About six weeks after Maria was born I started to notice something peculiar.
I was feeling…absolutely amazing?
It first hit me one day when I was fumbling around in the kitchen and I realized I was singing. And not just singing but singing some goofy parody that I was making up as I went along. I hadn’t done that in years.
I could CONCENTRATE.
My brain had been jump-started. I was EXPLODING with writing ideas and general creativity. It was as if I had been hovering somewhere outside myself and was suddenly snapped back into my body like a rubber band.
And then it hit me. I knew what had changed.
There it was, confirmed by Google. Exactly six weeks to the day since I started my anti-depressant. It was working.
This is a subject I do not talk about with most people. I have been dealing with it since I was an adolescent and I only recently began to understand the scope of it. But, yes, I suffer from anxiety and depression.
For most of my life depression and anxiety were like little glowing embers in a backyard fire pit. Sometimes they just smoked and sputtered and, sure, the scent of smoke always lingered but it was relatively easy to blow it off because the fire was under control. But then other times they would work themselves into a respectable, roaring blaze. Crackling and popping and something I definitely needed to keep an eye on. Grief and infertility, however, ignited them like a lit match falling slow-motion into a pool of gasoline. There probably should have been some disembodied, slowed down voice in the background of my life shouting “NOOOOOOOOOO” because the whole backyard was blowing the hell up.
So why didn’t I talk about it? Well, why doesn’t anyone talk about it? There’s some shame. Some fear. But there are two main reasons that I didn’t talk about what was happening to me.
First of all, denial. Just your run-of-the-mill denial. While I always acknowledged my struggle with anxiety I was in complete denial about depression. When we were at our lowest with infertility I finally did admit to myself that I was depressed. But then we got pregnant and the despair receded so I thought I’d be fine. I’ve always been functional. So freaking functional.There were people out there who couldn’t get out of bed and that wasn’t me. It wasn’t as bad as it could have been so it must be nothing. I thought no one ever needed to know.
Secondly…and I don’t mean to sound like a jerk here but…who isn’t depressed these days? Who doesn’t have anxiety? Honestly, I think I know more people who DO have depression and anxiety than people who don’t. So why would anyone care? Suck it up, Caiti. No one has time for your crap. Everyone is too busy trying to survive their own crap.
The thing is, I would have been so loving and compassionate with anyone else who felt the way I did. Just not me. I suspect I’m not alone in that. We all need to be kinder to ourselves.
Looking back with a clear head I see that depression has been in and out of my life since I was probably 13 or 14 years old. I am not shamed of that anymore. It’s not my fault.
Grief and infertility allowed depression to get a hold of me again. Yes, we got pregnant and the gripping, wrenching pain and sadness got better. But depression doesn’t only make you sad.
I was still afraid ALL THE TIME. I still expected the worst.
I was still unable to concentrate on anything.
I couldn’t write anymore.
I had no patience.
I had little interest in things that used to make me so happy.
Those are all symptoms of depression. And my brain was stuck there.
It kills me that I could have had myself back so much sooner if I had only been more honest with myself and my doctors. But I can’t go back and change that. All I can do is be grateful that I have found a medication that is working. I am very blessed that Bill works where he works. I had access to pharmacogenomic testing and we used that information to find a medication that works for my body.
I’m sharing this because I think many people who have gone through infertility end up dealing with depression and anxiety. Even after you get your miracle baby or your infertility journey concludes one way or another there may be some established neural pathways that need to be addressed appropriately. It’s not your fault. It’s brain chemistry. And you might have already been predisposed to it anyway. Like me. Please don’t white-knuckle it. Maybe you don’t need medication. But maybe you do. Talk to a friend. Talk to your doctors.
Because you can feel better. You can be you again. I recognize that depression and anxiety is always going to be part of my life. But it doesn’t have to stop me from living.
I used to believe that the me I used to be was not there anymore. Just gone. Isn’t that heart-breaking? I was still there. And I feel so blessed to have myself back. That girl is pretty funny. And smart. And awesome. I like her. And my family deserves her.