Sitting with my back to the sun

Funny how certain things trigger memories.

Between 9am and 11am the sun streams through the windows in the living room, and hits my recliner – and me, when I’m in it – just so.  It’s easy to get quite hot just from the direct sunlight at this time, in this place, especially with the windows closed so no breeze takes the edge off.

A year ago, I had developed a pattern.  William would go to sleep for one of his many newborn naps, often in the swing directly in front of my recliner, sometime during this time.  And I would stretch out in my recliner and soak in the sun, trying to take from it the same life-giving energy that plants soak up, merely by being in it’s presence.

Sometimes I managed to doze off in the warm glow.

Sometimes I merely wished to sleep whilst all the while anxiously waiting for the boy to wake up and start the cycle over, and simultaneously wishing he would just stay asleep, just a little bit longer.

Always, the time was too short.

Always, I felt like I was taking a single gasping breath whilst drowning in the ocean, before being barreled back under the waves.

Now, though, it’s just sunlight streaming in through the window… and highlighting the echoes of memories.

What a difference a year makes.

Super Better

Depression sucks.  I have it (I know, big surprise ay).  I am officially a loon, but doing my best to embrace my inner-crazy.

I’ve also been fighting anxiety something terrible, which is a whole new experience for me – usually I’m just a melancholy sad sack.  Now, I’m a hyperventilating melancholy sad sack.

Awhile ago (1 – 2 years?) I read Reality is Broken.  It’s a very good read, particularly if you have any interest in video games (everything from facebook / iphone games through to epic things like WoW) but good, I reckon, even if you don’t – just possibly slightly less relatable.

Fast forward to today.

Out of the blue, my bestie from highschool forwarded me this link to a TED talk by Jane McGonigal.  Took me til about 5 minutes into the talk, thinking “gee this sounds familiar” until I realised it was covered in her book, see above.  Like all TED talks, it’s worth a watch.  Like her book, it’s even more relevant if you happen to enjoy gaming.

In both the book and her talk, she mentions SuperBetter. Clearly, I took in something when I read the book originally, because as soon as I realised she was the author (i.e., above while watching the talk) I thought – “super better!”

And after the video finished – SuperBetter.  There’s a thought.  Wonder if there’s an app for that yet?

Of course there is.  I’m officially signed up now.

The app doesn’t feature anything unheard of or particularly ground-breaking – but it just puts a different spin on it.  And honestly, this is the most positive i’ve felt about my chances of slaying the PND monster (other than merely popping pills and waiting for said monster to grow bored and find someone else to pick on).

Which is not to say that I’m not still a loon.  Just that now I’m a loon with hope.

Ruminating on drugs

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My bestie Lou and my boy

I went to Australia, as planned, with the boy, as planned.  It was even more awesome than I was hoping.  Brisbane was wonderful, sunny, warm and pleasant, while back at home Auckland was hit with a weather bomb.  (Sadly, we didn’t entirely escape it, but I at least was both home and indoors for what remained).  The trip was solely so I could attend Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin as Judas, and the show was amazing.  I’m still singing the songs – and I’ve pre-ordered the DVD recording of the show so I can watch it again.  And again, and again.

The whole trip was a much needed breath of fresh air.  Yes, the boy was still slightly under the weather, but he was already improving before we started the trip, and has continued to improve steadily.  At the moment he’s mostly back to full health, with only a minor lingering occasional cough.  But for me, the trip was a break.  An experience of running away, without any of the consequences of unplanned running away.  Escapism at it’s best.  I took my bestie with me, ostensibly for help with the boy.  She was a huge help to me, too, though.  Just the chance to relax, and giggle, and travel, and share the experience with another adult.

I have to admit, too, that I expected more of a come-down effect.  Normally, particularly when a blast was had by all, I get a sucker-punch of the mundaneness of normal life once we get home, but so far this time I’ve managed to escape that.   That said, I’ve had it pretty easy – one day by myself looking after the baby, with minimal interruptions from the girls due to the help of their Gran, and the rest of the time the husband has been home.

It does leave me wondering about the drugs, though.   I started the paroxetine (Paxil) roughly six weeks ago.  (By which I mean, I have no idea how long ago, but it was likely more than a month, so six weeks sounds right.)  All the literature on the drug advises to give it six weeks to kick in – so, therefore, it should be fully in effect now.

So… the verdict.

I haven’t been so desperately hopelessly low since a week or so after starting the drugs.

I am still having anxiety – mostly around caring for the boy.  I know I’m capable of it, and in practice I just get on with it and do it, but there’s a part of me that still hates being alone with him, because there’s a part of me that still very much believes I’m not capable, and that something will happen.

