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wahm

Blog, Interrupted

After posting the Journey to the Center of the Save As Draft Function entry last week, I got so.much.nice.email. And guess what! I even answered a lot of it! I know! I read my months-old rants about "I get tooooo much eeeemail, waaaaaah" and rolled my damn eyes, because seriously: NICE EMAIL. WHAT AN AWFUL TRAGEDY. SAY HI TO THE NICE PEOPLE ALREADY.

So I did. And it was FUN, and reminded me why I like you Internet people so much. I mean, some of you. Sometimes. You know.

Anyway, a LOT of that nice email included nice requests for that "Plot Holes" entry I never got around to writing -- in particular, about my recovery from depression in 2004. Whee! Now there's a rollicking good topic.

Even now, it's a tough thing to revisit. It was a tough time. There was a lot of stuff I never shared with the Internet, but picking through all the drama and the crazy for the stuff that makes me sound merely delightfully unbalanced instead of holy shit, she's just plain fucking insane seems dishonest and self-serving.

(I adore this column by Heather, by the way, particularly this quote: I realize that I was trying to appear as the most reasonable insane person I could possibly be. If I was going to be insane, I would do it as perfectly and neatly as I could.)

But I can be totally honest about one thing: I'm not that girl anymore. I look back on the way I was with a very hazy recollection, like it couldn't really have been that bad, could it?

It was that bad. But it's better now. And I can tell you about it because it's better.

*****

By the time I began writing publicly about my little downward spiral into depression, I'd already been suffering in silence for several months. Nothing was helping. I could barely get up the energy to write about anything, much less anything "funny."

People in real life suspected something was up anyway. So I started writing, hoping I could work something out and get to the bottom of whatever it was and maybe connect with other people who had gone through the same thing.

Honestly, I kind of wish I hadn't done that.

Because while it's one thing to get pigeonholed as a Mommy Blog, it's quite another to be a Depression Blog. That's all I ended up talking about. It's all people wanted to email me about. I became fixated on this one small part of me and bought into the whole "it's a disease, there's nothing you can do about it" passive approach to recovery and just sunk deeper and deeper into the funk.

By the time I turned a corner in the fall of 2004, I realized that my recovery needed to be done in private, and I slowly stopped mentioning "It."

Anyway. That's why I wrote about It and that's why I stopped writing about It. Here's what you missed:

I believe I started getting sick after my very first round of Clomid, a fertility drug. The hormonal surges were intense, and coupled with month after month of failure, I got very blue and irrationally moody.

The whole babybabybaybaaaaayyyybeeee quest that I was on drove a wedge between Jason and me, because I felt he wasn't being supportive and he felt I was obsessed and pushing him into something he was convinced would still happen on its own. And then I would flip out because what, was he telling me to "just relax?" Did he not listen to my doctor? Oh, THAT'S RIGHT, I went to all the appointments by MYSELF, because he wasn't being supportive and he felt I was obsessed and round and round we go! The carousel of How to Fuck Up a Really Good Marriage Without Really Trying!

I started making some really bad decisions. One of which was to let my doctor medicate me to the gills without ever suggesting I get some sort of therapy. And I'm not talking about a nice dose of Zoloft.  I'm talking about Tom-Cruise-Would-Have-A-Point-If-He-Weren't-Such-An-Idiot doses of heavy mood stabilizers and stuff traditionally prescribed for bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.

I'd weathered depression and panic successfully before -- once, like everybody else in America, after 9/11 and then a more severe bout during the reign of the D.C. sniper. A relatively mild course of medications worked, which is why I was more than willing to offer my brain up to the Pfizer gods once again. When I didn't respond to the usual protocol (probably because of the hormonal changes brought on by the fertility treatment), I freaked out and let my doctor dope me up to her heart's content.

I did not need these drugs. Of that I am very sure. My doctor gave me a lot of additional medications in order to treat what were essentially SIDE EFFECTS of other medications. She upped doses after a week (or less) and did not listen to me when I tried to tell her about some of the very real problems in my life. I completely defined myself by the mini-pharmacy on the nightstand.

I Take Anti-Psychotics, Therefore I Am. I mean, I must be. Right?

