Friday, August 10, 2012

Postpartum Depression

Some might say I'm making a huge mistake by writing this post and putting it out on the internet for the world to see. What if employers see this and it limits my career opportunities, they might say. I don't want any part of an employer who would hold this against me - and working in the HR industry, I certainly know it can happen.

I have post-partum depression. There. I said it. I've read that as many as 1 in 8 new mothers experiences a post partum mood disorder, so why do so many still live in darkness, afraid to get the help they need?

I knew PPD was a real risk for me going into pregnancy, as there is one particular risk factor I had to tick off. After fighting off the normal baby blues a few weeks after giving birth, I made my way across the amazing and occasionally rocky shores of motherhood fairly easily. Sure, it wasn't always easy, and not every day was good, but I was by no means experiencing any depression or mood disorder.  None the less, I continued to evaluate myself regularly and have K. keep a watchful eye out for the signs.

Once I hit the three-month mark, things got a lot easier and I began feeling confident that PPD was not an issue for me. I regret ever letting that thought pass through my mind. Not even two weeks later, Baby Bird began struggling with acid reflux, and K. began working 11-12 hour days, 6 days a week. The poor child screamed and fussed for hours each day. I cried several times a day for two solid weeks.  The entire time, a little flag raised itself in the back of my mind, alerting me that if PPD was going to set in, this would be an opportune time to take advantage of my exhaustion and stress. Then, things got a little better in the final week of K.'s three-week crazy work schedule - Baby Bird was doing better, and I felt much better able to cope once I got a bit of rest - and then they got much worse again.

This past week, I began to realize that even when I wasn't actively feeling sad or depressed (I still feel happy often enough), I am feeling completely overwhelmed by things that just shouldn't be overwhelming. Every little fuss of Baby Bird's would trigger an anxious sinking feeling in my stomach. I wasn't able to enjoy the activities of daily living, and I could never think of anything I might enjoy doing when I got an opportunity for "me-time". I would just go wander around the mall because I didn't know where else to go. I didn't want to go for a walk by myself because I was fairly certain I would end up walking down the sidewalk sobbing. Finally, today I noticed that I was having trouble finding the motivation to pick up the shampoo bottle in my shower and actually go through the motions of washing my hair. Finding something to eat in the kitchen was going to be a big ordeal. I just wanted to sit there and have someone else make all my decisions for me, because even deciding if I wanted toast (Yes or No) was too much to ask.

Not every day feels like that, but having more than one of these days "once in a while" was a big sign to me that I needed some help.  Happily, I recognized the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression well before they escalated to thoughts of harming myself or Baby Bird. I was still able to take care of him safely and well, but I preferred to not have to do it alone, and it took every ounce of energy I had in my body to do so.

My biggest fear was having meds pushed on me. This is completely hypocritical of me - I have a degree in psychology and I have always recognized that mental illness is a biochemical problem that sometimes needs medical intervention. However, I am breastfeeding, and no matter how many studies say certain meds are safe for breastfeeding, I'll never completely buy into it. I'm at my heart a complete naturalist, and I don't want my innocent boy getting any part of an anti-depressant. Long-term studies on the safety of such medications through breast milk have not yet been conducted.

So far, I have received a referral for therapy, which I'll start on August 22nd. The doctor did not want to go the meds route at this point (which is good, because I would have fought him on it until therapy failed, I was screened for other conditions, and a psychiatrist did a complete psych screening).

I really had my reservations about posting all this, however, I want to help overcome the stigma that surrounds mental illness, and I want to raise awareness that this really can (and does) happen to anyone. Do yourself a favour and, if you are expecting, take a close look at the signs/symptoms of PPD and other mood disorders. Tell someone you trust to keep an eye on you after the baby is born. And if you are a new mother thinking that this all sounds a little too familiar, please tell somebody you trust and talk to your doctor. I don't have to feel like this, and neither do you. PPD is temporary and treatable.

Original source: unknown. Here simply because it makes me smile.


Stephine said...

Don't ever EVER apologize for talking about your PPD. PPD is very serious and it needs to be known. There's no reason to be ashamed of having it. It needs to get out there. Some people are so ashamed that they end up in a bad situation because they don't want to tell anyone because they might think they're crazy. I thought I was going crazy for months but I knew that I had PPD. I was dealing with PPD and Grieving at the same time and there's no way I could have held that all in. I have a few more posts on my blog about PPD if you'd like to read them or please feel free to email me. You have nothing to be ashamed off or embarrassed of!

Anonymous said...

Kim I'm always here for a sympathetic ear or shoulder to cry on. I'm proud of you for taking care of yourself.


Natasha said...

I had something similiar with my second baby but mine manifested itself into rage towards my husband and first child. It was terrible and I just couldnt stop it.It didnt last too long thankfully but the guilt will last forever, the way I spoke to and shouted at my oldest daughter will never leave me.

Amy said...

Good for you for talking about it, and for taking steps to treatment. It is SO common and not at all something to feel badly about! I hope your therapy is helpful. You are doing a fantastic job with Baby Bird and taking care of yourself is part of being a good mom!

Brandalyn said...

Been taking St. Johns wart ever since Emmalyn's been born. I've gotten ppd w/ all 4 of my kids, and so far (knock on wood) I've had the least "episodes" this time. In the past I've always taken SSRI's. Those are harder IMO to come off of than painkillers!!! OR smoking! Because it's not just mental it's something that your brain depends on!!! With Zoloft I got "zap" sensations every few seconds if I was late on a dose. That to me is just not right!! I know there are other meds, and some work great for others, but if you can do it drug free... there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Just "try" to do it w/o meds.. if you can't, I can attest that my other kids turned out just fine. I think think anti-depressants effect us more than docs want to admit. If you go on them expect to be living w/ them for atleast a yr! Like I said.. 4 times over.. LMK of you need an ear for venting!!

Tiffanie A said...

Thanks for sharing about PPD. I have to admit... I had a certain conversation with my doctor after my Little Man was born.

Hi I am Natalie said...

I am glad to have found your blog now, I am due in September and I have definitely tried to make myself more aware of the signs of PPD.

I just found you from Life with the little man but I have also added you to GFC. I look forward to keeping up with your posts on real subjects.

Natalie x

Hi I am Natalie said...
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