Tag Archives: Depression

#23 2017

Seeing friends  and acquaintances listing all their accomplishments on their social media feeds made me feel inadequate.

Last year started off with me trying to survive being back at work after returning from maternity leave. I was dealing with hormones, missing my baby, an unhealed coxic bone that made the daily commute unbearable, bosses who were worried I was not committed to my job and a president I didn’t vote for. The only thing that helped was vicodin but I was afraid to take it. The last thing I needed was to add addiction to the depression, mourning and post-partum that lurked not so deep inside me.

My mother passed away in November of 2013. She had been battling a metastasized cancer since 2006. In that time, she saw my life fall apart at the hands of an abusive husband, she saw me  leave that relationship, thrive on my own and  meet the man I would marry. She saw me go through a miscarriage and battle infertility. Prior to her dying, I started looking into IVF, crunching the numbers and seeing how unaffordable it was, I was ready to give up.

“Take out a loan, worry about paying it back later, once you have your baby it won’t matter.” She said. But I am practical and instead of taking a loan for IVF, Matt and I took out a mortgage.

Before she died, Mami came to visit, she stayed with my sister in North Hollywood. I should have taken time off from work, spend as much time with her but all I did was spend an afternoon with her at my sister’s house and another one when she came to visit me in the new house. I couldn’t watch her die, I don’t feel guilty about it, I know she understood. It is because of her that I am the way I am.

She left me some money with the specific request that it be used for IVF. In April of 2014, I did my first round. In May, I did the 2nd,  followed by a mock transfer in June to send the tissue from my uterus to a lab at Yale University so they could test the timing of the embryo transfers. The third transfer was in September of 2014, nothing, zero, zilch. My doctor nicknamed me “The Purple Zebra,” because in his years of working with infertile women, he had not seen a case like mine.

On the first anniversary of my mother’s death, there was no baby that I could take comfort in. The money Mami worked so hard to save and leave to me, gone. Nothing to show for my efforts other than weight gain, anxiety and pain. I had been so consumed with the IVF that I did not properly grieve my mother. Grieving meant admitting she was gone. Every time I used the money, I felt she was still here, taking care of me.

I felt Mami’s intervention when my husband switched jobs and his new insurance offered fertility coverage. In 2015, I consulted with a reproductive endocrinologist in NY. Seventeen vials of blood revealed all potential future illnesses and that I most likely had endometriosis, which explained all the back problems that no musculoskeletal doctor or MRI could confirm and the painful periods. My husband’s magical insurance covered what would have been about 15k of lab work.
I was impatient and I asked the NY doctor to put me on a medicated cycle that included blood thinners and steroids in addition to estrogen and progesterone. The doctor agreed but said that if it didn’t work, I had to agree to a laparoscopy to get rid of the endometriosis.

In March of 2015 I got a positive pregnancy test  followed by a miscarriage, bloodier than it should have been at five weeks because of the blood thinners .

Two months later I had the laparoscopy, instead of endometriosis, the doctor found three fibroids hiding behind my organs that were undetectable through a vaginal ultrasound.

I gave birth to my daughter in June of 2016. I thought that once I gave birth to a healthy baby, the depression would go away, instead, I missed my mother immensely. I was grateful that I listened to my OBGYN and had my placenta encapsulated, she said it could help with postpartum depression which I feared.

Whenever I felt the blues come on, I popped a placenta pill. I don’t know if it was a placebo but it worked for the post-partum. It didn’t work for grief, the lingering effects of Infertility PTSD or the anxiety caused by the country’s new president.

***

My mother in law passed away in March. My daughter will grow up without grandmothers, both my grandmothers are still alive. I did not grow up with my grandmothers. I don’t have that connection many people have to their abuelitas, now, my daughter won’t either.

I went on a family vacation to the Dominican Republic in early July. It’s the place I was born, where my first memories with Mami took place. I was hoping to reconnect with a mother that has been dead for four years. As the plane landed on the island, the cabin filled with humidity, the smell of palm trees, ocean and wet soil. Tears I was not expecting suddenly cascaded down my face, gasping noises that took a few breaths to realize were coming from me, I felt Mami’s aura, I knew for those few seconds, she was with me, I could almost touch her. I let her know how grateful I was for everything she had done for me, I thanked her for my daughter, whose due date was on her birthday. I spent the rest of the trip trying to find her. Maybe I shouldn’t have been looking so hard, I should have let whatever it was I needed, find me.

***

Within a few weeks of returning from our vacation, I got bronchitis that took me three months to recover from.  I developed allergic rhinitis; one of the illnesses I was predisposed to based on the blood tests from the reproductive endocrinologist. I spent July through December fighting the fatigue that comes with excessive coughing, sneezing, soreness and the runny, stuffy, itchy nose, caused by the post nasal drip.

My 2017 was spent doing my best not sink into depression. Daily baths with Palo Santo soap, praying, attempting to meditate, weekly hikes and running which I had to stop once I got sick but I plan to get back to it. I also managed to reach my weekly Fitbit steps. These were probably the main reasons why I didn’t go into the dark hole.

