A Year of Postpartum Depression followed by a Breast Cancer Diagnosis.

I’m sure reading the title of this post gets you really excited. Postpartum depression and Cancer? Sign me up! I’m looking at this screen and all I can think about is taking a nap. I don’t want to write about this, but I’ve felt the need to write about it for a very long time. People need to read about my experience, and I need to get it out of my system and move on.

Brain fog….brain fog….chemo brain…..oy….ok, let’s see if I can get this out.

A little over two years ago, my family moved across the US for my husbands work. We were so excited and anxious for change. My amazing husband had just graduated with his Masters in Chemical Engineering and we were ready for the next phase of life. Our families live within about a mile from each other, so moving across the country meant leaving all extended family members behind. Looking back, I now realize it wasn’t only being away from family that was hard, but I was also probably experiencing culture shock.

A few weeks after we had moved, we discovered we were pregnant with our third baby and we were so happy. Family is everything to me, and bringing another sweet babe into our lives was exciting! So along with having to figure out life in a new location with new people, add in having to navigate pregnant…baby…. doctor world too. My husband was also in the training part of his new job and was working probably 80 hours a week.

This pregnancy was pretty similar to my other pregnancies. Nauseous for the first few months, hormonal for the full nine months, gaining weight quickly in the mid months, sleepless nights in the last months…exhaustion. The biggest difference with this pregnancy, was that I was so much more tired. Add in all of the change that our family was going through, I was a little bit of a mess.

After training, we moved to Upstate NY. For my husbands job, now that he had completed the training part, he had to qualify. He was working on average 90 hours a week. Also, because of the nature of his work, mobile devices were not allowed on site, so I couldn’t contact him while he was at work. Not so fun for a mom who is so big she could hardly walk and was about to give birth. I seriously had one woman come up to me and tell me she would pray for me because I looked so big and uncomfortable. Side note- I’m 4’11” and carry all out front and it is hard and painful, but I am so grateful that my body was able to grow and carry three beautiful children. I know that many womens’ bodies are not able to do this, so please do not think I am complaining about this.

Fast forward to baby being born, life being altered again, and me being really confused about EVERYTHING. I felt heavy, and I am not talking about post baby body. I felt as if there were invisible weights pressing down on my body all the time. I felt low. Not unhappy, just low. I was so lost and confused. It took everything I had to take care of my kids. I made sure they were fed, kept them clean, and did my best to get them into bed on time. I did a pretty decent job at taking care of them, but was not taking care of myself and the house…I remember standing in the kitchen staring at a plate on the table and trying to will myself to move it over to the sink. That is all. I wanted so desperately to get that silly plate over to the sink. There was so much weight, I felt like sinking into the floor. I finally managed to move it and felt a little relief….the heaviness was still there…never ending.

I was scared to leave the house. What if one of my kids runs off and I can’t catch up to them? What if someone tries to hurt them? I remember laying on my bed, sobbing, my husbands arms around me, asking him what was wrong with me. Why can’t I make a good dinner (I can’t tell you how many times we had fruit and yogurt for dinner), why can’t I get ready in the morning, why can’t I do the dishes, and above all, why can’t I take a nap?! My sweet husband was just as lost as I was, but he was very patient with me….I wish I could have followed his example and learned to be patient with myself.

My mom realized what was going on with me and suggested to me over and over that I go and see a doctor. It took me a long time to accept that I had Postpartum depression, and even longer to go and see a doctor. I wanted to see if I could combat it by myself first.

Each morning I drew the curtains open to let in as much light as possible. I forced myself to eat breakfast (usually a smoothie loaded with greens and other super foods), I tried to get myself and my kiddos dressed each day, I listened to music, danced to music, and sang at the top of my lungs! I tried and tried and tried to do all of these things and more, and when I failed, I hated myself. I was so angry for not being able to function as a person, I was angry for not being able to be the mom I wanted to be.

Finally, after a lot of gentle encouraging from family members, I went to see my doctor. She started me on a low dose of anti depressants. I noticed a huge difference within a few days. My husband even said, “My wife’s back!” I think the biggest change I noticed was the weight and pressure was gone. I felt like I could move again.
One thing that was left was the way I was thinking about myself. Because I had struggled, fought, and failed for so long, I discovered that my way of thinking was very negative. A new challenge…I decided that for every negative thought I had, I would think of three positive ones. This helped and made me very aware of just how many negative thoughts were happening in my head, especially about myself…and the strange thing was, I really did not believe these negative things. I did not think I was an awful person, but that thought would manifest itself anyway. I remember praying over and over again, for help to change what was going on in my mind. I wanted to be positive. I wanted to love myself.

Things started to get better. I started to come out of the “fog” as I like to call it. I was getting better at being aware of my body and taking care of it (sleep!), which led me to the doctor again, and then to the emergency room, and then finally to discovering the lump in my breast.

Those are posts for another day…but I wanted to say that in a very strange, real, and surprising way….cancer has been a blessing. Through fighting cancer I now how the tools/knowledge that I desperately needed last year. I’ve learned to be patient with myself. I’ve learned how important it is to care for my body, goodness, I love my body (bald head and all!) I’ve learned how to banish negative thought and replace it with positive. I’ve learned to let things that are not important, go.

I’ve gone from one painful trial right into the next, but this time I’m a little more prepared.