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Turning Forty with Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety AND a Midlife Crisis
Episode 1128th June 2022 • Forty Drinks: The Podcast About Turning 40 • Stephanie McLaughlin
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Turning Forty with Postpartum Depression, Postpartum Anxiety AND a Midlife Crisis

Brooke Schrader had her first baby four months to the day before her 40th birthday. And five months after her 40th birthday she moved to Arizona with her family for a job. And throughout that year she was suffering from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. As someone who dealt with depression and anxiety previously, she anticipated some postpartum issues. But she was caught unaware when the ‘baby blues’ slipped into something more significant. Plus, her usual coping tools and strategies didn’t work with a new baby. Oh, and throw a midlife crisis on top of it all. Forty was a challenging year for Brooke. 

Guest Bio

Brooke was born and raised in New England and currently resides in Gilbert, Arizona. In 2010, she embarked on a new adventure on the west coast. It was there in San Diego that she met her husband Brett. Brett and Brooke got married in 2015 and immediately tried to start a family. Unfortunately, it was not as easy as they had hoped. They were lucky though because after one round of IUI, Brooke was pregnant. After a relatively normal “geriatric” pregnancy, Brooke and Brett welcomed a healthy baby girl, Everly, on June 11, 2017. With a new baby, the prospect of a new job that would bring the family to a new state and the big 4-0 all within a few months of each other, 2017 was set to be an exciting year. Little did she know that the weeks following Everly’s birth she would find herself back in the hospital fighting an infection followed by almost a year of severe postpartum anxiety and depression. This is Brooke's story of what it was like for her to become a first time mom in her 40s.

Meet Brooke

Brooke Schrader was a New England girl, born and bred. She moved to San Diego at 33, met her husband at 35, got married at 37 and had her daughter in 2017 at age 39. Then, in 2018, she was up for a promotion at work that would relocate her to Arizona. That meant convincing her husband, who had been born and raised in the most beautiful place in the world, to move to the desert.

At first he was resistant - not to moving, but to Arizona. Then, he looked at the price of buying a house and he got on board with the idea. 

Brooke works as a client relations executive at ADP Total Source. She likes it well enough that she hopes it’s the last company she will work for. 

Brooke had her daughter four months to the day before she turned 40. She turned 40 in October 2017 and moved to Arizona in March 2018. A lot happened that year!

Getting Pregnant

As a younger woman, Brooke wasn’t sure she wanted to have children. She had an absentee father and never wanted to pass that experience along to another generation. But when she met her husband, Brett, they knew they were meant to be together and, shortly after, they knew they wanted to have a child. 

At her age, though, getting pregnant wasn’t easy. It took a couple years, and the help of IUI, Intrauterine insemination. The doctors told her it had a 6% chance of working so she was shocked to find out she was pregnant. 

She had a good pregnancy, and even saw the bright side of gestational diabetes, which she said helped her to not gain too much weight since she had to be careful of what she ate. 

Giving birth was uneventful but two nights later she ended up in the hospital with an infection in her uterus. She had a temperature of 103. She called the nurse on duty who said she should go to the hospital, but she didn’t want to because that meant leaving her two-day-old daughter. But the nurse told her she might leave her daughter forever if she didn’t take care of herself. 

She went to the hospital by herself since her husband had to take care of the newborn. She found herself crying hysterically in the waiting room, thinking she was starving her baby to death. She was crying so much that a stranger handed her tissues and then walked away. A friend suggested formula, which her fever-brain hadn’t even considered. She called her husband and told him where the samples were and he was able to feed the baby. 

She ended up being hospitalized for a week with the infection. The baby was able to stay with her. She needed to be fever free for 24 hours to be released but her fever kept spiking. Finally, she was released and went home. That’s when she started feeling the “baby blues,” which she describes as “being sad and being off.” But then it started to change.

Postpartum AND Midlife Crisis? 

Brooke says that she didn’t realize how bad her postpartum issues got until she looked back at it. But she also didn’t realize at the time that she was dealing with BOTH postpartum issues AND a midlife crisis. 

Brooke has dealt with depression and anxiety issues throughout her life so she had an inkling that she’d deal with postpartum issues. 

She describes the midlife crisis as feeling unfulfilled; feeling nostalgia; feeling boredom; emptiness; impulsive decisions; dramatic changes.

Adventures in Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

As someone who has managed depression and anxiety, Brooke had tools and strategies for dealing with periods of suffering. She had coping mechanisms that worked for her. But none of it worked for postpartum. And, she didn’t realize she needed to be using them, either. 

When her normal depression hit, it would make her feel like she didn’t want to do anything, like she wanted to stay in bed and watch TV or sleep. Her way of coping was to make herself get up and do something, even if it was something little. 

But in postpartum, she felt like she was in such a fog that her brain wasn’t even functioning. She was doing everything she needed to get through each day without thinking about it, but she also wasn't leaving the house. And part of the reason she wasn’t leaving the house was because she was scared that something was going to happen to her daughter. 

At the time, they lived in San Diego, home of the sun. Both Brooke and her husband are fair, as is their daughter. And you can’t put sunscreen on babies until they are at least six months old. Brooke had an overwhelming fear that, if she took the baby out of the house, that the baby was going to get sunburned. It’s not rational to think that the baby would get sunburned going between the house and the car and Target, but Brooke’s feelings weren’t rational. 

So the coping mechanism for her depression was canceled out by her fear of harming the baby. Plus, as the mother of a newborn, you spend a lot of time sitting with the baby, holding the baby, feeding the baby. So forcing herself to get up and go do something wasn’t going to work. 

Previously, anxiety had manifested for Brooke as panic attacks, something she usually feels in her chest. But postpartum anxiety manifested as fear. She was scared of everything. 

