Tuesday, June 18, 2013

PADS

Shortly after bringing K home from the hospital, I was diagnosed with PADS: Post-Adoption Depression Syndrome.

I've written a little bit about my issues with mental health on this blog, but I haven't gone into too much depth. It's not that I'm ashamed or afraid of what people might think or say. It's just incredibly difficult for me to talk about. I'm going to attempt to write about it now, in part because I think it's an important (potential) aspect of both the adoption and infertility process, and because I know that other people are dealing with similar issues.

Doctors first diagnosed me with depression when I was 18, so this is something that I've dealt with for about 10 years now - at least dealt with in the sense of knowing what I was going through. I think that before my diagnosis, I attributed most of my feelings toward hormones and simply being a teenager. Mental health issues also were not discussed as openly as they are today. In fact, after my diagnosis, my family and friends ignored it. They acted like it never happened. I don't blame them for this. It's what most people do, or did. It's hard to know what to say - to know what's right or what's wrong.

College was probably the best time for me as far as treatment was concerned. As a student, I had access to free counseling. I was on medication, too, of course, but the counseling is what helped me truly understand what I was going through. I went often, sometimes, once a week. I tried different types of therapy. Collectively, therapy made me realize what I'd been dealing with on my own. It was during this time when I learned that depression wasn't something I could cure. It was only something I could manage, and my therapists taught me how to manage it. It would involve medication, but it would also involve being proactive in my own thought process. I would have to be aware of when things were slipping from me and adjust my life, or my thinking, accordingly.

I went through bouts of depression that were sometimes more difficult than others. When we lived in Nashville, I started seeing a counselor again to talk about some of my underlying issues - what caused my depression and those feelings of anxiety to resurface. I saw several therapists while going through infertility, as well, though none of them lasted long-term. I found that they couldn't quite understand or relate to what I felt at that time as well as other women going through the motions could.

Then, we became parents. I certainly didn't think that becoming a parent would be easy. Not by any means. But I did (naively) believe that I would be happy 100 percent of the time. After all, I was finally getting to experience what we had worked so hard for. I was finally a mother. What could possibly trigger my depression at this point?

What I failed to realize was that every aspect of this circumstance was a recipe for disaster when it came to my mental health. Do you know what doesn't help a person who suffers from depression? Do you know what doesn't help anyone? Sleep depravation. Schedule changes. Sudden altering of life's routines. Stress. The pressure and anxieties that come with having a baby in the NICU for FIVE weeks, and living there while she has tubes coming out of her from every angle. Arguing with doctors and nurses about her continuity of care.

It's a little surprising that I didn't reach a breaking point while still living at the hospital, but it wasn't until after I got home when I completely melted down. I lost it.

While I was somewhat embarrassed to admit that I needed help, I'd been through episodes of depression enough to realize that I had to see someone. I went to my GP and she put me back on my medication, which helped tremendously. I reached out to friends who'd been through post-partum depression for advice and comfort. It wasn't easy. I was basically admitting that I was unhappy despite finally bringing home our baby. But what people might fail to understand is that it had nothing to do with adoption. It had nothing to do with bonding with my child or feeling like a parent. It had everything to do with my previous mental health issues. It also had everything to do with the overwhelming stress that comes with bringing home a newborn - whether you birth that newborn or someone else does. It doesn't matter. It can - and does - happen to anyone.

The feeling passed quickly. However, this time, I chose to stay on medication. While I've had the typical "funks" that one with depression gets since K's birth, I certainly haven't slipped into a depression like the one I experienced when we brought her home.

Yet, I still think about it when people bring up what it's like to finally meet your child through adoption. I think about it because, inevitably, people ask me if I feel like a real mother. People ask me if I still wish I'd been pregnant. People who are considering adoption want to know: how will they feel after they experience this life-altering event.

The answer is the same as any new mom: you will feel scared shitless. Overwhelmed. Yes, you may experience bouts of depression. Yet, I can tell you with certainty that I would have experienced that same depression if I'd given birth. Why? Well, because becoming a parent is scary, stressful shit - regardless of the way it happens. It's like someone flips a light switch in a dark room and your entire perspective, your entire viewpoint on life changes. And in those initial moments, when your eyes are still trying to adjust, it can be hard to find your way.

17 comments:

Casey said...

Thank you for sharing this. You are an incredibly amazing and strong woman. You are modeling self-awareness and the ability to seek help when needed to K, these two attributes will help K in her most difficult times for the rest of her life. xoxo

Amanda said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I'm all too familiar with PPD, but had never heard of PADS. You've put a whole new light on the subject for me. It's not just about hormones, it's about the gigantic amount of life changes that come with bringing a newborn home. Thank you, again, for sharing.

gailcanoe said...

Thanks for sharing this. It is one of the most honest accounts that I have ever read and it really helps to know that adoption isn't without its trials and tribulations. I hope that this brings more awareness to this condition and more acceptance that it can happen.

Nikki said...

I agree, thank you for sharing. After trying for years and finally bringing home our son everyone assumed I was supposed to just be happy and have no worries. If anything it made the depression I had from infertility come to the surface. We spent a week in the NICU even though he was 41 weeks along. A week was awful and I can't imagine staying longer than that. I was able to stay at the hospital with him which made it easier but it was nice to go home and sleep in my bed. He wouldn't nurse and I was trying to pump. People kept showing up and I was trying to pump every two hours to get supply up and with no sleep I was just miserable. Everyone was asking me "How does it feel to be a mom finally?" Honestly at the time it didn't feel great. After a year and now that he is sleeping much better things are going well. It is still a 24/7 job and I feel like I can never catch up on anything but I wouldn't trade him for the world. I don't think I want another one even though people think I am being selfish by not giving him a sibling. Getting pregnant isn't a fly by the night thing for me so we may not be able to. It is a dark road sometimes that some people don't want to talk about. Thanks again.

