Deleted Scene: Alcohol and Depression

I am revising my memoir about having a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and sharing deleted scenes here on the blog. In this scene, I talk about the effects that wine had on my postpartum depression.  My psychiatrist told me it was fine to drink an occasional glass of wine, but wine actually exacerbated the symptom of physical fatigue.  

Early on in my treatment, I asked my psychiatrist if I could still drink wine.  He told me it was better to avoid alcohol but an occasional glass would not make my head explode.

In college, I drank more than my fair share.  My friends could humiliate me with many tales regarding Courtney’s inebriated antics.  But after college, I only got drunk a few times.  The hangovers were too brutal.  The last time I have ever been drunk was December 30, 2006.  (The culprit: red wine.  When I moved out of my apartment in September 2010, there was a still a pink stain on the carpet next to my bed.) 

Nathan and I have never been drunk together, but we have shared many bottles of wine.  We love the movie Sideways and have gone wine tasting in Santa Barbara County at least a half dozen times.  We love the whole experience: driving along windy country roads, past vineyards and horses; sniffing and sipping several different wines; tossing around pretentious descriptors like “smoky” and “forest floor.”  Our trips to wine country were always relaxing and romantic.

One of my favorite bloggers often wrote about the trips she took to tropical islands with her husband while her mother watched the baby.  Her parents were divorced, and she thought these weekend getaways were vital to the health of her marriage.  I read her blog posts as if they were written by God Himself.  If Nathan and I did not go on a romantic getaway immediately if not sooner, our marriage would turn to ash and dust. 

Never mind the fact that our marriage was showing no signs of wear or tear.   In my mind, a romantic getaway was imperative, and the getaway had to happen in wine country, and if we went to wine country, by God, I would have to be able to imbibe at least three glasses of wine during the day.

OR TERRIBLE SHIT WOULD HAPPEN.

In the hopes of rebuilding my alcohol tolerance, I made myself drink a glass of wine at least once every two or three weeks.  I did not enjoy these drinks.  Before I got pregnant, a glass or two of wine made my body hum pleasantly.  Now every sip of wine made me feel edgier and edgier.  It felt as if I was forcing myself to drink poison.

Months after my psychiatrist said the occasional glass of wine was fine, I finally noticed something: there was a cause-effect relationship between my fatigue and the wine.  If I had a glass of wine with dinner, then the next morning, my depression-fatigue kicked in and I felt as if I was being dragged into hell by Satan himself.  

If I wanted to avoid my fatigue episodes, I would have to stop drinking wine and abandon my Santa Barbara romantic getaway dreams.

To wine or not to wine?  It took me all of 0.8 seconds to answer that question.

I stopped drinking wine in February 2014. 

Nathan and I are still very much happily married.

Deleted Scene: My Postpartum Obsession With SIDs

I am revising my memoir about having a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder and sharing deleted scenes here on the blog. If you are a mom who is currently struggling, please know that you are not alone.  You did not bring this upon yourself.  You can and will make a full recovery. 

According to my baby books, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome claims the lives of 1,500 infants every year in the United States. 

In 2013, the year Pippa was born, there were 3.93 million births in the U.S. 

Math never was my strong suit, but I knew that given when and where I lived, it would be incredibly unlucky to lose a baby to SIDs.

SIDs still scared the shit out of me. 

I thought about it every night when Pippa fell asleep and then I thought about it again in the morning when she awoke – we had cheated the SIDs reaper once again; we were one day closer to Pippa’s first birthday when the threat of sudden inexplicable death would dissipate. 

In my crusade against SIDs, I declared that Pippa must sleep in the master bedroom, end of discussion. 

A cradle was stationed in our bedroom next to our closet, which has large wooden sliding doors.  If Pippa was in her cradle, the closet doors had to be closed.  Otherwise, something might fall out during the night, land on top of Pippa, and smother her. 

If the closet door was open even an inch, it tormented me until I got out of bed to close it – even if the screech of the closet door might wake the sleeping baby. 

My closet fears were a bit, shall we say, irrational.  We had lived in our house for several years and one of the sliding closet doors was often open, sometimes all night.  Sometimes a shirt or dress fell off its hangar and landed on top of the shoes, but the clothes and shoes always stayed inside the closet. 

My anxiety inspired some creative thinking. 