The home they were living in had a balcony and Brooke was too scared to even go outside on the balcony because she was afraid she was going to throw the baby off the balcony. She didn’t have the version of postpartum where she wanted to harm the baby. But she was worried that she would trip or something and throw the baby off the balcony. 

Looking back, she knows it’s not rational. She never threw anything else off the balcony. She never walked onto the balcony and thought, whoops, whatever I have in my hands, I might throw off the balcony. But this wasn’t rational. 

Brooke didn’t realize at the time how bad she was suffering and how poorly she was managing. Recently, her youngest sister had a baby and she takes the baby everywhere. Brooke finds herself reacting, almost in surprise, that her sister would take the baby to the store. But her sister isn’t afraid like Brooke was. That reinforces for her how bad she had it. 

Even today, when she sees somebody acting a certain way with their child, and their child being perfectly fine and healthy, she’ll find herself saying, ‘oh wow. I would never have done that.’

She thinks some of the fear came with how difficult it was to get pregnant, and the fact that they knew this would most likely be their only child. So the baby felt entirely precious to her. 

This went on for months before she reached out for help and got some medication that would help her manage her feelings. 

Then she turned 40. 

Midlife Crisis, Anyone? 

When Brooke turned 30, she had a BASH. It was a grand party and she wanted everyone to be there. As she approached 40, her mother-in-law suggested inviting a few people over to celebrate and Brooke said no. She didn’t want to be around people and she certainly didn’t want her baby around people. 

A few months after her 40th birthday, Brooke started thinking about college - but not in a healthy way. She started thinking that those were the best days of her life and she would never get them back. She missed her college friends. She felt strongly that she wanted to go back to that time. She saw that era with rose colored glasses. It was romanticized in her mind. And she certainly didn’t have to take care of a baby when she was in that stage of her life. 

She found herself crying, but not a normal upset cry - chaotic sobbing. She found herself so sad she wasn’t in that stage of life anymore - even though she wasn’t unhappy in her life. She had a great husband, a great daughter. The baby slept well, she wasn’t colicky. But in her mind, her current life was hell and her fantasies of college was where her perfect life was. 

This extra-large helping of feelings lasted through the first six or nine months of her daughter’s life. 

She finally realized she needed help, went to a doctor and got medication that helped her manage her feelings, and started feeling better. 

Now, she can look back at her college years, and other previous eras of her life, with nostalgia and a smile. She realized she doesn’t want to be 18 again. 

Oh, and then she moved with her new family to Arizona for a promotion into a job that made her feel like an imposter. She doubted herself and doubted the people who put her in that role. She felt like she was faking it until she made it. But looking back she realizes she wasn’t faking it at all. She did have it in her to take on this new job and she did a pretty darn good job, too. 

Good Enough

Brooke felt it all piling on top of her and started thinking she wasn’t good enough. Not a good enough mom; not a good enough worker; not a good enough wife. 

Add to that, she was the oldest mom around. Most of the moms in her orbit were much younger and had an easier time finding peer support. They didn’t know what it was like to be a new mom AND having a midlife crisis. 

Add to that, her entire support system was elsewhere. She was in a new job and lived 30 minutes from her office. Her parents and sisters lived in New Hampshire. Her in-laws were still in San Diego. She got to the point where she didn’t even want them to visit because she dreaded saying goodbye. Despite having a wonderful and supportive husband, she felt alone. It was a lonely time. 

It Gets Better

Five years later, Brooke can confidently say that things are much better. She started taking care of herself - eating better and exercising. She focused on her mental health. She built a support system in Arizona. She found friends she could relate to and count on. She built her village. 

Oh! And her parents moved to Arizona! 

And now, Brooke is the parent who shows up at preschool and says, “oh, shoot! I forgot the sunscreen!” 

She feels like she got through it but feels for people who have to go through it alone, or who don’t have the ability to recognize postpartum signs. She had experience with mental health issues and postpartum snuck up on her. While we have all heard of postpartum depression, she thinks postpartum anxiety isn’t talked about enough. 

She still has anxiety, but it’s not the same as it was when her daughter was born. And her daughter is five and mostly unscathed, so she knows she’s doing a good job. 

Now she can look back and acknowledge how intense that time was and how overwhelming it felt to think that this was how she’d always feel as a mother. When you’re in the middle of it, it’s just life. It’s hard to see an end to those feelings, or that it will get better. If you’re not someone who’s in tune with your feelings, it can be very easy to just think this is what motherhood is like. 

Hiding From Everyone

Brooke’s husband wanted to help. He wanted to make things better. He wanted to know what he could do. But there’s nothing he could do. 

Brooke hid a lot of her struggles from him. First, she was home alone with the baby all day while he was at work. A lot of her struggle happened when he wasn’t home. And she didn’t want to burden him because she knew he couldn’t fix it. 

When he did see her struggling, he took charge. He would take the baby, tell Brooke to go lay down, make dinner - anything he could to support her. But he also couldn’t understand why she was so depressed. He looked to all the outward signs: a beautiful, healthy daughter, a great home, great jobs. There is no cause and effect, though. Postpartum is chemical and emotional. 

Brooke also tried to be strong, which she thinks may have worked against her. She didn’t think she needed help. But she’s grateful that her husband was steady when she was unsteady. 

The Forty Drinks Podcast is produced and presented by Savoir Faire Marketing/Communications

Tell me a fantastic “forty story.”

Transcripts

Stephanie: Hi, Brooke. Thanks for joining me today.

Brooke: Hi, thank you so much for having me. I'm so excited to do this.

Stephanie: I am as well. I would like for you to introduce yourself to the audience, but I wanna give just a little bit of background that you and I for, oh, a handful of years, traveled in social groups that kind of overlapped.

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: So we knew each other at like parties and get togethers and things like that. But I don't think we ever really hung out together unless there were other people around from our sort of overlapping social groups.

