Saturday, January 23, 2010

Diagnosis: Major Depressive Disorder, Part 1

Warning: this post is sad. Really sad. I know it is bold to talk about mental illness and death in such an open way but I've done some research lately that has helped me understand "depression" better than I had in the past, and hope the information that I post in the future will help someone. Or perhaps help those around me understand what is going on.

The purpose of this post is to explain what led to my personal current diagnosis of having a major depressive episode. If you want to just learn about my experience with depression, please see future posts.

I have been prone to low grade depression or dythymic disorder since puberty, and in times of great stress sunk into deep depression. Like suicidal kind of depression.

The current episode started early of last summer. I was pregnant... at the end of the second trimester or beginning of the third trimester.

Ed and I had been having a ridiculous ongoing feud for years with our neighbor that we finally realized was never going to get any better. I don't know if the couple that we were arguing with were mentally ill or what, but our arguments were silly. The first thing that upset them about me was that I shut a window too hard. They felt that I slammed it at them. I don't think I meant jto slam it at them, but I do remember being annoyed, as they were being loud as I was trying to get my newborn son to nap (he was and still is a terrible sleeper). They were out in their mud pit backyard, excercising their barking dog by having it chase a remote control car. I was also frustrated as the man had been staying up late at night, practicing his drumming to music such as ACDC.

But I didn't say anything to them. Their habits were annoying to me, but I just figured live and let live. But the window incident made them furious. A few hours later, my husband was outside and the man of the house decided that he was going to tell him off, threatening to "kick his ass." Ed was dumbfounded and didn't even know what to say.

That little incident blew over but a couple of weeks later I was raking up pine needles near the edge of the property line. That pissed him off. He came over to our house and told my husband to tell your wife to "stay off our property." Evidently he was upset because he was going to "get around to taking the pine needles to the dump."

Okay, whatever. Strange arguments kept on happening. They were furious with me one day for parking on the curb in front of my own house. Evidently I had parked too close to where he felt his parking space should be, so he decided to back his truck into my van and leave it parked, touching it, signifiying that I needed to back up.

We had to call the police on them more than once. They were tenants and we tried very hard to get the landlord involved to get them to leave us alone. No luck. The police couldn't get them to leave us alone. They couldn't even have a normal conversation with us. It was so bizarre.

The last straw came one night when one of my animals made a little noise. Seriously, it was like 5 seconds of noise. The next thing I know is this woman is screaming at me. Everything in the book. "Fucking tuat... cunt... bitch..." You get the idea. And it went on for hours. I didn't even say anything back to this woman except "uh, okay." Then she told me that since my animal bothered her she was going to play rock music as loud as possible from 7am-10pm, and her husband installed exterior speakers and pointed them at my house.She kept her word--music as loud as possible, until 9:59pm. You try getting a toddler to sleep through that.

I don't mean to ramble on and on about them, I only want you to have a sense of the urgency that I felt to get the hell out of there. Ed and I realized that it was a dysfunctional relationship that was never going to get better and felt that our family's personal safety is at risk, and so we needed to move like yesterday.

Keep in mind that I am just beginning my third trimester, and so we felt it extremely important that we sell the house *and* buy another one, and get settled before my baby girl Jemma is born.

We had a flurry of activity: packing everything up and putting it in storage, interviewing realtors, cleaning, painting, craziness. About two weeks later it was time to get on the market. We priced the house far below what we felt it was worth just so we could get out of there right away.

Since we priced it so cheaply, everyone in the market wanted to look at the house. We had probably 10 showings a day. I'm a stay at home mom, in the latter stages of pregnancy, with a kiddo that needs to nap. Oh, and did I mention there were several days of 100 degree weather outside? Needless to say, scheduling all these showings and shuffling my big old belly and a two year old in an out of a nap and attempting to keep the house as spic and span as possible was extremely difficult. And stressful.

