Monday, July 25, 2011

when depression hurts

Since I've been blogging about this journey, I've encountered a number of women who are battling with depression and anxiety alongside their infertility.

I was barely 18 when I was diagnosed with clinical depression and anxiety, and I started counseling and medication shortly after. I continued with both forms of treatment through college, then stopped, then started again not too long after the infertility diagnosis. I tried seeing a counselor here not too long ago - late last year? - about everything, but I didn't like her. I've been on pretty much every depression/anxiety medication in my life, but I didn't like the way any of them made me feel.

Nothing, for the record. They made me feel nothing, which is not fun. I like to feel some emotion. Not crying at a funeral is what made me swear off antidepressants forever.

This doesn't mean that I'm okay now. In fact, much like infertility, I'm not sure there is a "cure" when you are diagnosed with depression. You learn to live your life knowing that there are days or weeks or even months where you will go through a down time. You learn ways to cope. You force yourself to get out of bed in the mornings, even though the last thing you want to do is face the world. It's a daily, internal battle - at least for me. I go through periods when I'm fine, and then I'll be down for a while. The comfort is knowing that I'll feel better again soon. I always do.

Combining depression with fertility issues is a recipe for disaster. A doctor telling you that your body doesn't work the way it's supposed to is devastating when you already struggle with your self-image. To make matters worse, it's bringing together two medical issues that the general population already has a difficult time understanding. Can't get pregnant? Take a vacation/it's nature's way of controlling the population/infertility isn't a "real" disease. Feeling depressed? Go see a movie/Everyone gets sad sometimes . . . get over it/Depression isn't a "real" disease.

Then there are the hormones. As if you don't have a hard enough time controlling your emotions with depression, this task becomes nearly impossible when you're popping pills and injecting yourself with HCG and progesterone and estrogen and Lupron and god knows what else is out there. You might be crying one minute, laughing the next, and throwing things right after that. I know, because I've been there.

It's a problem - how to cope with both simultaneously. There are only so many books you can read. Medication is fine, for a while, but many aren't safe to take during pregnancy. Support groups don't exist everywhere, and not every counselor knows how to address issues with infertility. Some of us have learned that last point the hard way. What do we do? How do we manage two diseases at once, knowing that neither will have a cure and only one may have a resolution?

I think this is where our community plays such an important role, whether we realize it or not. Yes, it's nice to know that you aren't the only woman in the world whose uterus doesn't work. But it's also nice to know that you aren't the only woman in the world whose uterus doesn't work and who also grapples with the huge emotional consequences that come with it. It doesn't matter if you suffered from depression and anxiety before or after your battle with infertility began. What matters is knowing that you aren't alone and your feelings are validated. What matters is having someone to turn to who will help encourage you to get out of bed in the mornings and to keep fighting.

Do I wish there was more professional support available for those suffering? Yes. I wish all adoption agencies and clinics would provide FREE counseling services? Yes. (I know some do, but not all.) Do I wish there were more support groups and more outreach programs? Yes. But until we have those things, we need to be there for one other. We need to support and encourage. And we need to recognize when someone's depression becomes too much for us to help. It's not simply about being an advocate for changes in legislation or insurance coverage. It's also about being an advocate for our emotional and mental health.

If you need to speak to someone about infertility support, please contact your local RESOLVE HelpLine.

21 comments:

Glass Case of Emotion said...

Great post Katie! Mental illness, I agree is oft misunderstood. I actually have come to believe through research, those of us suffering through IF may actually be suffering along something like a mild PTSD.

I've been there too, many times.

MrsMann said...

I am a new follower/reader here. Found you when RESOLVE asked me to vote for best blog (you all the way!).

I am 2 1/2 years into this infertility battle and get weaker by the day. My husband has begun recently saying this dreaded D word (depression). He is the only one who realizes I am drowning and he can't save me on his own.

Thank you for this post. I can never be reminded enough that I am not alone.

Rebecca said...

Katie, you have me in tears. You just spoke everything that is in my head. I suddenly flashed back to getting off of anti-depressants because of the way they made me feel (or not) when my grandmother died.

I had control of my anxiety and depression until IF hit. And, now, I sometimes feel like I'm just kind of barely holding on. If this community didn't exist, I don't think I would be.

Thank you for everything you are. ((hugs))

Kelly said...