It's no surprise that I absolutely disintegrated in her care. The medications destroyed me. I got my days and nights switched around. I developed OCD and all sorts of tics and twitches. I had panic attacks every time I left the house. I trembled constantly. I started to hurt myself and hallucinate. I scratched at my wrists until I bled. I basically dared Jason to leave me, because I saw myself as irrevocably broken and fucked up.

Break with reality much? JESUS.

One night I went to take some Excederin for a headache and I just. Kept. Swallowing. Pills. My doctor suggested it was time to consider hospitalization. I called a therapist instead.

She listened. She told me to knock it off and get a fucking grip on myself. That I was sick because I spent so much time obsessing about being sick and letting my other doctor treat me like I was sick and I was using the "sickness" as an excuse for truly wretched, childish behavior. She said I was "ambivalent about being a grown-up." She said I had "zero coping skills." Then she gave me a hug and told me that I was Not Crazy. She told me everything was going to be okay.

I started backing off the medications just a few weeks later. My therapist challenged me, questioned me and helped me immeasurably. It was harder and a hell of a lot more expensive than medication. I confronted some horrible, ugly things about my past. It was painful. And private. Thank you.

Is this the approach I think everyone should take? Hell no. It's not even the approach I would always take. But it's what worked for me then, so there you go.

I was med-free by December and pregnant by January.

Img_5076

I've been doing really pretty okay ever since.

Comments

Lori

Dear Strange Lady On The Internet,

I grow to adore you more every day.

I think you just gave me a good swift kick in the ass, to admit that maybe I need to pay attention to the funk I've been in the past few months.

Thank you Amalah.

statia

And uh, yeah, apparently I make no sense.

Horrible Warning

As always, your honesty astounds me. I think we've all suffered from depression at least once. It's always good to hear someone else's take on it.

And how much do I want to eat Noah's neck?!?

Ms. C

Thanks for sharing your story. You are amazing.
(And Clomid: the drug that fucks you up? I am so there right now.)
It's wonderful to see how you came through it all.

john

that was, simply, beautiful.

thank you.

Meepers

That was a really moving entry, Amy. Thanks for sharing with us a truly moving 'recap' of what was undoubtedly a black time for you. I salute you for realizing what was happening before it was too late.

Starbuck

I really have to say, Meatsticks?? Just the thought makes me want to puke in your suitcase, in your shoe and also on the clean laundry!!

haley-o

I've been there. Not ready to talk about it on the internet. But, I was there. I was there during my pregnancy (from the pregnancy hormones)...which was unbelievably terrifying. Thank you for sharing your experience....Stay happy. :)

Laura

First, I am glad you are better. Two, although I did not medicate because I am too chicken to take medicine, I can identify with having a breakdown in my 20's and it was scary. Probably not as scary as you described but I had to come to terms with terrible events of my childhood that I had saved in the deep recesses of my brains.

Thanks for sharing and letting other women know we are not alone. :)

Rachel

While it is good to have the questions answered, it is even better to know that you had the sense to realize you didn't owe it to us. It is also very touching to know that you wanted to share something you felt would help, now that you are past it. You didn't have to do that. But I, for one (hundred thousand) am grateful.

Heather

First, let me apologize for saying

Take. The. Test.

It was self centered. I am sorry, mama.

Second. I heart my therapist, and am glad you heart yours, too.

Lori

Amy, you rock.

Thanks for posting this. And I'm so glad that your world is good now.

Nina

Amy, thank you for sharing that with us, the Internet, when you were ready.

I'm really glad that all is good now. Therapy is an awesome thing.

Mary Tsao

Powerful post. I'm so glad you're happy and healthy now. Your confidence in yourself really shows. Looks good, too.

tiffers


i know i don't comment here a lot, but i do read you a lot, and at least once every other week i read something that really makes me sit still for a moment and THINK.

and i think that's amazing. i mean, you're witty and interesting all the time--but then you sprinkle in these moments of absolute unapologetic (while being, of course, a bit apologetic) humanity.

i just think we're all a little better because you're here.
and i really don't care if it sounds silly to say so.

jubes76

By the time you get to my comment your eyes will be all crossed and stuff, but it is important to me to let you know how much I adore your site and I adore you (which hopefully does not sound creepy coming from someone on the other side of the word who doesn't actually know you, but isn't that the FABULOUS thing about the ninnnternet? Finding someone so familiar and finding their blog such a comfort?)

