**If you suspect you are suffering from postpartum depression, know that you aren’t alone. PPD affects millions of women every year. Below I have shared my story, as well as provide tips to help you get through postpartum depression.
The First Few Days
I looked in the mirror and saw I still had the same dark circles around my eyes. The exhaustion had been going on for a few weeks now, and it felt like there was no end in sight. I only had one mode–crying.
I actually cried over spilled milk when I tripped and fell while warming a bottle of milk for my newborn baby.
I remained externally calm during the weeks building up to my daughters birth. Inside, I was nervous, excited, and anxious to become a mother. This was an identity I was not familiar with, but I was excited to see how it would change my life.
It did change my life. Completely.
Moments before she was born, I lost it. When the doctor put her into my arms, I knew that under the slime and blood I was holding the most beautiful thing in the world.
When it was time to take her home, a part of me was surprised they were going to allow us to leave the hospital. Shouldn’t they only let qualified people leave a hospital with such precious cargo?
Apparently, they thought I could handle it, as they congratulated us and pushed us out the door.
The First Few Months With A New Baby
The next few months were some of the darkest of my life. The memories are more of a blur, but the feelings behind them will remain with me forever.
Hopelessness. Emptiness. Anger. Shame.
I didn’t fully understand why I was having these feelings, but I figured it was normal. The crippling anxiety I felt when I tried to sleep was probably because I was naturally worried about my baby. Because SIDS is a thing, isn’t it?
I found that I was incredibly irritated with my husband over minute things. I would snap at him when he pissed me off and found negative hidden meanings in his body language.
Although I loved my baby, I didn’t feel happy when I looked at her. I felt guilty for not being happy. I wanted to bond with her, but I was too stuck in my head.
Loneliness and Depression
I felt lonely without a second heartbeat next to mine. If you have never grown a person inside you, it’s hard to understand. When you are pregnant, you are never alone. There is this little person who is always with you.
I never thought I would miss that, but I did.
It is a strange thing. You feel empty because you are no longer pregnant, but at the same time, you can’t seem to connect with your living breathing child in your arms.
You can’t connect with others if you aren’t connected to yourself.
What Is Postpartum Depression?
I did what every responsible parent does when faced with a crippling wellspring of depression and a desire to distance myself from those closest to my heart; I started Googling.
This is where I learned about Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression. To be fair, I am pretty sure the hospital gave me a handout on it. I was confident I would not have that issue, so I am sure it ended up in a trash can somewhere before we even got her home.
The CDC defines postpartum depression (PPD) as a common and treatable form of depression that can be intense and long-lasting after the birth of a child. It occurs in as many as 1 in 8 women.
Some common symptoms include feelings of sadness, anger, and emptiness. You may be very emotional, and you may struggle to bond with your new child. Thoughts of harming your child or suicidal thoughts can occur.
Baby Blues is a lesser form of PPD and tends to be less intense and more short term. Baby Blues occurs in 70 percent of women.
Justification Of Unhealthy Behaviors
I felt relieved to have found this information. I had finally figured out what must be wrong with me. I had read that doctors sometimes recommend therapy and medication for those suffering from PPD. Despite knowing this, I was sure that I was strong enough to handle it on my own. I may minimize my problems a little.
I didn’t do anything that the help pages recommended. I didn’t try eating or sleeping better. I didn’t confide in anyone about my suffering or reach out to a professional for help.
I stayed angry and sad, and I began to use my “problem” as an excuse for my behavior. When I would lash out at my husband, I would apologize and explain that it was because I was dealing with an intense form of depression.
I didn’t try to fix it for a long time. I let my problem control me instead of learning how to manage it. Although I was never suicidal, I did find myself questioning my value as a person regularly.
How My Depression Impacted My Relationships
Eventually, I began to notice a change in my partner.
My husband just seemed tired. Not a you-stayed-up-all-night-drinking-tired. There was probably some of that too, but this was something deeper. When we woke up in the mornings, it was like he was merely existing, but that was it.
He went through the motions, but he didn’t have the unique charm or warmth that I love about him.