Brooke: Yes.

Stephanie: Is that how you remember it as well?

Brooke: Yeah, exactly. I remember just seeing you at the same place as I was, but I don't think you and I ever really even sat down and had a one-on-one conversation without, you know, other people kind of involved. So

Stephanie: I agree. So this is such a treat for me and I was so excited when you reached out to me and told me that you had a story about turning 40, because it's not something I've encountered in any of my conversations yet.

Stephanie: So I'm very excited to, to get into this, but before we do, why don't you tell me a little bit about yourself.

hire. I left New Hampshire in:

Brooke: And we've been here ever since. And, yeah, it was, it was quite the treat to convince my, my husband who had been born and raised in the most beautiful place in the world to move to the desert.

Stephanie: Was that a difficult conversation or did he turn over pretty easily?

Brooke: Yeah, so at first he, he said, absolutely not.

Brooke: He's he's like, there's no way I'm not moving to Arizona. And the only reason it came up is cuz there was a promotion available at my job and I wanted it. And he's very supportive of my career, very supportive. But, we are living in San Diego, right. Who wants to leave that? And he's like, Brooke, look, i, I will move other places. He's like, I've never wanted to live in Arizona. I was like, I get you neither have I, but I went to work one day I come home and he's on the computer. He goes, apply for that job. I'm like, what do you mean? He goes, have you seen the price of the houses here? So in that moment I was like, are you, are you sure? Cuz if I put my name in, I can't back out. He goes, do it. And I didn't waste a minute and yeah, we've been here. He loves it now. He has no intention of ever going back. Mm-hmm. Yeah. So it's crazy. I would never have thought that I would end up in Arizona. I've never had any desire to live here, but we really, we do really like it.

Stephanie: And what do you do professionally?

Brooke: Oh, so I am currently a client relations executive at ADP Total Source. And I recently got a promotion to be a senior director of client success. And I'll start that next month. So what I do is I work with ADP's clients. I handle the HR side of things. I've been doing that now for about seven years. So that was the second job I got when I moved to San Diego and probably, hopefully, the, the last company I'll have to work for. I really, really like what I'm doing.

Stephanie: Oh, that's great. I was just having a conversation, um, with somebody else recently about how careers are so different now than they were 10 or 15 or 20 years ago. When I graduated from college, it was still conceivable that you could spend a career with a single company mm-hmm and it's so it's so much rarer these days. So it's amazing to think that you are at a place that you might just stay with for a long time.

Brooke: Definitely. Yeah. Before that, I mean, I was maybe doing two to three years. I just couldn't find the place that I wanted to be at. So, you know, to know where I am now and know that I really work for a great company with great people and don't wanna leave has been very refreshing.

Stephanie: That's great. So you turned 40 just before you moved to Arizona. Is that right?

in October of:

Stephanie: And I wanna hear all about it. So start at the beginning.

e I said, I met my husband in:

Brooke: So when I met Brett. I knew. I mean, I knew. We knew within three months we wanted to be together forever. We knew within six months we were gonna have kids. So of course being older and by the way, my maternity paperwork definitely said geriatric pregnancy, which why anyone would ever call it that to an emotional woman is beyond me.

Stephanie: I know they could do a better job with that.

as soon as we got married in:

Brooke: And of course being a little older, it was not easy. So we did have to go through some, some help. I didn't have to go all the way to IVF, which, you know, we're very thankful for. But we did get pregnant through IUI, which is the artificial insemination. It was a great process. It was very, you know, the doctors were fabulous.

Brooke: The lead up to it was tough because, you know, we had been trying for a year and getting that negative pregnancy test every month is very, very sad. Mm-hmm . And when we did the IUI, it was really kind of our one shot before we were gonna spend $40,000 to have a baby, or even do it. You know, we hadn't even gotten that far.

Brooke: So, you know, the day I found out I was pregnant, it was just sh I was shocked. I was completely shocked. I was like, we did this one thing that they told us had a 6% chance of working and it worked. And you know, of course throughout the whole pregnancy, I was very cautious. I was very nervous, but overall I had a really good pregnancy.

Brooke: I had gestational diabetes, which honestly for me was the best because I didn't gain a lot of weight, cause I had to be so careful with what I ate. And you know, in, in what I had, what I did eat something wrong or too much, I felt it. So I knew, okay. And don't do that. So the pregnancy was really good and I was still 39 when I had Everly.

Brooke: I had her in June of:

Brooke: What happened was I, I had an infection in my uterus. So when Everly was born, something was left behind and it took care of itself, but it caused an infection. My body was trying to fight it and I had a temperature of 103. And I remember calling the nurse on duty, telling her I had this temp. And she said, you need to go to the hospital immediately.

Brooke: And I said, absolutely not. I'm not leaving my baby. And she said, well, you're gonna leave your baby forever if you don't go to the hospital. You need to get into the hospital now. At that point, my husband, thank God for him, made me go, cause I wouldn't have on my own. He made me go. She, at that point, had not eaten in 11 hours.

Brooke: So I'm sitting in the hospital emergency room by myself because he had to be with her. And I'm by myself. And I am hysterically crying because I think at this point that I am starving my baby to death. And I am just, I've never cried like this in my life. Like tears just pouring and sobbing that a stranger came up to me with tissues.

Brooke: Didn't even say a word, just handed me the tissues and just walked away. It was so, so bad. And I was on the phone with a girlfriend of mine who had just had a baby and I was texting her and I was like, Brenda, I'm starving my child. I'm starving my child. She's like, Brooke, why don't you use formula? Uh, by the way, I was breastfeeding. I didn't say that.

Brooke: She's like, why don't you use formula? And I'm like, oh. Like my brain just wasn't connecting. Right. Mm-hmm I didn't think of it. So I immediately call my husband. I'm like, we have samples in the, in the kitchen. You know, go get those and start using that.