We got multiple offers quickly. We selected one and then the buyer backed out. Back on the market, shuffle shuffle. We got another offer. The buyer backed out. Back on the market. Clean clean clean. Nap, clean, leave the house, nap, clean, get out of the house. Oh, and I had to find a place for us all to live.

The blessing in all of this is that I found a marvelous house for us to buy. One of the best school districts in the state, a pristine, 2.5 acre old growth forested piece of property with a house that didn't need a darn thing done to it. Better than anything I could have imagined buying in our price range. But we needed to sell our house in order to buy it. Now we can double the stress and pressure to get our house sold.

I was tired of having to shuffle around all the showings, so I decided that it would be best if I took myself and my son to my mother's house, 300 miles and 5.5 hours away from here. I *thought* that Guy grew out of his car sickness phase, but didn't find out until halfway there that that was definetely not the case. I would have turned around, but we were nearly halfway there. Poor baby was barfing his head off. And I kept stopping off onto the shoulder of the road, trying to help him get his stomach calmed down and cleaning him up while semi-trucks were honking at me. I felt like The Worst Mother in the World.

Did I mention how often I had to pee? Ugh.

Got to my mom's, spent about two weeks there. It was fairly relaxing and it was nice for Guy to have my brothers and my mom to play with. We finally got an offer that stuck, and were able to move forward on the house that we wanted. And then I felt a sudden urgency to get home as soon as possible. I nearly left my mother's house without saying goodbye, I felt it was that urgent. I don't really know why. I just wanted to get the rest of our stuff packed and get on with the move. Perhaps the nesting instinct that most women go through just before they give birth kicked in.

Guy experienced the same misery driving back. I stopped so many times that we didn't get home until midnight.

The next day, it occured to me that I wasn't sure that Jemma was moving any more. I wasn't sure because I was having what I knew were fairly strong contractions but thought that it was possibly that some of what I felt was her movements. I didn't tell anyone what I was afraid of. And so I waited a day, paying very close attention... no kicks.

24 hours later, I went into Labor and Delivery just to make sure that everything was ok. But the nurse couldn't hear her heartbeat. And when the doctor came into to do a CT, we could see her, but her heart was still. She died.

It never occured to me that this could happen. Sure, I've read about it happening, in novels or something but I didn't think it still happens but it does. Miscarriages, yeah, but this late in pregnancy I never knew.

Later that night, they induced labor. Yeah, you still go through labor when they die. It was pretty quick and easy, nothing like my first labor, even though she was a six pound baby.

I was afraid to look at her. I thought she may have some gross deformity, or perhaps be partially decomposed. The nurse assured me that if there was something she didn't think I should see, she would tell me. But when she first brought her out, all dressed in her sweet little white dress, I felt my first horrible surge of guilt. How could I not want to look at my own daughter?

She was beautiful. Some of her skin was peeling away, but other than that she was a beautiful, perfect little baby girl.

They left her with me, just as if she were alive. I got to spend two days and nights with her while they ran all kinds of tests on me and on her. Nothing abnormal was found. She had a hypercoiled umbilical cord and an unusual attachment to the placenta, which could have been the cause, but they didn't know for sure. And so they said that we had to make a decision as to whether or not to do an autopsy.

The hardest part for me was leaving her there. Not that I hadn't broken down before, but leaving her at the hospital, alone, was almost too much.

A week later, both sales of the houses barely closed on time. We had two days to move out of the current house and into the new one. The neighbors were assholes with the stereos up until the last minute, even though we were moving and they had seen me come home from the hospital, no longer pregnant, and no baby.

It took like five weeks for the autopsy results to come back. It was pretty much total agony, not knowing what killed her. I hadn't been taking my prenatal vitamins... could that have caused it? What about the antidepressants I was on? I gained about 20 pounds more than I should have... maybe that killed her. Maybe all the stress I was under killed her. And, my most shameful, lifelong guilty conscience wonders if the occasional beer that I partook in may have had an affect. I kept telling myself that nearly every mom I knew had the occasional drink. And two doctors I personally knew said it was fine to have one drink every now and then. And I've done extensive research on the subject... it is really not a possibility. But that will forever be on my conscience. I'm so sorry Jemma, had I known something was wrong I never would have given it a second thought.

