Just Talking Tuesday 11.23.10: Husbands, Wives & Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders, Oh My


"Argue" by jk+too @flickr

“I wish my husband understood that I’m not just trying to get out of Motherhood.”

“How can I admit to struggling when he seems so happy? I’d hate to rain on his parade.”

“He doesn’t believe in mental illness. Neither does his family. So I fake it.”

“I can’t take medication. He won’t let me.”

“My wife won’t admit she is struggling. What can I do?”

“Everything I do is wrong. I’m scared I’ll lose my wife and my child.”

“She’s awesome with the baby. Me? I suck. I’m failing at fatherhood.”

“I’m the Dad. I have to be the rock. I can’t be depressed.”

“I drink/do drugs to hide/numb just how bad I’m feeling from her.”

Every single one of these statements are real things parents who have reached out to me have expressed. These statements are extremely telling. What do they tell, you ask? They tell just how much communication has broken down within the relationship. The breakdown may have occurred before baby. Or it may be a new thing. Until now, everything within their relationship may have been picture perfect. They were the perfect couple. Never had to work hard at their relationship. They may have been “THAT” couple. But now that everything is dashed to hell, smashed to pieces by an innocent new life, their relationship struggles to stay afloat. Everything they thought they knew about each other is also up in the air. They wait with bated breath for it all to crash back down, hopefully back into the right place.

We did just that six years ago.

Things are still falling back into place.

We met at work. Yes, we were like Pam & Jim. We met the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2000 after our Supervisors relocated us to adjoining cubicles. Our first date? A flirtatious invite to a non-existent steak dinner as I bragged to him about my evening. I dashed like a mad woman to the grocery store to turn this imaginary meal into a reality. We’ve been inseparable ever since. In 2002, we got married.

In 2003, we got pregnant.

In 2004, we officially became parents and I went off the deep end.

Suddenly he couldn’t do anything right. I knew everything, he knew nothing. I snapped at him because, well, I could. He got frustrated. We stopped talking. If he did talk or get upset about something, it was automatically my fault. My self-esteem took a nose-dive. I did not think I was verbally abusive, irritable, angry, or crazy. Turns out I was. This continued well into my second pregnancy.

Then our second daughter was born. She spent time in the NICU. I was hospitalized 56 days postpartum after a near-psychotic break. Think we weren’t communicating before? Now we really weren’t on the same page. He had been medicating with marijuana along with the same anti-depressant I ended up on after my hospitalization. We yelled. We screamed, we fought, I cried, I begged him to tell me he wasn’t okay about all of this – that he was hurting too. He lied and said he was fine because that’s what he thought he was supposed to do – he was the man. The rock. He was supposed to be okay.

Turns out he wasn’t okay after all.

After the birth of our third child, I was involved in a car accident at just 3 months postpartum. I went to jail. Why? Because my husband had been spending money on marijuana instead of on important things like vehicle registration and car insurance. Again, failure to communicate.

He’ll be 3 years into recovery this coming March. So will I. Wait – did you say  – I did. I’m no longer a co-dependent. I’m no longer enabling his habit. Believe me, you didn’t want to be in this house the day after my accident. It was not pretty.

Our fallout from PMAD’s and Paternal Postnatal Depression took nearly four years to explode. It’s taken close to seven years to claw our way back to where we are now – a place very closely resembling normal and healthy. Even here though we have our issues. I suspect we always will. To assume perfection is to ignore the flaws in front of you. Flaws are not always a bad thing. Sometimes they are just what we need to learn and move forward.

We have mistakes in our past. We have learned from them. Moved on. Trusting in God and His enduring support as we grow to trust in Him for everything. Our journey has been full of hell. But it’s also been obviously filled with grace and tenacity. On our part and on God’s part.

There are times within the past almost seven years at which I could have walked away and no one would have faulted me. I chose to stay and fight. Certainly not the easiest path but definitely the right path – especially as I sit here in the glow of a Christmas tree, a fireplace, and my husband beside me.

For us, our brush with Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorders ripped the band-aids off situations we may not have otherwise faced head-on. We were thrust headlong into trauma, grief, mental illness, and forced to decide how to move forward. I am thankful we clung to each other and made the decision to move forward together. I know many other couples who are not as fortunate for whatever reason. Each situation, each person, each Perinatal Mood & Anxiety Disorder is different. Therefore, the results will be assuredly different as well.

What challenges have you faced as part of your PMAD? Has your husband axed certain avenues of treatment? Has that affected your recovery? Your marriage? Did your PMAD ultimately lead to divorce? Or is your marriage stronger as a result of coming through the fiery storm that is a PMAD?

