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Before I start, let me just address the fact that Postpartum Depression is no joke. It’s so much more than just the baby blues or a bad mood. Postpartum Depression or PPD is a serious illness that afflicts moms at a time in their lives when they should be happiest. If you think you may have PPD, go talk to your doctor. Trust me. It’s not as scary as you think. Actually, it wasn’t scary at all in my experience. Make an appointment with your doctor or midwife and just tell them what’s really going on.
Life Before Depression
Let me explain a little about my life before PPD took over. I thought I was a pretty happy person and I tried to be positive about things. I really thought I was doing a good job. Being more present in my day-to-day and staying focused were things that I really wanted to improve. I’m diagnosed ADHD, but I’ve never taken any medication for it. Sometimes, I’d blame that on my being so scatterbrained and unable to really appreciate things.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved my family even back then, I still flirt with my gorgeous husband every single day and it never ceases to amaze me that I get to live my life with him. Our first son who we call Nugget was the most beautiful child I’d ever seen. He still is, but he has an equal match in his little brother Dumplin (who happens to look just freaking like him).
I guess I had a little case of the baby blues after Dumplin was born on June 11th, but I truly don’t think PPD kicked in until August.
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that we spent all of July traveling around Florida for my husband’s job. It was such a fun month! Our first stop was to visit my favorite aunt in Melbourne. She was just getting her clean bill of health after battling breast cancer for years.
Within a month, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer.
One of our very dear friends went through almost the exact same thing less than a year ago. She was diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, got a clean bill of health after radiation and surgery, and found out a few months later that her husband had terminal cancer.
He died in April.
We drove home to Pennsylvania for the funeral when I was very pregnant with Dumplin. My heart broke for her.
Then Tinson came in June, and we got my aunt’s good, then bad news a month later.
I can’t explain exactly when it happened, but it was within a few days of getting that news from my aunt that I started to feel completely unmotivated. I wasn’t excited about anything anymore. It’s hard to explain to people unless you’ve gone through it. Just a general sense of sadness, anxiety, like a dark cloud is following you around wherever you go.
For me, PPD manifested as a real obsession about dying and the purpose of living. If we’re always just waiting for the other shoe to drop, what’s the point?
Now, I should take this moment to interject that I was never suicidal. If you are, please please seek help. There are so many things you can try that can kick that dark cloud’s ass – I promise. I was never suicidal probably because I was too busy being terrified that there is no life after death, no point to life, researching all night every night what happens when you die, stories of hospice nurses and what they’ve seen…
Seriously – this is the kind of crap I was looking up when I was in the throes of PPD. Kind of makes you warm and fuzzy all over, doesn’t it??
This is when I started to beat myself up really bad. Seriously, who can be on what is basically a month’s paid vacation with her awesome husband, two perfect kids, getting to visit family members and best friends and still not be happy? I must be completely fooling myself thinking I’m generally a positive person.
I dealt with it, took Dumplin to his doctor’s appointments when we got back home, and tried to meditate my way out of it. At his next appointment, the pediatrician asked me how I had been doing, how I was handling life with two kids, and other general questions like that. “Oh it’s going great! I love having two kids! Nugget is such a good big brother, we’re all sleeping…etc.”
I wasn’t going to volunteer that I was depressed at a time in my life when I should have been most happy.
Finally, about a week later, I called the pediatricians office and asked if they had an emergency appointment.
I remember standing on our front porch calling Scotty at work for reassurance that I wasn’t making a big deal out of nothing. It turns out, he had been worried about how depressed I’d become and insisted he take off work to be at that appointment. He didn’t trust me to not sugar-coat everything for the doctor.
They squeezed me in the following day and I told my doctor everything.
I told her how I’m always the happy one who loves to joke and make people laugh. I told her that I was still trying to be that even at playdates with our kids. Only now, it was incredibly exhausting. I wanted to sleep constantly, I wanted to be happy again, I wanted to stop worrying, I wanted to feel like myself.
She told me that people like me are the hardest to reach in PPD. They’re always trying to act happy and be excited for other people, so they try to “fake it til they make it” only you’re not making anything except yourself more miserable.
She asked if I wanted to try any medications and before she could get the words out I cut her off.
“YES! One drug, 15, I don’t care. Just give me something so I can enjoy my kids again!”
She prescribed Zoloft.
I’m not the type of person to reach for medication. In fact, I try to avoid it at all costs. Instead, I’m the hippy dippy type who tries supplements for whatever ails me. This time, I didn’t care about my usual beliefs or practices. If there was a drug, even if you told me it was some kind of poison, but it would let me enjoy my little family again and stop worrying about crap I couldn’t control, I would have taken it.
My doctor told me to be patient, that in about 5 days I would start to notice a difference with the full effect after about 2 weeks.
That night, after my first dose, I swear I started to feel better.
That was September. It’s now February and I’ve been off of Zoloft for about 5 weeks now.
I’m now treating my PPD with supplements and so far, it seems to be working wonderfully. Zoloft takes a while to get out of your system, so Scotty and I are monitoring the situation closely because I’d hate to lose any of that progress.
Finally, let me get to my point.
Postpartum Depression was one of THE best things to ever happen to me.
Like I said before, I was kind of skating through life. Having after bed time dates with my husband, Netflix and chill days with our little family, playing with our babies, life was awesome. I thought I was soaking it all up and really, truly enjoying everything.
I was totally wrong.
It’s not that I was doing anything wrong, I just don’t think I was capable of appreciating like I am now. If there’s a bad day, I will see the bright spot in it, every single time.
