Battling Prenatal Depression

It’s been hard for me to write this article for the past couple of weeks, for two reasons

  1. I have lost the motivation to do what I generally love, including writing
  2. I’ve been debating whether or not I should share this

The truth is, I’ve been dealing with prenatal depression during my third trimester, and it has not been easy in the slightest. The reason why I’ve decided to share this is because pregnant women don’t divulge what’s truly going on with their mentality during or after their pregnancy – and since I come from a maternal line of different types of depression, I feel there’s a need for me to be open and honest with everyone.

If someone were to ask me right now how I’m feeling, I will generally say “I’m dealing with some depression, but I’m trying to remain positive” instead of the typical “OK” I would typically say during any depressive state. When others ask pregnant women how they are feeling they’re not looking for a paragraph response of ailments, but, I’m hoping that with my concise response that we can change the way society looks at pregnant women instead of thinking we’re all fine and dandy with our belly and glow.

The last trimester of pregnancy is a whirlwind of emotions and a roller coaster of hormones which should be going up and down throughout these last months. However, I still feel as if I’m at the starting point, on the bottom, waiting to feel elated from the adrenaline rush. When I mentioned this to my OB over a month ago, I was given one of those questionnaires that are all too familiar with me. I’ve filled these out numerous times before when I was seeking help through a therapist. When I tallied up my point score at the end of it, I started to shake. I knew that I had been feeling off due to circumstances out of my control, but the answer had been lying in front of me the whole time. I am depressed.

After I got my request to go to a mood clinic, I left the office angry. Why was I angry? Because this whole time during pregnancy, I’ve been anxious about postpartum depression, that I didn’t even think that I could get prenatal depression. I was angry at myself for thinking in the future instead of listening to my present, which, is one of my anxiety symptoms.

I started to look back at my triggers from March onwards: Not only did I go through some stressful life events (losing my Grandmother and the events that followed) but I was also feeling alone in my relationship with my husband. He started on a new production that is being managed a little out of the ordinary, and I’m lucky if I see him once throughout the working week. Add my family history on top of all of this, and you’ve got your recipe for depression.

I was showing the basic signs:

–    Persistent Sadness & withdrawal from others

–    Difficulty concentrating and making decisions

–    Sleeping & crying too much; my exhaustion is pretty extreme at times

–    Loss of interest in the things I usually enjoy

–    Change in eating habits

–    And of course, my lovely sidekick: Anxiety

I have to admit; I was in denial during those moments. Since these symptoms mirror usual pregnancy symptoms, I felt that it was just a bump in the road. What I did realize, after the fact, is that it’s not normal to feel consistently sad/uninterested and I started to feel guilty that I was making my unborn baby feel this way on top of it all. What started to worry me was the fact that I felt as if I couldn’t take care of myself properly, from a lack of motivation to cook and eat. During these moments I turn to my Grandmother’s spirit and think ‘what would she say?’ – the Jewish guilt is still palpable, and even if it was a quick PB&J that I fixed for myself, I knew she would be happy to know that something is better than nothing.

Since I’ve dealt with depression before, I started to do the following to help (aside from Therapy):

  1. Meditation

I remember a time when I meditated every morning, but ever since I got pregnant, it went down to the bottom of my list. I’m trying to put more effort into this, even if it’s just for 5 minutes a week

  1. Going outside

Even though Toronto humidity is killing me most days, I know that being in the sunshine helps me a bunch. I recently bought some frozen fruit bars to enjoy while I sit on my balcony basking in this sweltering heat! Mmm fruit bars.

  1. Napping

Even though I feel unproductive nowadays with my excessive exhaustion, I still manage to try and nap each day to make sure that I’m getting enough rest. My logic is, either my body or baby need it so everything else can be a lower priority

  1. Set up Reminders

I’m terrible at remembering to drink water throughout the day so several years ago I set up reminders in my phone. It’s been an enormous help, and I started to use it again to remind myself to eat throughout the day. Although to be fair, this little Spawn is the best reminder of all since she likes to kick me in the ribs if I don’t eat on time

  1. Spend time with family and/or friends

This one has been hard on me, so I decided my priority is to spend time with my family instead of my friends. I only have enough energy for one visit at a time now, but I make sure that I STICK to it and remind my friends, online, that it’s me and not them. I’m lucky that they understand that.

