I am a mom of three. I am someone who is happy, full of life, spontaneous and loves making memories. I love to make people laugh even though it’s usually at my expense. I like this person. I miss this person. You see, recently I have been infected with postpartum depression and this person I once was has been hard to find. Often times I refer to postpartum depression as feeling trapped inside my own body. Every day it takes work, hard work, to live life as my mind feels tortured with obsessive fearful thoughts. Postpartum depression is not a matter of will but a chemical imbalance that needs to be taken seriously.
Postpartum Progress reports, “…more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, lupus, and epilepsy.”
Women, we need to talk about this more.
We need to put our pride down and be okay with not being okay and tell other women about it because it just may save a life. Postpartum depression is like a cancer of the mind. We have got to stop pretending like it isn’t there or that we can will it away. We need help, we need each other. I wish I was writing this on the other side of it all, but I sit here gripped by this beast inside of me that is suffocating the life out of my lungs. I come back for a second as I write. I recognize myself in my writing and I breathe … ah, I’m still in here somewhere, I think to myself.
Mama, if you are on this same journey, I’m sorry. I am sorry that this pain is a part of your life story. It’s so hard, isn’t it? I can’t fix this for you. I can’t write up some magical formula that is going to make this all go away, but I can write to tell you that you are not alone and share some things that have helped save my life (literally). If I’m allowed to make requests, I hope that you do all of these things listed. Please.
Reach out to your doctor. It is so hard to reach out for help during this but it is so important to let your doctor know what is going on because he/she can be an advocate for you. Make an appointment to talk to them, list all of your concerns, and then listen to their advice. If you are like me, you aren’t going to believe a word they say but at least they know where you are at emotionally and mentally. The more they know, the more they can help you.
Reach out to family and friends. You don’t have to go around publicizing that you need to be in a looney bin but asking for help is the right thing to do (and probably the last thing you want to do). Let a few people know just how bad it is and then allow them to help (even if you don’t think it will be helpful). These are the people who love you and want what is best for you and your family. They will help be your voice of reason.
Reach out to a Counselor or Psychiatrist or a Postpartum Support Group (check your local hospital for more details). You are not alone and what you are experiencing is not uncommon. I know it feels the exact opposite right now, which is why this is a crucial step to getting better. PSI is an awesome online resource if you need someplace to get started.
Take some time away. I know it’s hard to get away for long periods of time, so let’s be realistic with this and take 10 minutes a day and do something that helps you release your anxiety. For me, it’s a walk or spending time reading on my back porch. What is it that you find relaxing and enjoyable? Go do it! Right now, you may not find enjoyment in anything so, instead, think about something that you used to enjoy (before being infected by this horrible disease) and go do it. I remember losing my love for coffee during my darkest time. I love coffee normally … like I have a relationship with it. When I was really suffering I never wanted it. In fact, there were a lot of things that were me that I didn’t like anymore. One day, I decided to try to enjoy a cup of coffee. I wanted to just see if the old me was still in there somewhere. I took a sip, wanted to fight enjoying it, but gave into my old self and just sat sipping coffee like I did before. The old me was still in there and I enjoyed that person for a while. Find something that you can do that will help you release some of this anxiety, even if only for a minute.
Maintain a healthy diet. I could barely eat and that brought a whole host of other problems which only increased my anxiety. I started losing a lot of weight, had digestive issues, dizziness, shaky, lightheaded, etc. Your body needs nutrition because stress tears it apart! As best as you can, try to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables and protein. Drink TONS of water, especially if you are breastfeeding. Try to stay away from sugar during this time because sugar is basically the devil and right now you don’t need another “devil” attacking your body. If you don’t believe me, read what The Wellness Mama has to say.
Mama who is being suffocated by postpartum depression, if I could do one thing for you right now I would be squeezing you tight and letting you cry. This is a hard and brutal season of life. Postpartum depression is real and just because someone can’t understand what you are going through, doesn’t make it less serious. This is a serious illness and it is not because of something you have done or haven’t done. For whatever reason, this illness is a part of your journey and you are not alone. Not only are you not alone, but you are going to make it through this. I don’t normally do this, but because I know the darkness of the journey, please reach out if you need reminding that you are not alone or need reminding that this won’t last forever.
“Like clay in the hands of the potter, so are you in his hands.”