There could be an earthquake!  Strong enough to give the clothes enough momentum to fly from the closet, but weak enough so that Nathan and I kept sleeping.  If the tectonic plates shifted just so… and we were at the right place in our sleep cycles…

It could happen. 

A psychopath might break into our house, tiptoe into the bedroom, remove a shirt from its hangar, and drape it over Pippa.  The psychopath would have to choose our house… and would have to sneak past me, Nathan and a sleeping baby…

It could happen.

The closet could suffer an infrastructure malfunction, and the pole that supported the hangers could collapse, and a shirt could fall on Pippa.  The wooden pole would have to break silently, but in a way that sent clothing flying through the air …

It could happen.

If I could have positioned Pippa’s cradle away from the closet, I would have – but I had evaluated all the dangers and selected the safest spot in the house for my baby’s cradle. 

A foot to the left, and the television might fall over and kill her. 

A foot to the right, and Pippa could be lacerated by shattered glass if a suicidal squirrel leapt through the window. 

A foot forward, and she was too close to the blankets on the bed, which could creep towards the cradle and engulf Pippa at 3 a.m. 

A foot backwards, and she was too far from me – if a kidnapper slipped into our room, I might not hear my baby being lifted away.  She would be sold to a cult in Australia and killed by dingoes.

I debated with myself whether or not we should lock ourselves into the bedroom.  A locked door might deter a kidnapper but it might also delay a fireman from rescuing Pippa if our house was on fire and Nathan and I were unconscious…. but firemen have axes, and kidnappers don’t (too noisy), so the door was locked.

I checked Pippa again and again during the night. 

She slept in pajamas and a sleep sack, a wearable blanket with armholes and a zipper in front, and I constantly checked these articles to make sure they were not covering her mouth or nose.  Adjustments were often necessary at 3 a.m.  (And 3:01 a.m.  And 3:03 a.m.  And 3:07 a.m.) 

I would climb out of bed and tug the fabric of her pajamas away from her face.  Assured that Pippa was not in danger of being smothered, I would get back into bed, only to crawl back out thirty seconds later. 

What if, when I turned away from Pippa, I had caused a disturbance in the air that made the sleep sack flap over her face?  Or maybe, when I had leaned over to kiss her forehead, I had accidentally disrupted the fabric of her pajamas.  I had to check her again, or she would die. 

Sometimes I checked her seven or eight times before I could force myself to stay in bed. 

Then I would get up again to make sure she was still breathing, that her heart was still beating.  I strained my eyes in the dark to see the rise and fall of her chest.  I placed a hand over the soft spot on her head where I could feel her pulse.  Then I leaned close so I could hear her breathing.  Sometimes, if these methods had not assured me enough, I poked Pippa until she stirred a little. 

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Deleted Scene: The Physical Fatigue of Postpartum Depression

I’m revising my memoir Adventures With Postpartum Depression and sharing some of the deleted scenes here on the blog. Parts of this passage will probably make it into the final version, but I wanted to share it now, in this form, because it was so difficult for me to understand the physical parts of postpartum depression even as I myself was being treated for that very illness.

I still occasionally had days where it felt like my muscles were melting off my bones.  No matter how much I slept, no matter how much caffeine I consumed, my body felt like a useless sack of jelly. 

I first experienced this fatigue in the hospital on the same day that I realized I was depressed.  I assumed the physical feeling of exhaustion was my body’s way of adjusting to my medications. 

The muscle-melting fatigue happened again after I was discharged from the hospital.  Every afternoon, I felt exhausted in the marrow of my bones and collapsed on the guest room bed while Laura watched Pippa. 

Napping, though, did not help.  Lying down did not help.  In fact, the longer I lay in bed, the harder it was for me to mobilize and get back to the act of living. 

Even as I felt better and better, the fatigue still sometimes struck without warning. 

Several times, I felt it slam into my body at Mommy and Me class.  I could hear the moms talking but felt as if I was sinking into an invisible ocean. 

The fatigue also liked to grab me whenever Nathan was driving us somewhere on the weekend. 

And most baffling and frustrating, the fatigue often tried to haul me back into bed even after I got seven or eight hours of uninterrupted sleep. 

For months and months, I thought of this as Zoloft-fatigue.  The Zoloft was doing good things for me, so I accepted this little side effect.

