09 October 2014

Q&A: I feel so alone

I got this email from a reader a few weeks ago, and thought there might be others out there struggling in similar ways.  It is posted here with her permission.

Q: I'm wondering if I can ask for a bit of your help....I've been struggling with lots of up and down emotions from a miscarriage last year [I have since had another baby] and I'm realizing I might now have some postpartum anxiety/depression I've been dealing with the last few months. I thought I'd be able to manage it on my own but I'm finding that I might need some professional help...but I don't quite know where to turn or who to trust or talk to and if medication is good or bad or even what I'm experiencing is really something?! I've just been feeling very alone. I thought of you and how you might be able to help me understand some of this? 

A: There are so many good questions here, let me briefly address them:
  • Having lots of emotions after a miscarriage is normal and expected.
  • Having lots of emotions after a baby is normal and expected.
  • Having lots of emotions after a baby/miscarriage that are persistent, mostly negative, interfering with your eating/sleeping/motivation/daily life, or leading to thoughts about hurting yourself or your baby are not normal and should be taken seriously.
  • You do not have to feel so trapped!  You do not have to feel negative and overwhelmed all the time!  If the majority of your time is spent in tears, or feeling completely overwhelmed/anxious, it would likely be a good idea to seek professional help.
  • There are two main kinds of professional help -- medication treatment and talk therapy.  I suggest you get an assessment with both.
  • I recommend getting a medication assessment from a psychiatrist or nurse practitioner specializing in psych meds.  Your general doctor or OBGYN can prescribe medications as well, but their knowledge is less specialized in psychotropic medications and you are more likely to find the right medication combo (if needed) with a specialized doctor.
  • Medications are not bad!  They have a bad rap with a lot of people, but they can truly be life saving.  If a prescriber recommends you begin taking medication, decide if that feels right to you.  Educate yourself on the medication you are prescribed.  Taking medication to stabilize your symptoms does not mean you will have to be on meds forever.  Some people are on medications their whole life -- awesome.  Some people need them for short term stabilizing (short term meaning different things depending on your situation) -- great.  And some people will never need them at all -- fine.  Try to put away your misconceptions and get educated so you can decide what is right for you with what you are experiencing.
  • As far as who to make an appointment with, I would ask around.  Ask friends if they have been to therapy, ask your church leaders (usually clergy work closely with one or two therapists/prescribers they could recommend), google local clinics and read reviews, find a therapist who has experience with depression/post-partum issues.
  • Lastly, find a community where you can be supported and reminded that you are not alone!  This could be an online forum, it could be reading articles about what you're experiencing, it could be emailing the lady at that one Have Joy blog (that would be me), it could be looking up quotes that inspire and uplift you, it could be praying to feel God's love, it could be talking to friends or family.  Doing these things will not make your symptoms go away (if they are severe), but it can help lighten your load and allow you to begin to feel hope for the future.
That was a long and serious post.  Thanks to the reader who sent in the question.  I hope others can benefit from you sharing your experience.  

To my readers: Do you have experience with miscarriage or postpartum depression?  How did you cope?  Do you have experience with psychiatric medications?  What would your advice be to this reader?  Do you have any words of encouragement to offer her?  Please leave a comment (anonymously if you are more comfortable) of support if you feel so inclined.  Like the Beatles said, we get by with a little help from our friends.


Anonymous said...

I have been to many therapists in my life. My advice would be find one that fits you! If you don't connect with someone ask for referrals and find someone else. Don't give up on therapy because of one bad experience.

Anonymous said...

Listen to good music! That's one that always helps me. Hope you start to feel better soon!

Nikki (Have Joy) said...

Thank you for your comments!!

Anonymous said...

I experienced post partum depression and anxiety after my second baby was born. For 9 months I felt alone, very emotional, confused, overwhelmed, quick to become angry, etc. Finally I talked to a friend who said regular exercise helped her with post partum depression so I tried that with no relief. I knew then that I had a bigger problem. I summoned the courage to go to my general practitioner, fighting back the tears throughout the entire appointment, trying to be strong and look normal. But I realized what I was feeling wasn't what I wanted to be my normal. It's not that I was suicidal, it was more like I just wanted to disappear or run away. He prescribed a medication that I can't remember the name of but it ended up making me dizzy and I think it was too strong so then he had me try generic Prozac and that did the trick. After about 6 weeks, I was feeling back to my normal self. I still felt low sometimes like every body does, but the lows weren't soooo low like before. I ended up staying on it for 3 years until I decided I didn't want to be on it for the rest of my life. I weaned off slowly for 3 or 4 months as directed but I won't lie-- the withdrawals were awful. I had head aches, dizziness, and the lining of my stomach was depleted for some reason. I think my body was really upset I was going off. I had to go to the hospital because it hurt so bad I couldn't even drink water. They gave me a med that helped heal it. I had a rough few months emotionally after that, too, and I wonder if maybe my body really needs the meds because I still battle anxiety. Basically, antidepressants helped me during a time I felt unstable and like I was drowning. I am now older and more capable so I dont becone depressed as easily, but ivstill have anxiety. I also think my brain chemicals were out of whack after that second baby. I just had my third baby with no post partum depression this time. Anyway, I just wanted to add my thoughts and experience. Good luck! Do not feel bad about taking meds if you need them! Also, studies show omega 3 fish oil helps replace what the brain loses in pregnancy that causes depression. I take them and I think they help. I get the kind that says no fishy aftertaste.

