I have recently been reminded of my great need to share things I have learned in order to find meaning in my experiences.
Basically I am emerging from a several month depression. I am doing a LOT better. Yay!
I believe for me it was caused mostly by long-term sleep deprivation. What I mean by that is for months on end, I almost never got longer than three hours of uninterrupted sleep. This post is not about baby sleep, so I will leave it at that.
What did this look like for me? There are different levels of depression, and I would say mine wasn't severe. In fact, I think my coping skills and faith is what kept it almost manageable and hard to identify in myself or to be perceived by other people as needing help.
I was in survival mode, despite being 8 and 10 months down the line from the newborn baby phase that is by nature a survival stage. I was exhausted. Normal tasks like shopping, cooking and cleaning seemed completely overwhelming. I have struggled with shocking and uncharacteristic anger, unfairly directed at my 3 year old. Figuring out the baby sleep seemed impossible, getting my baby to eat more food seemed impossible. I was so tired! I could hardly make decisions. I understood the importance of breaks, exercise, dates, doing things for me, but it was hard to get them, or get them consistently. I felt tied to my breastfed baby so it was hard to schedule things. Even going on dates it was hard to relax (though I know it was still good). Add to that the many other circumstances that are in opposition to my happiness right now. But it's not just these circumstances - it's the mental state of feeling truly "not ok." Going to church and hanging out with friends sometimes left me feeling more isolated, because I felt like people didn't understand what a hard time I was having.
But this is why I am writing this. Realizing I was depressed and reaching out for help made all the difference!
One day I was reading symptoms of postpartum depression and saw that it is not always characterized by lots of crying or feeling sad. Some of the symptoms were anger and feeling totally overwhelmed. That's how I felt! I had depression! I'm not crazy, I don't have a lack of faith, motherhood isn't the worst thing in the world, I'm not a super lame mom, my friends aren't totally inadequate, I have depression! This realization helped me change my expectations for myself, not be so discouraged and reach out and get help.
To me, realizing and accepting mental illness helps you feel better about yourself and your life.
I have many more thoughts on this subject, but I will save that for another post.
Reasons I'm doing better: I started going to therapy which is wonderful to get validated and receive counsel and get some clarity on what I've been going through and where I can go from here. I went on an awesome trip to Indianapolis for a PKU Conference which was great on many levels - a break from parenting, a new place, a hotel stay, a fun and very fulfilling experience, reminding me of who I am and what some of my passions and abilities are. I went to a family reunion in Colorado, escaped the abominable Arizona heat, spent time with family, had breaks from my kids, spent time in nature, enjoyed how happy my children are when playing outside, had fun myself. Upon returning we made changes to get Abigail to sleep more so I have been getting longer stretches of sleep. This is probably the biggest difference. Other good things - Elena has started a part-time pre-school -- yay! I am singing in a professional level choir again for the first time since being married. Fall is almost here and it is our last school year in Arizona/this apartment/grad school. Wohoo!!
Life is looking up. It's a new dawn.