This is a hard post for me to write. Not due to the subject matter, or the stigma and misunderstanding attached to it, or even associated shame. Writing this post is difficult because by writing it I am publicly admitting to something I have been suppressing and denying the last few weeks. What I am writing about and finally admitting to is my postpartum depression (PPD).
PPD is something that between 15-20% of postpartum moms go through. The way I always put that into perspective is that in my classes with 20 moms, 3-4 moms in each class are suffering from PPD. Somehow that just makes those statistics seem more real to me, more concrete.
PPD is different from Baby Blues in that the symptoms tend to be more severe and last longer then a few days or weeks. The Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.com) provides this listing of possible symptoms:
There is no one cause for PPD, as it seems to be related to a variety of health, emotional, and lifestyle factors. Although those with a previous history of depression, anxiety, and PPD are at a much higher risk.
If you aren’t sure if you are suffering from PPD, the Edinburgh Scale, is one well known tool for determining if you are suffering from PPD. Click here to access the test. If you score higher then 10 then it is recommended to seek your doctor’s help.
Medication and talk therapy are often prescribed to moms suffering from PPD and many lifestyle factors like daily physical activity, eating a well balanced diet, finding a support group, getting lots of rest, and avoiding isolation also are great ways to help ease and treat PPD.
This is information I am very familiar with and make a point of sharing with my clients. This is not my first experience with PPD, I also suffered from it after I had Bria. During my first experience with PPD I felt ashamed and alone because it seemed as though no one talked about it. It took me about 3 months to even realize I was depressed and another month before I had the courage to deal with it. Getting involved with a moms group and focusing on things that made me feel good (dance, exercise, eating well, sleep, and “me time”) really helped me start to feel like myself again, not the monster I felt I had become.
The more I dealt with it, the more I realized how many moms were suffering, silently, alone. At about 9 months postpartum I did eventually break out of my cloud. I wanted to make sure that others who were dealing with what I had dealt with were not alone and should have no shame or guilt about their situation. That it was normal and that there were many supports that could help. I felt that by talking about it I could hopefully help rid some of the stigma attached to PPD and by sharing my story help other women know they weren’t alone. I know from talking privately to some of the moms in my classes this made an impact on them and helped a few find the support they needed to get treatment.
So when I got pregnant with Malia, my goal was to avoid PPD this time around. I did as much planning and preparing as I could to make the first few weeks postpartum and transitioning into mommy of two mode as easy as possible. I had weeks worth of frozen meals, I hired a cleaning service, I had my hubby take 5 weeks of parental leave, I tried to rest, do moderate physical activity, get some me time, etc. I felt like all of this was the key to keeping PPD away. With all this knowledge, foresight and support how could I fall victim to the dark clouds and stormy days I had experienced with Bria?
A few weeks ago when I started feeling really moody again I blamed it on the fact that the holidays were tiring, the cold weather had left us house bound and a bit stir crazy, and I had a sinus infection. Then as the anger started to set in I thought it was because my husband was an insensitive jerk who did not understand the routines I had established at home and that the whole world was against me. I began to isolate myself from loved ones, only had contact with my family when absolutely necessary, wanted to spend all day sleeping and then stay up all night and started drowning my sorrows in food.
Finally, after 3 weeks of feeling alone, tired and angry I realized my PPD was back. After a long talk and good cry with my husband I knew everything was going to be ok I just needed to put in place a plan to help me overcome the dark clouds that were circling me again. Luckily my husband is not an insensitive jerk, but actually the most supportive person my life, who just wants me to feel well again and whose love is unconditional.
So a I ashamed of my PPD? No! Do I feel guilty? No! Am I mad and sad that I am having to go through this again? YES! YES! YES! I have days where all I want to do is sob in my own self pity but I know that wont help me or my girls.
I think the thing I find most challenging about PPD is that all the things that you know will make you feel better are the last things you want to do. For me it is a daily battle to get out of bed and be social, exercise, eat right, and be loved. But as soon as I do those things I feel a million times better. So it is a mental battle everyday to start the day right and do the things I know will make me feel better.
My girls are great at helping me through this. They love to play and smile and goof around and make me laugh. Laughter really is the best medicine. Hearing those joyful, belly laughs, is like the rainbow after the storm. Bria seems to know exactly when I am feeling the most down as she will give me a great big hug out of no where and say “don’t be sad Mommy, I love you!”. Out of all the treatments for PPD, for me these words of support and gestures of love really make a big difference.
So if you are someone suffering from PPD, please don’t be ashamed to talk about it, and don’t feel guilty, you haven’t done anything wrong. But do get the help and support you need to feel better again. Talk to your doctor, talk to people who love you, and make a plan that will help you feel alive again. And try to remember that it is dark clouds and storms that make rainbows.
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