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June 4, 2008

I had just seen my Wizard, The Shrink, and I was in our local groovy pharmacy today getting another prescription filled for anti-depressants. I decided to kill some time by perusing the store’s book selection, and found this: “The Zen Path through Depression”. The irony of me finding this book on Zen while waiting for my anti-depressants was not lost on me. I didn’t know whether to chuckle at myself or to burst out in tears on how hopeless it all was.

When I first started taking anti-depressants three weeks ago, I was started out on Well.butrin. I felt the effects immediately. I went from 0 to 60 in a couple of days. I felt like the Energizer Bunny compared to how down in the dumps I was feeling before. Magic told me that he looked at the chemical structure of Well.butrin, being a wiz in this type of thing, and that basically, it’s very similar to metham.phetamine. I needed to function, so the extra boost was welcome as I had a lot of catching up to do from the down time of my IVF cycle and pregnancy. That lasted for about a week, until the depression started creeping in again, but that may have been situational. My Shrink put the medicines in perspective for me. “We are just trying to get you to the shore,” he said. “We aren’t going to give you a speed boat, you’ll still have to swim.” I liked this analogy, and it made me think of Sharah’s brilliant post on “Infertility Island”. If you haven’t read it yet, go read it now, or this next part won’t make sense! I feel like I’ve been drifting in the current ever since my ferry capsized and haven’t know which shore to swim to. I still have a lot of inner work to do, so I better get swimming, as that shore looks kinda far away!

I was prescribed another anti-depressant today, to cover all the neurotransmitter bases. The Well.butrin increases dopamine and norepinephrine. Too much norepinephrine can cause side effects, like interfering with sleep. I now have Cel.exa, an SSRI drug to increase serotonin, to mellow out the speed like effect of the Well.butrin, and hopefully make me sleep more.

As I was waiting for the Cel.exa prescription to be filled, I browsed through the contents of “The Zen Path through Depression”. I gravitated towards the Chapter titled “Doubt”.

“…in depression [my note: feel free to substitute with infertility here] all the reassuring and comfortable touchstones we had, or thought we had, in our lives are gone. We feel adrift, with nothing to believe in. The doubt within us sits heavily in the pits of our stomachs. We can’t seem to get rid of it no matter how hard we try.”

I have doubt about a lot of things. Doubt if we will try again. Doubt about my ability to be a good mother. Doubt about whether I really want to have children or that I want to live childfree. Doubt that I really know what I want in life, or that I really know who I am, for that matter of fact. Doubt that God or the Universe cares about me, that maybe I’m just the butt of a cruel cosmic joke. Doubt that I should have ever gone down this road of IVF with all the agony it’s brought me. Doubt that I know what to do with my life next.

“We must be willing to reside in the midst of this enormous doubt and let it be all right. In fact, we must accept that it may never be resolved and that this will still be all right.

This means that we continually question; we never simply accept the answers others give us. It means that we do not hold on to the answers even when we have discovered them for ourselves.

If we can live with this doubt, we can then be continually ready to be surprised – by life, by ourselves, by our answers, by our experience.”

The author describes how Zen koans, which are like riddles to meditate on that have no answer (“what is the sound of one hand clapping?”), are used to increase doubt. I feel that I have been given a koan to meditate on. I wanted to have children all my life and went to great lengths to achieve that goal. Yet, I had a lot of contradictory thoughts when I was pregnant. Was that prenatal depression? One book I have on depression and anxiety says this:

“Pregnancy does not protect women from depression. In fact, at no other time is a woman at greater risk for the onset or relapse of a psychiatric disorder than during pregnancy and the post partum period…For women who have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, pregnancy and labor and delivery can also trigger flashbacks, nightmares, and intrusive thoughts about prior traumatic events.”

What trauma was I reliving? I’ve already worked on my childhood issues a lot, so I was completely unprepared to deal with the intensity of emotions that surfaced around this during my pregnancy.

I know I need to find some answers about what happened to me while I was pregnant. I want resolution, though I know that it may never be resolved. For now, these questions, these koans keep me up at night.

Healing Anxiety and Depression, by Daniel G. Amen, M.D. 2003.

The Zen Path through Depression, by Philip Martin. 1999.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Duck permalink
    June 4, 2008 8:37 am

    What an incredible and honest post. I have never been diagnosed with depression, but, would say that there is something not quite right with me lately, that I have felt like this in the past, and somehow I always crawl out of the overwhelming darkness and into the comforting light… sometimes it just takes longer.hope your new drugs help.

  2. June 4, 2008 8:51 am

    I dont have any assvice or suggestions, but I just wanted you to know I am thinking of you.

