As I mentioned in an earlier entry, I stopped breastfeeding on June 1st. Because of this, I was able to go back on my old birth control pill that I had used for nearly a decade up until we started trying to get pregnant. So, let’s talk about how different I am now that I am back on that.
I feel like the little IT guy in my brain just noticed the “Not Everything Has to Suck” cable in my brain lying uselessly on the floor, said “whoopsie,” and plugged it back in. It’s like the “Be Happy Sometimes” section of myself was blocked off for renovation or some bullshit and they just reopened it to the public. Like the last several months have been a roller coaster of bad to worse, but now I’m on the sky tram of “doing alright” coasting smoothly above all of it. Have I made enough weird analogies? The point is, I am back and who the fuck was that lady who’s been here raising my kid all this time?
Hormones are assholes. They come in whatever amounts they please (or don’t), and they do whatever they darn well want regardless of what you have planned. This is terrible because they make YOU do whatever they darn well please. I tried to come up with a clever and amusing example, but it’s just exactly like Patton Oswalt talking about his depression when he went off his Prozac for a month, so here’s that (from the start I set to 4:20 – watch the rest at your own risk/enjoyment):
I love this bit because until I saw it, I had never heard someone else personify their depression the way I do, and more importantly, I had never heard anyone else express the thought that it deserves to be “taken for a walk” every once in a while. I absolutely have had times when I give myself up to my depression and indulge it in whatever ridiculous ways it chooses. The difference between this and how I’ve felt over the past several months with PMAD is that the depression indulgences seemed more temporary. They felt like I could bargain with them. I’d say “Ok, the rest of today I’ll lay in bed and stare at the wall, but tomorrow I have to put on pants.” And a lot of times that worked. But with PMAD, I’d try to bargain and the hormones causing the depression and anxiety were like unrelenting little toddlers who couldn’t be reasoned with. I’d say “ok PMAD, today we’ll lay on the floor and cry and think about killing ourselves, but seriously, tomorrow, no more of these self injury thoughts.” and PMAD would go “NO!” and think REALLY hard about where all of the sharp objects were in the house. For days.
The personifying of the PMAD seems entirely accurate to me, because it feels alien and like someone or something else running me. I feel like a hostage in my own body. I was still in here, but I wasn’t in control. On so many occasions, it made me sit and think “why am I doing this?” or “why can’t I stop?”
The number one example of this for me was crippling, debilitating, absolutely agonizing Mom Guilt. I told my sister a few months ago “I just feel SO guilty ALL THE TIME.” She said “that’s Mom Guilt, every mom feels that.” To some degree, I think she’s correct, but I think mine was like Mom Guilt on steroids because of PMAD. Literally everything I did made me feel devastatingly guilty. If I was home with the baby all day, I felt guilty that I was “hogging” him to myself, but if I gave my husband time with him, I felt like I was ditching him and not helping out enough. If the baby got sick or hurt or sad, it was definitely my fault. I felt guilty because I worked and wasn’t the one caring for my baby all week, but I also felt guilty because he wasn’t in daycare socializing with other kids. I felt guilty in a box, I felt guilty with a fox. I was a walking Dr. Seuss book of Mom Guilt. And when I say I “felt guilty” I mean I felt a gross horrible ball of shame, sadness, and anger directed at myself swirling and burning in my stomach, and it almost always resulted in crying. So I cried, all the damn time. That’s what I mean when I say I think my Mom Guilt was in overdrive. And no amount of telling myself that something isn’t my fault would ever put a dent in the guilt. See the entry from when I stopped breastfeeding as evidence of that (you know, that time I pumped until I bled but wasn’t trying hard enough). It’s like I was in the passenger seat saying “well that’s not really something you can control” or “that doesn’t make you a bad mom” and the driving hormones said “LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU.” Since getting back on my medication (as I refer to it, but again, it’s just the Pill), my Mom Guilt is in check. Yes, I still feel guilty for some things, but I’m not unable to function because of it.
When I stopped breastfeeding, my son developed yeast diaper rash. It got horrifically bad for a while there, and it was agonizing for him. Every time we’d go to change his diaper he’d start preemptively crying knowing what was coming. His poor little bottom was broken out, red as a beet, and in the worst areas, raw and cracked to the point of bleeding. Seriously, fuck yeast diaper rash.
We fought with it for weeks with several different medications, several different tricks (like diaper-free time in an inflatable pool in my living room), and several trips to the pediatrician. At one visit his doctor said “I want to get to the cause of the problem… has his diet changed recently?” She had a hunch that the change to 100% bottle feeding might be the issue and had us switch to soy-based formula instead of milk-based. That, in addition to some serious medication, solved the issue. But why am I telling you about my baby’s butt rash?
I started my pills when I stopped breastfeeding. Shortly after this, my baby developed his rash. After a few weeks, we determined that the formula was causing (or at least exacerbating) his rash, and I felt a twinge of guilt knowing that if I was still breastfeeding, this wouldn’t be happening. But that was it. I felt a twinge. It was a sharp little jab, and then I moved on to just being determined to treat it and get rid of it. If news like that had hit me under the influence of my full blown PMAD hormones, I would have been unable to function for days. I would have sobbed uncontrollably, I would have made someone else change nearly every diaper because I couldn’t face it, and I can almost guarantee you that I would have self-injured (as penance, because that’s how mine tries to work). But I didn’t. I had a few times when it did make me cry (I think this is nearly impossible not to do when your baby is bleeding and screeching in pain), and there were definitely times when I thought “if someone came to my door right now with a stranger and a gun and said ‘if you kill this person your baby’s rash will go away.’ I would hardly let them finish the sentence before I fired (these are the thoughts you have when you’ve set alarms to change diapers at all hours of the night), but it didn’t destroy me. I don’t know if I’ve made my point yet, but what I’m getting at is that that’s a really big deal, you guys.
Now that I’m back on my original pill (which was first prescribed to me as a teenager to treat my PCOS) I really feel like a bunch of old wires that hooked up the “functional” section of my personality have been plugged back in. I know things won’t be perfect all the time forever now, but I feel so much more functional and capable of handling things than I have in nearly a year.