  1. Hire Help (if you can)

It’s been no secret with my family what I’m going through, I was honest with them from the start about my depression, and I’m glad that I did so. My mother-in-law suggested that we hire a cleaning service for the time being so I don’t have the responsibility or guilt to get EVERYTHING done personally. I’m glad I listened to her – the service is outstanding, and what would typically take me 8 hours to do, they did in under 3. Worth. Every. Penny.

  1. Communicate

There are days that I don’t feel like communicating, and I want to bask in silence on my couch. Then there are others when I need to express what’s going on. Unfortunately, I don’t have a proper routine for when these moods strike me, and they generally coincide with my husband’s schedule – the need to talk to him some nights when he’s working can feel excruciating at times. When I do see him, I try to cut past the moods of silence and force myself to tell him how I’m feeling, even if I can’t make sense of it myself at the time.

Even though I’m still battling this depression, I feel as if I must make this public since most women don’t seek treatment for their prenatal or postpartum depression out of embarrassment, shame or guilt.
To be honest, I feel thoroughly embarrassed that I’m going through this, and the guilt is heavy. But you know what? There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with how I’m feeling or the fact that it even crept up on me silently throughout these last months. I am now more susceptible to postpartum because of this, and the fact that I’m already on the right path of healing and treatment is excellent news for baby and me. Untreated depression can lead to a lot of issues, not only for yourself but for your unborn baby too.

If you think there’s any chance that you’re suffering from this type of depression – ASK FOR HELP. Your baby will need a mother who is healthy, not only in body but also of mind.

Handling Finances with Depression

When you’re fighting off depression, it’s hard to get a grasp on even the basic things that you need. When I go through my depressive states, the thing that I struggle with the most is fighting an impulse to overspend. It’s easy to look for material things to fill a void, however, even in my darkest hour, I tend to fight off that little voice that tells me “no” and just bounce right into getting an item that I don’t need.

I have a few examples that I think most of you can relate to:

#1 Culprit: Food

When I get depressed, food takes the first hit. I lack the energy to even think of what I want to eat, let alone get up to prepare and make it. Even though I will have all the things I need at home to make myself a decent (and also cheap!) meal, I will find solace in getting take out or junk food. Pizza is a good example here, I usually make a great homemade one on the weekends with my husband for roughly 8$, but if I’m in one of these states, you can see me spending at least 50$ on the same amount of food, delivery & tip. The worst part about this type of expenditures is that they make me feel worse, both physically and emotionally – yet, I continue to do it. It’s a vicious cycle.

#2 Hair & Makeup

I’ve gotten better at this section over the last few years, but that doesn’t mean that I’ll have a slip up once in a while. The thing that I do the most to make myself feel better is to change my appearance. Nothing drastic, a little trim, darker colour, new shade of lipstick, etc.
The only issue is, I don’t get these things cheap in the slightest. My hair alone will cost me roughly 200$ a pop whenever I decide to go to the salon, so, I’ve tried to keep this down to a minimum of once or twice a year. Back when I was struggling as a newcomer in Ontario, I would be in the salon every 2-3 months and watch my money disappear as I tried to find happiness in a hair colour. Being a retired makeup artist also has its problems, I always want the latest and greatest and try to validate my purchases every time I find the new trend. Even though I’m clearly out of business, I still find the need to be “in” with it and will pour my money into makeup that I will use maybe once and watch it dry out as the year goes on.

#3 Gifts for Others

Even when I have only 10$ in my account, my immediate thought will be “oh, maybe I should get something for my husband.” When I get gifts for other people, it’s because I think that their happiness will brush off on me and I’ll be equally as happy. The funny thing is, I never am. I can spend up to 200$ on a person, thinking that this tangible thing will make the both of us happy but it’s only a façade and will last maybe a day (or two, if I’m lucky)
I also include Donations in this category too, if someone needs 20$ or 50$ for a cause that they’re supporting, I try my best to donate as much as I can towards it, even if I don’t have the money. My thought process is, “but it’s for a good cause!” even though my bank account always hurts in the end.