I’m not one to make resolutions but I plan to go back to therapy. I don’t have to carry all this pain and manage it on my own. I’m trying to stop being such a control freak and letting some things just be.

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# 14 – Infertility & Self Loathing

When Matt and I were in Sydney for our honeymoon in 2010, I told him that I wanted to go back to celebrate our five year wedding anniversary with our future 3 year old.

After a year of acupuncture and a paleo diet, I got pregnant in 2012.

I had a miscarriage.

I decided to deal with the loss by focusing on the positive. I was happy that I got pregnant when it looked like it would never happen. I was hopeful because my body knew how to make a baby.

After seven months of trying and no rainbow baby (a baby born after a miscarriage), we consulted with a fertility doctor.

2014 was the year that IVFs 1-3 did not take.

The 4th IVF in 2015 was somewhat successful because I got pregnant but at five weeks, I had another  miscarriage.

To deal with this one, I started planning where to go for our 2nd honeymoon/5 year wedding anniversary/vacation.  I broke down thinking of the three year old we did not have. I went in and out of my boss’ office every time the tears spilled, relieved by the lack of people at work that day.

I needed to do something to feel like I was helping the situation. I reached out to all my religious friends and had them ask their pastors/priests about adoption, in case they knew of anyone who wanted to give up a child.

I was desperate.

This was something so out of my control that not even two top fertility doctors (one in New York and one in Los Angeles) could  help me because they couldn’t figure out what was wrong either.

I needed an answer, a reason, even if it wasn’t a good one,  something to help me move on.

I threw myself into my job and writing. I took two workshops at once, my free time was to be consumed with reading and writing.

I did not want to cry or dwell on the recent miscarriage.

What would the boy or boys have looked like?

Why did this keep happening to me?

What was wrong with me?

I decided that I would try one more round and that would be the last time I would put my body and heart  through the rigors of IVF. I made it my goal to work on being happy no matter what the outcome of the fifth and final IVF.

I would not be bitter if it didn’t work.

I would be grateful for having the resources to try.

In the end, I wanted no room for regrets.

I was already on my journey to gratitude and contentment when Matt got a new job that interfered with my plans for a second honeymoon on our fifth wedding anniversary.

I didn’t mope or complain. I was not going to have a depressing, miserable summer. I was getting better at coming up with plan E when A-D didn’t work.

I went on vacation with my girlfriends.

I had nothing to lose by trying to be happy.

In retrospect, it sounds like a piece of cake to switch gears and decide to be happy. It was not an easy task. This being a shitty first draft, I see where I need to fill in the details of the pain I was in to properly illustrate it.

Below is an excerpt from my journal.

Anger Stage of Grief: This is what self loathing looks like a week after  miscarriage number two from IVF number four.

April 2015 – I am angry; at myself for wanting this so fucking badly, at my body for not fucking doing this for me, at the pregnant bitch showing me her fucking ultrasound picture. I don’t give a fuck, keep your enthusiasm to yourself you stupid hoe bag. To the other one, nosey fuck, it’s none of your fucking business when my IVF is, I fucking hate you. Most of all, I really do hate myself right now. My fucking sister is telling me how brave I fucking am, how awesome my fucking body is for trying and trying.  No, I’m not brave, I’m a fucking idiot who doesn’t fucking know when to quit. My body is not fucking amazing, all I’ve gotten is two fucking miscarriages. I am obese with a bmi of 30 from  the anxiety, eating my feelings and the fertility drugs. I don’t feel amazing or maybe I do.  You know what I think of the word amazing? It’s overused and most people don’t know what it means. They glorify things that are not amazing, like parents who call their toddlers amazing for hitting milestones they should have hit months ago. In that case, yes, I am absolutely amazing, an amazing fucking loser.

After I wrote this entry, I screamed into a pillow and cried for about three hours. I did not let Matt or anyone see me like this. My heart, body and soul could not take it anymore. The physical and mental pain was exhausting and would probably kill me if I didn’t do something.

My daughter is now ten months old, the fifth IVF worked. I don’t know if it was the change in mindset or the odds finally being on my side. I am beyond blessed to have her. I do not take her or motherhood for granted.

I would like to think that if things hadn’t gone the way they did, I would have found a way to be content. Happiness is a tall order. Even when you get everything you want, there are too many horrors in the world for me to be truly happy.

 

 

# 12 – A Letter About Depression

I am sharing this letter I sent to my close group of friends in June of 2014 because there’s a lot of people on my social media feed that are grappling with some form of grief, loss and/or depression. In hindsight, I wish I had sought the help of a therapist. I left out the two failed IVF attempts, I was not ready to share my battle with infertility. If you are going through depression, get help and know that you are not alone.

 

Dear Friends,

Sorry I’ve been in hiding, crying, depressed, hoping to keep it together so I don’t cry at work. I just returned from a writing workshop at UC Berkeley and I have not cried since I left on June 22, I feel so good. I think I needed to get away from everything and focus on writing – I was exhausted every day, I thought I’d be able to take a few trips to SF and explore northern CA, I got so invested in what I was doing that I left the campus once to go to the faculty reading. I attached what I workshopped  and at the end of the email is the teacher’s feedback (he is a well regarded author and his memoir is a must read).

