Monday, October 10, 2011

Pregnant and depression

Some women are high when they are pregnant and I had been one of them, once, when I became pregnant at age of 26 unexpectedly.  The fetus inside the worm emitted tons of dopamine to make me believe that I was the happiest person in the world.  However, the ecstatic state of mind was short-lived and soon replaced by shame and guilt because having children without a marriage was (still is) illegal in China.  So the fetus was terminated secretly before the end of the first trimester to save face of the family and future of myself.  I still remember the condemned look from the ob/gyn and nurse whose conscious must have been taken away by the education that they received.

The A&D abortion did not seem to cause any psychological damage to me, though. I was feeling relieved afterwards.

Moving forward 20 year later in 2006, I finally became pregnant once again after rounds of IVFs.  This time, the pregnancy was longed for and struggled to get, however, I did not feel ecstatic.  All I had in the first 10 weeks was worries and fears of losing the baby, following that was the never-ending morning sickness, food aversion, frequent urination, heart burn, random fall (I am bad at balance, could not walk right with a baby inside), irregular sleeping pattern: sleepiness in the first trimester and sleepless in the third trimester... the physical troubles were the easy ones to deal with, in fact, the constant psychological/mental illness such as stress and depression, which I did not even know that I was living with during my two pregnancies, were harder.

We Chinese rely on friends, not psychiatrists or therapists, in situations like this.  Yet all my friends were done with pregnancy issues, long ago!  They could not relate to "pregnancies at advanced maternal age".  Plus, we moved from one city to another, twice (due to job transitions) within two short years, which added more stress to the already stressful life.

Yes, my pregnancy at age of 44 led to chronic depression, except that it had not become clear to me until years later when the following series of events had happened:

- First, my big boss committed suicide at the time that I was struggling with my postpartum depression that I also had no idea about;

- Second, my direct boss and mentor was falling terminal illness when I was pregnant with my son.  He passed away one year after I gave birth for the second time.  Now when I come to think of it, my theoretically temporal pregnant-related and postpartum depression may have transformed into chronic one at this time without my knowing.

- Third, my bright PhD student unexpectedly became pregnant, which led to a baby and her ditching all the ongoing research projects.

The last one hit me hard, both professionally and mentally.  I started a self-blame game, back and forth, forth and back, endless.  Soon I found myself losing sleep and developed prehypertension.  It was then when I suspected that depression was no longer a word, it was reality.

It was almost unimaginable for me that I, a stereotypical extravert who often attributes faults to others, was depressed.

"Chronic illness into a good doctor (久病成良医)".  What, no, you have not heard this saying before?  It's Chinese wisdom.  We Chinese believe one becomes a good doctor if he has been ill long enough. Luckily, I did not isolate myself, nor did I conceal my mental problems.  So 2 pregnancies and 5 years later, I am slowly and progressively getting out of this depression.

I must say that I am now a much happier person than I was a few years ago.  Life again becomes good when the depression is out of it.  And I'll share with you what I did about my depression in my next post(s).

Stay tuned.

1 comment:

  1. While almost totally irrelevant, the first paragraph reminded me of a movie I saw several years ago.
    Xiu Xiu: The Sent-Down Girl
    Like all well-made Chinese movies that I've seen, it's very sad and well worth watching.