The last two weeks of having Adeline in our lives have been utterly amazing. As I shared in my last post, I feel so blessed to be her parent and I couldn’t ask for anything more in life. And – even though – I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be on this motherhood road, this is as good a time as any to talk about a phenomenon I’ve been experiencing as of late – I call it the “in between truth.” To me, this is the time sandwiched amongst all the good stuff that’s going on… the part you may normally leave out when people ask you how you’re doing (even though it’s definitely there and you may even want to share it but don’t).
So, with that said, this is definitely the realist real talk for me on “Wife Life” and Beyond so far. I didn’t foresee sharing this side of myself, but in the spirit of openness (and in the quest for honesty throughout this blogging journey) I want to touch on something that’s become much more real and apparent in my more recent years: depression.
I know I’m probably touching multiple chords with that word alone, but I can’t help talking about how (and find it mighty interesting that) in getting older and when moving through major life changes, some things just go hinky when you think they should be settling down. That’s where I come in:
Whether it be hereditary or per chance, I felt the onset of depression about a year after Luis and I got married. In no way do I think the two are correlated, but it did become very apparent that something was off when I no longer felt contentment in things that once brought me joy. For me, depression is not a feeling of deep sadness like with some people, but instead it’s a lack of emotion. I’ll find myself sitting and feeling… well… nothing.
I remember this feeling first when I was diagnosed with vocal polyps (or nodules for those of you have watched Pitch Perfect), a condition where vocal chords hit against one another when talking (or, in my case, when singing) and the chords develop calloses that can lead to permanent vocal damage. This left me with a choice to continue my aspirations for a vocal performance degree (at the time I was a senior in high school about to accept a scholarship to the Fresno State University choral program) or pursue a different path. My speech pathologist prescribed me steroids she thought might help, which is when I first felt that weird emptiness that I now associate with depression. Consequently, I hated the void it left me with and within a few months of “letting it run its course” I decided it wasn’t for me. I weened off the medicine and decided to live with the nodules and lack of singing because the way I felt (or, more accurately, the way I didn’t feel) was awful. Just plain gross.
So, flash forward to experiencing this again without the steroids as a newly married adult… at first I thought it was just a lack of interest in my job, or perhaps the fact that the mundane life between work and grad school had gotten me down. Maybe it was the transition from “college life” to adulthood – I really wasn’t sure, but turns out it was more than just some emotional mumbo-jumbo. I knew something was really going wrong when I became unable to stay at work on multiple occasions because I was physically making myself sick – not the prettiest picture, I know.
My doctor told me that this kind of thing was common for women my age and that what I was experiencing was a mild case of depression… I think she saw the shocked look on my face and was afraid I’d reject the idea of medicating with the very mention of the “D” word. And you know what? I probably would have if Luis hadn’t been so supportive, saying that anything we could do to make my emotionless-ness go away we should try. And, even though I eventually agreed, I decided not to tell anyone. I guess I was too ashamed or nervous to share. I felt like I should be able to deal with all of this on my own. I shouldn’t need a doctor to help me deal with “normal” life. So, that’s where I left the depression for awhile – in check, but still there.
Now looking back I feel bad about that time because it was probably just as hard on Luis as I felt it was on me. He didn’t know what to do or say to make me feel better. He was doing everything “right” as a husband, but I just couldn’t shake what I was going through. I think not being open about how I felt probably made it more difficult, too. I felt like even though he knew I was taking medication that I should go the whole thing alone. We’ve since talked about that stint and agreed that hormones are crazy things, but their effects definitely do not dictate how we should relate to each other. We talk about everything else under the sun, and this should be no different. Growing from that experience was a real milestone in our relationship and has allowed us to remember that bad days and sadness will pass, but love does not.
