Postpartum dispatch #2

Ninety minutes is the magic number, the length of one adult sleep cycle.  One 90-minute nap resets my brain enough to carry on a little longer.  Three 90-minute stretches over the course of a night and I am semi-human the next day.  Zero such stretches—the nights when Younger Brother wakes at the end of each of his 45-minute sleep cycles—and life is gray and heavy.  I fantasize about checking into a hotel, taking a sleeping pill, and crashing for 12 hours beneath a puffy white duvet.

(Update: He slept for five-and-a-half hours straight last night, then went down for another two.  It was glorious.)


Postpartum dispatch #1

For the first two weeks after giving birth, feeling like a mental wreck isn’t pathological.  Something like 80% of new moms experience the “baby blues.”  To nobody’s surprise, it turns out that dramatic hormone fluctuations and acute sleep deprivation can really mess with your head.

I have cried over the strangest things since Younger Brother was born.  For example: I thought of happy memories from when Little Boy was a baby, like going on walks in the evening light, and that made me sad.  They were not tears of joy, but tears of deep melancholy.

The wacky mood swings have mostly faded now, a month out, but chronic sleep deprivation is taking its toll.  I distinctly recall feeding Younger Brother shortly before midnight last night, and I know I was roused again by a hungry baby around 4 a.m.  I think there might have been another feeding in the middle, about 2 or 2:30 . . . but I honestly cannot say for sure.  Perhaps I dreamed it, or perhaps I merely stirred briefly and glanced at the clock.


I’m sick and I need to complain about it

I’ve been down with the flu all week, and it sucks.  Sinus congestion, headaches, body aches, low-grade fever, and, of course, fatigue.  Just walking around drains my energy.

I’m getting awfully darn tired of being sick.  I got hit with some other flu-ish thing, slightly milder but still exhausting, in mid-December, and haven’t been properly well since.  Unlike everything we caught last winter, neither of these illnesses seem to have originated in daycare; Little Boy was also sick this week, but with pink eye and an ear infection, both of which are bacterial.  (Lucky kid—he gets antibiotics.)

Fortunately, your basic flu isn’t a threat to a developing embryo.  Unfortunately, my pregnancy nausea is now in full swing, and seems to especially flare up whenever I lie down.  So that’s fun.

My mental state is understandably not great, a combination of general misery, hormone-induced anxiety, and frustration at not being able to get anything done.  I’ve been continually grazing on whatever food sounds good, and it’s triggering my body image issues hard.  I feel fat and gross and ugly, and too sick to do anything about it.

Here’s hoping the next week is better—well, OK, let me rephrase that: here’s hoping that whatever crap the next week brings, I’m at least physically well enough to start trying to deal with it.

My psychiatrist doesn’t know what to do with me

“Have you considered seeing a naturopath?”

“No, I’m not going to go to a naturopath.”

“They’re highly trained individuals—”

“I’m not going to go to a naturopath.”

So went the conversation with my psychiatrist this morning.  The topic under discussion was my ongoing fatigue, which comes up at these appointments because I’m pretty sure it’s at least partly a side effect of my medication.  SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) put me to sleep.

I reached this point with a physical therapist once.  When her prescribed exercises failed to fix my hip, she started recommending meditation and some odd relaxation exercises that seemed to imply the pain was in my head.  (I’m not knocking meditation—it’s just that that’s when I knew she was out of ideas.)

By this point, my psychiatrist has suggested quite a lot of ideas for my depression and related lack of energy, including acupuncture and something called “somatic experiencing” (which might be a perfectly valid sort of therapy, but my insurance doesn’t cover it, so nope).  We tried megadoses of vitamin B12.  We tried regular talk therapy, which might be worth trying again sometime, but is an awful lot of time and effort when it doesn’t work out.

Now, apparently, we’re at naturopathy.

I get the impression that psychiatry maybe doesn’t know how to handle people like me, who have to manage depression in the very-long-term.  (To be honest, I think our medical system isn’t very good at handling chronic anything.)  It was obvious that starting me on an antidepressant was the right thing to do when I was falling apart after Little Boy’s birth.  The meds worked.  They still work, but they don’t work perfectly, and the side effects are becoming increasingly annoying.

At this point, you might be thinking that the obvious answer is to find another psychiatrist with some fresh ideas.  That’s easier said than done, but as it turns out, I have to do exactly that, because my psychiatrist will no longer be seeing anyone on an outpatient basis after next month.  She’s given me some leads on other people who take my insurance.

We’re also trying something new and fancy and trademarked, a test by GeneSight that will supposedly tell me which antidepressants will work best for my brain.  I’m a little skeptical—it almost sounds too good to be true—but hopefully it will offer some guidance on finding a medication that works better / makes me less sleepy.

So that’s my crazy report.  How’re you doing?

