By Aimee Sterk, LMSW, MATP Staff
Our son, Theodore, was baptized Sunday. Standing in front of the congregation, I was brought to tears remembering the journey we’ve been on with this wonderfully supportive group of people holding us up and getting us through. We’ve been through so much loss and grief and I’ve been through so much depression and PTSD.
We lost two babies. My history of sexual abuse by my pediatrician combined with these losses and the exams and treatments created the perfect storm for PTSD. We’ve been through a lot. Too much to allow myself to even remember.
So–this weekend was joy and remembrance and sorrow. This week I find myself looking back too. Through some kind of glitch in the cloud, we’ve lost the public posts on our blog from the last several years. I have draft copies of most of mine saved in Dropbox. In 2015 at this time of year, I was suffering through the deepest depression I’ve ever experienced myself. I could have been hospitalized but was avoiding it. All my back up systems were breaking down. I wrote a blog desperate to find some AT or answers that worked. I want to share that blog from history here and say that even the best plans and tiers of support can’t always “fix” things. AT can help on the way back or sometimes to prevent a path down, but if you are at a lowest low, get help. Reach out and get help. My best friend and my therapist, a work colleague and my husband got me through until I could get better. If you are depressed and suicidal, tell someone and keep telling until the right team for you appears and helps you out.
In the meantime, here are my thoughts from the summer of 2015:
What do you do when your AT and mental health recovery plans fail?
I have AT, I have a WRAP Plan (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). I have lists of things to try and people to call. I have the PTSD Coach app. I have the Lotus Bell app. I have At Ease. I have my WRAP plan in an app. I have friends and family that love about me pre-programmed in my PTSD Coach app. I have co-workers who care.
And then there is depression—and for me lately PMDD like I’ve never had before—with every single diagnostic symptom. Two miscarriages, chemo, grief, infertility treatments, family challenges, fertility meds that affect my mood and cognition, PMDD, PTSD–they are all throwing their spears at me, and last week (and actually a little today) I was some kind of open-season, willing target. I was miserable, tired, hopeless, and feeling worthless—like I deserved every last bit of the awful I was feeling. I told my husband he should leave me, that I wasn’t worth his time and love. I told myself I didn’t deserve to be a mom. I looked for a job collecting carts at the grocery store because I didn’t feel worthy/up to the job I’ve loved for more than 11 years. Yoga didn’t help—started angry, ended angry. Crying didn’t help. I hated myself, my job, my marriage. I wanted to quit my job and my marriage. This month I wasn’t suicidal, but last month I was.
I read an article describing depression and thought—wow she gets every last bit of this and I feel every last bit.
Antidepressants weren’t helping. Apparently, the one I’m on doesn’t help with PMDD and I don’t want to add more while trying to get pregnant.
I wanted to throw my apps and iPhone in the fire along with my journal and lists of self-care options.
All the AT, all the well-meaning people and plans, all of it made me angry and sad. I let my therapist know I was in trouble but didn’t leave a door open for her to help—on purpose.
So then what do you do? What do you do with this kind of hopeless depression?
I knew this was PMDD. I knew I just needed to make it 24-48 hours—and hopefully not destroy myself and my relationships in the meantime. What do you do when it’s not PMDD and nothing seems to be working?
I considered partial hospitalization but dismissed it—having worked in mental health hospitals I didn’t think it would be all that therapeutic.
I went to yoga anyway. I took naps. My fishtank became AT a little—watching the fish was calming and I didn’t get angry doing/considering doing it. My dogs and cats stuck by me even as I got angry at everything and then sad and then refused to do other helpful things. I waited for it to pass. I took it out on my husband. I took it out on myself.
Thursday was bad. Friday was devastating. Saturday I mostly could hold it together. Yesterday it started to get better. Today is kind of ok.
Friday I was sure life was always going to be this way—except that I knew deep inside that I just needed to make it one more day.
Months ago in the depths of post-partum depression after losing our first child, I didn’t know deep inside that I needed to make it just one more day. The world was a deep, dark abyss. It didn’t get better the next day or the next, though then too I wasn’t suicidal, so that was the last sliver of hope I had.
Really then what do you do? When the meds aren’t helping, the plans make you want to barf, you want to scream and cry and push all the well-meaning people away? How do you hunker down and get through? Somehow I did but each time the waves come crashing, I wonder if it’s possible to make it to the other side.
Have you found things that work that you can make yourself do? Do you use any AT (apps, soothing sound machines, light therapy boxes) for depression that continues to work for you even when things are really bad?
***My take away in case I’m ever feeling like I did in 2015 again? Nap, spend time with pets, ignore all the AT apps if they are making things worse, consider a fishtank as AT, make yourself do one thing positive (yoga, a shower, a walk, sitting outside), and call for help. These are the things I will do. What works for you?