Then, over six months after I was first diagnosed with postpartum depression, it hit me. 

I was not experiencing Zoloft-fatigue. 

I was experiencing DEPRESSION-fatigue.

Before I had postpartum depression, I always equated “depression” with having a “bad attitude” and “crappy mindset.”  Depression was all in the person’s head.  They did not need to spend all day in bed moping.  If they could just adopt a more pleasant attitude, they would be fine.

Depression is not just in the head.  It is physical.  For me, it felt as if the muscles were melting off my bones.  I spent a lot of time resting in bed not because I had a crappy attitude but because I truly and physically felt incapable of doing anything else.  

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Deleted Scene: The Concerns Of An Anxious Mother

I am working every day on my memoir Adventures With Postpartum Depression but in the meantime, here is a deleted scene that might resonate with your personal experiences.  You are not crazy.  You are not alone.

Or maybe this passage will help you understand what your loved one is going through. She’s not crazy. She’s not alone. 

My parents had a guest room with a queen sized mattress and plenty of space for Pippa’s cradle.  That was where the newly displaced Novaks should have slept, except I did not want to share a queen sized mattress with my 6’5” husband – not after five weeks of insomnia.  Nathan volunteered to sleep on a cot in the guest room – I was too afraid to sleep alone – but my parents insisted that we sleep on the king sized mattress in their master bedroom instead._

I was thrilled that I could share a bed with Nathan, but now we had a new problem: where would we put Pippa?  We had brought her cradle, and there was more than enough room for it in my parents’ room.  You could easily fit a dozen cradles in their master bedroom… but for the large, scary chandelier hanging in the middle of the room.  What if it fell?  What if there was an earthquake?  The chandelier would kill Pippa! 

I moved the cradle from place to place in the master bedroom, and my mom pointed out several places where Pippa would be safe.  She suggested a spot near the window.  Next to the window?!  What if some hooligan threw a rock through the window and it hit Pippa?  We moved the cradle away from the windows, but now it was near a side table with a large lamp.  What if there was an earthquake and the bedside lamp got flung fifteen feet across the room?  My mom moved the cradle closer to the door.  The door?!  Holy shit, why not invite the local union of kidnappers to stop by at midnight and hand them my baby.  How had I survived my childhood?    

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Deleted Scene: Postpartum Anxiety Even Ruined Baking

As I prepare my book for publication, I’m sharing deleted shares on the blog. This scene focuses on the way that I felt guilty about anything and everything. Did you know that guilt can be a symptom of postpartum depression? I had no idea! But when my hormones crashed, and I got dragged down by depression and anxiety, my body hummed with an almost constant feeling of guilt. I always felt like I was failing and disappointing everyone and anyone.

I love baking.  I love everything about it – flipping through cookbooks and searching blogs for recipes; shopping for ingredients; measuring cups of flour; cracking eggs and separating the yolk from the whites; stirring everything together; and then sharing my creation with my loved ones. 

Baking recharges my soul batteries. 

I had not baked anything since before Pippa was born – yet another failure to add to the list.  Yet another reason for Nathan to hate me.  Yet another reason to feel anxious and guilty.  

I had to bake. 

In mid July, a couple of weeks before I admitted myself to the psychiatric wing of our hospital, I baked a strawberry cake. 

As I pulled out the recipe, my anxiety clicked up several levels.  I rushed, rushed, rushed, measuring ingredients and cracking eggs as if an assassin had a gun pointed to my head and if I did not stir the batter fast enough, he would pull the trigger. 

I felt guilty that I had not baked any treats for Nathan, but now that I was baking, I felt guilty that he had to watch Pippa. 

Before the batter was ready to go in the oven, I had to take a breastfeeding intermission.  Now I felt guilty that I had chosen such a complicated recipe.  I should have hulled the strawberries the night before. 

Why hadn’t I hulled the strawberries?! 

It was just a strawberry cake, but it felt like a matter of life or death.  Everything was starting to seem like a matter of life or death.

Death was winning.

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Deleted Scenes: The Inner Monologue of a Mom With Postpartum Anxiety

As I finish up the latest rounds of revisions for my memoir about having a perinatal mood and anxiety disorder, I am sharing deleted scenes right here. 

On a Saturday in mid-July, Nathan and I took Pippa to a shady park near our house for the first time.  Pippa looked around in awe at the trees and grassy hills. 