Brooke: So that was my first real experience for what it was like after having a baby. There's so many emotions. There's so much that you're scared of. And you know, for you to be sick on top of it is just the last thing that you want to happen. So I ended up getting admitted back into the hospital for a week. I told them I wouldn't stay unless the baby could stay. Yep. Um, they let her stay with me.

Brooke: So otherwise I probably would've left. And what would happen is I would get better and then the temperature would come back. And you had to be fever free for 24 hours. And then my blood pressure started going up. So there was a lot of things that, you know, my body just wasn't, wasn't fighting as quickly as I think it may have been able to if it was younger, you know. So mm-hmm, a lot of, it was, it was pretty scary. And, you know, I was in the hospital for about a week. I got home the day before father's day, and never looked back and just started to heal. Right. As any normal pregnant woman would do and had a little bit of the baby blues, which is, you know, just kind of being sad and being off. And then it started to change.

Brooke: And I was actually talking to my mom about it this weekend telling her I was doing this. And I said, you know, I didn't realize how bad I was until I got out of it. Right. So I've always struggled with depression and anxiety. It's been something in my life that I'm very vocal about. I'm not ashamed of it. It's been a part.

Brooke: So I, I knew that postpartum depression and anxiety was gonna be part of my story. What I didn't know was how bad I had it. It's really just scary that I got through it without anything. Without the help of a doctor, really. You know what I mean? I kind of managed myself through it. And I was, again, looking at things to, to prepare for this.

Brooke: And what was happening to me was not only was I going through postpartum. I was actually actually also going through midlife crisis. Cause I was turning 40 and

Stephanie: Oh God, Brooke.

Brooke: Yeah. So one of the things, when I was looking up, you know, what's the signs of a midlife crisis. And I grabbed it on my phone cause I wanted to make sure I remember what it is. Looking at it, it's things like, you know, feeling unfulfilled; feeling nostalgia; feeling boredom; emptiness; impulsive decisions; dramatic changes. I was going through all of that. But then on top of it, it was compounded with this postpartum depression and anxiety. So I was not only those two things, I was also the midlife crisis - all kind of into this wonderful ball of Brooke - , for the first year after her daughter was born.

Brooke: So, so yeah, that's kind of like the overview of where I started after turning 40.

Stephanie: Oh my goodness. That's a handful.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: You were familiar with depression and anxiety at any rate. So you already had coping mechanisms. You already had strategies for managing periods of time when you were feeling those things and sort of stuck in those places. How was this postpartum version of it different than the ones you had faced before?

Brooke: So it was very different. All of my tools, none of them worked. And, and not only did they not work, I didn't realize I needed to use them, either. Usually, you know, when I would get depressed the, the way it, it kind of manifested is that I didn't wanna do things.

Brooke: I was kind of in bed and watching TV or sleeping. And, for me, to get myself out of it, it's, it's forceful, right? Like, you've gotta get up. You can't do this. You've gotta do that. Like just little things, you know. Okay, today you're gonna go and you're gonna clean your car. Or, you know, today you're gonna go to Target and go pick something up.

Brooke: But when I had Everly in the postpartum, I wasn't coping like that because I was in such, I guess, what you would call a fog. Like my brain was just not even functioning. I was just doing everything I needed to do each day without thinking about it, but I also wasn't leaving my house, which was one of the things I would cope with with my depression is I would go out. I would get out and get some fresh air. Well, I wasn't leaving my house because I was so scared. And this is where the postpartum anxiety comes in, that something was gonna happen to Everly.

Brooke: So we lived in San Diego, home of the sun. Right? And Everly is - you can't see me 'cuz this is a podcast - I'm very pale. And my husband is blonde, pale, blue eyes. So of course our child was pretty light. And you can't put sunscreen on a baby until, I don't even know how old, six months, I think.

Brooke: So I had this overwhelming fear that if I took her out, she was gonna get a sunburn, and something was gonna happen to her. Very silly. You know, now that I look back at it, because she would've been, you know, between the car and the, the store. It's not like I was gonna take her and sit her on the beach and lay her out, you know?

Brooke: Um, but I just had this overwhelming fear and I would not take her anywhere. So therefore the coping me mechanism that I had for my depression before wasn't working. Cause a lot of it was get up, do things that are, you know, kind of forcing you. With the baby, you spend a lot of time sitting on the couch, holding the baby, feeding the baby, you know?

Stephanie: Right.

Brooke: So again, you can't kind of force those activities. I was forced to sit down and take care of a baby. And then the anxiety, the way I've had it in the past is, it comes up in panic attacks and I feel it very much in my chest. With postpartum anxiety, it was very much fear. I was so scared. Of everything.

Brooke: I was scared to take her out of the house. I was living in a place that had a balcony and I was so scared that I was gonna go out into that balcony, and I was gonna throw her off the balcony. I didn't want to. I didn't think I, I, it wasn't like it was that postpartum where you wanna hurt, you know, it wasn't that. I was just so scared that something would happen and I wouldn't be able to control myself and I'd suddenly throw her.

Brooke: Looking back at it now that thought is not, it's not normal. Right? And I don't normally go out into a balcony and think, whatever I have, whatever I'm carrying, I might throw. I've never thrown anything off a balcony. And I knew that that wasn't gonna be good. And so, yeah, it was just those little things like that, that.

Brooke: You know, really just stop me in my tracks. And again, like I said, I, I didn't realize how bad I had it and how bad I wasn't managing it until I was away from it. And even now, so my youngest sister just had a baby. And she takes her baby everywhere. And she's not scared and, and he's fine and he's surviving it. And she took him grocery shopping when he was a couple weeks old and I'm like, Ooh! You took him to a store.