Of course, these examples are more geared towards me, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t flood over into other impulse spends like a pair of designer shoes, another video game to add to the ever growing pile, etc. What I’m trying to get across is that you’re not alone in this. Don’t ignore these problems and please don’t feel shame in saying that you are struggling with your mental health OR your finances. Being in debt, broke or just overall unemployed can lead to a worse depression or even a meltdown, so taking steps to avoid being in this situation is key. It’s important to remember that there is always help around the corner.

The number one thing that I’ve done to help combat against my financial struggles is keeping a budget. I got my parents to help me with categorizing and also a spreadsheet from my local bank to help track where everything goes. I’m currently on my third year of doing this, and I have to admit how eye-opening it’s been – I still slip up from time to time, and I think that’s normal for anyone in my situation, however, I’m on the correct path and just knowing that helps aid in my depressive states.

If you’re still wondering how to overcome your Finances, check out my article from last year

What is “High Alert”?

I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like on here, but I know that my absence is in good faith. For the past three weeks, I’ve been on “high alert,” as I like to call it, due to circumstances out of my control.

As a person who has G.A.D, I usually find myself in this state when I’m in a new situation, a new (or triggering) environment or in the presence of others. Funnily enough, within three weeks, I was in all of these conditions, so I’m not surprised that my anxiety went through the roof. I’ve been so sensitive to my surroundings that my initial reaction was to just cocoon and let the world continue in the background, but I had responsibilities…

It started with my baby shower, and even though I was surrounded by people that love and support me, I was still anxious. I wish I could pinpoint WHY I felt this way but I can’t – my body just automatically felt like I was going to be in some danger, so I started showing physical symptoms (sweating & fast heart rate) even though there was nothing to worry over. I chalked it up to my pregnancy when others noticed, but I did confide in my husband and best friend.

The following weekend I had family obligations in Montreal. Montreal, for me, is a triggering environment since the majority of my trauma happened in this city. Luckily for me, I was only in town for a day, but that doesn’t negate the fact that my anxiety increased and fear set in. I was in the city to say goodbye to my beloved Grandmother who passed on earlier this year, so when I was becoming emotionally withdrawn, I was able to chalk this one up to my grievance. I saw family that I hadn’t seen in years, and even though it was nice to see them again, all I wanted to do was go back home.
As soon as we were on the road heading back to Toronto, a lot of my emotional and behavioural symptoms were subsiding, so I figured I would quickly feel better.

I didn’t immediately.

Now that I’m on my third week feeling like this, I started to look up my symptoms. It turns out, this is called “Hypervigilance” and is quite common for people with Anxiety, PTSD and Schizophrenia.

Here are some of the common triggers:

  • feeling trapped or claustrophobic
  • feeling abandoned
  • hearing loud noises (especially if they’re sudden or emotionally charged), which can include yelling, arguments, and sudden bangs
  • anticipating pain, fear, or judgment
  • feeling judged or unwelcome
  • feeling physical pain
  • feeling emotional distress
  • being reminded of past traumas
  • being around random, chaotic behaviours of others

so, what can you do if you find yourself in these situations?

  • I would talk to your doctor or therapist first so they can help with treatment. If you’re in a situation like me where you can’t take medication – the best thing you can do is be mindful.
  • Remember to take deep breaths (I have some breathing videos saved on my phone for these situations)
  • Before reacting to anything, pause and reflect. Taking this small step can help avoid any further issues or symptoms that you are feeling
  • Acknowledge how you feel NOW and remind yourself that you won’t feel this way forever.

I’m on the path to feeling better, but I think that everything is amplified due to my pregnancy.
I tried to take my mind off of things yesterday by organizing the nursery, but that just brought me into a hormonal cry over hanging up baby dresses next to my full-length ones. To be fair though, I’m crying over commercials that I see on T.V anyways!
I don’t have any more obligations to attend for the remainder of the month, so I’m hoping with this “time off” that I can recharge and get back to my old self.

Burn Out

It’s official! Burnout is now a legitimate medical diagnosis.

You have no idea how happy I am that this has been recognized by WHO – I experienced this first hand back in 2013/2014, I’m not ashamed to admit it. I was working long hours at a job for a boss who didn’t understand personal boundaries, and it affected everything surrounding me. My anxiety was at an all-time high, and even though I admitted to the burnout systems, I was unable to get adequately diagnosed from my doctor.