So, thanks for sharing. You're an inspiration.

Jem

Thanks Amalah. I've had depression and severe OCD for the past few years and sometimes I don't think it'll ever get better, mainly because no matter how upbeat my attitude is, it never seems to get better.

Bozoette Mary

Love your therapist. Thanks for your story, doll.

Maria

Thank you for sharing this.

P.S. Gerger meatsticks?!

kschic

I know that had to have been really hard to share but it's amazing how that kind of stuff can happen. Drugs can be so good yet so so bad! I did not start reading Amalah until AFTER you had Noah, so I missed that part. I'm glad you made it through!

Jenn

Thank you for sharing that. I was shocked while reading your entry that the pill happy doctor would be so cavalier with someone's health in that way.

Yay for Jason for being such an amazing and supportive husband. I know someone who divorced his depressed wife. He decided his life deserved happy people all the time. Sad. So YAY Jason! Good man!

Brooks

How can one blog entry arouse so many emotions? I am amazed by your journey, steeled by your resolve, inspired by your recovery and overjoyed that your family and marriage survived your crisis. Write on!

ali

wow.
that's just about all i can say.
wow.

Cara

Thank you for a great post. I am going through a similar experience with anxiety, and if it wasn't for my therapist, I don't know where I'd be today. Thank you for helping me remember that I'm not alone in this.

Ruth Dynamite

Wowzers. I bet a lot of women can relate to your experience.And yeah, I'd say you're doing A-OK now. Thanks for sharing.

Mads

Never posted before, but I was genuinely moved by this entry. Thank you for your sharing you story.

Mads

Never posted before, but I was genuinely moved by this entry. Thank you for your sharing you story.

Jan

You look skinny in your DGM shirt picture.

I know that was totally off topic.........

Nicole in Pgh

You are abrave little toaster. That was so well written/handled. Good for you.

Jana

Thank you for sharing. You are fantastic!

Katie Kat

Been there, done that, have the psych ward and hospitalization records to prove it!

What I'm saying is, THANK YOU for once again putting into words what so many people struggle with. You really balance the scales when you talk about these things and help others realize they might either need help, or they are not alone (or both).

I'm proud of you for sharing and for keeping the guts of it private. I honestly believe the important thing here is that you DID come out the other side, and you DO now write a very enlightening, funny blog and you DO cope with all the stresses of motherhood, without apology and without shame. That is what more women need to know about maternal depression and the overhwelmingly high expectations we (and others) put on ourselves. There is hope and there are ways to get help. Especially with the love of a good hubby, family and friends.

You're such an authentic person and I so highly respect that. Thanks Amy!!!

birdgal

The best thing I could have ever done for my bout with depression was going to my grad school's counseling center and having them recognize that cognitive therapy would do a hell of a lot more for me than drugs ever could. AND, while it helped me immeasurably then, I also learned coping skills that will serve me the rest of my life. I know that some people need drugs + therapy, but in my case, drugs would have probably screwed me up more, so I'm glad you found your way out of the 'pit of despair' when you did. :)

karen

You know, whenever you think to yourself in some dark moment that you'll never make a difference in anyone's life, hark back to this post. Because I am sure that your openness has changed lives. Good for you, not only for that, but for yourself.

Kylei

I have been doing a lot of this lately "I basically dared Jason to leave me, because I saw myself as irrevocably broken and fucked up." in fact driving in to work today I asked myself why is his every word a fighting word adn why in my mind does he hate me. why can't I believe he loves me any more. I am still putting off the Drs (moneys low) and can't imagine how expensivea theripst would be - but I am realiseing now that I am depressed and making wqhat should some of my happiset time horrible. thanks for showing me a light at the end of a tunel.

Kylei

I have been doing a lot of this lately "I basically dared Jason to leave me, because I saw myself as irrevocably broken and fucked up." in fact driving in to work today I asked myself why is his every word a fighting word adn why in my mind does he hate me. why can't I believe he loves me any more. I am still putting off the Drs (moneys low) and can't imagine how expensivea theripst would be - but I am realiseing now that I am depressed and making wqhat should some of my happiset time horrible. thanks for showing me a light at the end of a tunel.

