Thursday, October 22, 2009

MoFo Day 15: Why I'm still cooking, blogging, etc

So this is a post I've been turning over in my head for about a week now. (It feels like forever. Boy, days seem really long lately.) A lot of people keep saying things to me like "wow! I can't believe you're cooking with a newborn!" or "wow! I can't believe you're already leaving the house with your two week old!" or "wow! You must be some sort of superlady to still be blogging!"

The truth is that I'm not any sort of superlady. What I actually am is terrified of succumbing to post partum depression.

In my day to day life, I suffer from more or less permanent low level depression. The way I like to explain it to people is that it's like my "normal" is on par with the average person's "sorta low." My baseline starts out lower. This doesn't mean I'm super depressed all the time. I'm not. But it means that I'm a lot closer to seriously depressed than the average person is on a day to day basis. It takes less to push me into a major depression than it would for many people, and it's harder for me to climb back out of such a depression.

When I hit upon this way of thinking about it many many years ago, it changed my life. I realized that I don't HAVE to be seriously depressed all the time... but I have to make a concerted effort to keep my mood from getting too low. I need to be proactive. It's like how when you start to get a migraine, you need to take painkillers right away, before the headache gets really bad. I have to do that with my emotions, if that makes any sense.

(As an aside, it doesn't always work, of course. Depression isn't JUST a matter of will. I firmly believe in the chemical/physical nature of it, and I really dislike people who imply that depression is just some sort of excuse or something.)

My pattern of depression often goes like this: I stop doing little tasks because I'm depressed and that makes them difficult or unappealing. Then, because I stop doing the little things, they start piling up. I get anxious because of how many piles of little stuff I have waiting to get done. Then I start to feel totally incapable, like I _can't_ do these little things. Then I feel like a useless person. This makes my depression worse, so I stop doing even MORE things. And it just spirals on and on until I'm basically hiding alone in the house in bed all day.

So it's extremely important for me to NOT STOP doing the little things. I need to keep washing the dishes. I need to keep showering. I need to go see my friends in town. I need to pick up the phone when it rings. I need to brush my hair. Because if I stop doing any of these things, I'm that much closer to losing my grip on my real life.

Cooking is an important part of all of this. It's important because it meets basic needs, y'know, eating and all that. It's also important because it's something I genuinely enjoy doing. It's also something that I know that I do well, which is also an important part of the staying not depressed strategy... I need to do things that make me feel like I have some worth and like I'm good at something.

Does that make sense? This is a lot longer and more rambling than I expected it to be.

So far I think I'm doing a pretty good job of fighting off the depression. Do I feel lower than usual? Yes. I'm stressed out. I'm not sleeping well. (Well, duh.) I cry more or less every day, and more of these tearfests feature hysterical wailing than I really care to admit. I spend a significant amount of time feeling hopeless and stressing out about all of my effing medical bills. (Anyone who thinks the health care/insurance system in the US isn't broken should talk to me about my current insurance debacle, seriously.) I'm really, really unhappy with the state of my body and have settled on basically just trying not to look at myself where possible. And I periodically think that Emperor Babykins hates me, for no reason I can pinpoint.

This is doing well? Yeah, this is doing well. I'm still bathing. I get out of bed. I'm eating. I'm talking to people as much as I can. I'm trying not to shut down and get reclusive.

I'm doing what I can. I'm still cooking. And that's all I can do. I just need to ride the rest of this out.


Jeni Treehugger said...

As someone else who suffers from depression I completely understand where you're coming from. Little challenges and tasks each day are what help me get through when my depression is at a low stage. Incidentally - do you take vitamin B12 supplements? If you don't I seriously recommend you do (or ask your doctor to see if you need to).
They have helped me SO much.

HeyitsBeth said...

I just wanted to give you some virtual hugs during your hard times. *hugs*
Postpartum is such a bitch. I've been working in labor & delivery for 8 weeks now, and PPD is way more common than you'd think. (fork you, Tom Cruise)
and don't be afraid to take up babysitting offers... I know some moms are worried that people aren't being sincere when they offer, but in all seriousness, they really do want to hang out with your kid!
By the way, your mofo posts have been some of my favorites.
I'll be thinking of you tonite during my graveyard shift... hang in there, kiddo!


(also a former YRR 2 tester... HOLLA!!)

Anonymous said...

Totally riding with you.
And Jeni has a good point.
My family has had their share of depression issues, - meds think it's hereditary, - I feel better when on a high dosed B12 suppl. , - which really could be a genetical problem, btw.

Just some extra hugs, - keep on riding!!!!