On the flip side of that, I’m bonding much better with him.  Whether this is truly due to the drugs I can’t say – it’s coincided with him a) being off dairy so being happier and b) starting to laugh and giggle, and respond to actions / faces – generally being more interactive and social himself.  Much easier to love, bond, and care for a jolly wee soul than a squally screamy thing that at best is serious, but more often than not is exercising his lungs.  And – probably like most mothers – at 3am when he’s waking for the umpteenth time wanting to use me as a dummy, I still would prefer someone ELSE look after him.  For at least a few more hours so I can SLEEP.

But….

Scarily vivid dreams, often nightmarish, that I’m finding it hard to wake up from.  And even when I AM awake, they haunt me.

A general numbness to life.  I got in a semi serious car accident (we’re fine – car’s only cosmetically damaged – but the other guy’s car is totalled.  Broadsided – me into him.  His fault.) and haven’t cried.  Sulked a little because my shiny lovely ‘new’ car (which we’ve had a year, but is still ‘my new car’) is all banged up and ugly (though functional!) now.  Pouted.  But, not cried. Not gotten the shakes like I usually do afterwards.  And quietly terrified of where the logical, and sensible emotional response to such an obvious shock has gone.  They say with (illicit) drug addicts, that because the drugs mask the feelings and are an escape, that during recovery all those masked and postponed feelings will both come up and need to be dealt with. I really worry that instead of dealing with anything, I’m merely shoving everything aside til later.  Not fixing the problem, just delaying.

Which leads of course to the “medicated for life” issue.  Which still haunts me and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get truly out of my brain, at least not while on the damn drugs.  If the drugs simply push away any real emotion… maybe the only way I’ll be able to cope is to simply never quit them.

And, possibly due to the above numbness, an impulsiveness that freaks me out – in part just because it’s not like me.  But the drugs lend a sort of “devil may care” attitude to me… as in, I’m not really feeling, and thus things like guilt are greatly lessened… so normally I might think X was a bad idea, but when on drugs – who cares!  Sounds good in the moment, let’s go with it.

Then of course there’s the psycho bitch that appears should any doses be missed or reduced, deliberate or not.  She’s so much fun to live with – even funner to be.

But the thing I hate most about the drugs is possibly hardest to explain.  I don’t feel like “myself” when on them.  It’s marketed – at least unofficially, when urging me to start them again – as NOT making me a different person, just helping me be the best, and happiest, me I can be.  I would think the above would illustrate this isn’t true… but it’s more than that.  It’s a subtle feeling like my body’s been taken over by someone else and the real me is trapped inside but merely an observer.  Added to that, that everyone around me is so pushing for me to go on drugs, and so happy with me when I do.  My body and soul has been hijacked by my twin – and they like her better.  I have lost the only popularity contest that ever really mattered.

Dilemmas

6 weeks ago, I found out about a show touring Australia. It’s Jesus Christ Superstar. This version, starring Tim Minchin. (Also the former Scary Spice, but meh.) After only a day or so of dithering, I decided to splash out and get the tickets. I love Tim Minchin. I love musical theatre. I haven’t seen the show (in any of it’s variations) before at all. Ideally, I’d go to a local one – but it wasn’t coming to NZ at all. But Australia isn’t so far away, and I haven’t been, and it’s not that unusual for tickets to Oz to be the same or sometimes even cheaper than tickets to regional NZ.

So I threw caution to the wind and booked the show tickets. Everything was coming together. I’d take a friend with me, and I had another friend who moved to Oz a couple years back that lives super close to the particular venue, and even offered of her own free will to babysit my babe-in-arms cling-on during the show. The three girls would stay home – as would their father – as they had school / kindy (and are generally just trouble!) and he has work with no leave available.

It would be a nice break.

At the time of booking, I was struggling quite a bit with post-natal depression. (Who am I kidding – I still am – but that was more towards the beginning of it…) I was also having serious trouble bonding with the newest kidlet, but that really has nothing to do with the trip itself. There was some serious dithering at one point about whether or not to actually bring him, or to leave him with the combination of my husband and his mother. It would, after all, mean a night or maybe even two of full night’s sleep. It would also mean having to bring the breastpump along and pump and dump, for both supply and comfort reasons. It would rely on the baby taking bottles – which he will, but only very grudgingly. I’d need to build up a frozen breast milk supply, which at the time I had none of. But it would provide me from a break from the constant demands of a high needs baby who I was frequently not enjoying. Eventually I made the decision to bring the child along, figuring my anxiety over what’s happening with him – whether he’s eating or not, how he’s being looked after (I trust my MIL but it’s still not me) and how it would affect our already shaky bond would be too much – and the added stress and lack of sleep of bringing him along would be less than that of leaving him. I booked him an actual seat (considerable more expense but means I can bring a carseat for him in the plane and with any luck he’ll sleep at least a bit in it) and didn’t worry about building a supply up – after all, I bring the food with me wherever I go.