Jill

Thank you for sharing that difficult time in your life. You are a brave, tough girl and I admire you.

Carrie

Wow. (((((HUGS)))))
And thanks for sharing.

Real Girl

I've had some truly down times too. The kind of hopeless, motivationless pits of despair. So it's definitely comforting to hear when others share their experiences. Thank you.

And yes, I too had a tough time after 9/11. I'm still not recovered from it, I admit. I lived downtown and could smell the fires. My best friend, who worked at what's now called ground zero, was standing under the towers when the second plane hit and I couldn't reach her by phone for hours because there was no service. So clearly I thought she might be dead. Baaad time it was. Baaad.

I'm a big fan of denial, though! Therapy is a much more mature decision.

Kari

I loooooove you.

1) It is amazing how many posts out there are on depression. So many bloggy-writers have had one or more forms of depression and/or "mental illness." Is that because we writer-folk are more prone, or because everyone is more prone and we're just willing to talk about it?

2) It is tough to talk about these things in the moment because as it is happening, you cannot possibly share with the world because by definition you have shut off. Functioning is painful. I suppose that is why we can only look back once we've come forward. I am glad you are willing to revisit these more difficult times because for those going through it RIGHT NOW, maybe there can be some comfort in seeing that recovery is possible.

XOXO for sharing.

Polichick

Thank you for sharing, Amalah. I'm very happy that you are feeling so much better now than you were then.

Jenny

I'm so sorry you suffered at the hands of a shitty doctor, Amy. And I'm so glad you made it back to the other side. Mwah!

tippy

that's awesome that you can talk about it. i still can't talk about a lot of things that i've gone through, even though i'll probably never be "cured" of depression, i've learned to deal with it. but the part that made me smile most was "pregnant in january." =)

xxoo

Robbi

thanks for sharing your story. depression runs through my entire family, but luckily i too am med-free today.
also, those gerber meat sticks? oh hell yes, i ate the shit out of those things!

Mrs. Flinger

What an awesome testimony and amazing post. Your honesty has touched tons and tons of people and I luff you for it.

You, as always, rock the effin' blog world.

Muwha.

Lotta

I think they should book your therapist apointment when you leave the hospital with your first child, and write the scrip for some prozac when you have your second. If you are brave enough to go beyond that well Godspeed.

Lotta (mother and Effexor taker)

A

Hate to argumentative here, but I am not a mother or a post-9/11 depressant. I think that's just the common denominator has been coming to this site. I happened to show up because I am SNARKY! (http://www.snarkywood.com) As far as blogs on depression go- It's my experience that a lot of people with depression feel a real need to express themselves- and are often amazing writers, singers, etc. At least we have that going for us, right?

Ann (A Zoloft fan who needs a Jason she can dare to leave her)

Ann

I'm going through something like this with my husband right now. He is in the hospital, and it's so strange to me. I think he is so wrapped up in meds and "being sick", that he is sick. I'm happy to know that you are okay now, because it gives me hope that he will be okay too. And me too.

Anne L.

Oh, whoa. I've been starting to go down that same road, Amalah, and I just want to thank you for posting this. Trying to conceive, NOT, stressing, freaking out, etc, etc, etc. I'm moved to tears by this post. I feel not so alone anymore.Thanks...

HollowSquirrel

Sweetie. Thank you for sharing such a private struggle. I'm glad you found the courage to try another doctor-- one who was interested in helping YOU as a person. I found that, too, in my primary care doctor-- he was more helpful than any therapist because of these honest and caring words: "we're going to get you through this." And we did. And now we're married. Ok. I lied. We're not married. I guess he didn't treat the pathological lying part. kidding. ANYway, beautiful and moving post. Thanks.

mom101

Wow, just wow.

Zandria

It's hard to open up and tell the truth, but I think it helps other people when something like this is talked about so well and so eloquently. I remember reading your blog back then (and before, and after), and I'm so glad that things are going so well for you today. :)

Her Bad Mother

Thank you.