I thought that I should feel very happy and content.

I did not. 

Question after question raced through my head. 

  • Would Pippa need to breastfeed? 
  • Was Nathan enjoying himself? 
  • Had I done anything to make him angry? 
  • Was I doing everything I could to make Pippa comfortable? 
  • We did not have a picnic blanket.  I should have brought a picnic blanket.  Why didn’t we have a picnic blanket??

After the park, we decided to drive to our favorite deli in downtown Los Angeles and pick up sandwiches for lunch.  Pippa had eaten recently, and I thought we could make the forty-five minute roundtrip to the deli before she got hungry again.

Nathan drove, and I sat in the back of the car so I could attend to Pippa’s every need.  She fell asleep almost immediately. 

Nathan and I talked, and a stream of questions continued to unspool in my head. 

  • Was I talking too much? 
  • Too little? 
  • Was I boring him? 
  • Did he hate me for dragging him out of the house on the weekend? 
  • Did he hate the music we were listening to? 
  • Should we change the radio station? 

Then we grinded to a halt on the freeway. 

We could see smoke in the not too far distance and hear the wail of fire engines.  A tanker had set fire, and a freeway between our house and the deli had been closed for the fire trucks. 

It would take hours to pick up our sandwiches.  Nathan called and cancelled our order, maneuvered through the crawling lanes of traffic, escaped the freeway, and drove home. 

I wanted to vomit. 

Nathan had so little free time, and we had wasted a precious hour on a doomed mission to a deli.  I was a terrible, thoughtless wife. 

True, Nathan had proposed the field trip, but I should have known better.  I should have known that there would be a freak accident, forcing the fire department to shut down a freeway. 

Nathan did not need any additional aggravations.  Having a wife with insomnia was aggravation enough. 

As we drove home, I willed myself to be invisible.

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Deleted Scene: The Roller Coaster Ride of Postpartum Depression

Oh, happiness, I am so close to finishing up my memoir about postpartum depression for publication. In the meantime, enjoy a deleted scene! 

On the first day of July, I took Pippa to Target and bought towels and pool noodles.  It was summer!  We were going to swim every weekend! 

Target is less than five minutes from my house, but it felt like a voyage to Antarctica.  The excursion was exhilarating but exhausting.

I was fighting the depression with every fiber of courage and strength I had in me. 

It felt as if something inside my body had broken, and I wanted to fix it on my own.  

I did not want anyone else to know how I was suffering. 

I did not want anyone’s help. 

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Deleted Scene: Postpartum Anxiety Felt Like An Unwanted Appendage

I am getting closer and closer to publishing my memoir. (Insert happy dance right here.) In the meantime, I am sharing scenes that did not quite make the final cut right here on the blog. 

One weekday morning, I left the house to take Pippa on a walk about twenty minutes after Nathan embarked on his morning constitutional.  Our paths crossed, and I stopped him to say, “I’m sorry.  I’m so sorry that I’m anxious.”

Nathan hugged me.  “Babe, don’t worry about it.  You have nothing to worry about.  Everything is fine.” 

“I know,” I said.  (But I didn’t.  Nothing felt fine, and nothing was going to ever be fine again.) 

I tried to explain how I felt.  “It’s like I’m carrying around a backpack and it’s filled with anxiety.  And I want to put the backpack down but I don’t know how.  It’s welded to my back and I don’t know how to get rid of it.” 

I paused.  “But I’ll figure it out.  I promise.  I will find a way to put the backpack down.”

Nathan hugged me again and said some more reassuring things before walking home to shower and go to work.  I watched him walk down the block and felt a fresh surge of anxiety and guilt. 

I had just promised my husband that I would stop feeling so anxious, but I had no idea how I was going to manage that.    

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Deleted Scenes: If Only I Could Buy The Right Things

As I whip through revisions of my memoir about perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, I’m sharing deleted scenes. Even though these scenes do not make the final cut, I do believe that knowledge is power. Something from my story might relate to your story, and if this helps just one person, I want to share.

I thought everything would be fine if only I bought the right things.  Specifically, I needed a fabulous nursing wardrobe, a magical diaper bag, and The One True Sling.

