Get down with PPD

courtesy of newbornhub.com

courtesy of newbornhub.com

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.

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My many trips into the world of Post Partum Depression

How could something so wonderful, make me feel so bad?

ImageMy first two…

When my first child was born, I was 21. Excited to have her, never believing it would truly happen. I couldn’t comprehend parenthood, as much as I looked forward to it.

Following the birth of my 10+ pounder (come on, do ounces even MATTER after you hit the 10 pound mark??), I fell into a very dark place. I came home 2 days after having her, and remember waiting as long as I could to call my mom the following morning. It was probably around 7am before I dialed the number, and began to sob uncontrollably at the sound of her voice. What followed was seemingly endless days of sobbing, as I failed to adjust to this new role. The anxiety, panic, fear, depression….overwhelmed me, but I had NO IDEA what was happening to me, other than I knew I didn’t like it, and at one point I remember standing in the shower, wishing I could die.

Thankfully, I never wanted to actually do harm to myself or my baby. I still videotaped her from day one, and watching the video’s now, you would have no idea of the conflict going on inside of me, other than the scratchy voice that gave away just how much I’d been crying.

Two weeks later, I felt like I was coming out of the darkness. I was willing to move forward with life, instead of trying to ignore it. I chalked it up to being so young, and a somewhat difficult birth, and went on to love my role as a mom, and adore my daughter to the annoyance of those within frequent earshot of my blabbering about her perfection. I truly believed I would never suffer through that again if I ever had another baby, now that I “knew” how to do it.

Three more babies later, I’ve learned a lot.

I’ve learned that you can’t talk yourself out of being depressed. You can’t pray yourself out of it, you can’t force yourself out of it.

My children mean the world to me, but after my second was born, and I found myself back in “the pit”, I realized I had been kidding myself all those months during pregnancy, believing that I was so much more capable of avoiding it this time. I felt GREAT the first 2 days, then fell off the cliff. I swear, I recall the moment it hit me, that chemical shift, or whatever you want to call it.

No appetite? check. Feeling of hopelessness? check. Anxiety and panic? check and check. I did seek help, and found Ohio was not a place for a big PPD support system. I managed, but it was very difficult, for me and those around me. I felt so alone, despite never being alone.

With my fourth, I prayed often during the pregnancy that I would remain as happy after the birth as I was to BE pregnant. I gathered my support staff around me, making my family promise to be there and not leave me alone. Although I “knew” it would happen, the depression, when it hit, was still a major blow. I felt like I’d failed again.

That time, I finally tried medication despite my internal struggle over it. It helped, and I actually got to enjoy some of the infancy of my Last Baby, instead of feeling overwhelmed and unsure, scared to do anything and feeling miserable.

I battled my depression, my anxiety, my adjustment disorder. With each baby I prayed to feel better, and was so scared that this time, I wouldn’t.

I never neglected my children. If anything, I overstimulated them, over nurtured them, and over compensated to make up for the guilt I felt over not adjusting beautifully. I did not blame these babies, I blamed myself for being somehow broken.

I learned a lot about myself, and I can empathize so much more with other moms who go through similar issues.

Although I am depression free, medication free, and newborn free (Last Baby is 14 months..), I am not left without scars.

When a friend or relative has a baby, I come to visit, but in a way I feel like I’m responding to some alarm. I need to be ready to help….I ask a lot of questions about how the mom is feeling…”really?”…… “you’re great??”… and I usually leave perplexed, am I the ONLY one who sucked at this??

I work at hospitals, and often see new moms being wheeled out, baby in their arms. When I see this, I automatically thank God it isn’t me in her place. Not because I didn’t or don’t love being a mom, I do, more than anything I do. But when I see that new mom, I see a shadow of myself, scared, alone, lost. Unable to bask in the joy of new motherhood, instead trying to quell the anxiety welling up inside my chest. Depression robbed me of those initial moments of joy.

My experiences gave me an insight I’d sooner not have, but I accept. Knowing what I do, feeling what I’ve felt, I would do anything to help another person in my shoes. Thank god for the internet. With each new birth, the social networking opportunities just got better and better. I found communities of women like me, and just reading their stories made me feel better about myself. Not alone. Understood.

I am grateful to have made it through depression four times, and Oh so grateful to have my children. They were worth it, I can easily say that now. (Not so much maybe 7 days in….). I did however recently make a choice that my mother said I would regret. My mom made the same choice after the birth of her 5th child. Not because she was depressed, more along the lines of being old and tired I would imagine…. anyway, she made this choice too….and afterwards she cried and cried, regretting it immediately. Mom never had depression.

I got my tubes tied.

I am STILL thrilled 🙂

I AM of course old and tired also, but the freedom of knowing I will never suffer through PPD again? ….Wow. I never realized what a relief it would be.