Let’s get to just talking about Husbands, Wives, and Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Oh My.

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Just Talkin’ Tuesday: The High Toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders


Original photo "DSC07197" by poodlerat @flickr.com

#PPDChat tonight got me thinking about the toll of Postpartum Mood & Anxiety Disorders.

A mom with a PMAD is Ground Zero. Her immediate family is in the blast zone, at highest risk for developing their own mood disorders, depression, or other accompanying issues. Extended family is just outsize the blast zone and quite often bowled down as they absorb the shock which reverberates as she flails for survival.

As Mom recovers, Dad may sink into his own dark pit, unaware of what is happening, unwilling to admit his own demons in the dark. Why? Because Dad is the rock, the hinge on which the moon is hung. His family needs him. Depression is a sign of weakness. It does not happen to real men.

Oh, but it does.

Just as Mom has cleared her last hurdle, Dad sinks even further away. He is angry. Frustrated. Hopeless. Lost.

Mom questions her own recovery as Dad lashes out. He is incapable of giving her space in which to grow. Incapable of recognizing her growth, her recovery.

Anger quickly eclipses any rejoicing.

Stress and angst fill the air of the home, adversely affecting their children, their lives, their relationships with friends, families, resulting in isolation.

Their marriage spirals downward. Their children act out.

Their lives fall apart.

Granted, the above does not happen to every PMAD family. But a PMAD affects so much more than just Mom. It truly affects the whole family. My PMAD’s damn near destroyed my own marriage. My husband self-medicated after our second daughter. That did not fall out until after the birth of our third child. What a spectacular fall out it was though. I nearly walked away. Instead, just as with my PMAD, I chose to turn and fight. Fortunately, so did my husband. We were supported by members of our church, our Pastor, and family members as we fought savagely to save our marriage. I wanted to give up several times. So did my husband. We have shared this with each other and in doing so, moved to a new level of communication and trust. It has been a long, bumpy road.

One worth traveling.

While I would not want to do it again, I would not change a thing about my past six years of hell. For they have hewn me into a strong woman, a strong Christian, a strong wife, and a strong Mother. I can finally say I am blessed. God saw me through my storm. I know there are more storms brewing out there. I’m okay with that. Bring it. I am ready to tell those storms just how big my God is these days.

However; if there was one thing I would like to toss out the window it would be the exposure to anger, arguing, and stress for the kids.

I did not choose to have a PMAD. But they certainly don’t deserve to suffer from the ripples set in motion from my experience. I think this is one of the biggest things I struggle with as a remnant of my PMADs. The anger, guilt, rage over their exposure at such young ages to such a harsh environment. Sure, it could have been worse. But they certainly didn’t do anything to deserve it. Neither did I, but they truly are the innocents in all of this. And for that, I am remorseful. Resentful even that my PMAD’s stole their infancy and my enjoyment of their infancies from me. If I could toss one thing in a toll booth bucket and be forever done with it, it would be my remorse and resent over what my PMAD’s did to my kids. I wonder every time they misbehave if it is because I was depressed. Do my daughters have ADHD because I was depressed? What about my son? Are my daughters resentful that he and I have a stronger bond because I didn’t have a PMAD with him? Will they be able to rightfully accuse me of having a favorite? How will I explain myself down the road?

It’s enough to make you blink back tears and choke back anger all at the same time. Nauseating, really.

SO. As I take a deep breath and choke back some of that anger and blink back tears, what remnant or part of your PMAD do you wish you could just toss away and be done with forever? Get it off your chest.

Let’s get to Just Talkin’ this Tuesday.

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Just Talking Tuesday: Through the eyes of another


It’s dark. You are both collapsed into heaps, this time, you managed to make it to bed. You sigh, close your yes and mutter goodnight into your pillow.

It’s 234 a.m., your wife notes.

“Waaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”

You lift your head and glare at the clock.

It’s 315 a.m.

You shove your face back into your pillow and silently scream.

Really? 46 minutes?

Sighing, you get out of bed to get the baby. Check the diaper. A little wet so you change it. Rock, sing, soothe. Nothing works.

Time to get mommy. She’s got the food.

You walk into the bedroom to wake her up. She sighs, shifts, and snuggles closer to the bed. When you do manage to wake her up, she snaps at you.

“But I JUST nursed! Did you check the diaper? Try to put him back down? I’m tired. I don’t want to…. ”

“Yes. Gimme a little credit. I’m not an idiot. I’ve tried everything. Clearly he’s hungry. You’re nursing so…”

“Dammit. I’ll be there in a minute.” She snuggles back into the bed.