I ached to leave the house but thought it was impossible unless I acquired clothes that would make breastfeeding in public a breeze.  There are nursing covers that you can drape over the baby.  I bought one.  It made me feel hot and sweaty, and I could not see what I was doing or make eye contact with Pippa.  I used it maybe three times. 

Probably less.

I needed a dress that I could tug down, just so, and then handily feed Pippa while eating sushi and chatting with my socialite friends.  (I do not have any socialite friends.)  I had a vision of myself in the perfect wrap dress: shapely calves, glossy hair, rosy cheeks, and a flat stomach.  The perfect wrap dress would vanquish all my extra pounds, help me sleep better, turn me into a productive cheerful whirlwind, make everything I said sound witty and smart, and give me a charmed life.  Above all, it would make breastfeeding easier than brushing my teeth.

I ordered several different dresses from several different online stores.  Each time I clicked the BUY button, I knew that this was the wrap dress that would make my life perfect. 

Then the dress would arrive and break my heart. 

One was made from cheap flimsy fabric that practically disintegrated when I tried it on.  Another had weird ties in the back.  The blue one made me look like a cow.  The red one made me look like a pregnant prostitute.

I put the dresses back in their boxes and stacked the boxes in the living room.  I would return them later.

My dream diaper bag also eluded me.  When I was pregnant, I did not buy a diaper bag because the whole idea seemed silly to me.  I was just going to use a large tote bag. 

Then postpartum depression rewired my brain AND MY LIFE WOULD END UNLESS I FOUND THE MAGICAL DIAPER BAG.

The magical diaper bag would turn me into an all-star mom.  I would be able to fit inside its pockets everything I might possibly need for an outing: pacifiers, plural, even though Pippa never used them; diapers and wipes; two changes of clothes in case of a vomit or poop attack; a light cardigan in case it was a little chilly; a heavier cardigan in case it was very chilly; a backup cardigan in case it was chilly and the vomit/poop attack damaged the cardigan; toys to amuse Pippa; a notepad and pen in case someone told me something important and I had to write it down; my phone and wallet; a large water bottle; two swaddling blankets; Purell; a special pad for diaper changes; bags for soiled diapers; and hand lotion to counteract the drying effects of too much Purell. 

The magical diaper bag needed to house all these items and still only weigh two pounds.

I spent hours reading descriptions of diaper bags and agonizing over The Optimal Pocket Situation.  This was not a mere numbers game.  There was also the question of size and placement.  Were there pockets on the outside of the bag?  Did they have zippers?   Was there a special pocket with a hook for my keys?  And another pocket to sequester the unused pacifiers that Pippa shunned at home but might decide to use as soon as we left the house? 

Everything had to be waterproof, urine-proof, poop-proof, and vomit-proof, and above all, the diaper bag had to scream “COURTNEY IS AWESOME.”    

I added multiple bags to my Amazon Wishlist and looked at them several times a day.  I spent more time debating which diaper bag I should buy than I had spent choosing a law school to attend. 

How was I supposed to carry my magical diaper bag?  Over my shoulder?  My back still hurt and a diaper bag would aggravate that injury.  I needed a diaper backpack!

I finally ordered a diaper backpack with a pink pattern.  I convinced myself it was practical and stylish. 

It was hideous, cumbersome, and all around awful.  But it was mine, and the idea of returning it was unbearable, so I convinced myself it was awesome and turned to my next quest.

Deleted Scenes: Even In The Darkness, There Were Good Moments

As I whirl through revisions and get my book about postpartum depression ready for publication, I am sharing scenes that are not making the final cut because hey, does anyone want to read an 800 page tome about my adventures with postpartum mood and anxiety disorders? I thought not.

I have told you about my anxiety and compulsions.  I have told you how I felt detached and numb and how I was overwhelmed by people, but that is not the entire story.

Even as the postpartum depression demons were haunting me, I still felt all sorts of good, wonderful feelings: contentment when Pippa nuzzled my neck; wonder and amazement when she kicked her feet or reached for a rattle; joy when she cooed and gooed during a diaper change.  I even laughed every night with Nathan while we binge-watched The Big Bang Theory.

I felt these good, glowing feelings every day. 

But I did not feel them as strongly as I could.  I could never completely enjoy the joy and contentment, the wonder and love, because my nerves were always in HOLY FUCKING SHIT mode, always crouching behind a rock, hiding from a vampire, waiting for the tsunami to crash and drown the world. 

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