I haven't written much about my experience with depression and PPD, but I think now that I'm remiss in not writing it. Because it just HELPS SO MUCH to hear/read that other women go through it. Other nice women, normal women, women who are smart and fun and are good mothers.

It makes it alive, and less scary. Out in the open.

Carrie

Okay, I tried to reply when I was at work, but your site is one of the popular ones that is pre-blacklisted in our new web filter. you're that famous. :)

Depression sucks. I'm sorry you went through that. I get sooooo ticked off when general practitioners load people up with whatever trendy antipsychotics the reps are pushing - it's so irresponsible. not all of them do it, but I once had a GP who kept pushing Wellbutrin on me at every.single.visit. I already had a shrink and was on a different med, but somehow she felt that bladder infections and 'imaginary' stomach ailments I had (turned out to be a bad case of parasites) would disappear if I took it.

The meds do work and help some people, while othes can get through it with just therapy. I myself require meds to control OCD, but the therapy was essential in helping me beat it and get back to being normal.

So glad you are happy now! Thanks for sharing, you might have just saved someone out there going through what you did. :)

T

Ooooh honey. I can relate to nearly everything you said.
Thanks for sharing!

bon

Sheee whiz! You just keep impressing me and validating why I read this BLAAAAAAWG! I am proud to erm, link to ya!

heidi

everytime i think i cant love reading your blog anymore than i already do, you do it again! i love reading your blog. you have a schnazzy location on my toolbar as a link. but thats not why i am commenting. :).... after battling suicidal thoughts, during and after my divorce, i went on Effexor at the reccomendation of my therapist, and know it saved my life. the benefit of writers like you is that you are vocal and honest about a difficult topic, which can mean life or death for some to know that they are not alone. secondly, your comment about therapy first, drugs second, is soooo true and i wish more people would take that route. anyway, i just wanted to praise you for sharing and i appreciate and respect your honesty to talk about "it" and for being that ONE person maybe to some reader out there who thought they were the only one....and through reading your words felt the comfort of a hug in simply knowing that they were not alone. fantastic.

amber

i'm going through the drugs battle the second time around. i can't decide if i'm crazy because i shouldn't be on them, or if i'm crazy because i should be on a higher dose. i can't ask the doctor. he'll prescribe more, list it as an infertility visit regardless of the actual reason i'm there, and then i get to pay a bagillion dollars for that reaon AND battle the insurance company so they'll pay 20%. stupid rip-off *grumble grumble*

anyway, i wanted to thank you for a timely post. i am going to therapy sort of through the church cause it's free, but she's all history-based and it feels... wrong. ya know? and i'm all "but i know that i was treated that way for this reason and that" and it's not even any serious abuse or anything, my friends had it really bad... not me. but anyway. you guys don't care about all that.

your post allowed me to see that yes, i need to just get on with life already and do whatever i decide to do and find a decent doctor watch me do it so i don't hurt myself. and maybe a better insurance plan. :-)

p.s. thanks everyone for your clomid commets. something *felt* wrong about starting it... maybe because it's being pushed a bit too hard. i'm definatly gonna wait longer to start that, if i ever decide to.

Michelle

A friend referred me to this post today. She could not have been more "right on". YOU could not have been more "right on." I am on my way to see my therapist this morning to figure out what is going on. I have already decided that I am open to trying a new medication but if she adds one she must take one away. I totally agree that so often you get on one medication and before you know it you are on 2 more to counter side effects.

I want to feel happier again. I am hopeful. Your post and the comments of others made me hopeful. Thank you and if your therapist practices in my area at all can I borrow her for a bit?

Melissa

I hate the whole, "Take this pill and it will all be better" approach. Your therapist sounds awesome.

Glad to hear it's much, much, much better these days.

Marie

You're a brave lady! It took a lot of strength to realize the doc wasn't helping, and to go the therapy route. And thank goodness you found a no-nonsense & thoughtful therapist... Your courage offers hope to sooo many.

hollygee

Thanks for recounting that. How painful, how wonderful that you've come back from there.

Since I've begun reading all sorts of mommy blogs and writerblogs, I see many, many who have had a journey to depression and come back. Something about being a creative soul, yes?

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