If we’re friends in real life, or you follow me on Facebook, you might be surprised to hear I have postpartum depression.
I was surprised too. I don’t often feel “depressed” and wasn’t living the picture of depression that I had in my mind, but I was living in a constant state of overwhelm and anxiety. I looked happy, but I didn’t feel happy. I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised though because I’ve known for months that something was wrong, but hadn’t talked to anyone about it.
Then one day I was scrolling Facebook and a news article popped up about a mom that had untreated PPD and had taken her own life, leaving a sweet four month-old baby behind. The article said that she felt hopeless and like things were never going to change. It made me incredibly sad, both for that mom and family- and because I’d thought those very same things.
I often wondered if I’d ever feel relaxed again. I felt like I’d lost myself and I didn’t know how and or when it would get better. I called my OB that day.
My OB asked me questions about my day to day life and before I knew it, I was bawling my eyes and out and hearing her say she was worried about me. Then I heard her say
“You have postpartum depression.”
Turns out that label is a bit of a misnomer. Postpartum depression (PPD) is made up of a variety of symptoms, and a mom can experience one, some, or all of them to be diagnosed with PPD. This was surprising to me and I realized I had been battling this on my own for the last several months. In May of this year, I took a screenshot from www.postpartumprogress.com detailing some of the symptoms and thinking I could relate to most of these. I saved the image to my phone but never shared it with anyone.
I thought how I felt my unease was a normal part of transitioning to life with two kids and probably the result of not getting a lot of sleep. I thought I could handle my feelings on my own. So I delayed talking to anyone.
I had no focus or concentration and often would tell my husband to look one place for something when it really was somewhere else. It’s like the words were all mixed up in my head. Even though I was thinking of the right place, I’d say the wrong one. I missed deadlines and appointments. So I pushed myself harder to be more organized and tried to laugh off my confusion.
When I felt disconnected from others, I’d try to do more, be busier, and connect with more moms. I hoped that even though I felt invisible, someone would eventually see me, see how much I was struggling, and I would somehow figure out how to connect with other moms like me. But you can’t tell just by looking at me that I have postpartum depression. Even though I was already working out and eating healthy, I further committed to my health and fitness goals and asked for more help and more sleep. And it seemed to help a little, but I still felt extremely overwhelmed.
“Not like “hey, this new mom thing is hard.” More like “I can’t do this and I’m never going to be able to do this.” ~taken from Postpartum Progress
When I couldn’t find something in the house, my thoughts would race and I’d quickly go from upset that I couldn’t find a shirt to tearing the house apart looking for it, to thinking I’m a terrible person and a terrible mom. And don’t even ask me to just wear another shirt!! It was a slippery slope that left me feeling irritable and edgy. I felt like I couldn’t catch up on anything, I was letting things slip through the cracks and still feeling really anxious and stressed out. I’d look around me and feel like everyone was doing life and mommying better than me. When I couldn’t get the baby to stay asleep for more than 45 minutes, I’d blame myself. Why wasn’t I better at teaching her to sleep? It didn’t matter how many people said I was a good mom, all I could think about constantly were the areas that I felt I was failing. I started having insomnia and couldn’t remember the last time I felt relaxed. I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to relax, given the chance.
As I sat there in the doctor office with tears streaming down my face, I felt so relieved. All this time I thought I was crazy.
When the doctor suggested counseling and a low dose of medication I was hesitant but agreed, because I’d already tried EVERYTHING I knew to do on my own and I was still struggling. The worry had become relentless and I just wanted a chance to breathe. I wanted my mind to be quiet for a moment. I wanted to be able to think about one thing at a time and I wanted to enjoy my kids and husband instead of the constant state of anxiety and irritability that I’d been living in. While not everyone requires medication, for me, it has made a vast improvement. It’s not something I’ll need forever, but it’s something I need right now.
After just a couple weeks of treatment, I looked at my son one day and it was like seeing him for the first time in months and I felt truly happy.
Later I commented to my husband that it was the most amazing thing to be able to think about only one thing at a time. All that time I was trying to make my postpartum depression go away by myself and it just wasn’t responding to my constant efforts. I suffered for months because I didn’t know that what I was experiencing was PPD. I was afraid to speak up and I was certain I’d be judged for not being grateful for my life and my children. I didn’t want to say that my life was hard because I knew people who were much worse off than I was.
Postpartum depression doesn’t just go away on its own and keeping it to myself, thinking I could handle it alone left me tired and hopeless. I texted my sister in law in July saying, “I just want to be normal. She replied, “Weirdly enough, I think it’s more normal than you would think. People just don’t talk about it.”
So here I am, talking about it.
I believe that there are other moms out there just like me who might not know that postpartum depression can be more than feeling depressed and blue, and I’m hoping that my story reaches just one mom, and encourages her to be courageous enough to get help and start to feel more like herself again.
What about you? What was your postpartum experience like?