Brooke: Like I wouldn't, I was just so scared to do that. And oh, also seeing her and what she's not scared of doing, made me realize, oh gosh, like I really had the postpartum depression and anxiety. Really bad. Yeah.

Stephanie: So, and you're still even realizing how bad it was almost five years later. You're still getting insight into, oh, that was that was even worse than I thought it was.

Brooke: Yeah. Yep. Absolutely. Definitely. Yeah. It's it's just one of those things. I, I see something or somebody acting a certain way with their child and their child being perfectly fine and healthy, and me going, oh wow. I would never have done. Just cuz of fear. I was just scared.

Brooke: I was scared of everything. I was scared and too, I think a lot of it came with the fact that it wasn't easy getting pregnant, that we pretty much knew she was gonna be our only child. So it's that fear of losing something you've wanted for so long and losing something that is so precious to you when you love so much.

Brooke: Right. While it might not be realistic, like I was not gonna bring her out to Target and she was gonna get a sunburn that would put her in the hospital. Like that's just not realistic. But in my mind, it was just, that's what would've happened if I took her out. Like I can't take her out. She's super, super light skinned. Like she's gonna get burnt. So let's just stay in the house all the time.

Stephanie: How long did this last for you?

Brooke: So it, it lasted for quite a while and, and I did, you know, eventually get help in the form of medication. It was probably, it was before we moved here to Arizona, cause I was still in California. I would say Everly was about six months old and I was in, um, it was around Christmas time.

Brooke: And so, so this is where the midlife crisis comes in. So I turned 40 in October and my mother-in-law wants to have a party for me. I'm like, no, I don't wanna be around people. I don't wanna have a party. Like, no. Stephanie, I don't think you came to my 30th, but my 30th party was like, it was a deal. Right? Like people planned it. And I was like, I wanted everyone there. I mean, I am not shy about my birthday. And so my 30th was this like grand party. My 40th, my mother-in-law wanting to invite a couple people over, I was like, don't you dare. You know, I just, I didn't wanna be around anyone. I didn't want her around anyone.

Brooke: So I turned 40 in October and a couple months later about December the, uh, midlife crisis comes in. So I start thinking about college and I start thinking, oh my goodness. I start thinking about those were the best days of my life. I will never get them back. What I wouldn't do to go back there again. You know, I took it for granted and I miss all my college friends and I'm like romanticizing. And college was a blast. Don't get me wrong. I loved it. Great friends, but I romanticized it. Right? Like it was not perfect. There were definitely troubles. But in my mind, at the time, you know, I've got my anxiety and my depression, and then the midlife crisis coming in, and I've got this baby whom I love, but I'm like, I didn't have to take care of a baby when I was 18, 19 years old.

Brooke: Like I didn't have this responsibility. And I would cry and cry and cry. And again, that like, it wasn't even a normal cry. It was those sobs of like just chaotic crying. And how sad I was that I wasn't in that part of my life anymore. And, and what is so weird about it is I wasn't unhappy in in my life now. I have a magical life.

Brooke: Like my husband was amazing. He was, is one of the best dads I've ever seen. I mean, that girl is his life. My daughter was, she was great. She slept well, like she was not a problem. You know, like not colicky or not up on night. But in my mind, I was in this hell and in my fantasies in college was like where I should be and where my perfect life was.

Brooke: And it was weird. It was things that I'd never experienced before when it came to depression or anxiety. I mean, even with, with us and the friends that we had, like, I miss that time. You know, I mean, we had a blast, right.

Stephanie: Oh, yes, we did.

Brooke: Yeah. little too much fun sometimes. Um, but you know, and I miss it a lot and I reminisce about it in a, in a good way. And it's always a smile. Right? It's always like, those were the days. I would love to visit it again.

Brooke: But during this time I was sobbing, like, why can't I go back there? How do I get back there? What do I do to get back there? That's when I was happy. And it was just, it was sad. You know, it was sad that I was going through that and I have this beautiful baby and I'm like, tears are falling on her face cuz obviously I'm holding her and I'm crying. And it lasted probably the first six to nine months of her life is, is really when it was really bad.

Brooke: And, and I don't know. Well, I do know, I do know what changed. So around that same time I did finally go to a doctor and, mm-hmm, I was like I, I need to change. Like something's, something's not right. Like this, I don't feel good. I'd not been on depression medication for a couple of years because we were trying to get pregnant.

Brooke: And I was like, you need to put me back on something. And the medication definitely worked and then they wanted to do some therapy and I went once. And I cried and I cried and I was like, couldn't even get the words out. The poor woman was like trying to take notes and I'm like, and then when I was in college, the best days of my life. I mean, it was, it was so bad. And so bad.

Brooke: And I just had that one, like spill out of all my emotions and I just let it all out on the floor. And she was like, okay, let's make a follow up appointment. And for whatever reason, I never did. But the medication started to help me feel better. You know what I mean? I started to see reality and I stopped getting so scared to take Everly out. And I stopped being so depressed.

Brooke: And I look back at it now and I think about college now and I do the smile. Right. I like, I had a great time. I smile. I don't wanna cry and wish that I'm there. Like nothing about me wishes I was 18 again, you know? Well, a few things about me do, but overall,

Stephanie: Right, right. Mostly it's like thighs and butt and belly that wishes you're 18, right.

Brooke: Hundred percent, hundred percent.

Brooke: Yeah. So I think that helped. And then I started to do some stuff to take care of myself, physically, you know, with like diet and exercise and stuff like that. But again, I didn't realize that I was getting myself out of a deep depression and, and postpartum anxiety. I thought I was just trying to move on with my life and just trying to get myself to be healthier and feel better. But all of those things compounded together got me where I was. And then moving to Arizona and starting a new career. And you know,

Stephanie: let's throw that on top.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: of everything.

Brooke: Yes. Yeah, yeah.