You sigh, loudly, frustrated, knowing it will be a good 30 minutes before she even attempts to get out of bed. She will fall back asleep and you will have this conversation all over again before she finally gets out of bed, cursing you under her breath for interrupting her sleep.

She won’t mean it. She’s exhausted, just like you. And yes, you have work in the morning and should be sleeping but she won’t get to sleep much during the day either. Oh, she may rest, but it won’t be restorative. She’ll nod off while nursing, try to snooze when the baby does, but if the baby is up, she is up. And then there are chores. Dishes. Laundry. Cleaning. Cooking. Possibly other children to care for. Errands. Her job? Never.friggin.ends.

Your job never ends either. It’s hard for her to see that though. What SHE sees is you, walking out the front door toward other adults. Toward freedom. Toward conversation that involves more than a few garbled syllabic words at a time. What SHE sees is you, showered, shaved, dressed in something other than the same pajamas she’s now lived in for two weeks. What SHE feels is jealousy, hatred, sadness, grief. For the most part she knows it’s not rational. Somewhere, deep down, she tries hard not to feel this way. But she’s been moody for weeks now. Snapping at you for the simplest comment or action.

You bring home dinner. It’s not what she wanted but she loudly sighs and announces “It’ll have to do.” You pick up the baby and she watches your every move with him like a hawk, waiting for you to falter. You begin to falter yourself. Are you built for fatherhood? Are you doing things wrong? What if you’re screwing up your kid for life at just 3 months old? What if she never lets you really be a father? How will you ever learn what to do? Will your marriage survive? Where the hell are you?

What she doesn’t know is that as you walk out the front door every morning, your heart hurts. YOU are filled with jealousy because she gets to enjoy every moment with your son. She gets to watch him grow, change, and do new things every day. You mourn your fatherhood as you shower, dress for work. You fumble under her judgmental stares, worrying that your fathering skills are not up to par with her expectations. You’ve asked  a million times but you can’t for the life of you get her to tell you what her expectations are for you as a father. What are the rules to this ball game? If you only knew, life would be so much easier. After all, you’re not a mind reader.

___________________________

Today’s Just Talking Tuesday is cross-posted with The Postpartum Dads Project. If you’re a mom, please go visit the Postpartum Dads Project and share what you wish your husband had known about Postpartum Mood Disorders and parenting. What would have best helped you when you were suffering? If you’re a dad, share here. What got you and your wife through those dark days? How did you keep communication open if you managed to do so?

(Note: The Postpartum Dads Project site is down for the moment. Let’s all just share here for now and I will cross post when the site is back up! Thanks for understanding.)

Social support is key for recovery from a Postpartum Mood Disorder. The best social support starts at home with your partner. Get them involved and you’ve zoomed forward a zillion spaces on your recovery path.

Let’s get to just talking.

To all Dads supporting a Postpartum Mama: Thank You.


To Dads who have supported a Postpartum Mama, this post is for you:

Remember

The day you came home from a really hard day at work and I shoved our screaming baby into your arms then ran away to hide in the bedroom?

or

The day I yelled and screamed at you for not putting a diaper on fast enough or something equally inane and insignificant?

or

THE day I curled up into a ball and cried and cried and cried then screamed and cried and beat up my pillow then wailed some more?

or

The day after when I could not even get out of bed and you brought me food and took care of the baby so I could rest?

or

The day you called the doctor’s office for me?

or

The day you walked with me through those doors to my doctor’s appointment?

or

The day you helped me through not wanting to take my medication because I shouldn’t have to take a pill just to be me?

or

The day you just sat and listened to me as I talked about my frustrations, fears, and hopes?

or

The day you held me as I cried because the bad days started outnumbering the good again?

or

The day we both saw the fog lift once again?

THANK YOU for being there for me through all of it. Even if I haven’t spoken those words yet, I will. One day. They’re in my heart right now. Stuck. Aching to come out. When I’m finally well enough, they will tumble all over themselves as they struggle to escape. And I will mean them with more depth than you will ever every know. The day the fog lifts will fill with radiant sunshine. Laughter will fill the air and we will both see the blessed life we have been given. We’ll never take anything for granted again.

THANK YOU for being my Rock as I fell. Thank you for being my solace as I healed. For that, You ROCK.

Speaking up for depressed Dads


So unless you’ve been hiking the Himalayas this past week, you’re aware that a study about dads with prenatal and postnatal depression and it’s correlation to maternal depression was released. Published today, actually in JAMA.

