Saturday, September 8, 2007

Mommy's Little Secret

No, I am not an alcoholic. I do not abuse my children, and my husband does not beat me. I was never raped or molested by a family member. Thank God my "secret" isn't a very dirty one, but it's something that I strongly feel should be discussed more often. Until recently, I took antidepressants for postpartum depression. There, I said (typed) it.

It started about four or five months after each of my boys was born, coinciding nicely with that time when you start losing all of that hair that doesn't fall out when you're pregnant. Although I consider myself the emotional kind, I didn't cry every day. I didn't have trouble getting out of bed, nor did I feel disconnected from my kids. I was still able to get myself out of bed, showered, dressed, and even get out of the house pretty frequently (you really don't have much choice about this when you have two kids... you need to get out so your older one doesn't get all pent up and drive you completely crazy, as all you moms of more than one child know). From the outside looking in, most people would never suspect that I was dealing with anything other than perfect adjustment to motherhood (or mothering two). We all know how appearances often deceive.

Instead of the just facing usual bumps in the road of life as Mommy, I would get so ragingly (and, in relation to the situation, disproportionately) angry at the drop of a hat. My then two and a half year old would do something completely age appropriate and I would start yelling at him as if he deliberately broke every piece of china I owned, then stuck a fork into an outlet. I would call the hubby to see what time he'd be home from work and if he said he was swamped and would be home late, I'd go postal on him. I hated how I was acting, I felt completely powerless to act otherwise in the moment, and afterwards I felt miserable for (a) having gone off the deep end yet again, and (b) not being able to control myself better. I knew I needed to do something.

As is my wont, I did a bunch of online research for post partum depression (PPD). Based on most descriptions, I was pretty sure I had at least a mild case. I called my OBGYN first because I wasn't sure who else it should be. A therapist who knows nothing about me? My GP who I haven't seen since before I got pregnant for the second time? And once I called her, I wasn't sure what my doc would say, especially since I "passed" the first PPD screening at my six week checkup. Honestly, I think anyone who is moderately functioning and doesn't pose an immediate threat to themselves or their child passes this screener, but I digress...

I told my doc that I felt like I was having the worst PMS of my life, that I was constantly angry and this all coincides to when I started losing my hair. I asked if it was a hormone imbalance (I'm still breastfeeding and my period still hasn't come back at almost nine months postpartum, so who knows what's going on in my body). She said that normally the practice will prescribe a low dose antidepressant that's safe for breastfeeding mothers, but since I was four months postpartum when I called, she referred me to a psychiatric practice.

To make a long story short, I was prescribed 50 mg of Sertraline, which is the generic form of Zoloft. I was to take 25mg per day for the first week, then increase the dosage to the full 50mg. At first I was terrified to start taking it. I had so many questions: Will I feel "normal"? Is it really okay to breastfeed while taking this (the pediatrician and my OBGYN gave me the go ahead; haven't seen any adverse effects with my little guy, thankfully)? What if the 50mg isn't enough? How long will I have to stay on this? What if I get pregnant while taking it? I seriously considered not taking the scrip because I had a good couple of weeks, but then something ridiculous set me off so I decided I needed to suck it up and take the meds.

The initial side effects were pretty awful (nausea, horrible stomachaches), but thankfully the 25mg was enough to take the edge off (whatever that "edge" is or was I may never know). I actually felt like myself! Yes, there were still many days when I would get angry, but no more so than before I was pregnant. I could talk to my hubby and not go haywire on him! I felt more in control as a wife and as a mother. It was really a huge help right when I needed it.

More later...

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