Two weeks ago I was deep into a hole that felt like the darkest I’ve ever seen. I was functioning purely off of survival mode emotionally and just trying to make sure my kids were fed and had had a bath in the past four days. (Keep those standards high!)
Everything felt wrong. I felt resentful of my children and my husband. Every day it felt like a struggle to get out of bed, and even the slightest rock to my boat made me spiral out of control emotionally. About a week ago, I meekly texted my dad to ask if he could come be with me and the kids while Sean worked a weekend of nights. I spent the weekend on and off in tears and lying in bed. Sean was scared. I was scared. People tried to help me by offering advice but I was so far gone that I just wanted to cover my ears and scream. I didn’t want advice, I wanted someone to hold me and tell me it was going to be ok.
That day I lied in bed crying with Sean, I told him I felt like I had lost myself completely. I was trying so hard to find myself but it was like I was drowning in something thick, impossible to see through or get out of. I knew I was depressed but it felt like a different breed. It felt bigger than me and any efforts I made – I know this is true for many people who suffer from depression. Sean gently suggested I consider medication, if only to get over the hump of PPD.
The part that had confused me the most was that I remembered having PPD with RR, but it came on almost immediately after her birth and felt very circumstantially influenced. I felt very confused about my new role in my life and my marriage, about leaving my job, about the new dynamic between Sean and myself. RR was a difficult baby — she cried way, way more than RM (my son) does. Everything was brand new and overwhelming and the crying baby soundtrack didn’t help.
But this time, the first 8 weeks were smooth sailing. I mean, all things considered. I definitely had my moments but overall I felt okay, like I had dodged the PPD bullet. And it was so, so confusing to feel it hit me at two months.
Several people suggested I take out my IUD — which I had absolutely considered. But, I have used hormonal birth control for years at a time before and never had issues, so I was hesitant to get it out only to find it wasn’t the issue – at first the PPD felt manageable, so I wanted to keep the IUD in and give my body some time to adjust to it. I had briefly used the pill after RR, but decided it was too difficult to take it responsibly (with nursing, I had to take it literally on the hour every day in order for it to be effective, and, yeah. Haha! No.)
Anyway – I have never had issues with birth control and depression before, but also, I didn’t take into consideration that this was a different type of birth control, and that I was mixing it with the mess that is postpartum. So two Saturdays ago when I was lying in bed feeling like I just wanted to fall asleep and not wake up for a solid year, I told Sean, I am getting this thing out of me. I have to get as many variables off the table as soon as I can to figure this out because if this gets any worse I’m not sure what we will do.
I am not against medicating depression. Please hear me on that. But I also am aware of what hormones can do, and I wanted medication to be the route I pursued only after I’d exhausted all other efforts. By the time I called my OB’s office the next day, I was absolutely desperate to get the IUD out – anything that could lighten my mental load at that point was an action I needed to take immediately. They told me they could get me in in two weeks. I cried on the phone and said forget it. So I messaged my OB through the email system her practice has and said I was double checking with her that she really couldn’t get me in before then, and that if she or her partners truly couldn’t, I would go ahead and remove it myself. (Lol! That sounds insane but it really isn’t. I had spent the evening before surfing Mirena forums of women who had done it and texting a friend whose husband is an OB. They all were like, just pull it out like a tampon! No sweat!)
My OB, who is a hero, contacted me within a few hours and met me at her office (she wasn’t even in that day. Praise for this woman abounds.) I sat on the exam table weeping (AGAIN) and she put her hands on my knees and listened. I have this fear that people in the medical field don’t take women seriously. I mean, certainly there are many medical professionals out there that don’t, in regard to hormones and menstruation, etc. Anyway, I ran through the list with her. I talked about how this wave had only enveloped me about two weeks after the Mirena was inserted, and that despite being quite particular about everything in my life that could exacerbate PPD or depression in general (I had just completed a whole30, I was getting relatively decent sleep for having a 4 month old, I got out on walks, I was taking vitamin D, etc.) I felt like I was quite literally going under and I was terrified. She agreed that at the least, I had some PPD that was being exacerbated by hormones. At the most, it was all the IUD and either way we could absolutely take it out to see.
I was aware that I would probably have some placebo effect. And I did! Just seeing it physically out of me was enough to give me a sigh of relief – if that was the root factor here, it was OUT, and I could move forward. I walked with a skip in my step to the car.
But I have to tell you, it’s been a week and I am a NEW. DAMN. HUMAN BEING.
I remember my sister and my dad both trying to help me out on the phone in the weeks leading up to me getting it out. They gently presented the idea that perhaps my expectations for myself are just a smidge too high. Maybe I should set down work for awhile. Maybe I shouldn’t expect my house to be spick and span 24/7. Maybe I shouldn’t feel pressured to do whole30 or cook dinner for my family every night. Maybe I should turn on the TV for RR and go lie down.
And they are right, and I immediately began heeding their advice. (Last week the dinner menu was things like frozen vegetarian chick’n bites and frozen french fries.) But in my heart, I just knew. I knew it was more than that. I knew it was something beyond life management, and I was right.
I didn’t even realize how bad it was until it was out of me for a week. My baseline patience is back. My joy is back. My love for my husband and kids is back. I haven’t spent every waking moment barking at RR or wishing she would leave me alone or sitting and staring or waking up and wishing I could just go back to sleep. I haven’t spent inordinate amounts of my time wondering what the hell I am doing with my life or how I will make it another day, another week, another month. I haven’t cried out of frustration or anxiety or anger once in the past seven days. That is miraculous in and of itself.
I am me again. I found her.
Post Script: Of course, I am giving myself more time to figure out if that was the true root of my PPD issues. I’ve also connected with a counselor which, can I recommend enough that every human being see a therapist? It’s like taking your car in for a tuneup and it feels GREAT. DO IT. Life is not all butterflies because I got it out. I’ve still had moments of frustration. Life is still tough with two small kids. But it’s manageable again, and I’m having way more wonderful moments than hard ones.
I am so, so grateful that I was able to find what seems to be a relatively simple solution for myself, but I want to say one more time: this is neither a condemnation of medicating depression or of hormonal contraception. Not everyone finds that their PPD or depression comes from their birth control, and I feel honestly really lucky that it was as easy of a fix, it seems, as that. Those of you medicating your depression, I salute you for finding what works for you and I’m so happy you have found something that fits your life and your situation. I just felt, after the fact, that I was sorely under-informed when it came to what could potentially be the outcome of a hormonal IUD, and it really, really ruined me for the two months that I had it in. It scared the shit out of me. I know a few people who have IUD’s and who LOVE them. And I am thrilled for them that it’s working!
I wouldn’t advise against an IUD for anyone, because if it can jive with your body, it’s truly amazing. But I did want to share my experience so that anyone considering it can go into it with the knowledge to be mindful of its effects. And please, trust that YOU KNOW YOUR BODY BETTER THAN ANYONE ELSE. If you feel like something is affecting you, trust yourself. I wish I wouldn’t have waited even the two months that I did, because my body knew what was up and it was right.