Stephanie: And barely feeling human again. And now you're gonna make a major life move with a new family.

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: Oh my God, Brooke.

Brooke: Yep. And that was, you know, crazy. So then I started the imposter syndrome, you know. I started thinking, what am I doing? I don't, I'm not qualified for this. Who put me in this role?

Brooke: I've got people that are reporting to me, and depending on me. I'm making decisions. I can't make these decisions. So I kind of felt like I was faking it till I make it. I look at it now, and what I've accomplished, and I realize I wasn't faking it. I did have it in me to do it. And I did a pretty darn good job.

Brooke: But at the time, you know, again, it was all kind of piling on top of me. Like I wasn't good enough. I wasn't a good enough mom. I wasn't a good enough worker. I wasn't a good enough wife. And those pressures that come on you. And then to be in your forties where, you're looking at other parents, they're half your age. You know, I mean, I'm not one of many. There's very few 40 something new parents with young children. And, you know, you don't have that support group in that way. Like the 20 somethings and 30 somethings are great. But there is something about that midlife crisis part that makes it different. It really does, and they just can't relate yet.

Brooke: You know? I mean, they will. One day, they'll get that part.

Stephanie: Right.

Brooke: Right now they don't. So when I find a woman who's in her forties with a child Everly's age, I'm like, you need to be my best friend because there's not a lot out there, right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: Yeah. Oh, my goodness. This sounds like such a grueling year for you, from the time you gave birth and went through all these, emotional upheavals and, and fear. And then you turned 40 and you had no interest in celebrating whatsoever, which I completely understand. And then you uprooted your life and started a new career and a new place and with no support system

Brooke: Mm-hmm. Yeah. Yeah. And that was tough too, the no support system. So my family at the time all lived in New Hampshire. My husband's family lived in San Diego, right. So I was here alone.

Brooke: And when they would visit me, it was, it was, I almost didn't want them to visit because I didn't wanna say goodbye. Because there went my support system. And, you know, it was hard because I was in a new job. It wasn't easy to go out and meet people. I mean, I could meet people at work, but it's, you know, you want somebody that's in the same stage of your life to kind of help support you through it.

Stephanie: Yeah.

Brooke: And I couldn't find that anywhere. And not having my family right there, it was, it just, you know, compounded and just made it worse. It was. You know, I just, I felt very alone and, you know, I had my husband and he was great. But you know, there's just some things where you just need a bigger support system.

Brooke: You can't, you can't really survive with just the two people kind of leaning on each other and supporting each other. You need those people around you to help you get through it. So, you know, luckily since then, I've definitely built my system here and I've, I've, you know, made some wonderful friends and that's really been able to relate to me and help me through. But yeah, that first year I was, I was very alone. I mean, I was very alone.

Stephanie: You needed the village. The it takes a village, village. And yeah. And moving to Arizona. You had no such thing.

Brooke: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Exactly. I mean, I knew no one. I knew nobody out here. At least when I moved to San Diego, my best friend lived there.

Brooke: So I had somebody and, you know, I could kind of just slide into like her life and then meet my own people. Here, I moved here and I moved 30 minutes away from my job. So it's not like I was really close to the people that I worked with cuz everyone lives, you know, all over the place. Mm-hmm and I knew no one. We moved on a street with barely any kids.

Brooke: Yeah, it was really lonely. My family's in New Hampshire and all I want is my mom and my sisters to be with me to help me raise this child that, you know, by the way, I don't even know what I'm doing. I mean, every mom says that they don't, but like my family was always shocked that I was gonna have a kid.

Brooke: They're like, what do you mean? Do you even know what to do with a child? I was like, I'll figure it out. I got it. You know? But

Stephanie: Centuries of moms have figured it out and have had it.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: So I I'm sure it's been going fine in that way, but I totally understand wanting to have your mom and your sisters and,

Stephanie: Oh my goodness. I'm truly gobsmacked at, at the story of this year in your life. Let me jump forward and just ask how, how are things now? It's a couple of years later.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: How are you feeling? How is your world? So, so much tell me, tell me that everything turned out okay.

Brooke: It did. Everything turned out great.

Brooke: Once I kind of started doing the right things for myself and, and really focusing on my mental health and, and talking about it. I think that's one thing that's helped a lot is that I'm not very quiet about it. For a lot of years, especially when I first found out that I had depression and anxiety, it was embarrassing.

Brooke: You know, somebody would ask me, what are you taking that pill for? And I didn't wanna say that it was for anxiety. And I look back now thinking, wow, that was weird. Now I'm like, yep. Gotta go get my anxiety pills. Right. And, you know, since then I've really. It's been so much better. I've built my village here and you know, my parents just moved here last year.

Brooke: So that is super helpful. Yes.

Stephanie: Wonderful.

Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. So I have my parents here. Everly's turning five next month. She is spectacular. I'm not scared to take her places. Um, to be honest with you, I am the parent that shows up at her preschool and goes, oh my gosh, I forgot the sunscreen. So I'm not scared that she's gonna like burn by the sun.

Brooke: She's still very light, but she has not come home burned to a crisp yet. So yeah, I got through it, but I think about all those people that have to go through it alone, and don't, A, recognize what's happening to them because somebody who even knew about that stuff didn't truly recognize how severe I was. It's hard. It's, it's one of those things I think we don't talk about enough, especially the anxiety, the postpartum anxiety stuff. If you can recognize it, and you can work through it, and you get your people around you, and you talk to a doctor probably more than I did, you know, it, it does turn out okay.

Brooke: And I look at myself now as a mom and you know, I'm strong. You know, I still have the anxiety. It's still there, but I'm not as anxious as I was. I feel very much like I have raised an amazing human, um, still a long way to go. But so far she's pretty much unscathed. And I can look back now at that period of my life and you know, not so much laugh.

