That Stinkin’ Barrel

Barrel: OK, who’s next?
Me: Me, me, me!
Barrel: OK, get on in.
Me: Oh goodie. Lucky me, I thought I’d have to wait awhile to take another ride.
Barrel: Oh no. You’ve got an e-ticket. You can keep going and going and going…

February started with a wrist surgery that ended up being a much bigger deal than I anticipated, like a couldn’t-hold-my-son-for-five-days-and-spiraled-into-depression-from-the-anesthesia kind of a big deal.

Just when the wrist became somewhat manageable and the dark cloud of depression started to lift, I got rear-ended. I was hit pretty hard and hurt my neck and upper back.

Happily, my in-laws decided to treat my small family to a vacation, our first since having the baby, and even better, they were taking us to one of my favorite places in the world, the Ojai Valley Inn & Spa. We lined up sitters and spa appointments. Every exhausted pore of my being was looking forward to massages, facials and general pampering.

The day before we left, I woke up with a sore throat.

By the time we got to the biggest and most beautiful suite we’ve ever stayed in there, I had full-blown bronchitis. I felt like I was going to die.

Since we had a suite, I quarantined myself to the living room couch so my husband and baby wouldn’t get sick. I canceled all my spa appointments and my husband got me a Z-pack.

That was three weeks and two Z-packs ago.

A week later, my baby boy had surgery. He’s doing great, but I was scared to death that something would happen to my little man when he was under since we have no idea if he’s allergic to any of the drugs they were using on him.

So I’ve been depressed, but I have good reason to be, right? But every time I’ve started to feel good, I’ve truly felt that it was only a matter of time until everything would fall apart again. So then I started the “you don’t have problems, there are people without running water, look at what’s happening in Syria, kids have cancer, etc etc etc” death dance spiral of shame and “how dare you’s.”

Which led me to the question:

Is there a difference between chemical depression and circumstantial depression? Or is it all the same?

I ask because my psychiatrist raised my Zoloft 25 mg to help me along with the anesthesia related depression with the intention to lower it when I pulled out of it. I had no chemical reason to be depressed, right? Only circumstantial? But the day it lifted I got rear ended, which took me back down the rabbit hole.

I don’t know the answer. I’m not a doctor, I’m just a bipolar girl sharing her experience, but I think I’ve kind of figured it out for myself – of course, I can’t speak for anyone else on this topic. Thankfully, I’m the only person who lives in my skin, so I can only share my experience living with the highs and lows of this disorder.

A very dear friend of mine had been following my posts on Facebook. She’s known me for about 10 years. She knows how I normally am – pretty happy and bouncy, sometimes verging on the brink of annoying. My mom likes to describe me as “born on the right side of the bed.” My natural state is sunny and optimistic.

My friend pulled me aside last Saturday and told me that she’d noticed my FB posts were different than usual and was wondering if I may be struggling with postpartum depression. She had PPD when her baby was around 6 months as well, so my sad FB posts raised a red flag for her and she was concerned.

Now she is a well-meaning friend. I have had people in my life use their knowledge of my disorder to cut me down, but this was absolutely not the case. No grains of salt needed with this girl. She’s a true blue.

I thought about it and realized that she was right. I thanked her and called my psychiatrist. He upped my Zoloft 25 more mg.

See, I’ve had crumby circumstances before – hell we all have. When it rains, it pours. But I truly believe, barring a death, that circumstances don’t matter. I can choose to see them as opportunities for growth. I believe there are reasons behind most things I perceive as “bad,” they may not feel like it at the time, but generally they make sense down the line.

For instance, this is how non-depressed Courtney sees the month of challenges. I was blessed to be able to get my wrist fixed. I had a great surgeon; I have awesome medical insurance and we found childcare for the days I couldn’t hold him. Yes, there was and is pain, but it will pass and be healed soon.

I hadn’t been sick since before my pregnancy and it was actually one of the best times and places for me to get sick. I had my family to take care of me and 24-hour room service. I still managed to get one amazing spa treatment. Bronchitis takes time to get better and I’m not incapacitated. I can care for my baby. Best of all, my husband and baby didn’t get sick.

Then the little car crash? No one was hurt badly – my neck was tweaked for a bit – most importantly the baby wasn’t in the car. Accidents happen. I have really great auto insurance and it was all dealt with in a timely fashion.
Finally, my son’s surgery. We didn’t dismiss what looked like just another birthmark on my son’s cheek and instead took him to an amazing dermatologist who referred us to an even more amazing plastic surgeon because that birthmark was actually a big scary monster that needed to be removed ASAP. Again, thank you awesome insurance.

Whether circumstances or chemistry caused my depression, I’m doing what I need to do to get stable again. I’m doing physical therapy on my wrist now and can’t wait to get back in yoga, because that really helps my mental state, too.

When I’m depressed, I can’t force myself to do the healthy things I should do to help my bipolar. Medication helps me get back on the playing field. It doesn’t fix me. It’s not a “happy pill.” It just gives me the ability to do what I need to do to get better.

My next blog will be entirely dedicated to my experience with meds, so I’m going to stop on this thought. Please be well, everyone. XOXO

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