Irritability, postpartum depression and moments of normalcy

I am irritable this morning.  I try to make at least one plan that gets me out of the house for each day–I had two for today set up–a walk and therapy–and they both got cancelled.  I am not sure what it means when even the therapist is cancelling (really, it means her child is home sick, and nothing more, but it feels a bit like a low).  I have a whole list of things I ‘should’ be doing, mostly work and house related, but it is hard for me to get anything done.  Meetings with other people I tend to stick to, since someone expects me, but anything that needs to be self-directed, which is most of my career when I am not teaching, pretty much falls by the wayside.

My moods change so much from day to day.  It’s a bit frightening to me.  I don’t know when I will feel the claw of anxiety tightening at my chest, unable to breathe or think clearly, or when I will just feel a more dull sense of pervasive sadness and emptiness.  I think that my hormonal fluctuations play a big role in the intensity and specifics of how I am feeling.  I would never be doing ‘well’-don’t get me wrong–but some days I feel a lot better than others.  So I finally decided to make an appointment at a women’s mood disorder clinic.  I scheduled the appointment in August–they had a cancellation for mid-Sept instead of to wait until December/January (add this to my list of reasons I hate doctors.  If people need help, and are brave enough to call, they should not have to wait months to get it).  I went last week.  To sum up, the doctor thinks that I have postpartum depression, exacerbated by grief and trauma.  She said that anxiety is often a main way that postpartum depression manifests itself.  I don’t necessarily disagree with her but the diagnosis upset me.  I don’t want postpartum anything if I don’t get Sidney.  It’s not fair.  I actually liked this doctor well-enough, for a doctor.  She said that my cluster of ‘symptoms’ was more important than any label or diagnosis.  But at the end of the appointment, as if to confirm she were right, she had me fill out this little PPD diagnosis questionnaire.  It has questions like: “In the past seven days, I have looked forward to enjoyment  with things….always, hardly at all, etc.  In the past seven days, I have felt sad…”  Yes, I do feel sad.  No, I don’t enjoy things the way I used to.  But isn’t that normal given our situations?  This is where I get confused.  I would like to do something about  my anxiety, and my inability to make myself focus on work.  Those seem like they might be symptoms of complicated grief, unnecessary and not beneficial.  But shouldn’t I still feel sad?  I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  I will go back for a follow-up appointment with this woman.  But everything feels so complicated.  And of course, one of the ways that my anxiety manifests itself is inability to make decisions.

This weekend was mostly low-key.  On Sunday am, I took Eli to a park to meet a few of his school friends.  And I had moment where I was talking to one of the other mothers, and  I almost felt ‘normal,’ where things felt almost pleasant.  And I even have had a brief second where I thought, “Okay.  My son is dead. No big deal.  I will get through this.”But then in other moments, it will hit me like a ton of bricks, my heart will catch in my chest, and I will think, “my son is dead.  Yes, big fucking deal. It is not about focusing on my breathing, being more mindful, or any other sort of trick.  Sidney is dead.”  I still have intense moments where I think, “How could this be real? How could this be my life?”  So maybe I do have postpartum depression.  But there is something about the almost normalcy of that diagnosis that also scares me.  That I am just one of the women more sensitive to hormonal fluctuations around pregnancy.  But the difference is that other women with PPD’s babies are alive, and Sidney is dead.  And that is a big difference.

How would you all answer those questions about: in the past seven days, how often have you felt sad, have you cried, have you looked forward to things etc?

In the mean time, I liked this picture and quote that someone else shared.  It reiterates the importance of community, support and connection.elephants


4 thoughts on “Irritability, postpartum depression and moments of normalcy

  1. I’m right there with you. Since losing my daughter in June I have moments where I think to myself: “Leah is dead and it’s horrible, but I am strong and I will get through this.” Then an hour later it will all hit me afresh and my mental tone shifts to: “Leah is dead; this is the most terrible thing that could have possibly happened in my life and there is no way I will ever get through this.” I normally struggle with anxiety and it has certainly been exacerbated after her death. You’re right that it is absolutely unfair that you or I should struggle with volatile postpartum hormones and emotions when we have no living baby to show for it. As far as I’m concerned, everything we’re experiencing is completely “normal” given the magnitude of tragedy we’re dealing with.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This whole idea of ‘normal’ is one I have been thinking a lot about. It seems like the grief counselor/therapists etc think I am doing ‘normally’ given the circumstances. But ‘normal’ still feels pretty unbearable at times. And then of course, the rest of the world is not set up to support this type of ‘normal’. I am going to try to arrange a meeting with our provost to see if it might be possible to make space for my ‘normal’ in an academic setting. We will see. Big hugs.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Big hugs. ❤

    I feel the same regarding everything postpartum. I would gladly experience all the PP things for Theo to be alive, but I have thought so many times "My son DIED, I shouldn't have to deal with X!". What you're feeling is pretty normal for grief. Having trouble concentrating, changes in mood, sadness, etc, it's all normal. You have every right to feel sad and any other emotion you are having.

    My anxiety is much worse since Theo died, and I have a hard time handling it sometimes. I've had a history of anxiety, but never like this.

    I love the quote.

    Liked by 1 person

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