The reason for my depression;

Shortly after my mother died my godmother also passed away – she was one of my mother’s closest friends as a teenager and also my father’s sister – my parents met because of her. I didn’t realize how much her death affected me, I was planning on interviewing her, spend time with her asking her questions about my mother and their friendship.

One of my best friends (not copied here, please don’t send this to her) is also battling cancer it has spread to so many places, I’m praying for a miracle for her.

One of Matt’s best friends suffered a stroke, she is recuperating but it devastated Matt, he helped the family as much as he could and I’m grateful that her recovery is speeding up.

Matt’s mom is not doing well and probably does not have much left either, she is almost 90 years old, and is deteriorating rapidly due to a fall in early May. Seeing how compassionate Matt has been to his friend Janet and his mother reinforces my first impressions of him; he is a kind, compassionate and empathetic person and I am lucky to be married to him. He has been spending a lot of time with his mother, assisting in her care taking, even changing her diapers and helping give her a bath when one of her attendants didn’t show up. I am humbled just to know him and it reminds me of Sonja’s strength when she took it upon herself to become my mother’s caretaker during the last month of her life. The eldest child is supposed to be the strongest and here are the babies of my two families proving me wrong.

OK, I’m crying now for the first time in two weeks. My acupuncturist told me that my crying is natural given all the recent losses, writing them down on this email has made me realize that yes, it’s a lot and I’m glad I let the tears flow instead of holding it back.

I’m still being a turtle, taking my time coming out of the shell but wanted to share with you what a magical time I had in my workshop. I’m saving money because the next one I want to go to is almost $3,000, in Hawaii, taught by Cheryl Strayed – her memoir Wild took me forever to read. I thought it was about a woman hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (it was) but the crazy hike was inspired by her quest to find herself after the death of her mother! See the themes here?

You don’t have to read the story, it’s 14 pages so no hurt feelings.  Sometime next week I will work on the revision. (Lynn, you already read it but wanted to include you in the email so you can see the feedback and know I’m thinking of you).

I hope you are all doing well and know that I treasure your friendship.

Thank You all for being in my life.

# 10 – Grief & Depression

Grieving Mami was more difficult than I anticipated. I had six years to prepare but I was not ready. Each day greeted me with a new reminder that my mother was dead.  How many times would I dial her number before I remembered she was gone? How many times would I crave her bacalao, albondigas and carne mechada before realizing that their flavor, aroma and comfort died with her.

I planned to visit my God-mother in the Dominican Republic the summer after Mami died. Consuelo was Mami’s best friend, Papi’s sister and the one responsible for their union.  The day I bought my plane ticket Papi called to tell me she was dead. Cancer got her too. The rest of my life will now be filled with the regret of unanswered questions and one sided conversations with Mami’s ghost.

My grief morphed into depression. The more I tried to stop it, the deeper down the maelstrom I went.  Driving on the freeway felt like an unseen hand was squeezing my throat while another one pinched my nose. I started driving on the exit lane to not add claustrophobia to my anxiety cocktail. I self-medicated with food and Netflix binges. I lost my desire to read, to hike, to see friends. I gained fifteen pounds.

My life became robotic; get up, drive to work, eat, work, eat, drive home, eat, Netflix, eat, sleep five hour, repeat.

My worse fear was that the darkness could lead me to commit suicide or get addicted to drugs even though I’ve never had thoughts of suicide or an addictive personality.  A medicine cabinet full of Vicodin that I rarely used and did not know how to properly dispose of should have assured me that I would not go there.  I excel at worrying about everything including things with very little chance of happening.  I asked my husband and sister to keep an eye on me just in case.

A few years earlier my therapist diagnosed me with anticipatory anxiety because I always think of the worst case scenario, I need to be prepared for it, have a plan, just in case. I thought I was ready to let Mami go while she was dying but I was not prepared for my her death or the aftermath.

I am an optimist, always finding light or a shimmer of hope to guide me through difficult times. After spending half of my adult life witnessing the strongest person I knew battle cancer, suicide and drug abuse were not options for me.  I knew my mother and aunt were dead but self-awareness did not make the darkness go away.  Is this what the road the Cuckoo’s Nest was like? Was I, to quote Ozzy, “on the rails of a crazy train?”

I learned to function with depression. I have a hard time asking for help, in hindsight, I should have gone back to therapy to deal with the initial grief and loss.

My friend Rachel, whose mother has been dead for over a decade, once told me that you never get over the loss of the person that loves you the most in the world. She made me realize my sorrow was normal. When  “the person that loves you the most in the world” dies, you are left with an emptiness that can never be filled.

I gave birth to my daughter almost three years later. My due date was on her  birthday.  I know my baby is a gift from Mami.  She came out of my womb with a piercing cry that rippled through me like a high voltage current. The intensity of the moment made me miss my mother more than I ever had.