I remember the feeling of elation I had when I walked out of my psychiatrist’s office after officially winning my second battle with postpartum mood disorders. Nothing could hold me down. I thought about self-care often, trying to put it into practice whenever special needs motherhood gave me the chance. When the stress was getting out of hand, my doctor’s voice popped into my head. “You will always be at high risk for another major depressive episode. The likelihood that you will experience this again is very high.” I shook my head to push the thought away. Sure, it could happen again, but it wouldn’t. I knew the telltale signs; but when mental illness sneaks up on you, it may be difficult to notice the subtle changes.
I had been running 3-5 miles daily when I injured my hamstring. A few months later, after it healed, I didn’t start running again. Running was my zen. I am not sure how I fit a 3-5 mile run into my day, but I made the time because it made me feel my best. I never stopped to ask myself why I didn’t get back out on the trail.
Our busy summer weekends prevented us from going to church. When fall training ended and we had a couple of weekends open again, we chose to stay home more often than we went. It was easier to stay home and have a lazy morning with the kids. I never stopped to ask myself the real reason I withdrew.
Suddenly I felt hungrier than usual. It didn’t make sense. I never stopped to ask myself why I felt so hungry and started eating more.
Realizing I might have Asperger’s helped me make sense of a lot of things in my past and present, but it would be a lie to say it wasn’t a difficult acknowledgement. I asked around to see if anyone knew of a professional in my area who works with adults on the spectrum. No one could help me. I never stopped to ask myself if it was acceptable to stop there.
The chronic stress of managing my child’s special needs and behaviors has worn me down. The increasingly challenging behaviors of my second child, coupled with her development of feeding issues, has occupied much of my thoughts. There is some self-blame involved. Did my two very difficult pregnancies cause any health problems in my children? I never stopped to ask myself why I was applying blame for something completely out of my control.
The past few weeks, the racing thoughts, lack of focus, rage and complete, to-the-bone fatigue finally tipped me off that something more was at play here. The psychiatrist’s words echoed back in my mind. “You will always be at high risk for another major depressive episode. The likelihood that you will experience this again is very high.” The stress of life became too much. My brain chemistry has gone awry. When mental illness sneaks up on you, it’s best to make time to ask yourself the little questions before you are dealing with a bigger situation.
As I share this with you, I feel anxious that you might think I just needed more blog content. Maybe you’ll think I seek attention by looking for things to go wrong. These are lies that my depression is telling me. I know this because, as anxious as each post like this has made me, I have always published my experiences openly. You have always responded with compassion and the knowledge that I am human and I am here for you as well. Mental illness continues to be a part of my life. I never imagined it to be so. But really – who does?