Brooke: I'm not laughing at myself, but look back and go, wow, that was intense. But at the time it was just life. And I remember thinking at the time like, wow, this is what motherhood is? This is what I'm gonna be for the rest of my life? This like crazy.

Stephanie: Oh God.

Brooke: Yeah. Like I wouldn't have, that wouldn't have went very well for me.

Stephanie: That must have been overwhelming on top of everything else to think this is what it's gonna look like forever.

Brooke: Mm-hmm. Yeah.

Stephanie: My goodness.

Brooke: Because when you're in it and when it's, that's how you're living, you don't see an end to it. You don't see that you're gonna feel better or, or be better.

Brooke: And it's such a strange, it's so hard to explain, cuz it's just, it's all feeling. I mean, sometimes it's visual, but mostly it's just feeling. And, you know, I know how to put on the face and pretend things are okay. And that sometimes even makes it worse, cuz nobody's knowing what you're going through.

Stephanie: Right. Right.

Stephanie: And it, it feels to me a little spooky that you could be someone who has experience with depression, anxiety, and has tools, and has strategies. And yet, a whole different flavor of it creeps up on you that you don't even realize is the same beast as the one you already know. And so you don't, one, as you said, your tools don't work. And, two, you don't even necessarily recognize it as the same beast. So that, that seems a little scary to me that it, that it could surprise you that much.

Brooke: No, and it definitely did. I mean, again, like I knew that I would have postpartum depression. I actually don't think I really knew that much about postpartum anxiety.

Brooke: And there's also, which luckily I didn't get, there's also postpartum O C D. So there's so many things that I think women just don't realize. It's, you know, we talk a lot about postpartum depression and you see the, you know, the, the sad stories of, of where that leads. But I think the, the anxiety, the OCD, those things that we don't talk about.

Brooke: They don't manifest in the exact same way. It would for somebody who has it prior to having a child or prior to, you know, being postpartum, it can manifest very differently. And if you're not somebody who's in tune with your feelings and recognizes it, it's very easy to think this is just what it is.

Brooke: This is just what it's like to be a mother. This is just what my life's gonna be going forward and not get the help that you need to right yourself. To make yourself feel like a normal human again, that doesn't get scared of everything, or isn't wishing they were 18 partying in fraternity basements.

Brooke: You know, you you're present in the moment. Right? And that's the thing is it takes you away from the moment, those moments with your child, that you'll never get back. So, you know, I, I really think it's something that we need to talk about more and something that needs to be educated on more that it's not just baby blues. It's not just feeling sad.

Brooke: And then of course, I think, and I was researching this earlier. They say that postpartum's not worse with age or any different with age. But I think that it is. I, I really do looking at my own experience. Depending on what you are going through, it can be much different than I think it would've been, if I was younger, if I was in my early thirties, not my forties. You know?

Brooke: Um, but that is Dr. Brooke saying with no certification or credentials behind that. That's my own. my own,

Stephanie: your experience and

Brooke: yes,

Stephanie: uh, and perspective for sure.

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: Tell me about how your husband managed while you were going through all of this. I mean, what was, what was his reaction to you being in a place that, I'm thinking of my husband who would just wanna help?

Brooke: Yeah. Mm-hmm.

Stephanie: So, so tell me about how Brett managed.

Brooke: Yeah. And he's the same, right? He wanted to help. What do I need to do to make it better? How can I make it better? And you know, what I, what he struggles with, and he still does now, is that he can't. There's nothing he can do.

Brooke: And he's a fixer. He wants to fix it. And honestly, a lot of it, I, I hid from him. So he was working in California, which if you're gonna have a baby, have it in California. You get five months off. Pretty much most of it's paid. Yeah. Oh, wow. So that's the other thing. The fact that women go back to work after six weeks, more power to them. I could never, I couldn't have done it. I could not have done it. So, you know, I was home with her all day alone while he was working and a lot of it happened when he wasn't home. You know, I, I, I really hid that from him and I think, and I'm gonna have him listen to this. I don't think some of these stories, he probably didn't even know because I didn't wanna burden him with it because I knew he couldn't fix me and he couldn't fix it.

Brooke: But when he would see me in those moments, you know, he would take charge and, you know, okay, let me get Everly for a little while. You go in the room. You go rest. Let me cook dinner tonight. And, you know, and, and just support me. What can I do? And, you know, trying to understand which is what I love about him, you know?

Brooke: Cause he would say to me, Brooke, why are you so depressed? We've got a beautiful daughter. We're happy. There's no problems with us. Like we live in this beautiful place. Like what is wrong? And you know what he didn't understand because he just didn't know is that it doesn't have to be a, a cause and effect, right?

Stephanie: Yeah.

Brooke: It it's all chemical. It's all emotional. And it's not like I had a bad day, so I'm sad. Whereas in his life, if he gets depressed, it's because he had a bad day. So he's trying to understand it. And I love that about him, that he really tried to understand. And then of course, you know, he's always the one pushing me.

Brooke: I, I try to be very strong and in doing so I, I probably hurt myself because I'm like, I don't need help or I don't need to go see somebody. Like with the hospital, I don't need to go to the hospital. Brooke, your temperature is 103. I'm taking you to the hospital. Right. So he pushed me to, to get that help that I needed.

Brooke: And he, he is, my, my rock when it came to that, you know. He luckily was very stable when I was very unstable.

Stephanie: Yeah. Yeah. I have a, a sort of a similar situation with Patrick, my husband

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: because I, I have been managing a chronic illness for five years now.

Stephanie: So in:

Stephanie: And I think it was like the following week that we got the news. So literally the next week I sent out a card that said, Nope, here's your invitation, different date. And we did online RSVPs and, and so we had a, a beautiful, magical wedding. I always love to think of it as my dad's last best day.