Dipitie S said...

Thank you so much for openly sharing your struggle. I don't know if I will get there or not, but I wouldn't be surprised if I experienced some sort of depression in the aftermath. Having a child, no matter how you get there, is a supremely stressful process and full of the unexpected. Life will never be the same. (((HUGS))) Glad that things are getting more manageable.

SRB said...

Last week I finally had the nerve to hit publish on my PPD post... I was so scared about discussing it in general, and in the ALI community specifically. So much self-directed guilt, but I have been so grateful and humbled by the support I received instead. In one comment, a friend said that she thinks she suffered from PADS as well, and I felt ashamed that I never really thought about it. I thank you so, so much for sharing your story too so that others can know, and understand, and be supportive. This will help somebody, and I truly hope it helps you feel a little lighter too.

It Is What It Is said...

I am so glad you posted this and I hope you feel a catharsis of sorts for having done so.

I have never suffered from clinical depression but I wonder if I am now. It's been hard for me to consider that that might be the cause of my current mental state when I FINALLY have what I've worked so long to have. However, I realize that gratitude and depression can co-exist so am glad to be seeing my therapist to help work through it, too.

Bravo, mama!

MrsMann said...

Thank you for sharing! It's clear how many of us are glad you are. I was officially diagnosed with depression during the worst point of battling infertility. I have been on an anti depressant for almost 2 years now. Looking back, I am fairly sure I have battled bouts of depression since my Dad got cancer when I was a teenager. I am glad to hear the reality from you now, as I am sure I will be likely to struggle with many of the same issues when we get a match/placement. Because of you, I won't feel as ashamed if it does hit me. You are an inspiration!

S.I.F. said...

I read a lot about PADS before bringing Cheeks home, but for me the panic actually hit in the days before I met her. Full blown, rocking back and forth, freaking the F out. Which was so unexpected, because wasn't this what I wanted so badly? I can say that for me, I haven't experienced any of that since having her in my arms - but it is so different for everyone, and I am proud of you for not only recognizing the problem, but for also being willing to address it.

Also, the best mental health care I have ever had in my life was when I was in college. I had a LOT of drama from my childhood to work through, and the free mental health services at school gave me the ability to do that. It literally transformed my life, and I only wish those same services were available to everyone, nationwide.

Jen said...

Thanks for sharing this. As someone who dealt with depression WHILE I was pregnant-something also that people don't talk much about or seem to know much about, I understand to some extent. I had also dealt with anxiety and depression previously; and you're right, bringing home a newborn (or 2!) is terrifying and stressful no matter what.

Jin said...

Agreed. It happens regardless of how you became parents. I had slight PPD with Amelia and then full blown after Claire. It drove me crazy that people say "oh you must be so happy now that your baby is here!" When in reality I was in a bad downward spiral.

dspence said...

Thank you for sharing your story. Depression after bringing home a child, whether PADS or PPD, is a topic not many have the courage to write about. Hearing from other people experiencing the same thing is so important!

Rach said...

I also thought everything would be perfect and I'd never complain or be unhappy after I had a child. Just didnt happen! Life has lots of ups and downs, no matter what stage you are in (infertility treatments, adoption wait, parents)! Glad you stayed strong and have lots of support.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for sharing these thoughts. It took us 10 years to finally have a baby and it was through a domestic adoption and I was scared and looking back probably depressed after he came home too. People and friends said so many upsetting comments - such as are we worried about the birthmother taking back our son, Doesn't she have a year to be able to take him away, did I feel like a real mother, when would we tell our son we werent his real parents, oh your son may be very sick beacuse you couldnt breast feed him, poor child, and on and on. I went back to work 5 hours a day after our son cam home after the first week so add in horrible sleep deprivation, to say the least I was a mess and did not know why I wasn't feeling joy or happiness beyond belief.It made me feel so horrible that after 10 years of praying and doing everything humanly possible we had our beautiful baby boy but I lived in fear and was so stressed out for the first year. I did not have any history of depression but the people I thought would be my biggest support said hurtful and painful things and to incinuate I wasn't a real Mom because I didnt give birth hurt me to the core and still does when they say things or dont include me in Mom conversations when someone in my office gives birth.Know you are not alone and I am so glad you wrote this , it has made me feel validated and not horrible about my feelings when we first brought our son home.Adoption is not an easy road but Motherhood has so many facets to it and we just need to remember not to be so hard on our selfs and ask for help when and if we need it. Our son is such a huge blessing anf=d gift and I am so greatful for him and his irthmother for his life, no one will understand unless you have to go down the road of not being able to have a biological child and see the gift of adoption.

Geochick said...

Thanks for sharing.

Secret Sloper said...

I'm so glad you were able to identify what was going on and get yourself the help you needed to be there for yourself and your family. Good job!

Bringing home a new baby is HARD, whatever someone went through to get there, whatever condition the parents or baby are in. I was very worried about possible PPD when I brought home Smudgie and made sure to continue regularly checking in with my therapist during those first months. Thankfully I was spared anything beyond the expected sleep-deprived tears and hormone shifts, but even they were hard to handle!

myinfertilitywoes said...

It took courage to post this. Thank you. I' m sorry it was so difficult for you during that time. Hugs to you!