You're so right, Katie. It's not something that people can just "snap out of".

Kechara said...

I agree with the others, great post! I'm actually about to link to it on my blog, since I've been dealing with depression since I was in my early teens.

AlexMMR said...

I struggled with bipolar II for about 20 years. When we first got married, I went off my meds to potentially get pregnant and we just watched me decline day after day. Decided to go back on the meds since there was only a .001% chance of me getting pregnant, but a 100% chance of not being able to function without the meds.

Then I had surgery to correct sleep apnea.

A year later, went off the meds again while we started to try combating IF and just braced ourselves for the decline. The decline never happened.

While I still fly a little lower than the average person, my depression is no longer an issue. Quite the shock after 20 years of hell!

If you snore, and you have depression issues, get yourself in for a sleep study. I can't promise that it will help at all, but there's a chance that it will. Curing the sleep apnea practically cured my depression, something I always knew for a fact would never happen.

Sushigirl said...

Great post. I went through a terribly episode of depression after my miscarriage. I went to the doctor and everything - they were sympathetic but didn't actually do anything, and for weeks afterwards I was wandering around the city in a total daze. Both IF and mental health problems are bad enough on their own without being compounded byt the other

mama in the making.... said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
mama in the making.... said...

this post is EXACTLY what my husband needs to read. we are currently battling over whether or not my depression due to not being able to conceive (yet) is justified. As if I'm not down enough, the man I married doesn't get it or seem to even try to.

Jennifer said...

It is completely unfair to have depression and infertility together. I hate the fact that they are percieved as non illnesses also. Pisses me off. At the risk of sounding ..well you know I just want to share my experience, I've suffered from depressions since I can remember. I went through therapists after therapist and they just weren't right, hopped me up on meds, etc. Then I did find one who I liked, I told her absolutely no meds, I want tools. She gave me some tools and gradually without my even noticing..it got better. I think you just have to keep trying different therapists and I know it will always be there but now I have tools. I never thought I would feel better but I do, she even helped me come to terms with next steps for me. If this IVF doesn't work and we decide to live child free or adopt I think I am going to be ok...and even happy and I never thought that would happen.

Crystal said...

Great post. I too am suffering from depression and anxiety on top of infertility. Everything you said, I can relate too, 100%.

Though I'm still on the medications because I'm not sure I can cope right now with out them. Luckily, they don't make me numb. But with infertility, grand parents getting diagnosed with cancer and another with dementia, plus a miscarriage... I'm defiantly drowning and it's not something I can snap out of either.

It really sucks to not only have depression but to have it affect every aspect of your life.

Laura said...

Oh my word. I came upon this post at just the right time. Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone and it's okay.

A Work In Progress said...

This is the best post that I have read in a long time. I identified with both depression and anxiety whole dealing with my infertility....its a hard road.....

Mommy ToBe (I hope) said...

I'm sorry to hear about your struggle with depression. I've been dealing with depression and anxiety a bit since I had my miscarriage in December. It is so hard to think positively during this process especially since it is a cyclical event.

Thank you for your honesty and openess in sharing. It helps to know that I'm not alone in these feelings.

deli said...

Thank you so much for this post. I've had similar battles with depression & mood disorders since the age of 19 (at least), and IF and the corresponding treatments have been a huge struggle to deal with on top of that.

It really helps to know you're not alone in this crappy boat.

Jem said...

I've been thinking about you and your post for days now. I agree that IFers are suffering from PTSD. What we go through is horrendous and stressful.

Your post definitely touched people. Thank you for sharing your perspective.

christine said...

What a fantastic post! To outsiders, it is SOOOO easy to say that depression and/or infertility are not diseases, but they are! I'm glad there are blogs out there (like yours) educating people on the realities of both.

Calmantha said...

What a wonderful post. You say things many people in the community feel, and you do so in such an understandable way that people outside the community can start to understand.

Damita said...

Great Post! My depression has come back after finishing uni and job hunting and hitting a year TTC,

*hugs*

Tim and Tabitha said...

Thank you! Very nicely said. The online boards, blogs and information on sites like Resolve are the things that get me through the tough days...

Logical Libby said...

I have been on antidepressants for most of my life. I will never be off them. And then I read that taking antidepressants long term could be linked to infertility in women. That was a HUGE kick in the gut. Knowing that I am not the only one dealing with this though makes it better.