I wrote a while back about the fact that I had post partum depression with each of my children, here.
Now that they are getting older, you would think that I could forget about those feelings, since I am not planning to have new babies anymore. Well, it’s true that I do feel a huge sense of relief, because that was one of the reasons I resisted having another child and actually fought for a year before agreeing to have the last one.
Because I was terrified of feeling that way again. Because when you are going through it, you can’t imagine ever feeling better again. It’s a constant cycle of emotions and anxiety, at least it was for me. And the shame, for not feeling the way I was supposed to feel, the way I wanted to feel…. I hate remembering it.
I had a patient about a month ago who reminded me of those feelings, because she seemed to be going through something similar. Her newest baby was just a week old, and she also had a toddler at home. We chatted a bit, and somehow got on the topic of new babies, and then somehow got talking about how overwhelming it was right now for her.
I remember being her.
Filled to BURSTING with this anxiety, this unrest, this NEED to talk about it with someone. Even a stranger. The attempt made at making light of her feelings, nervous laughter as we mentioned the word Zoloft. People are scared of being judged…. I know, because I was scared too. When I felt so bad, and everyone expected me to feel so good. Not many people could understand the WHY. Me included.
Where I live in Ohio….. there was very little in the way of group support for this type of depression. With my second child, I at least knew what was happening to me when that grayness descended…. and I wanted to get help somewhere. I found a support group for general depression at a church not far from home. I got my aunt to watch the baby for an hour and went to the meeting. Feeling very vulnerable, almost in tears, I remember entering the room with other women already seated together. I met some nice women, and listened as some shared difficult moments encountered during the week.
I started to feel comfortable with a couple women there and shared a little bit about how I was feeling with having the new baby, overwhelmed, anxious, depressed…. and they were very supportive. We talked more and I mentioned my plan to return to work in a couple months….and experienced the wrath of one of those women, who berated me for ever choosing to leave my baby to go back to work. She walked away in a huff, and I was devastated.
I learned a very good lesson that day. As explained to me by one of the women who witnessed that encounter.
“Honey”, she said, “we all have our own issues, you just have to understand that her actions are about HER, not you.”
That is so true, and something I have remembered. We ALL have issues, and I have done my best not to pass judgment on others because I don’t know what things look like from their side of the fence.
I did however, decide that it might be a better option to find a group of people dealing with the same issue I was, who I could maybe better relate to. Great idea. Too bad there were no groups like that anywhere near me. I ended up reaching out many times to find disappointment. The most help I found was online.
There is a group on facebook called Postpartum Progress, they have links to all sorts of information and events you can participate in with other women who have experienced PPD. It’s nice to belong to a group of people who know what you’re going through, what you’ve been through, and offer support.
There is another organization, Jenny’s light. This group was founded after a new mother with a seemingly perfect life and a beautiful new son took her own life, and her son’s. She suffered silently with PPD, and her family has made it a goal to help prevent such tragedy by educating others about perinatal mood disorders, and offering a forum for support. I remember finding this site during my online searching for a “cure”…. and it helped so much just to read the stories of other women expressing how they felt during their depression. Some were spot on for how I felt. I knew I wasn’t alone, and that was huge.
I also did a lot of reading on babycenter.com, finding women in my birth club who were posting on the message boards. You can join your birth club and speak with people who have kids the same age as yours, and even check out the archives of previous posts on topics/conversations that may help you. If you search post partum depression on their site, it brings you here, and you can scroll to find quizzes to check if you qualify as having PPD, and links to articles and other sources of information or help. It again reinforced that I wasn’t “the only one” who felt this way, and even allows you that chance to connect with other moms, give support to each other and learn how other people are coping with their depression.
Anyway, my point is…. if you are someone who has gone through it, or is going through it… I get it, it sucks. And there are others out there who can relate, reach out and find us. Sometimes just knowing you are not alone helps.
And the best piece of advice I ever got, ever.
Was from a social worker I had called in my attempt to reach out for help, this was with my second child. Kindest woman, although I have never met her…. she called me back that evening and just talked to me…for like an hour, maybe longer. Listened to my pressured speech as I poured out all the anxiety and distress of the day. She listened to me talking about how I hoped to feel better the next day.
“Don’t hope… Just cope.”
It was a little tough love. She told me I may NOT feel better the next day, or the one after that. I was setting myself up by just hoping. So dig in there, and do what you need to do. Don’t hope, just cope.
Those words, I have said to myself so many times since then. It was what I needed at the time, and it helped me during moments of weakness, as I struggled through every mundane task even though doing anything left me feeling exhausted.
And I did cope. Four times. And no, I didn’t lose hope….but it made me realize that wishing to feel better wasn’t going to be enough to make me feel better. I had to participate and not give up.
I pray that everyone with PPD finds their way back from that scary place. Because it sucks there. If you know someone with PPD, or you suspect they have it, because they truly may NOT know what’s happening to them…..don’t judge them. Offer your hand, lend an ear, talk to them and be willing to listen. Let them know they are not alone, you will be helping more than you can possibly know.