I was 27 when I had my third child and experienced D-MER for the first time. I was a confident person. I was a doer, an overachiever and an organizer. I was a go-getter. I was a leader and I spoke my mind. I knew I was not everyone's "cup of tea" and that was OK with me. I had god amount natural awareness. I was in a pretty good place with these things. On the flip side I was a bit of a bull dozer, I thought the world would be better with more people like me and I didn't know how to appreciate the differences in people. I also didn't know how to really use my awareness for myself and to help me understand others.
Then I had my baby and I started experiencing D-MER. My severe despondency D-MER was no picnic. Though sometimes now that it is behind me I need to go back to some of my writings from when I was in the middle of it to remember exactly how incredibly excruciating it was. There is something else that helps me remember how bad it was also. The fact that it altered the way I look at my life. It changed the way I interpret emotions permanently, even after weaning. I have been re-programmed.
Because of my self awareness I knew I was different after D-MER, and that I had changed. But a lot had happened in my life in the past 4 years, not just D-MER, and I thought the changes stemmed from a lot of things that had taken place in 4 years. I realized though that there was a part of me, that doesn't belong. It didn't fit and it wasn't welcome. I set out to find out what that piece of me really was and where it came from. It didn't take long to put the pieces together and find out where is all started. I tracked it back to D-MER.
Everybody interprets their D-MER feelings differently. It is a personal experience. For many with severe D-MER, it takes balls to really articulate the ugly things you think and feel during a D-MER. I recently asked some D-MER moms to tell me what they wanted to think about when D-MER hit them and what they tried to think about instead. I started the moms off with this:
"When I had D-MER I had severe despondency D-MER. I mostly translated the feelings to guilt and the feeling that I had made an unforgivable mistake. It caused self loathing and self hatred and I also experienced suicidal ideation. It caused me to be very over analytical about every detail in my life, hoping to eliminate all chance of regret from it. Diane W once wrote me an affirming statement to read while I nursed, but during a D-MER episode I could not even read, much less believe it. I only survived telling myself at every letdown the feelings were not mandated and spent a lot of time thinking about my baby instead of picking apart myself. But the effects of D-MER have lasted well beyond weaning in regards to how I interpret emotions and how I live my life trying to avoid that feeling of guilty regret."
I got responses like the following:
"When I had D-MER I always felt guilty and undeserving like I didn't deserve the love of my child or that I was a really awful disgusting person. It felt as though I had done something unforgivable in my life but I could never put my finger on or remember what it was. I don't think I could have read anything during D-MER either. All I could do was stare off into space and I barely noticed what was going on around me."
"When I breastfed I would feel this horrible feeling of dread, the only thing I could liken it to was the same feeling I got thinking about when I was raped as a teenager (an issue I've dealt with and doesn't effect my life in any way anymore). I thought it was issues to do with the actual feeding, worrying that it felt like I was abusing my child or something but actually that same dread appeared whenever milk would leak or through expressing so I realized it wasn't that. I'm scared of even trying with number four (due early August) but I will, I'm slowly learning more about it and learning to accept that I've done nothing wrong, the horrible feelings don't mean I'm a bad person and that bad experiences of the past are nothing to do with *this* feeling. I like learning about the physiological reasons causing this bad feeling, distraction seems to be a good option as the feeling doesn't last long (but does repeat with every let down) and I'm hopeful that if I can get through the early weeks and months it may be more manageable. I'm fine the rest of the time and I just need to focus on the fact that it isn't actually related to any past experiences or any guilt, it's just chemicals in my body. I have a tendency to overanalyse everything anyway so I just need to learn to relax and stop thinking so much!"
These three quotes are powerful reminders of how inward D-MER turns. Mothers self direct the feelings. I personally spent 30 months doing this self loathing/self picking/self analyzing to myself every time my milk let down. I did the math once, and figured out that I had an average of about 20 of these 2 minutes long episodes every day for 30 months. That's about 10, 840 D-MER's. That's a lot of reprogramming.
Until I learned that D-MER was hormonally manufactured, every D-MER felt real, as it does to all D-MER moms. That meant I took the time and energy to find out what it was that I was feeling so massively horrible about. I learned to pick apart the things that had already happened, looking for the bad in them, trying to figure out how to fix them. Everything was open to analyzation. No relationship or decision was safe from scrutiny. Once I learned D-MER was not because I had done anything, that it was going to happen no matter what, simply because of the hormonal cocktail rushing through my body, the way I coped changed a little bit. Suddenly I started being overly proactive. I became vigilant with my life because of it. I could not allow myself to fail, to make a mistake, to fall behind, or to misspeak. I had to be perfect. I could not allow any room for self analyzing during a D-MER, I had to be sure there was nothing there to feel badly about. That way when it happened I could be sure it was not because of me.
After D-MER self corrected it became not only a habit, but also an avoidance of ever wanting to feel such a feeling again. I wasn't going to give myself anything to beat myself up about. I never wanted to feel guilty, or unforgivable or undeserving for any reason....ever again.
As you can imagine, it's a rather exhausting way to live, seeing as perfection is an unattainable goal. It means that now, 4 years later, nothing I do is safe from my own scrutiny. I am more sensitive to the mistakes I do make, I spend unhealthy amount of time looking of my shoulder, making sure I haven't messed anything up. I over think relationships, I do not trust my interactions with others. I am over sensitive to constructive criticism. I am an anxious person in this regard. I try too hard. I worry. I do not trust. These points I genuinely do not welcome them in my life. However, I look at who I am as a whole now, with this as a part of me. I need to decide how much of it is not welcome and what's just really good growth that gets to stay. I know that I am a confident person, but now I don't always trust most of my more important relationships. I am a doer, but I think first about what I am doing now. I am still an overachiever and an organizer and a go-getter, but only once I have decided it's worth getting. I am still a leader, but I don't take on too much like before. I still speak my mind, but with more care. I know I am not everyone's "cup of tea" and that's still OK with me. I sometimes come across with intensity but I am no longer a bull dozer. I also know the world would is better with lots of different types of people. I know to appreciate the differences in people.
I am 31 now. There are things about me that I still planning on weeding out and there are new things I plan on keeping. Everyone changes, and if they are careful about it they have good control about which direction they change. D-MER, at the time, left me with no choice in how to change. Perhaps with awareness and recognition it could have been different. But now it's time to go back and do some damage control.
I choose to nurse through D-MER and I have no regrets because of it. No, it's true, I am not who I was before D-MER but I would not be actively becoming the person I want to be had I gone without it.