Recently a friend wrote me and asked about postpartum depression. She’s expecting her first baby and as a reader of this blog, knew of my experience with depression. She politely asked me if I would share with her my experience specifically with postpartum. She opened up about not knowing who to talk to about all of it, that her family didn’t quite understand how to help, and she didn’t feel like her friends would be able to much either. I’d been feeling for some time that I needed to share a bit of what I went through with postpartum, but I wanted to wait till I felt like the right time to share, well I want to say thanks to my friend for giving me the go ahead on this post.
I was about two months into motherhood and I felt like something was terribly wrong with me. Every time I heard or read something to the effect of …”Being a mom is the best job in the world”, “I love being a mom”, “I just love to hold my baby and be at home with him/her all day long”… this frustrated me. I was confused because I didn’t feel that way at all.
My doctor talked to me about starting therapy again and maybe trying an anti-depressant. I agreed. I frantically started trying to get things in order, but therapists have long waiting lists and anti-depressants take a few weeks to really get in your system and take effect.
It started to take a tole on our marriage. I would call my husband and sob and tell him that I hated my life and I hated that I hated it. He would reassure me that I didn’t need to feel guilty, he knew it was hard. More than once he came home from work to help me, telling his boss that I was sick. And I really was just that, sick. It was so hard for him. Here I was drowning in this dark sea of depression and sometimes he just got frustrated with it all. That was one of the hardest parts, feeling so much pain and emptiness that I just couldn’t explain, that he couldn’t feel. On the outside, we were a happy newlywed couple experiencing the joys of being parents for the first time. We had a beautiful, healthy son. We had really good days, but the bad days were really bad. I don’t think anybody really knows how much we suffered, it was hell.
A few months passed and I was still on a waiting list for a therapist and a psychiatrist who could prescribe an anti-depressant. My endocrinologist reassured me that once my thyroid was in order, my depression should clear up. It didn’t. I waited for four months for my thyroid meds to do the trick, instead I just kept getting worse and worse. I don’t want to and can’t blame anyone for it. Not doctors, not waiting lists, not God, not my son, not my husband, nobody. What happened, happened. I got lost through the cracks and spiraled out of control, and 6 months into motherhood I had a nervous breakdown.
For personal reasons I don’t want to get into all the details. Maybe someday but not now. It was really bad, you can trust me on that one. I had really hit rock bottom like I never thought I could. I was angry with God. I had been a really good kid growing up. I was nice. I tried really hard to do what was right and to help others. I chose being a mother over pursuing a career. I was accomplished and well-liked. “Optimistic” is what most people described me as. How could this have happened? I wanted to and was trying to be a great mom, It blew my mind.
But I guess the old adage is, “The good thing about hitting rock bottom is that the only place to go is up”. And I did start going up. I did get the help I needed. I have people that have helped me get things back on track. The puzzle isn’t completely solved, but I’ll take 50% over negative -100% any day. I’m really grateful to be where I’m at. I can see a light in the distance. There’s a lighthouse in my sea of darkness, I’m not out of the sea yet, and I don’t know how long that will take to be free, but light is a powerful thing. Even if it’s a little pinprick, it can reach through the darkness. Sometimes I get all motivated and try to rush my progess. I try to run to the light. I’m reminded that it’s like I’m pulling a semi-truck behind me, and so while I’m moving towards the light and making progress daily, I have to be patient with myself and congratulate myself for even the smallest improvements. If you’re pulling a semi-truck you’re only going to be able to go a centimeter at a time. Other people run past you to accomplish their goals and sometimes you get frustrated with yourself, how come I can’t go faster? Just remember you’re pulling a semi-truck that no one else can see, what matters is that you focus on the light, no matter how dim it may be and keep moving towards the light. God will help you, he’s making all the difference for me. It’s my belief that God helps those that have depression through therapists, psychiatrists and other professionals.
My advice? Don’t feel embarrassed to utilize them. I’ve heard countless people say they wish they had gone to therapy sooner instead of waiting till they were really off. If you’ve dealt depression in the past, then there’s a high chance that you’ll also deal with postpartum. However, there’s also those that never experience depression until they become mothers. Whatever the case, try to get your cards in line the best you can BEFORE. That meaning, talk to your OB about it. Express your concerns. Ask what medications that are safest to use and get recommendations of a good therapist. Be proactive in finding a therapist that you LIKE before your baby is born (get on the phone, call them, talk to them a bit and see if they’re a good fit for you). Make appointments and get on waiting lists before your due date, because once the baby comes there won’t be any “you” time for the first couple months. I’m not saying worry about it, just be prepared. You may be one of the lucky ones that escapes it, but don’t wait till it’s bad before you seek help. If you’re not sleeping when your baby is sleeping through the night, if you’re crying A LOT weeks after your baby is born and you worry incessantly about your baby dying, it’s past time to get help.
It wasn’t just until about a month ago that it happened. I was chasing my son up the stairs, he was laughing and trying to go as fast as he could, struggling because his pants were too long, it was really funny. The thought, “I love being a mom” came effortlessly. Oh my gosh I thought. I wanted to cry. wow. People weren’t lying about the joy they felt being a mother. I’m thankful that I can honestly say that I’m beginning to truly feel that way about it. I’m not saying that the depression ended and that I don’t still struggle, I do, yes that’s for sure. Daily actually. BUT, there’s hope and love in my heart that wasn’t there before. Our marriage was put through the fire and we felt so punished, we felt so weak as a couple. However, our experience forged us together. We literally are one. The depth of our relationship is deeper and truer. When we say, “I love you,” we really mean I love you unconditionally. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m beginning to see the beauty and grandeur of God’s plan, families. Families bring joy. Our son brings us joy. We’re better because of what we went through. We’re still going through it I guess, but the load has been lightened significantly.
A blogger that went through something like I did, sums up perfectly why there’s hope for postpartum sufferers.
“I will always remember how hard it was the first time, and I will always sympathize with women who struggle they way that I did. But now I feel like I can understand the others who beamed when talking about life with an infant. I get it now. Yes, I know this makes me some droning mommyblogger, but I also hope that this, from the perspective of someone who has lived through the blinding demons of sadness and hopelessness, might give someone out there a glimpse of what it can be, and maybe they’ll go for it.”
And you most definitely should.