May is Mental Health Month, Mental Health, motherhood, postpartum depression

Destymie-ing Dysthymia


The American Psychiatric Association defines dysthymia as depressed mood most of the time for at least two years, along with at least two of the following symptoms: poor appetite or overeating; insomnia or excessive sleep; low energy or fatigue; low self-esteem; poor concentration or indecisiveness; and hopelessness.

With all the myths and tragedies running around my head lately, it’s perfect poetic justice that the word dysthymia comes from the Greek.  And I’m starting to think that’s what I have.

My raison d’etre in this land of depression (or whose labor and delivery unleashed the beast) is now approaching four years old.  My depressive symptoms linger on.  They’ve certainly lessened, that’s for sure.  I no longer want to chop off my fingers, run out the door and never come back, or think I’m a completely horrible, terrible mother.  But like a thin fog that spreads layer after misty layer until the terrain is no longer recognizable, it’s lurking and oozing its way into the corners of my life.  On the days the sun doesn’t shine, I’m chilled to the bone, the damp crawling inside and refusing to leave.

Postpartum has passed the baton to dysthymia.

The Internet can give you whatever leverage you need to make whatever case you want so I can prove it.

Depression that begins as a mood fluctuation may deepen and persist when equilibrium cannot be restored because of poor internal regulation or external stress.

Postpartum = mood fluctuation

Poor internal regulation = my anxiety-ridden self

External stress = meeting the needs of three small children

Equilibrium null and void = deepened and persistent depression

I also never had the appetite or sleep disturbances associated with clinical depression, but have my fair share of “anhedonia (inability to feel pleasure), social withdrawal, guilt, and irritability,” which the American Psychiatric Association is considering adding to an alternative definition.

Nothing like self-diagnosis.  But if it’s an open and closed case of dysthymia, why am I not responding to treatment?  The article mentions recovery.  I’d like some of that please.

I think there’s a hole in the fabric of mental health for women beyond the grasp of postpartum, but still not functioning in a productive and positive way.  If a traumatic event, which birth and what follows can be, unleashes a maelstrom of symptoms that were lying just below the surface, what then?  What can we do for those women who don’t fit the textbook mold of either postpartum or major depression?

How do we destymie dysthymia?


9 thoughts on “Destymie-ing Dysthymia

  1. I had postpartum with my one and only child; couldn’t stop sobbing; there were reasons – he was fine, but I was a mess; I later started going to therapy, and when I was 53 I met the best therapist i’d ever have.


      • I was depressed before but not much ws known, when I was 19 I was terrifically depressed,

        but I only had one child; Lordy, I don’t know what I would have done with more; I was in therapy; marriage counseling and went to the guy after I had my son. it’s a ball of twine, so many wisps of threads in it; a psychiatrist said Your Faith saved you; he was not a Baha’i, but I think it’s everything, everything and everything, and underneath is a sensitive human being; I think in the future more will be sensitive; but the task is to find out what works on many levels, so it’s a little by little, day by day approach; best to you


  2. I liked your title (and blog name) so i came to read. I wanted to give some helpful words, but with dysthymia I’d probably just sound annoying. I empathize with the entropy of anxiety and so just hope you have a gentle day. Its hard to deal with yourself when you feel the world around you is chaos. Thank you for your writing.


    • Jennifer Butler Basile says:

      A gentle day – I like that idea. That’s a good, somewhat attainable goal.

      Thank you for coming to read. Thank you for your writing as well. Your blog has some beautiful writing!


  3. Erin says:

    Hugs. I have been there. I am there. I’ll be feeling fine (for me) and then something will happen and I’ll be in the depths of despair, again. It’s pretty awful. Hang in there and find someone to talk to.


    • Jennifer Butler Basile says:

      Constant roller coaster, eh? Thank you for your words of encouragement. I do have some great people to talk to. It does make a big difference.


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