Monday, January 26, 2015

After Depression Part 3: Coming to an End

"Seek and you will find..." Matthew 7

"There is no pit so deep, that God's love is not deeper still." Corrie ten Boom

I had "the moment" a few days ago, the one I have read others' stories about, the one I have longed for for seven long years, and it was about as picturesque as my healing has been (insert laughter here):

I was in a bathroom after one of the most stressful days in living memory ...

And I was smiling.

Really smiling.

I was thinking of all the sweet little people in the next room who were about to eat loads of pancakes at our favorite restaurant, and the good man chuckling over their antics and helping them draw silly pictures on the white board while they waited for said pancakes.

I was feeling joyful.

Not happy.


And when I realized it, the tears flowed and the smile grew wider.

My postpartum depression is coming to an end. 

I have no doubt there will be good days and bad days. I expect nothing less than the ups and downs and messiness of healing to slowly move forward then backward the forward again, gaining a little ground at a time.

After reading story after story of healing over at Postpartum Progress, I feel such hope (another good sign!).

In the midst of this hope and joy, I want to share with you some of my experiences in this healing process:

1. As the depression has faded, the anxiety has increased (or remained the same, unhindered by depression).  When depressed, I felt pulled along by circumstances and ruled by the emotion of sadness. As the sadness has faded and I am willfully trying to take hold of my circumstances, anxious thoughts and panic attacks have emerged. In this new battle, the tools I learned to use in depression have come in handy. If I can fight depression, I can fight anxiety. I'm learning the triggers, fighting for healthy activities, and getting as much help as I can.

2. The anxiety comes from dealing with situations I have not learned to handle. I've been indepression most of the seven years we have been in Thailand and Cambodia. I've been called "brave" by many for riding a moto, driving in crazy traffic, shopping at the local market, and moving to a village. I wish I could claim "brave," but the truth is out: I've been numb. Now, as I face village life, I have to face difficult situations without my "drug" of numbness. Here's an example: Our helper quit as soon as we came back from our recent vacation which means I have to shop for a week's worth of groceries in the market in a town half an hour away. This is a large market, jam-packed with people. The last time I went, I was assaulted. Today, I made a seriously detailed plan of action for shopping, tearfully and with my anxious heart pounding told my husband my fears, and turned down his offer to shop for me. I willed myself to get food for my family, a very normal activity for my line of work and one I have undertaken many times. I was taken aback by how strongly I DID NOT want to get out of the car into the swarm of motos just outside the entrance. I survived, however, and it was a good step. 

My man working to help me have a washing machine
3. Extra willful effort means extra needed time to rest and process. This morning, I got up and chopped large bowls of fruit for our yogurt, Grapenuts, and fruit breakfast, made naan and Butter Chicken for lunch, and started "pre-cooking" for the next day's meal before we headed to town for market day. I'm having to create new systems for work as the systems I made when we had a helper are obsolete. After the market run, which I talk about in #2, we came home and my husband showed me how to start the giant crank generator to run our new washing machine (I call it my new helper along with the faux kitchen aid we just got that I'd love to write poetry about). Apparently, I have to reach around the belly of this beast placing my head precariously close and hold a lever on one side while cranking a handle on the other. It's so loud that my husband bought ear covers for us. After getting the generator going, I have to check the voltage regulator and tap a level to get the voltage just right. Then, I can turn on my semi-automatic washing machine and hope I don't forget to turn off the water when it is full. I'm sure that's too much information, but fighting the anxiety to do each of these tasks is very draining. Add that I am an introvert,  and you can understand the need for a great deal of alone time to process and recover so that I can gain strength and continue to do these tasks.

I'm liking the "new" me
4. "Waking up" from depression means facing an entirely new you ... and learning new ways to interact with others around you.  I am not the same person who became depressed with pregnancy #2 almost seven years ago. I've changed, and so has everyone around me. This is most evident in my marriage. As I heal, the guilt and shame of the depression fade. I find myself having normal "fights" with my husband along the lines of "you didn't take out the trash." I feel able to express displeasure because I am not longer totally dependent upon him for my survival nor do I feel like I am the "problem" in every instance. We find ourselves miscommunicating often, and, being friends, find the tension odd and frustrating, confusing even. Knowing that we are in a new stage of our marriage, we have gone back into dating mode, trying to get to know each other, working together to solve relationship struggles, and learning new ways to help and show love to each other. Accepting these changes has been such a blessing and further helped healing.

Everyone's journey in prenatal and postpartum depression in different.  I would love to hear if any one of these ideas resonate with you!

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