Then, slightly less than one week out from departure day, the boy gets sick. M2 got it first, at least judging by the symptoms – on/off low fever, grumpiness, blocked sinuses, and a chesty cough. In four children, this is my first to get so much as a cold before around 1 year old, and I found it understandably stressful. Then he started having difficulty feeding – for most of a day, refusing the breast altogether, and only taking a small amount, slowly, from a bottle. Then – after inhaling VapoRub scent, steaming him in a hot and steamy bathroom, using saline drops, buying and using a nasal aspirator (aka snot sucky bulb) keeping him upright, doing lots of skin to skin, and finding THE most uncomfortable position for me – he starts breastfeeding again. Not as frequently as he ‘should’ be – as in, every 6 hours instead of every 3-4, but at this point feeding at all was a great improvement. Then he moved to every 5 hours. Then he started perking up when awake – smiling again, being awake and happy longer (albeit still not the normal 2ish hours between naps). When he started accepting feeds more frequently than refusing, and being able to feed lying down again, and most of all, fighting sleep again.  I figured it was sorted.

And, he’s definitely on the mend. I, on the other hand, have blocked sinuses, and stress of looking after a baby, and not one night with more than four hours sleep all week – although thankfully most days at least a power nap was possible.

And that fighting sleep thing. On the whole, it is really a good sign. While sick, he was going to sleep easily and sleeping for 90 minutes to 3 hours at a time – a huge difference from his usual 45 minute naps through the daytime. But at the moment, he’s not fully better, but not fully sick. He’s mended enough that he’s got the strength and stubborness to protest about sleep, but the sickness still that makes it harder to breathe through the nose, harder to sleep lying down, and that wakes him with coughing right on the point of drifting off. It’s enough to make anyone grumpy, and a poor four month old that has no idea why he’s suddenly miserable even more so.

Which is all a long winded way of saying I have no idea what to do. Overnight I got just short of three hours sleep – in one solid block at least, but not nearly enough of it. He woke enough to cry but not enough to feed. Between hubby and I we woke him up – good, as it meant he fed quite a lot easier / happier – but then he decided it was morning and continually protested for most of an hour while we tried to feed, jiggle, swing, rock, and bounce, him back to sleep. Eventually we gave up, moved him to the lounge, I got up and dressed, he hung out in the swing. Which he fell asleep in after another 20-30 minutes. And I sit here zombie like.

My flight leaves in under 11 hours. I need to be at the airport in around 9 hours, leave for the airport in around 8 hours. I haven’t packed (though I have at least washed and dried my clothes). And I’m back to not knowing what the hell to do with the breastfed baby. Do I bring him along and resign to the same very little sleep and higher stress levels, plus the risk of infecting my altruistic friend who’s offered to mind him during the performance? Do I take MIL up on her (now expressly given) offer of watching him, hoping he’ll take a bottle, knowing there’s not enough expressed milk to get him through (though we do have a can of soy formula) but also knowing that it would let me get a full night’s sleep… assuming I can get over the anxiety of not knowing what’s up with him, and not being able to do anything about it either way, plus risking my breastfeeding relationship altogether and having the painful and seemingly futile experience of the pump-and-dump. Or do I bail altogether, chuck it in as wishful thinking, and stay home – not risking the breastfeeding relationship, not risking infecting anyone not already exposed, but also likely unable to recoup the costs spent, and more so the experience.

I have only a handful of hours to decide. All options have fairly high potential negative outcomes – although all three could end up being the best thing, too.

All this when my decision making ability is fairly compromised to begin with.

A bit of a catastrophe

The past three or four days here have been a bit of a catastrophe.

Outwardly, nothing big or dramatic has happened. However, inwardly, it’s been turmoil.

I am on Paroxetine (generic brand of Paxil / Aropax) and have been since feeling the onset of Post-Natal Depression (PND) start approximately 2 months after having my most recent baby, now nearly 11 months. The drugs have been good – they’ve most definitely been effective, they keep me on a much more even keel, and make it much easier to find the motivation, that get-up-and-go-ness, that is absolutely essential to being a mum. They give me the joy to see my child smile at me, even when that smile comes in the shadows of 3am and I gently try to coax her back to sleep. They give me the motivation to just get on with it, when “it” is the endless routine of planning meals, cooking meals, picking up toys, picking up rubbish, refereeing, taxiing, reminding little princesses of manners, washing clothes, collecting clothes from various ingenious spots throughout the house…. you name it.

