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Depression is lonely and scary.

Depression is lonely and scary.

Mental health issues carry a stigma, but when we break the silence and talk about them openly they become less scary. I may be wrong, but I think if we’re honest, most people struggle with mental health issues to some degree at some point in their lives.

So, what’s the deal with postpartum depression? Why would a new mom, who has just welcomed a bundle of joy into the world, get depressed?

Perhaps because:

a) postpartum and nursing hormones have thrown her emotions out of whack

b) she hasn’t had more than a 90 minute stretch of sleep in several weeks/months

c) she is socially isolated

d) she has not yet formed an attachment to her newborn, and wonders “who is this helpless creature I’m now spending all my time with?”

e) she spends the vast majority of her day sitting on the couch breastfeeding

f) her body has been severely injured in the process of giving birth

e) she wonders what the f***k has happened to her life

In sum, postpartum depression is understandable. In fact, given all the above, it’s rather remarkable when a new mom doesn’t experience some degree of postpartum depression or anxiety.

For my part, I really struggled with depression and anxiety when my daughter was about 3-5 months old. I think I was coping rather well until then, despite the extreme challenges of caring for a newborn. I won’t go into the details in this post, but you can read my post about it here. Or just read the poem if you prefer.

Around three months I no longer felt like I was coping. In retrospect, several things collided to make things a giant awful mess:

1) I lost my job

2) I lost my health insurance

3) my husband started working longer hours

4) I started taking birth control

Although I had told my doctor that I was concerned about postpartum depression (because I have a history of depression) he told me I’d be fine and prescribed me birth control without warning me that it was associated with postpartum depression. Birth control never seemed to affect my moods in the past, so I thought it would be fine. I had also looked forward to going back to work part-time and reconnecting with the outside world, but I lost my job and with it lost my main link to the world beyond my apartment walls. Losing my health insurance made me feel like I wasn’t allowed to have mental health issues because I couldn’t afford access to treatment. So, it was a hard and scary time — I really began to feel like I was losing my grip.

I got through it by becoming involved in as many activities as possible. The first time I took my four- month-old to a library storytime, I almost broke down in tears because it felt so good to be outside of my apartment and around other moms and babies. That fall we also took baby sign language class, mom and baby yoga, and signed up for MOPS. Mom and baby yoga was a lifeline because it was basically a group therapy session for new moms, followed by some yoga. My husband and I also occasionally invited people over for dinners so I could still feel like I had some sort of social life.

Some facets of attachment parenting really helped me as well. One of the scariest aspects of the depression for me was not feeling much attachment to my child. Wearing her in the Ergo carrier during daily walks was incredibly comforting and helped ease my anxiety. Eventually we ended up co-sleeping too, which we still do (I wouldn’t necessarily endorse it but it definitely helps with attachment).

So that’s an abridged version of my story. Slowly I started feeling better, and at this point life feels pretty normal again. Postpartum depression and anxiety can easily happen to anyone, even if you don’t have a history of depression/anxiety. I strongly recommend all new moms join some sort of support group whether it’s MOPS, postpartum yoga, or a new moms group at the local hospital. Just being able to talk to other women who are going through a similar experience as you should be extremely helpful. Also it’s probably wise to avoid any hormonal forms of birth control.

Did you struggle with depression or anxiety after becoming a mom? How did you cope?

photo credit: Helga Weber via photopin cc

As you may know, we recently moved from Portland back to my hometown of Eugene. Although it was time for us to leave Portland, I’m so glad I had the opportunity to live there for seven years. Some of the things I will miss most about Portland are:

* The Zoo. Marie’s favorite place. We had a membership and were visiting quite frequently. When we first moved to Portland I even got to work at the zoo as a marketing intern. I even got to feed one of the elephants! Still I’m sure we will still visit the zoo several times a year.

* Restaurants. Portland has a great restaurant scene and we will miss some of our favorite spots including: Por Que No?, Lardo, Ken’s Artisan Pizza/Bakery, Grand Central Bakery, Screen Door, Pine St. Biscuits, Oaks Bottom Pub and the Belmont food carts. And the best margaritas ever at Nuestro Cocina.

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A spicy margarita from Portland’s Nuestro Cocina.

