In late January a few things happened in quick succession: I read this interview with the wife of singer Brandon Flowers; a friend told me she’d been taking anti-depressants to help with postpartum depression and that her life was vastly improved because of it; I got incredibly stressed, as usual, when Jarom and I went out of town overnight. And because of those things, I suddenly realized that my we-need-to-leave-the-house-and-everything-is-awful outbursts weren’t normal. Trying to convince Evan to put shoes on, getting our stuff together, even just the idea that we had to be somewhere at a certain time – it made me unbelievably stressed and frazzled. My reaction to the stress and frazzlement was anger. Lots of anger. Lots of shouting. I admit, also some childish tantrums on my part that involved throwing shoes or diapers or whatever happened to be handy. Anyway, it occurred to me that such behavior wasn’t quite normal. I self-diagnosed it as anxiety, bravely made an appointment with a doctor, described my symptoms, and got medication.
I also worked really, really hard on recognizing situations where I was likely to get anxious, and on exercising patience in those situations. And things got better. My follow-up appointment was the week after we found out Christian wouldn’t live, so in discussing it with the doctor, we decided to increase the dosage of my medication to help with whatever extra mental and emotional issues might arise. (I had conveniently been put on Zoloft, which treats both anxiety and depression.)
Earlier this week, I noticed I needed a refill and did nothing about it. I can’t explain why. All it would take is a quick trip to the pharmacy or, if I really wanted to avoid human interaction, an automated phone call and sending Jarom to the pharmacy. But I didn’t do either of those. It wasn’t exactly a conscious choice; when I woke up one morning and was out of pills, I went about my day and actually had a fantastic day. The next day was amazing, too. I was feeling great about life.
And then I used some iffy logic to conclude that my two really good days were good because I hadn’t taken anti-depressants. On some level I congratulated myself for having “cured” my anxiety and for being able to enjoy life, despite losing a baby, without the help of medication. By the third night I was feeling a familiar tension building up when it was time to put the kids in bed, but I reasoned that bedtime is a stressful time anyway and I was still okay without the Zoloft.
I mentioned to Jarom that I had run out, and he gave me countless opportunities to go get a refill. He offered to pick it up himself. He asked me why I kept saying no. But I never had an answer, at least not that I wanted to articulate. You see, deep down, I felt like needing medication meant I was crazy, and if I could get through things without medication, then I wouldn’t be crazy anymore. I don’t want to be crazy. Who does?
After dinner tonight I was showing strong signs of anxiety and stress and not-doing-okay-ness. I laid in bed with the blanket over my head and wished I could stop existing. I thought about sharp objects and car crashes and pill overdoses. I realized what I was thinking – and that I couldn’t leave Jarom with the expense of another funeral. Not that I couldn’t leave Jarom and Evan and June without me, without a wife and mother, but that making Jarom pay for another funeral was unfair.
Then I really realized what I was thinking. I went and took a scalding hot shower and cried and sobbed and prayed and pleaded. Why did my baby have to die? Why me? Why did this have to happen? Why do I have to be crazy without medication? Why do other people get to have normal brains and healthy babies? Why did my baby die? Why why why why why?
When the water stopped hurting I got out, dried off, got dressed and went to the pharmacy without saying anything to Jarom. I got a refill on my anti-depressants because I think I need it. I know I need it. I need help.
Things that are still hard:
Seeing pictures of others’ newborns.
Finding out that friends are expecting.
Passing by baby clothes at the store.
Explaining to Evan, again, that Christian isn’t coming to our house. Ever.
Briefly thinking I’ll get a diet coke to make Tiny Baby wiggle and then remembering . . . that doesn’t happen anymore. I’m not pregnant. My baby died.
Suddenly feeling sad and knowing I may have moments like this for quite a while.
Moving on with life.
For about two weeks, I was in a severe funk. I’d like to think I could call it something more serious than a funk, given recent events, but I don’t know that it went so far as depression. I barely ate; I seldom left the house or talked to anyone; I avoided the internet; I wanted nothing more than to pause existence so I could just sleep. The worst part was that when I was sad, it didn’t seem like it was specifically because of Christian – I was just sad, and I felt like I ought to be able to point to a certain memory or feeling of loss or regret about the future. Something. Instead, it was just a pervasive I-feel-lousy and I-wish-I-could-stop-existing.
Jarom had promised several people that he’d look after me and make sure I ate, even when I didn’t want to. He brought me donuts (probably the only thing that prevented me from starving) and tried to find that elusive line between obnoxiously nagging and lovingly helping. But I had no interest in food. I couldn’t think of anything that sounded good, and on top of that, I think I wanted to be hungry and miserable and wallowing in sadness. Is that allowed?
While I was avoiding the internet, I spent a lot of time outside doing yardwork. I discovered that I love pulling weeds. I also discovered that if you spend hours outside doing physical labor, and you haven’t eaten all day, you don’t feel so great – physically. But emotionally, being outdoors was wonderful. Our big chestnut tree blossomed recently and the flowers are beautiful and fragrant. It was a small but helpful reminder that there were still things to enjoy.
About one week into my funk, I was asked to make some baby shower invitations for a friend. Because of the tight schedule I didn’t have time to do more than one draft, so there’s a lot I would change if I had a chance to work on the design a little more – but the wonderful thing was that I got my paints out and experimented. I sketched. I made something. And then I left the house to go pick up the prints. A few nights later, as I was falling asleep, I realized that I was thinking about my favorite foods, about chopping the ingredients and cooking, about projects I wanted to do, about what I’d change on the invitations I had just finished. It made me feel . . . happy.
Since then I’ve been doing fairly well. I mowed the lawn yesterday. I designed baby announcements for a friend (and they are amazing – I’ll show you soon!). I held an 8-month-old baby on Sunday and actually enjoyed it. I reread one of my favorite books. I fully expect that I’ll have moments of sadness, because I did just lose one of my children – but those moments are becoming less frequent, and I’m having more times where I smile, laugh, and do things I love.
That being said, I still really appreciate when people let me know they’re thinking of me. Although my world hasn’t ended, it has changed drastically, and it’s nice when others are aware of me. Keep sending love, folks.