I look at every thing differently now. If both boys want picked up at the same time, I don’t care if it kills my back or stops me from doing something so important, I’m going to hold one of them on each hip.
If Scotty starts talking, I stop whatever I’m doing and just listen to the sound of his voice. I’ve always loved the sound of his voice.
(Okay that sounded too mushy. I promise, there are days I really want to punch him too, I just can’t think of any right now).
When we eat, I’m so grateful for the food on my plate. I truly understand that there is someone out there somewhere going without while I have a life of abundance. My problems are so tiny compared to so many others. My life is so full and happy. I am thankful, from the bottom of my heart, every single day for what I have.
Postpartum depression taught me what it’s like to not be able to appreciate those things. I could think in my head that I’m so lucky but I couldn’t feel it.
Now, I really feel it. As deep as it goes.
I’m so far from being any type of counselor or self-help anything at all, but I’m going to try to write more about this mindset and how to reframe your mind without having to have a baby and find a way to suffer through PPD to get it.
For now, look at things as such blessings (no matter what your religion). How lucky are you to have a bed to fall asleep in? To have a toddler that misbehaves? To have an extra dollar in your pocket to buy a candy bar. Go outside and enjoy the feel of the air on your skin. The simplest things have such incredible importance, but we’re all so busy that we usually don’t notice.
What was the weather like today where you live? Sunny? That’s amazing! Be thankful for that! Cloudy and doomy and gloomy and wet? That’s such a gift – seemingly crappy days make the great weather seem even more incredible.
The bad highlights the good. If it’s one thing I want every one of my readers to take away from this long ass post, it’s that. The bad things in your life highlight the good when the good inevitably makes its way back around.
If you think you might be suffering from Postpartum Depression, follow these steps:
Answer whether you ever feel suicidal.
If the answer is yes, understand that you aren’t in the drivers seat right now. Depression is. Don’t let an ugly illness take control of your life and allow you to really screw it up.
Go to the doctor, get help ASAP, no excuses. Talk to someone, tell someone – hell, e-mail me. I’ll talk to you and push push push you to go get the help you deserve. Yep, not the help you need. The help you DESERVE.
Depression is an asshole. Kick him out.
Make an appointment with your midwife or doctor.
Let them know what your feelings are. Oh, and if they give you a form to fill out and you answer it and they tell you you didn’t score high enough to have PPD, in the most polite way that you can muster, tell them where they can stick that piece of paper.
Twice at my midwife center I was told my scores weren’t high enough for something to be wrong and that it would go away. Twice. I didn’t mind my midwife center, but a piece of paper should never outweigh your own self-knowledge. You KNOW something isn’t right. Don’t stop pushing until you get the help you deserve.
Our doctor was the one who truly listened to my feelings and fully supported me in getting better. That’s the kind of support I’m talking about here. Don’t be a number, find a doctor who cares and let them walk the path with you.
Control what you can.
While it seems like you’re out of control of your emotions right now, you aren’t completely helpless and that’s a great thing! No one likes to be a victim. Control what you can.
For me, it was adopting a (mostly) whole food plant based diet. I take around 19 vitamins and supplements per day. I get outside every single day even if it’s raining or freezing. If a depressed thought pops into my head I think (okay sometimes I say it out loud if I’m sure no one can hear me – except my kids. They won’t tell) “mmm mmm, not today” and force that thought out.
Replace it with as many grateful things as you can think of.
I’ll write about this in a post in the near future but – have a positive stream of thoughts.
For me, it’s any time we’re in the car. I’ll say to Nugget “what can we be grateful for today?” He promptly covers his ears, rolls his eyes, and thinks “God, why me?” While I start rambling, “we’re so lucky to have a car to drive, we’re lucky we can afford gas for our car, oh look, another person driving, we’re so lucky there are so many people around to be friends with, we’re lucky we have such great healthcare and can go to the doctor like this, wow look at this rain, that’s great for all of these farmers,…”
Can you see why my toddler is going to need therapy?
Just be really freaking grateful dammit.
Yes, depression sucks, I still have it. It’s in there somewhere. I feel it trying to creep out sometimes but I have the tools and the support to fight it. If depression has you down and out, you get your ass back up and do the next thing.
If it’s just getting out of bed, do that. If it’s calling your doctor, do that. Looking up a counselor? Do that. Just do it. Push yourself forward even when you have no momentum because we’re going to get there together. Your only other option is to sit here and wallow in it.
Decide logically that you’re going to try to change it even when it feels like it’s not worth it and decide you’re going to kick depression’s ass. I’ve got your back. Like I said, depression is an asshole. Life is too amazing to make room for any assholes.
Let me be completely clear – I do NOT have this all figured out. I don’t.
I’m no expert, I’m just someone who’s going through it just like you are and am lucky enough to have made some progress. A ton of progress. I have my beautiful husband, my doctor, and some really knowledgeable friends and readers to thank. A few of you e-mailed me with ideas of things to try – one of which was fish oil. A great friend also recommended Tumeric. Those are my two biggest weapons in my arsenal. I talked to my doctor about them and she gave me the OK.
I casually mentioned this before, but if you have PPD and want to share your story, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am busy wrangling kids all day, but I’m committed to working from 10 pm to 2 am EST. If you e-mail me, I WILL get back to you – even it takes me a little while. You are never ever alone. I’m here 🙂 And a whole bunch of awesome readers who love to comment and respond to comments. You’ve got a tribe right here online. Now decide you’re going to beat this and step up to the plate and join me! I’m here for you!
Have you ever gone through depression? What helped you get through it? Are you still on your journey? Leave me a comment below and let me know what’s going on. I love hearing from you and seeing your comments!