Just four months ago, we were in the midst of settling in here in San Diego. It was among my top Most Stressful Times. Where do I even begin? Throughout everything that had to be done — finishing the house, getting our stuff packed up, making appointments and keeping them all the way up to Fly Out day, spending time with friends one last time, figuring out our hour by hour schedule for those few weeks — what sticks out at me the most is how I managed it. No, how God managed it for me.
Since being 5 weeks postpartum, I had been struggling with medications and symptoms of depression and anxiety. For the first few months, I was all right. No major breakdowns, things were level-ish, and I felt like I could easily be off the medications within the recommended time period. All that went down the drain when I went in for an appointment with my PCM to discuss what I thought was restless legs. They interpreted the problem as “your medication isn’t right — here, let’s fiddle with it” which set me down the dark path I can’t stand to think about.
Followups didn’t make anything better, they just continued experimenting. They finally referred me to see a psychiatrist, but it was too late. I had already spiraled out of control. It beat me down to the point where I lost all confidence in myself as a mom, and I felt like I was in a harrowing nightmare, like I was no longer in my own body. Who was I? What had happened to me? Is this how my life is going to be defined now?
Questions stung me over the next few months, but eventually the harshness of the wrong medication dulled enough for me to begin to heal. But that wasn’t the end. More appointments, this time with the psychiatrist and therapist, only gave me different and more medications. We experimented every month or so, because around that time-table the medications would backfire on me. Nothing worked.
Dealing with everything around me sort of got pushed to the back. Yes, we got orders to move to San Diego. Yes, Michael turned one. Friendships were being renewed and nourished, and other relationships crumbling. Life went on, but I was stuck with the endless pain that comes with depression and no hope from medications.
I prayed. Oh, I poured my heart out, begging God to at least let me see the good that would come from this painful trial. I read the Bible, I listened to sermons, I had deep conversations with friends about God’s love and goodness. I grew spiritually, but the chemical/emotional part of my brain was just stuck. Stuck in that rut of depression. What was God up to?
After Christmas, things began to get worse — again. A new medication was prescribed and we all had high hopes for it, since it was not in the “family” of the other medications I was on, or had been on. The first few weeks proved promising, I had more energy, I felt a little hope. But it backfired. Too much energy. Too much anxiety.
It started off slow, so slow that I didn’t see it right away. I thought it was something else. Adam and I went to a movie together — our first date in a few months — and we were excited. Part way through the movie, I had to leave because of a panic attack. No problem, just flush about $20 down the drain, my health was more important. I thought it was fine, it was just that one time. But then it happened the following night. Adam was gone, Michael was in bed, and I received some crushing news in regards to my friend. Another panic attack. “OK, that one makes sense”, I told myself. But then it happened two nights later. And the following night. And the rest of the week. Next thing I knew, I had anxiety attacks every single evening, starting around dinner time till when I could put my head down and sleep it off.
Eventually, I went to bed at 7:15, right after Michael went to bed. Every night, I’d check myself out and try to forget the anxiety that was taking hold of my heart. This went on for weeks as my doctors and I struggled to change it, to bring it back down. The weeks turned into months, and next thing I knew I was packing up the house while being on a schedule of going to bed early. We moved into military lodging for a week or so, and I was still shutting everything out. I couldn’t do it. I felt miserable. I wondered how on earth I was ever going to get beyond this.
We moved, and I found myself searching for a psychiatrist here in San Diego. It took a few weeks before I could continue therapy, and another few weeks before finally seeing the doctor. A new medication was prescribed, but I went home feeling very discouraged and lost.
But then it happened. Instead of going straight to sleep after Michael was in bed, I stayed up a little longer talking with Adam. The following night I was able to do it again. This slowly changed my evening habits, and then I found myself back downstairs, after 7pm. Then 7:30.
About 8 weeks ago, something else changed. I decided that I was ready to come off of my medications to see if that would make any positive difference. It was risky, and my doctor didn’t like it. She didn’t know me, and honestly, I wasn’t too thrilled about her either. But she listened and gave me the information to slowly come off. I took it slow, too. I was nervous about a relapse or getting sick from discontinuing, so I took it as slow as I thought my body could handle. 6 weeks ago on Sunday, I didn’t have any medications to take. I was nervous, but there were no negative reactions so far.
Day after day went by. A week passed. Two weeks. I could feel my body get back to normal — the normal I had before Michael was born. Something clicked inside my brain, chemically I believe, which was God’s way of saying, “You’re done, daughter, this trial has passed”. Oh, what a thrill that gave me! Was God truly done with this part of my life? Was He “graduating” me?
And sitting here tonight, all by myself in our living room while Adam does his homework upstairs (and it’s 9:45, people!), I realize with joy and thanksgiving that God has indeed seen me through. I never thought I would see this time of night again. I never thought that I’d be free of the daily pain of depression and anxiety.
Oh, it still comes up here and there. And some days are still harder than others. But the hour by hour ache is gone. The prison is open, and I am free from the relentless, illogical suffering.
Is this the end? No, I don’t believe so. I am very much aware that I could easily fall back into needing some kind of medication in the future. My brain just can’t make those chemical connections all the time. But I do believe that this trial, this postpartum depression, is over. And I feel so much victory in the Lord that I can be on my own again, and doing my own thing at this late hour.