Anonymous said...

This one hits home for me, big time. So I apologize in advance for the lengthy comment. I was diagnosed with depression from a very young age and it has creeped in and out of my life from time to time. What a roller coaster it is, and I completely identify with what your reader has shared with you. Looking back at my dark moments and how I got back to my healthy self I will share with you what helped me. I fought the reality for years that I actually needed medication, and as I grew older and more educated about human physiology, I knew what I had was undoubtedly a chemical imbalance. I am now 36 years old, and can identify what my triggers are.

1.) MEDICATION. I knew I needed medication that was right for ME. That is what helps me stay stable. I tried many and had some horrible experiences (i.e., Prozac, Paxil, Lexapro, Well-butrin, Zoloft, and Sarafem). The best one for me I have found is CYMBALTA, which is a broad medication for depression and anxiety. There are 30 and 60 mg tablets. Your doctor will help you figure out what is best for you. It will take time for your body to adjust to it and only you can tell if it is helping or hindering your state of mind. The other medication that helped at one point for me was Sarafem which has the same active ingredient as Prozac (fluoxetine hydrochloride) but is formulated for women that struggle with PMDD. That is another fun subject that Nikki may be able to shed light on :)

2.) COGNITIVE THERAPY (aka, TALKING TO A PROFESSIONAL). This was key for my recovery in moments that I really struggled. It can get expensive, but the benefits are tremendous. I think Nikki would be great for you to meet with if you are able to get some time carved out, and are able to pay for it.

3.) SUPPORT FROM FAMILY AND FRIENDS. This is big. You don't need to give your life story to everyone but if you have people you can trust - sharing what you feel comfortable with about what you are going through leaves can leave you feeling a little lighter.

4.) SLEEP, DIET & EXERCISE. These are my 3 musketeers. If one of them is off it sends me down, down, down.

5.) ACCEPTANCE. Do not allow the stigma of mental conditions to make you feel lesser than or like you are broken. We are all dealt our own set of cards, and we just need to find out how to play them! The struggles I have been through empower me to have more empathy for those around me no matter what they are dealing with.

6.) ANIMALS. I love animals! I have 2 dogs, and they are practically my other kids. I don't know if you are an animal person, but for me it is very therapeutic to have them in my life. Their love is unconditional and gives me such happiness. They are my "other" companions and I would feel empty without them.

7.) DO SOMETHING FOR SOMEONE. This is something that brings me so much happiness. It doesn't have to be a big gesture. It doesn't have to cost money. I have set a goal for myself to do at least one thing for someone (outside my home) everyday.

8.) DO NOT COMPARE. It is so easy to compare ourselves to others, yet an unnecessary trap to fall into. All you need to do is try to be better than you were the day before. If you can do that, you are making progress.

Lastly, just KNOW you will get through this. Change is constant and nothing ever stays the same. If writing in a journal is your "person" to talk to, do it. You will find a way. Count your blessings. I have found that seeing the good in everything can be developed just like a habit. At the end of the day, talk with your family about the highlights of their day. Then, you can share yours. Recognize all of those around you who absolutely love you. Especially that new baby. Do not put undue pressure on yourself. Post-Pardom Depression is very common and you are among many who experience this. I wish your reader the best!!!

Nikki (Have Joy) said...

To those readers who shared their personal experiences, thank you so much! It means a lot to me, and I know it will help the reader who sent in the question. Sharing can sometimes be scary, I know. I'm so thankful you shared your personal experiences, and hope it can help others who might be going through similar things. Thank you!!

Anonymous said...

Interesting subject. I would like to add a question/ comment/ observation that may be a bit unrelated. it's more concerning therapy in general. Do you have any suggestions for someone who may need therapy/ meds but cannot afford it? What if they need these things but don't realize it? I think these examples sometimes develop into cases where the person seeks other relief in the forms self-medicating (drug addiction...), acceptance (peers). If the person finds relief in these things they are less motivated to find professional help and are trapped in a downward spiral. Would you have advice for someone in this situation? Sorry if it's off subject

Nikki (Have Joy) said...

Hey Anonymous 11:04,
Thanks for your comment. I don't think it's very off topic at all, and you asked a lot of good questions. As far as needing meds but not being able to afford it, I would look into local programs (like medicaid). Depending on the severity and the need, certain programs will cover psychiatric medications. If someone needs medication and therapy but doesn't realize it, there isn't a ton you can do. You can talk to them about it, try to point out ways you see they aren't happy, and make suggestions. But the bottom line is that if someone doesn't want to change or get help, then nothing will change. This is why so many people who struggle with addiction end up hitting rock bottom before things start to change. Maybe I will do a future Q&A on this topic? Thank you for your comment!

Anonymous said...

Thanks a lot for the feedback. I agree that it's very difficult to help someone who doesn't realize they're unhappy. Sometimes they assume their depression is something they need to "get over" on their own, and try to mask it in their own way. I would be interested to learn more on the topic if ever you feel so inclined. :)

Nikki (Have Joy) said...

Ok, Anonymous! I will keep this topic in mind! Thank you :)

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