Twitter’s been aflitter with this study. Tons of media outlets are jumping on the story. Almost every Google Alert I’ve received this week has had a ton of links for variation after variation on this new study involving dads and depression.

And then…

And then.

I got an email this morning. It included several tweets doubting the possibility of men having depression. I wanted to cry.

People on Twitter were saying awful, awful, awful things. Did I mention the awful things? AWFUL.

Here are a few of the ones I’m comfortable with posting. Even though they make me cringe. And want to grab every single Tweeter and have a little Homer Simpson/Bart Simpson moment with them.

“Post Partum Depression for dad’s? Really? Already a name for that. Called “Llife got tougher. Deal.” Judges also would accept, “Parenthood.”

“CNN: “Dads get post-partum depression too.” Oh, come on. It’s called sleep- and sex-deprivation.”

“I’m sorry. I just cant see a man suffering from postpartum depression. No one is cutting his man hole & sewing it up to bring out a baby”

“A man suffering from postpartum depression is a girly man.”

“Lol @ “postpartum depression can strike new dads”. Yeah, no. Until they have to have an episiotomy…no”

Wow.

Mmmmmmk.

Let’s see here.

You want to know WHY it’s so important that we know this about men and depression after they become expectant or new fathers? Because men, when depressed are:

Less likely to seek help

More likely to complete suicide

More likely to take their depression/rage out on their families

Depressed men will exhibit the same symptoms as women to a certain extent but there are some differences. Men may begin to abuse alcohol or other substances, dive into work, put up a wall with friends and make up excuses to avoid his family.

I’ve lived with a depressed dad. I’ve suffered the consequences of a depressed dad’s attempts at self-medicating his moods away. It is not pretty people, it is not pretty. It hurts. It opens long-healed wounds if left untreated. Turns things upside down and inside out. Depression destroys lives. It rips out hearts, infects every aspect of your life. It’s not much different than cancer in that sense… left to it’s own it runs rampant and has the potential to kill you. Depression is DEADLY. The only difference between cancer and Depression is that Depression can kill others even if they’re not infected. Doesn’t that make Depression more deadly and dangerous? I certainly think so.

Owning up to a depression bigger than you, a monster that’s been hard at work destroying your life takes a helluva lot of courage. It takes guts to step out from behind the facade of normalcy to admit things are not okay. It takes a helluva lot of guts to completely break down and cry in front of other people. It takes courage to then get up the next morning and the next and the next with the goal of rebuilding yourself. It takes a REAL MAN to own up to depression and seek help.

I applaud the Dads who are owning up to being depressed during their partner’s pregnancies and as they navigate life as a new father. Thank you, Joel Schwartzburg. Thank you Dr. Will Courtenay for providing a safe place for Dads to come to and find help.

Thank you.

Men often hide their depression during the pregnancy of their partner or after the child’s birth because they feel they’re expected to be strong. Even though I begged my husband to tell me he was struggling too after the birth of our second daughter, he repeatedly told me he was fine. All I wanted to hear was that I wasn’t alone. Instead he kept it inside as he began to abuse marijuana on top of the anti-depressants he had been prescribed. In fact, I just discovered last night that he didn’t even want to hold her while she was in the NICU. Our daughter is now four years old.

Depression can happen to anyone, at anytime, with no warning of onset.

If any of the above people were to ever experience a mental illness, I would hope they would not encounter comments like the ones they just made. Instead, I would hope they would find compassion, knowledgeable resources, and be able to surround themselves with people able to empower them as they journey toward recovery.

No one deserves to be kicked when they’re down. No one deserves to be doubted when they dare to speak up. No one deserves such harsh words.

Would you tell a male cancer patient they’re a girly man for getting breast cancer? Cuz men have breasts too and yes, they get breast cancer.

Would you tell a man to tough out a heart attack? To man up and fight the pain? Skip the nitro and the aspirin – you’ll be fine. It’s just tough right now.

Would you tell a man who just broke his leg that he’s not justified in complaining just because his break isn’t the worst break on the planet?

Nobody would dare say those things to such patients.

Then pray tell, why, why do you feel comfortable saying them about mental health patients? Please tell me because I truly do not understand.

And to the ladies who commented about surgery and birth – there are plenty of women who have given birth naturally or vaginally without episiotomies and gone on to experience postpartum depression.  But I suppose that’s not allowed either because clearly surgery and episiotomies are pre-requisites for depression after childbirth.

I leave you with something my parents raised me to believe.

If you can’t say something nice……