So, what is burnout?

  1. You have feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion
  2. You experience an increase in mental distance from your job, or you feel negative or cynical towards your job
  3. Your professional efficacy has been reduced

TLDR: Burn-out occurs when the demands of your job outweigh your recognition and relaxation.

Burnout has been in a blurry spotlight for a long time now; medical professionals need to rule out anxiety and mood disorders first before considering these symptoms. However, this is regarded as one of the most widely discussed mental health problem in our society today. I’m so thankful that this has now been reclassified as an occupational syndrome.

People who suffer from burn out feel as if their ambitions and goals are being trampled on, and they start to worry about different aspects if they quit such as financial impacts, psychological effects and physical ailments.
There’s been a study about the long-term health risks of continuing in this atmosphere – it’s shocking (but not surprising) to see that there’s a significant risk of coronary heart disease.  Not to mention, the psychological effects which can include insomnia & depression

If you feel as if you fall into this category, I cannot stress enough to go to your doctor. Many tools can help you – one that helped me drastically was going back into therapy. Even though I was depleted and angry that I needed to go, it made me realize that it was not MY fault for the way that I was feeling. I believe that it is possible to reverse the effects of burnout if you are willing to work on it.

Power of Music

Music has surrounded me in every aspect of life ever since I was a baby. To my mother’s singing, to our car radio tuned into trans-am Radio, to my music players over the years plugged into my ears. I could go on, but you get the point. I always listened for fun, but when my dark days came around, I started to use it to help with the various emotions I would feel: rage, loneliness, love, etc. I love the power that music has to aid my stress and anxiety, but it’s also a great portal to relieve any other loud or angry feelings that can come to us. Personally, it makes me feel less alone when I connect to the lyrics that the band was trying to convey.

When I get too anxious/stressed, there are a couple of things that I like to listen to,

  • The App “Calm” has helped with guided meditations and deep breathing exercises, but what I love most about this app is the background noises that you can choose from in the main screen: Serene Lakes (two) and Rainforest. I love being surrounded by nature sounds.
  • Matching my symptoms to the rhythm/tempo of songs almost validates what I feel, for example:

    Feeling anxious because no one understands me:
    Alice Merton – No Roots

    Feeling angry over things that happen in our society/culture
    Marilyn Manson – Beautiful People

    Feeling lost when someone leaves your life
    Fleetwood Mac – The Chain

  • Classical Movie Scores/Soundtracks when I find the time for a relaxation bath. Sometimes I need something without lyrics to melt all the nonsense that’s floating through my brain.

    Check out “Epic Film Scores” through Google Play

Music is magical to me; not only is it universal, and it helps us cope when we need it the most – it activates our entire brain, creating the potential to improve our feelings.

I love listening to music as a stress reliever, and I always recommend to do it when you’re doing things in the background, like driving (especially when you’re alone and can BELT out the lyrics!) and cleaning house. Dancing around my kitchen is the only exercise I can do nowadays! Whether you decide to listen or create, make sure that music is a part of your life so you can start seeing the benefits it has towards your physical and emotional health.

Pregnancy and Anxiety: Second Trimester

I can’t believe I’m at the end of my second trimester. These months seem to have flown by compared to my first trimester even though I was still going through some significant symptoms. The biggest being my mood swings – oh boy, they have come full frontal in these months. Trying to calm myself down during these swings has been nothing but challenging, but the worst was when my husband went out of town to work for several days. I was utterly overwhelmed by everything in general; housekeeping, cooking, etc. I didn’t realize how much I relied on secondary help until it was no longer available for me – I cried, panicked and did something I usually didn’t do. I reached out to numerous friends, telling them “I’m not OK.” I didn’t bother going into more detail than that because I couldn’t even put into words what was going through my head. I’m lucky that a friend who lives close by decided to drop in to check up on me – even though it was a short visit, I was able to put into words how anxious I was and immediately felt a weight lift off of me.