In the meantime, she was being held in the morgue and we had to figure out what to do with her body. Good timing on our part for buying the house, as we have enough room on our own property to create a burial site for her here. If anyone wants to know my experiences with burying your family on property that you own, I am happy to share. Evidently it is Very Weird to bury your own family on your property, even in the country. But I didn't want any strangers handling her, especially after an autopsy. I was still feeling like Momma Bear.

The autopsy came back with a conclusive report. Myocardic infarction (sp?). A heart attack. One of the main arteries going into her heart was underdeveloped and had an abnormal growth, preventing normal blood flow. The doctors said it was a freak occurence, not genetic, and there was absolutely no way that I could have done anything different or that I could have caused it. I wonder if there will come a day when I don't have those "what if?" questions running through my head. Probably not.

Once the autopsy came back, we were able to put her to rest. About two weeks later, the depression symptoms started sinking in. I will share that experience in a later post.


Anonymous said...

Oh Amy Dear, Such agony! I FEEL your pain and it hurts, big time.

I can understand the pragmatic versus the emotional. Okay pragmatically, you can absolve yourself of any mother-guilt. It wasn't your fault. It was a freak occurrence, black and white. But the emotional side is much grayer. The what ifs, oh God how they must play on you! [With a kid dealing with Autism, I understand this to some extent.] The guilt. The desire to be a good parent and how, despite my best efforts there are inexplicable roadblocks. This, while millions of women could give a shit about their kids. SO UNFAIR. And then there are the people who, insensitive or naive or both, offer the pat answers and try to get you to stop suffering, not for your sake but for theirs. They don't want to see you like this. It's all about them, even with their good intentions. I hope I'm not one of those people.

You had a butt load of stuff going on and yet it seems to me, [granted, my point of view is limited] you've handled it all with dignity and grace. And continue to.

I could say, Amy this is going to work for good in the long run. Eventually you'll see the silver lining, etc. But does it help? Probably not. What does help? Sunshine? Time? Diversions? Medication? Exercise? Counseling? Having more kids? I don't know.

I hope that on some level, it helps knowing that, admittedly limited, to some extent I understand.

I look forward to your next installment. You should consider writing a memoir. Love you!

Unknown said...

Amy, Thank you for sharing your story. so much heart. the pain you must be in. to have carried your sweet girl all those months. to deliver her. you share your thoughts and fears so openly... i know this will help many others to read who find themselves in a similar place of pain, grief and lose. the most striking words for me in your post are these, as they speak to our tendency as mothers to blame ourselves when something goes wrong-

"I hadn't been taking my prenatal vitamins... could that have caused it? What about the antidepressants I was on? I gained about 20 pounds more than I should have... maybe that killed her. Maybe all the stress I was under killed her. And, my most shameful, lifelong guilty conscience wonders if the occasional beer that I partook in may have had an affect."

I have miscarried 5 times and the first 3 or 4 i just knew i was doing SOMETHING wrong. by 5 it finally dawned on me... these were just the circumstances of my life. they were not my fault... and they sure as heck did not define me - who i am - who i can be. it has been a long, hard and at times hugely rewarding healing process. i pray for good friends to surround you, loving arms to hold you and a free flow of tears as often and as many times as you want to go there. i am crying now for you... and for me... even these few years later.

blessings- and may your heart find peace in all the pain.

Suzanne aka ZenMommy

Anonymous said...

Hi Amy~~ Did I miss Jemma's photo or is it posted since yesterday? I love, love, love that photo!

Vegetable Garden Cook said...

I posted it later. I love thhat photo too!