Hi. My name is Jen and I’ve got mental health issues.
If you’re a long-time reader, you know this already. I’ve mentioned it a few times but never really gone into detail. Today we’re gonna do just that. This is a long, heavy post, but I didn’t want to leave anything out. I’m not offended if you skim or skip it altogether. Tomorrow will be lighter, I promise. Also, I’m feeling a teeeeeensy bit vulnerable sharing all this with the interwebs, so be kind. Please and thank you.
I’m not sure whether any of it has to do with postpartum hormone changes, or the fact that being a stay-at-home-mom of two busy girls is more overwhelming for me than I anticipated, or if there is another underlying cause that I don’t know about, or if I’ve always been like this and my current circumstances just made things worse, or if it was only a matter of time before I snapped. However it came about, I am now dealing with depression and anxiety. It’s super fun.
When I first acknowledged that there was a problem, I wanted to start slow with treatment. Diving right into major antidepressants made me nervous, especially since Margot was still exclusively breastfed. So we started simple. For a month I just took birth control pills (because my doc and I assumed it was largely a hormonal issue) but that didn’t do much. At my mom’s suggestion (she and my brother had both seen good results from it) and my doctor’s approval, I added a mood-enhancing natural supplement called Amoryn.
Birth control was good to me. My body has always responded well to it. The Amoryn was a mixed bag. It gave me splitting headaches for the first week or so, but after those went away I noticed a difference in my attitude. My brain felt less dull. I wanted to do things. I was happier. I wasn’t yelling anymore. Things were better.
But I still had serious “freak outs” as I called them. Little things would completely overwhelm me and social situations were especially stressful. I tried taking Amoryn’s counterpart, Seradyn, but that was NOT A GOOD IDEA. Somehow the combination of the two supplements made me even crazier. And since the Amoryn wasn’t taking care of all my symptoms, I talked to my doctor about trying something else.
She recommended Paxil and prescribed a very low dose. I’ve been taking it for about six months now and life is SOOOOOOOOO much better. I frequently check in with David to see how he thinks I’m doing (I know I can’t be entirely objective about my own mental well-being) and his response is always positive. I have to work hard at some things, and I still struggle with some symptoms, just on a much smaller scale than before. I have an appointment with a new doctor next week. Obviously this will be part of our discussion. I may need a higher dose of Paxil, or maybe a different medication would be more effective. We’ll see.
Meanwhile I wanted you guys to know a couple things.
1) I’m okay. I mean let’s face it, I’m a little bit crazy, but I’m getting the help I need so that I can do more than just function. I’m living a happy life. Things really are much better.
2) If you think you might have mental health problems, you are not alone. Obviously I’m not a mental health professional, but I know my experience is not unique. I’ve listed my symptoms below. If you recognize yourself in some of them, maybe you should talk to someone about it. In fact, definitely talk to someone about it, even if it’s just me! Nobody should have to live alone with crazy brain when there are alternatives, and I’d be more than happy to support you while you sort things out.
- I got unreasonably angry or frustrated. I snapped at David, yelled at the girls, and screamed into pillows until my voice was hoarse. I threw things across the room a couple times (not at anyone, and nothing breakable, but still) and beat the heck out of my mattress when I just couldn’t hold it in anymore. Nobody was ever hurt, but I’ve definitely made the girls cry more than once. It doesn’t surprise me; I scared myself sometimes.
- I found myself paralyzed by simple decisions. One evening David asked what I wanted to do for dinner and I couldn’t even process the question. So he suggested that he go pick something up and asked what I wanted. I almost burst into tears because I couldn’t think of anything. There were too many options! It was so ridiculous–Mila even asked me, “Mama, why you so tragic?”–but I really could not handle making a decision. I chalked it up to having dealt with some major ones recently and being burned out, but a friend described a similar experience and I realized it was the anxiety causing those feelings of paralysis and indecision.
- I was easily overwhelmed by too much noise or touch. The girls want to climb on me all the time. Sometimes it’s fun, but sometimes I feel completely claustrophobic and want to push them off and run away. Sounds have a similar effect on me. When there is music playing and both girls jabbering at me and David is trying to tell me something, I get a little crazy-eyed. It’s just too much to process. Usually a quiet solo trip to the bathroom helps me calm down. Usually.
- I saw bugs out of the corner of my eye. For a while I kept seeing what looked like little black things skittering across the floor just out of my line of sight. I didn’t realize how frequently it happened until I started taking Paxil and it stopped. I think I was hallucinating–probably some paranoia related to the anxiety–and that scares me more than a lot of the other symptoms.
- I had no appetite. I knew that I needed to eat but I was not interested in it in the slightest. I didn’t even feel hungry most of the time. And since food is my love language, it depressed me that cooking and eating didn’t do anything for me anymore. In a related vein–and this is probably way too much information–I had no interest in sex either. At all. Like with food, I knew it would probably help me feel happier if those physical needs were met, but since I didn’t even notice the need I didn’t feel a drive to fulfill it. That was a hard one on our marriage for a while. David tried to be understanding, and I tried to make it work, but like the food thing it was mostly just depressing for both of us.
- I struggled to finish my thoughts when speaking. My brain felt like it was running through jello. I couldn’t find the right words or string together coherent thoughts. Mostly I’d furrow my eyebrows and feel incredibly annoyed with myself for being so dumb.
- I just wanted to be alone and sleep. Really, I wanted David to take the kids somewhere else and let me nap for a whole day. Or two. Or really forever. Some of it had to do with being a stay-at-home-mom of two busy little girls; you just never get enough alone time or rest. But it was more than that. I had little energy, little interest in anything, and my bed was just so comfy.
Again, I am doing SO MUCH BETTER. I’m working with my doctor, and I have a great support system, and I haven’t actually run away to be a hermit on the beach like I’ve fantasized about so many times.
Thanks for being my friends, y’all. Thanks for putting up with my crazy and for checking in here as often as you do and for generally being awesome. Because you are. Each and every one of you. And I promise that’s not just the Paxil talking.