A sense of community during pregnancy is KEY to surviving any turmoil

Healthwise, I’ve been gaining weight appropriately and eating everything in sight. I still get some morning sickness (once or twice a month), but this is considered normal even though I could happily do without it. My cravings have been interesting, nothing out of the blue per se but I have noticed the types of food I’m craving all come from my childhood: PB&J, Kraft Dinner, Cinnamon Rolls (Just to name a few!) I am loading up on everything carb and not regretting a single bite. Curious to know if there’s any correlation or connection with childhood foods and pregnancy!

Unfortunately, the bigger I get, the more uncomfortable I am. Aside from the daily ligament & back pains, little Spawn is moving at a gargantuan rate, and my sleeplessness has come back. Even though I know it’s due to the pregnancy my anxious mind likes to set up camp during these times. I’m overthinking everything and lucky if I get 6 hours during a work week. Kudos to all women who still work full-time while pregnant! I feel as if I’m struggling most days to be present. My exhaustion has improved vastly from my last post but it’s still here, and I still hate it. I try to push through it the majority of the time, but there are certain days when I just sit on my couch for hours, watching terrible Hallmark movies and hoping a fairy will come by to do my dishes.

I finally had my first OB appointment this month; I was so nervous on meeting my new Doctor since I haven’t had the best track record with them in the past, but I was pleasantly surprised! She’s down to earth and offered me a lot of mental health support pamphlets once I told her about my G.A.D. – she was just as concerned as I was about delivery and post-partum which made me feel relieved that it’s just not in my mind. I honestly feel as if I’m in good hands, even though my mind will be racing for the next three months regardless.

I’ll try to give another update before little Spawn arrives but who knows when this one will want to make a grand entrance – expected due date is August 14th!

How to love yourself again

One of the hardest things that I’ve ever done was loving myself again after many narcissist relationships. It wasn’t an easy feat either; I had no memo, no guidelines, no one to ask where to start. There was one thing that I did know, that I couldn’t move forward in life without starting somewhere.

My first step was getting a new apartment, all by myself. I never lived on my own before, and I was petrified. I was fresh out of a failed relationship which I should have left years ago, and every night I succumbed to crying nightly, feeling sorry for myself. I knew if I continued on this path that I would go back to the same old Andrea, and to completely heal myself from this I had to start fresh and become the person that I so longed to be.

I spent many nights trying to figure out what I wanted, and it was gut-wrenching & hard but precisely what I needed. I came face to face with my failures over again and the heartaches that crept in deep within. I was starting to be honest with myself for the first time in years, and there were truths that I had buried that finally came forth. I had no idea that healing myself meant going through every emotion that I tried to hide because I wasn’t comfortable with it. Once I started to accept everything that happened to me – every decision that I ever made – I began to live my life finally.

I know how hard it is to work on yourself, I’ve been there, and I’m still learning.

What I would love to give to you is at least some guidelines on how to start down this path so you can try your hardest to be the person you WANT to be.

  1. Stop worrying so much what others think or say about you. Remember, this is YOUR life – you are not living for others. Also, fuck Gossip: a negative mind will never give you a positive life.
  2. No matter how hard you try – you can’t be right all the time. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can move forward.
  3. There is no such thing as “Perfect,” especially when it comes to our bodies. Accept your flaws and try to learn how to love your body – Do not accept the marketing lies as your standard.
  4. Whatever happened in the past is where it will stay, you cannot change it and wasting your time thinking/stressing over it will not help in the slightest. Also don’t stress over the “What-ifs,” just because it could have been different doesn’t mean it would have been better.
  5. Don’t regret what has happened. Learn to accept that what you did was YOUR decision and take accountability for it.
  6. Set boundaries with those who surround you, you’ll quickly find those toxic people that you need to remove from your life and PLEASE do so.
  7. Don’t be afraid to fail, this is all apart of your learning process, and everyone goes through this at some point or another. Pick yourself up and “just keep swimming!”.
  8. There will always be people who will have “more” than what you do. A better job, house, etc. Don’t let this be intimidating to you – appreciate and take care of what you DO have. Don’t care about material possessions so much; it doesn’t guarantee happiness – building a memorable life does.
  9. No matter how hard you try, you will never be able to satisfy everyone out there so stop putting all of your energy into those who don’t understand you.
  10. OWN it. Embrace your weird & flaws, show the world that you’re not afraid to be yourself. You will find your tribe and support system when you start to glow