I feel compelled to discuss postpartum depression and open up about my experiences with this all-too-common-but-goes-unspoken disease. I have recently learned about the death of a beautiful, young, new mother due to this disease. And yes, it is a DISEASE. Those of you who think otherwise are:
c. Judgemental (and need not read on).
While I did not know this young woman at all, her recent death has inspired me to become involved in postpartum education and awareness.
First let’s start with my own personal experience. I gave birth to my beautiful daughter almost 6 months ago. She is the light of my life. She has given me purpose and meaning. She has made me a better person.
But in the weeks and early months following her birth I felt overwhelmed, alone, exhausted (yet unable to rest), panicked and unable to control my emotions. I am lucky enough to have a friend who shared her similar experiences with me and I was able to text her late at night or early in the morning asking her if “I was normal.”
Having someone to simply call/text and discuss these *embarrassing* emotions helped me cope and know that I was not alone. Most women DO NOT have someone to confide in like this – which is why I am ENCOURAGING those of us who have/had post-partum to SPEAK UP and let our fellow mommies know THEY ARE NOT ALONE.
After having several panic attacks and feeling simply overwhelmed, I hesitantly sought help (about 10 weeks after having my baby.) Before going to see a doctor I told my family members that I had a case of “baby blues.” But let me be clear – it was MORE than that. While I don’t recall having any kind of suicidal thoughts, I do remember thinking that I did not deserve this beautiful baby and that I was a horrible mother because I failed at breast feeding.
I was so embarrassed about my feelings/thoughts that I didn’t even call the doctor’s office to set up a visit. I instead found a way to make an appointment online so I didn’t have to discuss my issues with a living person. I knew I would have to once I saw the doctor, but that was something I thought I could work up the courage to do while waiting for the appointment.
Just two days later I was in a doctor’s office speaking with a female doctor who had just had a baby herself. It was almost liberating to be able to vocalize how I felt and have someone tell me that it’s something a lot of mom’s experience after birth. (and ANY doctor will tell you this. Not just female, recently pregnant ones). She asked me many questions, including how the baby was sleeping. My response was that the baby was sleeping wonderfully and, at that point, almost through the night. The doc then followed up with: “How are you sleeping?” I had never even thought about MY sleep. I pondered that question and realized that I had barely been sleeping at all. I was up every hour or less. Sometimes I would just stare at the baby making sure her tiny little chest was lifting, gasping in a breath of air. I told her I was beyond fearful of everyday things like driving and taking a walk. After a few more questions she explained to me that I undoubtedly had postpartum anxiety disorder, a disorder in the postpartum depression family.
Here’s a tid-bit about postpartum anxiety disorder from babycenter.com:
If you’re having recurrent feelings of intense worry or panic, you may have a postpartum anxiety disorder. Recent research has shown that about 10 percent of postpartum moms suffer from clinical anxiety.
Anxiety symptoms usually appear in the first two to three weeks after the birth of a baby, but may not reach a distressing level until several weeks later. There is some overlap between depression and anxiety, and some women have symptoms of both.
Symptoms of anxiety and panic may include:
- Extreme anxiety or irritability
- Restlessness and agitation
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pains or discomfort
- Sensation of choking or smothering
- Tingling in hands or feet
- Trembling and shaking
- Hot or cold flashes
- Fear of dying, of going crazy, or of losing control
Some women with postpartum anxiety have recurrent fears about harm coming to their children, other loved ones, or themselves.
I still struggle with my fears and worries from time-to-time, but thanks to a low-dose anti-anxiety medication and TIME, I have gotten better. That black cloud that seemingly followed me around for weeks and weeks has been lifted. I am able to smile, laugh and enjoy every smile, giggle, kick. But I truly don’t think I would have gotten better without the support from my friend and seeking help from a medical professional. My husband now understands the seriousness of this disease – something that he didn’t fully understand initially. I can talk to him about it and he is able to recognize when I’m not feeling myself. His support is what I lean on when I’m feeling particularly uneasy. Had I not spoken up and explained to him my feelings, he would have never understood and would have never been able to help.
I am writing this because I want to spread the message that suffering from any form of postpartum depression is NOTHING to be ashamed of. It is treatable and there are a ton of resources out there and a ton of people who love you and want to help.
Please please please pass this message on to any new moms. You NEVER know who may be suffering because of the stigma attached to depression in general. Let’s all speak up and not let another person lose their battle. We’re all in this together.
Post-partum depression help >>> http://www.postpartum.net/