  3. Spicy Sister permalink
    June 4, 2008 12:12 pm

    oh wow. I have been siting here trying to figure out how to write about the depression I have been experiencing,unexpectedly, during the last few weeks. Doubt is strong. And feeling depression in the midst of a desperately desired pregnancy only makes that doubt more frightening and real. I guess what I am saying is that your post today is helping me a lot with putting my thoughts around this into perspective. Thank you for that.Thank you for sharing these parts of yourself so openly and honestly. It is probably helping more people than you could imagine.Blessings to you.

  4. HeidiM permalink
    June 4, 2008 1:18 pm

    You are so actively working through your demons that it is totally motivating me to do more soul-searching! You are raising the bar on moving forward in authenticity and self-knowledge. I think it’s an excellent influence for all of your readers. So many of us just muster up enough energy to move forward with our plans and don’t spend enough time questioning. I was probably the most miserable person of my life during the six weeks I was pregnant, it messed with my head and body too. Your posts are so perfect, so relevant, and I am very thankful that you are sharing your thoughts.

  5. Lost in Space permalink
    June 4, 2008 8:58 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your honest feelings. I wish there were answers to all of these unknowns that we face. It is hard to just accept that things will be alright when we can’t see through the clouds. You are moving forward and I hope the meds help. ((Hugs))I was diagnosed with depression and PTSD many years ago and have faced bouts of it again along this journey. I have never been pregnant, but have been going through alot of nightmares since our failed IVF where I yell and cry in my sleep. I don’t remember any of it, but my husband is horrified. Keeping you in my thoughts and prayers.

  6. The Muser (aka Beautiful Mama) permalink
    June 4, 2008 10:59 pm

    I so wish I had known that pregnancy and labor can trigger trauma and flashbacks. It’s exactly what happened to me, and I was so, so unprepared. It’s so shocking when all of that stuff–even when we’ve worked and worked and worked on it–just comes flying out right when we’re expected to be all joyful and “glowing” and we’re so unprepared! Thanks for sharing this.

  7. luna permalink
    June 4, 2008 11:27 pm

    infertility as koan, something to ponder. hope you get just the right mix on the med cocktail in the meantime…

  8. Eurydice permalink
    June 5, 2008 8:05 am

    I remember your misery when you were trying to get pregnant and commiserating with you about that pain in your heart — about this thing that was missing. It’s so real, but maybe that ache got superceded by your subsequent pain and suffering of your ordeal? In a way I wonder if you had never tried to fulfill your dream of having a child wouldn’t you still have been sad and depressed and wondering which shore to swim to? I’m partial to the idea it was better to have tried even if the ideal was not attained… maybe the pain is greater? but at least the nagging “what if?” isn’t hanging over your head? I see you as being infinitely more wise now than you were months ago. The fact that past traumas and subconscious worries resurface with pregnancy I think is key to your new found wisdom. That you are even considering a (biological) child-free life is a huge deal. Not that that is the right path — you don’t know what your right path is yet — and that is really hard, but all of a sudden you have more than one road ahead of you that you are willing to take. And that is so much better than thinking you’ve come up against nothing but a dead end.

  9. Melanie permalink
    June 5, 2008 3:20 pm

    Boy, do I identify with that post. The depression piece (I mean the depression piece that required drugs) hit a nerve. I remember it so clearly (how ironic now) as living in the smoky gray. Antidepressants made it so that the gray cloud lifted and I could deal with the bigger issues. Like you, I still had to swim.I also identify very much with wondering about the next steps. Do I even want a child or am I questioning that because I’m protecting myself from another failure. Do I have it in me to try again or do I have it in me not to? So, for what it’s worth, you’re not alone. Keep swimming. Nice, clean, strong strokes.

  10. Rudolph permalink
    June 10, 2008 8:49 pm

    I met Dr. Amen at a lecture he gave and then participated in his brain study of injured and uninjured brains. I learned a lot about the damage that can occur even from normal children’s bangs to the head – the kind that happen to most kids who engage in sports.If you are interested in the brain and how it works, I highly recommend reading “”My Stroke of Insight”” by Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor. It’s on the NY Times Bestseller list and it’s a wonderful book. Dr. Taylor’s talk at TED dot com is also AMAZING! Oprah interviewed Dr. Taylor and you can check that out on And Time Magazine named Dr. T one of the 100 Most Influential people in the world. Having read her book, I can see why all the attention.Dr. Amen’s book is brain science and it’s great at that. Dr. Taylor is a Harvard Brain Scientist, but what she writes about is the science and much more. She really cracks the code to understand how our brains (right and left hemispheres) work and she explains how we can get into our right brain and be happier and more joyful. Aside from any of the science, My Stroke of Insight is also just a great story.

  11. Pamela Jeanne permalink
    June 11, 2008 10:12 pm

    Thanks for sharing these thoughts. Being cast adrift is one of the most challenging aspects of working through this experience.p.s. like what you and Calliope have created.

  12. dmarie permalink
    July 8, 2008 11:09 am

    Thanks for this post.

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