Any who, the medication worked. I felt way more evened-out once I got acclimated. But then, I got pregnant. I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to take the medication anymore when I told the OBGYN, but he assured me there was no research that connected harmful effects to baby when taking a mild dosage. So, I continued to take it throughout my nine months and felt pretty darn good most of the time. That part was reassuring.
The onset of this next bout, however, hit me AFTER our sweetness was born and this time there was a more pronounced name for what I was feeling: POST PARTUM DEPRESSION.
This huge name for what I was going through made me feel even more unworthy than “depression” alone did the first time. I mean, geez, there’s fliers about it all over the doctor’s office, there’s commercials about it on tv… the hospital even makes you watch a video about it before you take your baby home for the first time. I became afraid that feeling this way after being leveled-out for so long meant I would be a truly ineffective and incapable mother, not to mention a crappy wife.
So… here we are, in the midst of it. Yes, I feel good for most of the day on most days, but once in awhile, when the afternoon hits and tiredom takes over, so does some emptiness. And while I am NO doctor and have no answers to give anyone else, I have been able to look at myself from an outsider’s perspective in the last few days, which was helped me see that (1) I am not the only one feeling this way, (2) I should not be ashamed or embarressed, and (3) there are things I can do to take jump start my proverbial hormonal battery. In doing this bit of self-reflection, I see some things I should continue to do and others I should NOT to help deal with this whole life change more effectively. So, let’s get to it.
- Do something creative. I find I’m feeling my best when I get my hands dirty in some paint or complete a project I’ve been meaning to get around to. Most recently Luis and I finished up-cycling a bookshelf for Adeline, which has brought quite a sweetness to her room.
I also finished the painting that I hung above it. It made me quite happy to see it all come together.
And who knew this blog would be so therapeutic? Writing and documenting my “Wife Life” journey has helped keep me active and thinking – driving some of that emptiness away bit by bit.
- Stay positive. The more I’m around positivity the more I exude it. Positive music, people, and vibes… it all makes a difference. I’ve found that it’s OKAY to unfollow people on social media who irritate me and I’ve cut back on news consumption because the world is a bit crazy at the moment. I listen to and surround myself with uplifting people and songs that make me feel better, not worse – what a concept. It really make a difference. Sometimes you need an inspirational quote to make your morning. I find it helps, so here: take one.
- Get active. While I’m still on the “no full workout” mandate by the doc, I find that getting outside and walking makes me feel 7.000.000 times better than staying cooped up inside. The cabin-fever struggle is real and going outside makes a world of difference. Cue sunlight and a slight breeze, please!
(A little throwback from Addie’s first walk around the neighborhood at 5 days old!)
To (NOT) Do:
- Dwell on things I can’t change. This is something I tell Luis all the time (because he tends to be the worrier at home), but it’s become more internal these days. Remembering this one is so important for me, especially when I’m feeling down: if I can’t change something, the only thing I can do is give it to God. Seriously, there’s nothing else TO DO. In these instances, listening to my own advice is hard but worth it.
- Worry about the future. GAH! This one is a beast for me, too. The future is so uncertain, especially when you add a little one to the equation. Life seemed so much simpler when I only had to worry about Luis and I but now that we have Adeline things seem so much more grandiose. In these times, again – listening to my own advice is hard but WORTH IT.
- Assume I’m inadequate because I’m feeling funky. I’m sure many new parents feel this way, but dang-it, you feel like you should have it all figured out when you’re really just flying by the seat of your pants. At first, I thought this would be problematic, but when I sat back and thought about it I remembered this: I’VE LIVED MY WHOLE LIFE BY THE SEAT OF MY PANTS, so why would motherhood be any different? It’s kinda comical, really. Life is short, why worry through it?
So, in conclusion: I’d like to thank you for this time to share a little of what’s going on with me. I realize I’m not the only one who walks through bouts and there really is NO reason for me to feel ashamed that I’m not perfect (or that my hormones have got me a little unbalanced). Overall, this life is what we make of it and I am choosing to make it a good one.
Until next time. ❤