Grace in a Little White Pill

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

I’m sharing some of my experience with postpartum anxiety and depression as part of a Blog Hop sponsored by my friend Katherine at Half-Kindled.  I’ve written a little bit about it before (here and here).  It’s a topic that is still hard for many people to talk about, and I’m convinced the more we remove the shame and the taboo of talking about postpartum (and other forms of) depression and anxiety, the more we can help each other.

After I had my first baby, I didn’t experience the typical symptoms you see in literature about postpartum depression.  I wasn’t sad so much as angry and irritable and frustrated all the time.  I was angry at everyone, and then I felt a lot of self-loathing for being such a (seemingly) terrible person.  Thank God, I never came close to harming my child, but my marriage suffered, as did various items around that house that I kicked during angry outbursts.

It took me eight months to talk to my doctor about it.  He actually recognized warning signs of postpartum depression right after I gave birth: I was sobbing–apparently that’s not normal!  “No, no,” I insisted, “I’m just tired.”

And so it went for months of denial.  Two things in particular kept me from seeking treatment:

1. My symptoms weren’t typical of postpartum depression.  In fact, they were symptoms I had dealt with all my life, on and off, to some degree: anger, frustration, and irritability interspersed with self-loathing.  Before having children, I was always able to push through somehow. The hormonal havoc and sleep deprivation that came having a baby just made the symptoms worse.  I wasn’t able to push through and function normally anymore.

2. The second and biggest roadblock to wellness for me was that I felt I didn’t deserve help.  I was never psychotic.  I never lost my reason.  I always had some degree of control of my actions.  Therefore, I thought, I just needed to try harder. Taking medication was the easy route that I didn’t deserve because I hadn’t tried hard enough on my own.

I attribute this to the Act of Contrition I learned growing up.  There really is such a thing as too much Catholic guilt! The line goes, “I firmly resolve, with the help of Thy grace, to sin no more . . . .”  My understanding was, as long as there was some possibility that I could improve in the future, my failing was my fault, and I needed to just try harder.  “With the help of Thy grace,” is in there too of course, but I didn’t think much about how God’s grace could help me.  It just served as a reminder that I needed to pray harder.

The game changer was that now I had a family who suffered every time that (surprise!) my white-knuckling failed.  Thank God it became clear to me that I had to take the “easy route,” even if I didn’t deserve it, because they deserved it.

One form of the “help of God’s grace,” for me, is a little white pill.

Eight months after having my first baby, I started taking an anti-depressant, and it helped almost immediately.  At first I worried it would alter my personality, but now I truly feel that the medication helps me be my true self, the person God made me to be but that I couldn’t be under the weight of anxiety.

Throughout the years, I’ve tried going off antidepressants, but it’s never worked.  Unfortunately, whatever condition I have is not solely a postpartum one.  It just took the strain of having a baby to reveal a problem that hovered below the surface.

I don’t like the idea of taking a pill every day.  It has made me gain weight.  It’s made me sluggish.  I’m not the type-A super achiever I used to be.  I’m sure there’s some underlying hormonal imbalance or other health problem that is affecting my mental state, and I’d like eventually to figure that out.  But for now, medication is the only way I can be the loving, patient, happy wife and mother I need to be.

And that’s been the grace of the little white pill for me: it has forced me to focus on what God really wants me to do and the humility to realize that I can’t do it on my own power.

He isn’t calling me to be a super achiever.  He isn’t asking me to keep a squeaky clean house or volunteer on a dozen committees or work full time or even cook delicious meals.  All he asks me to do is love–love my husband, love my children.

To paraphrase a popular slogan, “I have one job.”

Before taking an antidepressant, I had enough nervous energy to do more things, but I was angry, bitter, and irritable most of the time with my husband and children.

Now, I don’t have as much energy and drive, but I have the underlying peace and calm I need to love my family better. It’s humbling to accept that I need medicine to fulfill the most basic requirements of my life.  That humility, too, is a grace.

Antidepressants are not right for everyone, but if you’re really suffering I’d beg you to consider it.

For all of us though, there’s truth in the saying, “Let go and let God.”  I  want to challenge everyone reading this to be open-minded about the ways you can “let God.”

God probably will not supernaturally transfuse you with peace and patience.

He might offer it to you in a pill.  (I think of Lexapro as my “patience in a pill!”)

He might offer you grace in the form of therapy with a psychologist of other professional counselor.

He might offer you grace through your helpful husband, if you would only overlook the way he loads the dishwasher incorrectly and doesn’t separate darks and whites.

He might offer you grace in the form of a friend’s offer to watch your kids, an offer you normally brush aside.

He might offer you grace when you let go of self-imposed standards for how you keep house or how many hours you work or how busy you keep your schedule.

Our calling is not to try hard and do hard things; our calling is to love.  And often we can’t love the way we ought until we stop trying so hard to do it ourselves.

Hope for the Future 2

For more on this topic, hop over to

Katherine at Half Kindled,

Bonnie at A Knotted Life

Jenna at Call Her Happy

Jenny at Mama Needs Coffee, and

Rosie at Check Out That Sunset.

Grace in a Little White Pill ~ thisfelicitouslife.wordpress.com

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What Worked in 2014

Better late than never, I’ve been thinking about what worked and what didn’t work for me in 2014.

What worked

Lexapro: I don’t know why I need to take an anti-depressant.  I’m not depressed.  It’s anxiety, I guess although for me it manifests as irritability.

Anyway, 2014 was the most peaceful year I can remember, and I’m thinking it was a chemically-induced peace.  During the homily on New Year’s day, the priest talked about how all peace comes from God.  Sometimes God even works through big, bad pharma.

