How It Is #6: Anhedonia

This is the sixth post in a series on my experience of postnatal depression.  If you want to start at the start, the first is here, or you can see the series list here. Please feel free to pass any of them around using the share buttons at the bottom of the post. 

 

Solace in the Wind, 2007, Max Patte, Wellington waterfront

Solace in the Wind, 2007, Max Patte, Wellington waterfront

 

Today was a glorious day for a walk along the Wellington waterfront, and a baby in a pushchair is a very good companion for a stroll.

SBJ and I were out and about for a few hours today, for my first visit to the waterfront since we moved back to Wellington. It is one of my favourite places in the world.

 

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I took these photos to entice foreign friends to visit and to wring each drop of pleasure out of the experience. Wringing was necessary because of anhedonia, a word I didn’t know until I was experiencing it.

Anhedonia just means you don’t enjoy things like you used to, and it’s a feature of depression, but also a common result of taking antidepressants.

The medication I’m taking successfully blunts the despair – I spend very little time sobbing uncontrollably anymore – but it seems to do the same to the other end of the emotional spectrum, and I don’t experience enjoyment very strongly.

 

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So today, on a blue sky day, out for a walk with my boy, with pohutukawa sirening, the sea implausibly bright and a different piece of Wellingtonish sculpture every few metres, I felt… okay.

It wasn’t that these things I love couldn’t shake my terrible mood. I wasn’t in a low mood at all. I knew that they were bringing joy somewhere nearby, over there, just out of hand’s grasp. I just couldn’t feel it.

Similarly, I don’t really look forward to things at the moment. In times of stress or difficulty, it has always been useful to remind myself of the next treat on its way. Nothing really does that job anymore.

 

Waharoa in Waitangi Park, 2006, Bryce Manu Konga

Waharoa in Waitangi Park, 2006, Bryce Manu Konga

Birthdays, Christmas, seeing friends, eating chocolate, all feel better than bad, better than nothing, and I know that they are things I enjoy. And I do laugh and have fun when they happen. But trying to feel the pleasure is a bit like juicing a really dry lemon. There’s an awful lot of effort for a couple of drops of tang.

This is anhedonia. It’s why some people give up on medication, and I sometimes am tempted to. But anhedonia is the price I’m paying to keep out of the pit as much as I can right now, and it’ll have to do.

 

Per Capita, 2006, Cathryn Munro, corner Cable and Tory Streets, Wellington

Per Capita, 2006, Cathryn Munro, corner Cable and Tory Streets, Wellington

If reading this makes you concerned about your own experience, please make a call to your doctor or another health professional. You can read more about PND and other mental health matters at the excellent resources website Mothers Matter

If you’ve found this post helpful, please feel free to share it around.

You can follow Sacraparental on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter (you won’t regret it!)

You might also be interested in these related posts:

Other posts in this series on my experience of postnatal depression

How to support someone with postnatal depression: 13 ideas

Kathryn’s story of postnatal depression

Jenn’s story of PTSD and childbirth

A step-by-step guide to getting more rest

Tips for becoming a great listener

A post on living in the gap between our expectations and the reality of parenthood

 

Have you heard of ANHEDONIA? Neither had I until I had postnatal / postpartum depression. Here's what it's like. | Sacraparental.com

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9 comments on “How It Is #6: Anhedonia”

  1. Alex Reply

    Your pictures are working on this foreign friend… That looks nothing like the Wellington I saw on my fleeting visit (although, to be fair, that was in mid-August!)

    Much love to you and your boys. I sincerely hope 2013 is a kinder, better, happier year for you all.

  2. Marilyn Velvin Reply

    It sure was a beautiful day yesterday and another one today. I’m pleased you are out and about ‘enjoying’ it. The waterfront certainly is spectacular. You are successfully intellectualising your response to the beautiful day which I guess is in some way replacing the emotional response. Your skill in sharing this is appreciated by all who read it.
    see you soon. XX

  3. Spaghetti Reply

    Thanks for sharing T, I never really understood that side effect of the medication until now. Am glad that you can ‘see’ and appreciate the beauty, even if you don’t ‘feel’ it so much. Will keep praying that soon, joy will follow. xx

  4. Angela Reply

    i. That is QUITE a word!
    ii. “And all the colours mix together to grey.” DM
    iii. “Good days are a different kind of hard.” AH
    iv. This will pass!!
    v. xxo

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