I suffered from a relatively bad case of post-partum depression. I didn't have to check myself into a mental hospital, but it probably would have ended up that way if I hadn't gotten help when I did. Remember all those jokes I used to make about me scouting out locations to abandon Liza, like near the dumpsters at Kroger? Not so much jokes as rationalizations that if I told people about it, I couldn't actually do it, because then everyone would know that I had done it and my mother-in-law would hunt me down and kill me, she loved the kid that much.

I used to imagine I heard Liza crying, even when the baby monitor clearly showed that her room was completely quiet. I would be so convinced that she was crying, I would get out of bed, turn the monitor off and turn it back on again, just to be sure it was working. And I would hear her screaming when I was in the shower, and I'd turn off the water and grab a towel, only to realize that I was imagining the screaming and she was sleeping peacefully. Eventually it got to the point where I would just ignore the screaming when I was showering, whether the screaming was real or imaginary.

But I DID get help, and I started taking Zoloft, one of the few anti-depressants you can take while nursing. I wouldn't say that Zoloft was a cure-all, but it helped, and Liza got to be less colicky and I got to be better able to predict her schedule, and I never did have to put the dumpster plan into use. It was still rough, particularly around the 6-month mark when I was having thyroid issues and was absolutely exhausted all the time and all my hair was falling out. Did I ever tell you how for like 4 months every time I took a shower, I would lose so much hair that I would end up pulling a wad of hair the size of a small mouse out of my butt crack, where it had gotten wedged on its way from my head toward the drain? That was in addition to the mouse of hair that made it to the drain on the first try ... every time I took a shower. I had to keep a Swiffer in the bathroom and sweep every day or two, just to prevent the tumbleweeds of my own hair from overwhelming us, and I think we went through like three bottles of Professional Strenth Drano. Not fun.

The standard length of treatment for post-partum depression is to continue the medication for at least a year after the patient has stabilized, which for me ended earlier this summer. I talked with my doctor about what we'd do then, since I wasn't that thrilled with some of the side effects of the Zoloft, especially compared to the Wellbutrin I had taken for depression before we decided to have a baby. For example, the Zoloft didn't really help me get to sleep, but it did leave me yawning uncontrollably for most of the day anytime I didn't get the exact right amount of sleep (i.e. - perpetually). The Wellbutrin, on the other hand, was perfect for sleep - it shut up the little voice inside my head that kept making lists and plans and critiques of my behavior (see the masthead of this blog). I would lay down, and five minutes later I would be asleep. For those of us who have had sleep issues for years, it was bliss.

So about a month ago I started taking the Wellbutrin again, at the same dose I took prior to getting pregnant. Wellbutrin isn't an SSRI like Zoloft, so the two drugs can be taken together, and it doesn't require any ramping up or down of dosages when you start or stop taking it. It does, however, take a few weeks to accumulate in your body to a level that makes it most effective, so the plan was to start the Wellbutrin, get it up to full effectiveness, then taper off the Zoloft (which you can't quit cold turkey or your head explodes, or some such thing).

I'm up to full strength on the Wellbutrin, and I've spent the past two weeks at half dosage on my Zoloft. As soon as I started the Wellbutrin, my sleeping got better - not spectacular, but at least I am now less familiar with the topography of my bedroom ceiling than I was when I was spending hours staring at it trying to get to sleep. And almost as soon as I cut back my Zoloft dosage, I began dreaming again.

Just to back up a minute - I don't dream. Even as a kid, I would have nightmares occasionally, but only had dreams I could remember once or twice a year. Yes, I know I was actually dreaming, just not remembering them, but the effect is the same. As an adult, the only time I consistently remembered my dreams was when I tried St. John's Wort for depression, and when I was pregnant. But in the last two weeks I've had probably 10 mornings where I woke up and could remember at least fragments of dreams. I had almost forgotten what that was like. And I had forgotten how much I missed it ... it's like how you don't notice how bad the reception on your tv is until you get cable, and then you wonder how you ever watched tv without it.

And last week I actually felt good. Not just "not bad," not just "I promise not to kill the kid today," but actually, factually good. I got the house clean, I got most of the yard sale stuff priced, I got yard work done, I played with Liza, I came up with several new designs I want to make for my etsy shop, I cooked, I even made sugar cookies, for god's sake. Again, it was like my eyes were open for the first time - you mean normal people feel like this most of the time? Jesus Christ, what have I been doing?

I don't know if it was the Wellbutrin kicking in, the Zoloft dropping out, the particular time of month it was, or some sort of random abberation in the fabric of the universe, but by god, I hope it happens again. It's been a little tough this week because Liza's been teething - hard - and when her mood is shot, so's mine. And we're all a little short on sleep, which doesn't make any of us easier to deal with. But even so, I have noticed that during the sleep troubles over the past few weeks, I've been a lot less despondent and a lot more patient, trusting that Liza will eventually get back to a normal schedule and we'll all survive. Sure, letting her climb on me like a monkey for two hours in the middle of the night is annoying, but it's not the end of the world. It helps that Jason has been willing to take over on weekends and give me some time to myself some evenings - he's been great through this whole ordeal, especially early on when we were both sleep deprived and I'm sure he wanted to run away from home just to get some sleep.

Unfortunately, one of the side effects of feeling good is that I write best when I'm miserable and have something to complain about in a wry and witty fashion. I just can't make it funny when I'm talking about how great things are, if you know what I mean. And because I've been so productive and been feeling so creative, I haven't even been feeling the urge to write much beyond the standard "isn't my kid so cute" posts. I've been making a lot of progress on my patterns for etsy, and I think that's sucking up all of my writing energy right now.

So I guess this is a warning that I may not be posting quite as often, or my posts may be different than they have been in the past. Sorry if you miss the old, sarcastic me - but as much as I'll miss the funny writing, I'd rather skip the sarcasm and have the me that's able smile when I look at my daughter, even at 1 am when she's jumping up and down on my kidneys while I lay on the couch.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got some laundry to iron and a quilt to make. Hooray!


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Anonymous said...

Stop worrying about your entertainment value and take good care of yourself! We'll muddle along somehow :)
I'm glad you have found the right meds; it makes such a difference doesn't it?
Lisa is adorable, as always. I love the hat, purple is definately her color. Culinarily she may be on to something: we've had brick oven pizza, grilled pizza, who's not to say that floor pizza isn't the next big thing? A plastic plaster spatula (the wide one gets more up at a time)is the best thing for getting sticky stuff off the floor, by the way.
I thought the last two postings were just as hilarious as the rest of them! I just re-read this and think I need to go adjust MY meds now.


Anonymous said...

I need to agree with Mimi. Your post makes me want to adjust my meds now.

It is really nice to read such a good post. This post, more than any of the cute kid postings, has given me a warm, soulful smile. It is a post that will make me feel good for days.

Thank you.

As one who has had my own battles with depression and who continues to never have any dreams (it doesn't count as a dream if I can't remember any of it), I found your description to be compelling.

Again, thank you for sharing.