* Theophilus Church. For the past four years we had the chance to be a part of a new church that started in the Hawthorne neighborhood. It was great fun because we knew the pastors, AJ & Quinn, from when we’d lived in Eugene. AJ was even my husband’s roommate one year in college. We had the chance to watch the church grow from a small group of people meeting in a living room into a medium-sized church of 100 + attendees per Sunday. Prior to that we attended Imago Dei for three years, which I also loved for its great sermons, social activism and community of artists.

* Gorge hikes. Loved, loved, loved hiking in the beautiful Columbia River Gorge. My favorite was the Eagle Creek hike even though the uneven terrain caused me to have a debilitating knee injury.

* Friends and family. Well it goes without saying that we will miss all our friends and family who still live in the Portland area. We had the chance to get to know a lot people during our 7 years in Portland, mainly through church and my master’s program at George Fox.

However, in spite of all that I am very excited to be here in Eugene because I strongly feel that this is God’s will for us at this time. And I’m finding that I appreciate Eugene so much more now than I ever did before. Here are some things I’m loving about Eugene right now:

* Lack of traffic. Compared to Portland and other big cities, Eugene basically doesn’t have traffic. I didn’t realize how big of a deal this was to me until I got here. I was having frequent anxiety attacks when driving around in Portland and that’s not really an issue for me here.

* Access to nature. Eugene is a smaller town so it is much easier to access nature. Rather than driving 30 + minutes to go hiking, I can drive 5 minutes to go hike Spencer’s Butte.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

Mt. Pisgah Arboretum, one of my favorite hiking spots.

* More great restaurants. Eugene has a lot of great restaurants for a town of its size (approx. 150,000).  I will give a shout-out here to Anatolia, Papa’s Soul Food Kitchen, Taco Loco and Sweet Life. These are our old favorites and we’re excited to discover new favorites.

* Connecting with a new church. This is only the second week we’ve visited, so there’s a chance it may not become our new church home, but so far I’m very excited about University Fellowship Church. I’ve been enjoying the sermons and the worship and Marie has been tolerating her time in the toddler room. I love that the pastor also preaches on Sunday evenings at the Oregon State Penitentiary. Also I’ve been thinking that I really want to join a choir and this morning they announced they are putting together a Christmas choir. Basically it seems to me like a great fit. Although it meets in the gym of my old high school, which is slightly weird. But really it’s been so long since high school that it doesn’t bother me. Plus I have mostly positive memories of high school anyway.

* Family and friends. Yes, we have family and friends here too. In fact one of the main reasons I wanted to move back here was to be closer to my family. It’s been really great having my parents and grandmother so nearby. I’m also excited to have the chance to reconnect with some of my old friends here and to make new friends as well.

 

I almost got a teaching job last week. The principal loved my resume so much that he drove a half an hour to my apartment to personally drop off the application, since he didn’t have it in a Word document. I spent several hours filling out the application and my husband got off work early so I could go to the interview.

I was excited about the possibility of getting the job. It would greatly increase our income (duh). We might have been able to buy a house, or at least afford a nicer rental. It would have been fulfilling, and intellectually stimulating.

But. School starts in a couple weeks. Not much time to find quality childcare for my little darling. And the cost of childcare for a child under the age of 2? Between $800 -$1500 per month. I don’t know exactly what they would have paid me, probably about $3000/month during the school year. I also would have left the house around 7 a.m. each day and gotten home around 5 p.m., and then had to work more at home on evenings and weekends. That wouldn’t leave me much time or energy left for Baby Bear.

Thinking about all this made me feel anxious. I remembered that I used to get stress headaches every day when I was a teacher. And that was before I had my own child, back when I got excellent sleep every night. Still I showed up to the interview and gave it my best shot. I figured I’d leave this decision up to God.

After the interview, I started to sense that it was not God’s plan for me to take the job. I kept thinking about my daughter and how I would never be able to regain this time with her. Apparently the hiring team felt the same way, because they offered the position to another candidate. The principal called me the next morning and said it was a tough decision and that they really liked me. I felt a deep sense of relief — my summer vacation continues!

But our cash flow situation remains a problem. I’m trying to find work writing, editing and tutoring. So God, would you help us out? As Anne Lamott would say, I’m awaiting your operating instructions. Thanks in advance.