Floradix: I’m mildly anemic and notice a big drop in energy when I don’t take this liquid iron supplement regularly.

What didn’t work:

Cow brain supplements (i.e., bovine pituitary gland pills): “prescribed” for me by my witch doctor by way of pressing down on my arm, these made me feel crazily irritable.  It didn’t help that I tried to wean off Lexapro at the same time (another thing that didn’t work), but even once I got back on Lexapro, these continued to make me feel irritable.  Maybe I didn’t give them a fair chance, but I’m not going back.

bitch mode

What worked:

Magnificat magazine.  I resisted subscribing to this for years because of the expense and because I already own a breviary.  Silly Laura.

Audiobooks: for the girls, mostly rented for free through a library consortium.  We are loving the Ramona series.  And Frog and Toad, read by the author, is a delight.

Chiropractic/massage: My back is the best it’s been in a long time.  It starts getting out of whack again when I don’t exercise for a while though, which brings up–

BodyFlow: I love this exercise class.  I only make it once a week and that’s only if we aren’t sick.  But it’s the perfect combination of stretching, relaxation, and strengthening.

Fabulous Forever: It’s a stretching DVD for old people, and I love it.  It feels great.

What didn’t work:

Pilates at Gold’s Gym: Hurt my back no matter how carefully I modified.

T-Tapp: A little more on that here

What worked:

Paper plates: I meant to add this to my goals post–I hereby resolve to eat more often off of paper plates!  Better to eat healthy food off of paper plates than convenience food off of fine china!

What didn’t work:

Red food dye: Girl 1 had three rough weeks at school in November, after doing really well for the first two months.  The only thing I could think of that had changed in her routine was that I had given her over the counter cough medicines regularly, and those medicines all have red dye in them.  We cut out the dye and, upon her return to school after Thanksgiving break, her behavior greatly improved.  We’re avoiding artificial food dyes now.

Every diet I “tried”:

The Christian ideal diet has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult; and left untried [for more than two weeks].”

G.K. Chesterton, ed. by me

  • The No-S Diet: Ha!  Yeah, no.
  •  Calorie counting using My Fitness Pal–There was a time when I could lose weight just by keeping my daily calories under 2,000.  Not anymore.

  • Weight Watchers–I started off on their “Simply Filling” program and found myself pigging out on low-fat microwave popcorn, sugar-free jello, Weight Watchers brand shakes, and fat-free everything.  A low point was when I tried fat-free ricotta cheese.  It’s an abomination.  The alternative to the Healthy Start is the traditional point-counting method, but I didn’t feel like paying for what is basically counting calories plus weekly meetings I didn’t enjoy.
  • Thin Within–a prayer/ positive thinking method of eating only when you are hungry.  It makes sense, it really does.  And it’s still my goal.  But food has too much of a hold on me for this method to work on its own.  A dilemma I run into is trying to eating slowly and mindfully when sharing a meal with the two resident barbarians of the house.  Eating with them is stressful in itself, but it doesn’t work to eat separately from them for each meal.  So.

We’re back to Perfect Health Diet, which I went on initially because food has such a hold on me.  It’s not a panacea but it worked better than anything else I’ve tried.  Also, Pat wants to go back on it.  So here we go again.

And the barbarians are waking so I need to end this abruptly.

What worked and didn’t work for you in 2014?

I didn’t choose the slug life; the slug life chose me.

A Hormone Story, Part 1: Cortisol Highs and Lows

This has been me lately.

slug

This is an improvement on my past self, which generally was this:

PMS gif

and sometimes this:

Steel Magnolias funeral scene

I chalked it up to postpartum depression, but by 18 months “postpartum,” that didn’t make much sense anymore.

Then I realized that a lot of my symptoms were worse around the last half of my cycle, so calling it PMS made some sense.   But didn’t explain it all.

I went to the doctor’s recently for a med check and the nurse was like, “So, are you taking this for anxiety or depression.”  And I’m like, umm, neither . . . both? . . .  Just . . .

I hate everyone gif

A light began to dawn when I read The Hormone Cure by Sara Gottfried.  What I experienced lined up almost exactly with the symptoms she listed for high cortisol.  It “fit” like nothing else.  So, I followed her “protocol” for high cortisol, which includes:

I started this at the beginning of March.  Amazing!  I’m more relaxed and patient and calm than I have ever been in my entire life.

I also feel like this:

slug

A slug doesn’t yell at her kids.  A slug isn’t prickly toward her husband.  A slug doesn’t get uptight and stressed out.

Also, a slug doesn’t clean her house.  A slug isn’t too concerned about personal hygiene.  A slug doesn’t cook.  A slug doesn’t exercise.   A slug doesn’t even type blog posts.  A slug mostly sits on the couch and reads.  And eats.  And gains weight.

I’ve always been Type A, so this is a whole new experience for me.  I’m enjoying it for now.  But I’d like to get my arse off the couch eventually.  Also I’d like not to get fat.

I’m wondering if I’ve been running on cortisol and caffeine for so long that my body doesn’t know what else to use for energy anymore?  It certainly isn’t burning all the calories I put into it.

I suspect low thyroid, but I’m also taking supplements that The Hormone Cure recommends for low thyroid, with no noticeable result.  And my TSH was normal last time I had blood work done just 6 months ago.  So what to do next?

Cue the witch doctor.

Witchdoctor gif

She’s actually not a witch doctor.  But Pat and I enjoy calling her that.

IMG_6080

IMG_6081

She’s a chiropractor/ alternative health practitioner person.  I went to her for a consult and now I’m getting more blood work and some hormone testing.

So we’ll see . . . .

In the mean time, if you need me, I’ll be on the couch.