But not everything about the antidepressants is rosy. I’ve known this for awhile, as I had the same issues when I was taking the same drugs after the birth of my first child. This week, the dark side of the drugs have made my life a living hell.

At the beginning of this past weekend, I finished my active strip of the drugs. I had two more strips around, so I wasn’t concerned in the slightest, and put it out of my mind. But, with the distraction of the weekend, and having thrown the used strip out (thus out of sight) I completely forgot about taking the medication at all. Sometime on Monday I remembered, and had a brief look for the box containing the rest of the medicine, but couldn’t find them quickly and easily then got distracted, as mothers do, with the incessant calls of children.

By last night I was feeling truly terrible. I’d been getting dizzy spells all day, some extreme enough that I was concerned I would faint if I stayed upright. I had on and off nausea. I’d been up most of the night the night before, with a combination of a good book and not feeling particularly tired, then not having much luck when attempting sleep, plus of course being woken when I was finally asleep by the baby. Then I went to the store for the ingredients for a last minute snack to be cooked at home, spent the very last of my money until payday, came home, and ruined the late dinner / snack when attempting to cook it. I would have been annoyed in any case – but with the combination of everything, I was beside myself. Overnight, I managed around two hours of very broken sleep, most of which was obtained just as the sun was starting to rise. Lack of sleep didn’t help the situation any and this morning I felt nearly out of my mind. With no money left to pay a doctor for a prescription refill, and as I was sure I had no refills left on my current prescription, I figured I’d have to bear with it until payday, when at least I should be able to get a new prescription if the meds hadn’t appeared yet.

However, the husband – obviously thinking clearer than I was able to – popped into the pharmacy to check, and found that I did indeed have one refill left on my current prescription, so brought it home for me…. after which, of course, the originals turned up very near to one of the places I thought was highly likely they were.

Oy vey.

Paroxetine states in the literature about the medicine that one is not to stop taking the drug suddenly. In other literature I’ve found on the Internet, GlaxoSmithKlein admits that “up to 7%” of patients “may” experience “discontinuation syndrome” on suddenly stopping the medicine. In my personal and anecdotal experience, that figure is MUCH higher. Everyone I’ve known who’s taken the drug has had issues coming off it, even when slowly lowering the dose as recommended, and not just being an idiot like myself and stopping unintentionally. The discontinuation syndrome, in my experience at least, is drastically worse than the depression was in the first place. I know this about the medicine, and indeed, knew it before I started back on them this time (after having similar issues coming off them the last time). The problem is, Paroxetine has a very short half-life, the shortest of all SSRI style antidepressants. This is the cause of the withdrawl / discontinuation syndrome – and it’s also the reason why I’m on this particular drug. A short half life means very little medication transferring into the breastmilk, and thus best for baby. The longer the half-life, the longer it’s in the mum’s system, and the more it gets into baby’s.

When all goes to plan of course, the drugs are taken regularly (as in, within the same hour or two each day), and side effects are minimal. There are a range of side effects even under proper use of course – I alone have had excessively vivid dreams, a sleepy feeling after taking them, light nausea that comes and goes. It’s similar to feeling like I’m constantly in the very early stages of a pregnancy. (And NO, I am definitely NOT). I also strongly believe that although my moods are much more level, it also eliminates the true joys as well as the true sorrows of feeling, having a general numbing / dulling effect on life really. There is a big portion of me that feels like, when I’m on the drug, I’m not 100% myself, that some essential essence of me gets castrated whilst taking the drug. That, as well as being hard to put into words, is also quite unscientific, and thus hard to add to a list of side effects. But it adds up, and in my mind is definitely a negative side of the drugs.

However. The discontinuation syndrome kicks my ass, very thoroughly. Doing a quick and fairly unscientific read around the Internet last night, and the main recommendation for those having severe discontinuation syndrome (when legitimately intending to discontinue) is merely to resume taking the drug. Discontinuation syndrome does not mean that the depression isn’t cured or past yet. It merely means that the drug is now so essential to the system that it has become a necessary for the system to function… much like other well known addictive drugs.

I didn’t intend to come off Paroxetine this week, and thus, am back on my regularly scheduled dosage, hopefully to be all evened out within a couple days. However, the past week’s experiences have highlighted that I may well be on this cursed drug for the rest of my life – or at the very least, until significant medical advances have been made in the area of depression and the medication used to treat it.