The exhaustion monster strikes again

I’m sick and tired of being, well, sick and tired.  Mostly tired.  It feels like I’m always tired, but the past few weeks have been particularly bad.  I keep crashing at school and just having to put my head on my desk and nap.  (Which I recognize is a huge privilege to be able to do, but it certainly doesn’t help me get my PhD done.)  There’s a mental fatigue, too: just thinking about what I need to do next can be overwhelmingly exhausting.

So, yeah, this is a post of complaining and self-pity.  Because I hate this state of fatigue.  Especially when it goes on and on and on and doesn’t seem to get any better and there’s no good reason for it.  It’s not my thyroid or anemia or a B12 deficiency or anything that shows up on a standard blood test.  I have a sneaking suspicion that it might be related to my antidepressants, which have a tendency to either put me to sleep or prevent me from getting rest, only I’m not quite sure which one it is this time.  And we are all still fighting the latest daycare-sourced cold.  Cold and flu season needs to hurry up and end!


*Wallows in self-pity for a bit longer.*

*Realizes she’s too tired to think of anything else to say.*

Got any fun stories to cheer me up?

In case anyone’s wondering…

…I’m still here.  Just sick.  Again.  I’m not sure if this one came from daycare or from the grad student in the office next to mine, but it sucks.  A nasty cold, or maybe a mild flu.  Hard to tell.  I had lots of congestion at first, but now I’m just achy and chilly and utterly exhausted.  Little Boy, thank goodness, either already got over this or hasn’t had it yet; ditto for my husband.

OK, that’s enough self-pity for today.  Time for a cup of hot tea and another episode of Call the Midwife.  Hope you all are feeling better than I am.

Vitamin B12 does nothing for me

A couple of months ago, I mentioned that I’d added a daily megadose of Vitamin B12 to my diet.  My doctor thought it might combat my general fatigue and help with the dizzy spells I’d been having.

Did it do anything?  Nope.

Just following up, in case anyone was curious.  I finished out the bottle and won’t be buying any more.  Not going to keep taking 16,000% of the recommended daily value of something if it has no apparent benefits.

So, I’m still tired.  I can sleep 8 hours a night and still want to nap and nap and nap all day.  On the plus side, I did figure out what was causing my dizziness, which I’ll explain in my next post.  Stay tuned!

The Vitamin B12 experiment begins today

I took four vitamins with breakfast this morning.  For the curious, I’ve been taking my prenatal multivitamin—as most breastfeeding moms should—along with extra Vitamin D and a fish oil DHA supplement, both recommended by my doctor to help combat depression.  Today, I added Vitamin B12, again on the recommendation of my doctor.  We’re hoping it will alleviate some of my ongoing fatigue and (fingers crossed) the odd dizzy spells I’ve been getting on occasion.

The bottle tells me that the 1000-microgram dose is equal to 16,667% of the recommended daily allowance.  That… seems like a lot.  Certainly more than I would take without explicit medical advice.  I’m pretty convinced that it’s not going to poison me or Little Boy: it’s a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it won’t build up in the body, and legitimate medical websites assure me that there aren’t any weird side effects.

I’m not holding out any hope that this new supplement will do much of anything for me—no vitamin in the past ever has.  Still, I’m willing to try.  Heck, if it makes me feel better, I’m completely fine with a placebo effect.

We shall see.  I’ll report back in a month or so.

Tired all the time

To paraphrase the Dos Equis guy, I don’t always feel tired, but when I do — no, actually, I do always feel tired.  Or, if not always, often enough that it’s my normal.

For the longest time, I hoped that there was something specific (but fixable!) wrong with me, like iron-deficiency anemia or an underactive thyroid.  Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately), blood tests through the years have ruled those things out.  We did eventually figure out that one of the medications I was taking in college was the reason I kept falling asleep in class, and changing that helped quite a bit.  But I still routinely find myself overwhelmed by the urge to lay my head on a pillow, close my eyes, and let my brain recharge with sleep.

Pregnancy and the early postpartum period made everything much worse, of course.  Now, however, I no longer wake unprompted at 5 a.m., expecting either a hungry baby or loud thuds from our ex-neighbors.  By the numbers, I’m getting enough sleep at night.  Yet I still often find myself unable to think or focus or process information by the end of the day.

And so I run through the list of possible reasons:

  • I’m hungry and have low blood sugar.
  • I just ate and am in a carbohydrate stupor.
  • I worked out today.
  • I haven’t worked out much lately.
  • I’m depressed.
  • My antidepressant makes me drowsy.
  • My antidepressant keeps me up at night.
  • I didn’t get the chance to take a nap.
  • I took a nap, but it wasn’t long enough.
  • I took a nap and it was too long.
  • I tried to do too many things today.
  • I didn’t do anything today.
  • I haven’t had any caffeine yet today.
  • I had too much caffeine today.
  • I’m bored.
  • I’m worried.
  • I’m being overdramatic… maybe this is normal and everyone feels this way.

Maybe I’ll figure it out someday.