A beginning to forget — (The Richmond Times-Dispatch)

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The Richmond Times-Dispatch

BY BILL LOHMANN, TIMES-DISPATCH STAFF WRITER

Nov 26, 2006

Mom writes a happy ending to battle with postpartum depression

VISIT www.mommiescrytoo.com for more on Carolyn Brink’s story and her availability for speaking engagements, as well as how to purchase her book.

FOR MORE on postpartum depression, visit the National Women’s Health Information Center, www.4woman.gov/faq/postpartum.htm, or the Mayo Clinic, www.mayoclinic.com

The birth of her only child is not even a blur to Carolyn Brink.

She doesn’t remember it at all.

In fact, she doesn’t remember the first few months of Zachary’s life. She was trapped in the depths of postpartum depression, a perilous condition made even more dangerous by an adverse reaction to the drugs prescribed to help her. She recalls almost nothing from that period except this:RELATED

In her case, medications were making her worse.

Early treatment important

Just the blues?

” I came close to not being around,” she said. “I about killed myself.”

Brink’s story has a happy ending. She survived, her baby is fine and her family is strong. More than two years later, she feels back to her old self. A family friend recently published a book about her ordeal (“Mommies Cry Too: A Painful & Triumphant Story of Postpartum Depression,” by Carol S. Harcarik); reading it, Brink said, is “like reading a story that happened to someone else.”

Brink said she is willing to put herself in the public spotlight so she can help other women who experience postpartum depression.

“I had a great family, a great life and a successful career, and I was thrown into this ridiculous tailspin,” said Brink. “People can look at me and say, ‘If it could happen to her, it could happen to me.’ But they can also say, ‘She got better, I can get better.’

“I figure if I talk about it, maybe other people can have hope.”

Brink, 31, and her husband, De- mian, 34, moved to Richmond in 2002 from Minnesota. Both wound up working for The Martin Agency. Like most first-time parents, they eagerly anticipated the birth of their son, Zachary, in May 2004. The euphoria lasted until Zachary was placed in his mother’s arms for the first time shortly after his birth.

“I had in my mind what it was going to be like when she first saw him,” said Demian. “Tears, hugs, smiling.”

However, her reaction was oddly detached and distant. “Not that overflowing emotion I’ve come to expect and love about her,” he said.

When she returned home, Carolyn was anxious and panicky and wanted little to do with Zachary. She was almost catatonic at times. She said she’d made a terrible mistake by having a baby and that maybe she and Demian should put him up for adoption. Later, she spoke of suicide.

This from a person who by her admission is an overachieving “Type A” personality who had always tried to find the positive side of life and never harbored thoughts of killing herself.

“It was a long, hard struggle,” said Mary-Jane Kitchen, Carolyn’s mother, who lived in Wisconsin but stayed with her daughter, son-in-law and grandson through much of the nightmare. “Fortunately, throughout this whole thing, she was very open and honest about her feelings, even though it was really hard to listen to what she was saying. But because she was open and honest, it was easier for me to gauge where she was and how serious it was. If she hadn’t been so honest, I don’t know . . . ”

Only a few days after Zachary’s birth, Carolyn’s mother and husband sought medical help for her. At first, the prescription was relaxation techniques and more sleep. Then came medication. Then different antidepressants. Nothing worked for long, and she was getting worse. Finally, she underwent electroconvulsive treatments, which provided slight relief but no significant improvement.

Not knowing where to turn next, her father called a physician friend at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. She checked in in September 2004, and her life turned for the better.

Using a test that was new at the time, doctors determined her body was slow to metabolize drugs, meaning the drugs she was taking weren’t being processed quickly enough and were, in effect, poisoning her. She was prescribed different medication and began to improve. She also underwent talk therapy and was home by mid-October.

She remembers little before Mayo — her Mayo doctors believe her loss of memory is related to the electroconvulsive treatments and may be temporary but she had her life back and soon came to a most fulfilling revelation: She is a good mother.

“It took a long time” to come to that realization, Carolyn said. Now, she’s looking forward to being a mother again. She and Demian have talked about having more children, and her doctors say with proper planning and a support system in place,she should make a better postpartum adjustment.

“It would be nice,” Carolyn said of providing a sibling for Zachary, “to be there from the beginning and have memories of it.”

Contact staff writer Bill Lohmann at wlohmann@timesdispatch.com or (804) 649-6639