Stephanie: And so, so we got married at the end of March. And then Pat went on his bachelor party in April. I had my shower in April. And then, um, we went on our honeymoon. I think it was like the last week of May, into like the beginning of June. And when we were on our honeymoon, we were just exhausted. It was not a like joyous kind of occasion. It was like, uh, we went to a Caribbean island. It was beautiful. I've always wanted to go back and sort of have an actual vacation there. Mm-hmm. Um, but we kind of knew that we needed to like recover from everything that had happened, but also prepare for everything that was going to happen.

just awful. In the spring of:

Brooke: Oh, wow.

Stephanie: At the time I thought, oh, I'm just having a stress crash. Cuz I had, you know, a year of like incredible stress. Mm-hmm. Not to mention, I run my own business too. So, you know, I couldn't just take vacation. So I thought, oh, it's, this is just stress catching up with me. So let me just take really good care of myself and, you know, try to do a lot of the things you were talking about. Eat better and, sleep and, gentle exercise. And, that wasn't working. So I started working with naturopaths. They found there's an autoimmune thyroid condition that had been unattended. So we started working on that. And then I found out that I had Lyme disease.

Brooke: Oh, oh no.

Stephanie: Oh no is right. Because I don't know if you remember this about me, but I am not an outdoorsy kind of gal.

Brooke: Yeah.

Stephanie: Somebody sent me a thing years ago. I think it was one of those e-cards that said, I'm outdoorsy in that I like getting drunk on patios.

Brooke: Yes.

Stephanie: And I was like, yes, that is me. I could literally, in 10 years, the 10 years prior to that diagnosis, count on one, maybe one and a half hands the number of times I had been out in the woods. Hmm. So I'm like, where did I pick up Lyme disease?

Brooke: Yeah.

y not have been right then in:

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: So my husband is very much in the same place that your husband was with, how can I help and what can I do? And I wish I could make it better. And, you know, he's exceptionally supportive, but there's literally nothing that he can do, mm-hmm, to help me with inflammation, or with Lyme spirochetes, or with, with the brain fog, with the fatigue, with, with my limitations. It's wonderful, but you know, and the support is highly appreciated. Mm-hmm , but there's nothing you can do to make it better. So I, I kind of understand that powerlessness both in your situation and in your husband, sort of watching you go through it.

Stephanie: With me, there's a, you know, there's acceptance, there's, trying to live within it and, you know, doing the best you can within those, those parameters that you've got. So yeah, I, I understand, and I also understand the fear that it's always gonna be this way.

Brooke: Yeah, mm-hmm.

Stephanie: I'm always gonna be debilitated. I'm always gonna be limited. I'm always not gonna be able to do the things that I wanna do. But it's false. It's false. Everything is changeable and changing and evolving. And so, I'm so glad that you were able to work yourself out of it, even though, as you say, you probably should have had a little bit more support, definitely medical professionals and pharmaceuticals and those kinds of things, but, I'm glad you were able to, to pull yourself most of the way through it.

Brooke: Mm-hmm

Stephanie: That sounds like a, a incredible, incredible experience, and job to, mm-hmm, to pull yourself out of that at the same time, taking care of a baby at the same time, planning a move at, I mean, ooof.

Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. And that's the thing is that, you know, we forget there's, in all of this, there's a baby who needs you 24/7.

Brooke: Like they can't do anything. You know, now she's, you know, she's pretty self-sufficient. But then, I mean, yeah.

Stephanie: Right. She was attached to you.

Brooke: She was a 100% attached to me. Yes. Yes. Very rare that she wasn't somewhere near my body.

Stephanie: Yes, mm-hmm, oh, Brooke. I'm just blown away at your story. I, I truly am. I, I can't imagine being in those shoes, mm-hmm. I'm sorry that you wore them, but I'm glad that you, succeeded and, brought yourself through that, whole and intact. I'm, I'm truly just dumbfound.

Brooke: Yeah. Yeah. I think that, you know, the thing about it is, is that I look back now and I think about, you know, it just helps me remember how strong I am. Mm-hmm. And what I am capable of getting through. When I look back at some of my darker times, that being one of them that, you know, I, I got through that. And, and I, I kept a human alive. I mean, let's, let's talk about that. You know, forget about just me, like taking care of just me sometimes is hard.

Brooke: Like I kept a human alive, like relatively unscathed. So that is a win in my book.

Stephanie: That's a huge win. That's a huge win. I'm so impressed with you. I'm, I'm so impressed by your story. And, and like I said, I, I can relate to it in, in some, in some ways, even not having gone through that myself.

Stephanie: mm-hmm. And I'm sure that plenty of people who listen to this will be raising their hands and amen-ing all through your story.

Brooke: Yeah. Well, thank I appreciate you letting me tell it. I think it's, you know, when I saw that you were doing this, which I thought was fabulous, I sent the, the podcast to my, my friends and I listened to the, a few of them, the one with Jamie and I, you know, I thought I was like, oh, I, I, I wanna talk about this.

Brooke: . Because again, it's not a topic that most people are gonna think about, like turning 40 and being postpartum. Like when does that happen? You know, it doesn't happen that often. Right? So I appreciate you letting me tell this story. Cause I think there are people out there that are going through that or have, or will, and you know, to know that having a midlife crisis and postpartum depression and anxiety, you can survive at all. It's a rough road, but you will get through it.

Stephanie: Right. That's a great takeaway. You can survive it. You will get through it. And, and this, this too

Stephanie: shall pass.

Brooke: It will. Yes. Yes, it will. Mm-hmm

Stephanie: Brooke, thank you so much for being here with me today. I, I sincerely appreciate your, your honesty and your bravery for sharing all this. And I, I know that that people are gonna love to hear this story.

Brooke: Yeah. Well, thank you so much. I appreciate you having me and thank you for sharing a little bit of you, too. I, I really appreciate that.

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