I remember wondering how selfish I could be, that I hadn’t noticed the effects my behavior had on my husband.
But of course, I didn’t.
PPD is at times debilitating, and it is hard enough work to survive without worrying about others. Not to mention the extreme change in lifestyle that happens with a new baby.
Facing The Issue
Eventually, I decided that I needed to start trying. I had to stop using my illness as an excuse and face it head-on. I never ended up taking medication, nor did I attend therapy. I certainly think I could have benefitted from both.
I think one of the most critical steps in your process of recovery is reconnecting with yourself. I want to share with you five things that can help foster this reconnection.
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Five Methods to Reconnect With Yourself
Do The Things You Love
Remember that person you were before you had a baby? You are still that person. Don’t get me wrong, your life has changed dramatically, but it is essential to have a sense-of-self separate from your child.
Did you enjoy reading or taking long baths before baby? Then do it.
I know many of you may be shaking your heads at me, wondering when you are supposed to find the time. Here’s the thing. You will make time for what you think is a priority. So make yourself a priority once in a while.
I love to knit. I started blocking out an hour a week to spend time knitting and listening to audiobooks. I grew to look forward to my self-care time that I blocked out every week.
I felt so refreshed and able to handle the chaos after taking some quiet time to myself. Sometimes you need a short break from reality to engage in something you enjoy.
Don’t discount the importance of giving yourself a little peace.
Although every item on this list is essential, this is the one that was most beneficial for me. You need to make sure you aren’t struggling alone.
Find someone that you trust, and confide in them. Talk through the emotional rollercoaster you are on, and let them give you support. Having someone to talk to pulls us a little more out of our heads, and allows us to organize our thoughts out loud.
I started talking to my husband. I talked him through my thought processes and the experience was incredibly positive. It’s like having your own personal cheerleader. Remember, the people who are close to you love you, and they truly want for you to be okay. Let them support you.
Now, if you don’t have someone you feel comfortable talking to, reach out to a therapist. A counselor went to school for a very long time and they are trained to be empowering and excellent listeners.
Know when you need help from an expert. If you feel that your emotions are too intense to reconcile, or if you feel like you literally may harm yourself or someone else you NEED to reach out to a professional as soon as possible. Don’t try to resolve it on your own.
Write it Out
Write about it. Guys, this step is so important, and I promise you will benefit from it.
Getting things out on paper allows us to see our thoughts and organize them better. Documenting your feelings will help you identify your triggers and thought processes, and it provides a safe space to vent your feelings without potentially hurting your loved ones.
I had a lot of pent-up frustration and anger. Being able to write it out was a great outlet for me, as it was a sort of negative emotional vomit that I could rid myself of.
Also, my husband didn’t get the brunt of my mood swings, because it is not fair to treat others poorly because of your own suffering.
Pick up a notebook or even a scrap piece of paper and get writing.
This was the hardest thing for me, as I am not typically a very social person.
I have a small handful of good friends and I made a point to try and do something with them once every couple of weeks. Sometimes socializing meant hanging out at my house with the baby. Even this is helpful, as you can have a real live adult to talk to.
You guys, I am not going to tell you that distracting yourself is going to fix your problems. It’s not.
However, it is healthy to engage with others, so if you find yourself stuck in your head, call up a friend and go out for a while. Find someone you trust to watch your kiddo for a few hours and allow yourself a few moments of sanity.
I know that it is tough to leave your little one. Really tough.
Do it anyway.
They depend on your sanity to live.
Sometimes you may need medication. You can’t help if you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. PPD sometimes must be treated medically, so don’t be hard on yourself.
Keep in mind most SSRI’s (antidepressants) are relatively safe while breastfeeding, so don’t worry about that.
According to the Mayo Clinic, medication given to treat PPD is usually only needed for about six months. It has been shown to be effective in 70 percent of women taking it. Talk with your doctor if you think this may be a good option for you. Be your OWN advocate!
Postpartum depression is tough. It comes at a time in your life when you are supposed to be in bliss with your new child. You will get to that point, but it doesn’t always happen right away. And you know what? That’s ok.
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