For those of you in the midst of the postpartum battlefield, bravely wearing your armor — I see you and I am going to love on you today. It’s time to start recognizing postpartum depression for what it is. For those of you that haven’t experienced it, stick around! I hope this helps you better understand a friend facing this struggle or prepare you for a future struggle of your own.
I’ll start by making a deal, okay? I promise to intertwine my own story so you know I’m sitting with you and not speaking at you. Seem fair?
Alright, let’s do this…
According to the Mayo Clinic, you may have PPD if you are experiencing one of the following:
- Depressed mood or severe mood swings
- Excessive crying
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Loss of appetite or eating much more than usual
- Inability to sleep (insomnia) or sleeping too much
- Overwhelming fatigue or loss of energy
- Reduced interest and pleasure in activities you used to enjoy
- Intense irritability and anger
- Fear that you’re not a good mother
- Feelings of worthlessness, shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Diminished ability to think clearly, concentrate or make decisions
- Severe anxiety and panic attacks
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby
- Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide.
And you should see a doctor if those symptoms:
- Don’t fade after two weeks
- Are getting worse
- Make it hard for you to care for your baby
- Make it hard to complete everyday tasks
- Include thoughts of harming yourself or your baby.
Muddied with many of those symptoms, my season was best defined by anger and intense rage. The most confusing and lonely aspect of the whole thing was never really knowing if my struggle was just environmental. Would it have caused any mom in my shoes to feel the way I did? The answer is no. Two moms can be surrounded by the same overwhelming environment and while the healthy mom is totally bound to snap at some point, the unhealthy mom is more likely to make snapping a pattern. Or at least have a pattern of wanting to snap, even if being able to control it.
I knew it was time to see my doctor when I started experiencing consistent visions of forcefully grabbing my toddler (23 months at the time) and hurling him across our tile floor in reaction to things that prior to the new baby were met with patience. My visions were terrifying and I am so grateful my doctors helped me before I crossed the line. I’m obviously not proud of the temper he (or anyone) saw in me this last year but if even one reader can relate, and seeks help because I shared it, then great!
On that note, ladies, we have GOT to talk about these hardships in our lives. Suffering in silence just exasperates the suffering for everyone involved. Our kids, our marriages, our jobs, our friendships… the whole bit, guys. Culturally, we are in a whole new era that allows for awareness, inclusion and more importantly, progression. So if you’re stuck with a 90s perception of mental health, it’s time to join me in crushing walls by standing in solidarity on this. Together, we can normalize the harshness of this disease so that we can get help from the onset, as prevention of and not in response to child abuse, destroyed marriages, suicide or <insert whatever path your PPD may take>.
Because it is, in fact, a disease. I’ll say it again. Mental health is a disease. It’s not a flaw. And it’s not something that you can just pray away any more than you can cancer. We may be in a liberal city but we are in the thick of the Bible belt and I need to destroy this myth that surrounds us. I’m a person of faith and I absolutely believe in the power of healing prayers. I’ve seen healing with my eyes and account for these mercies. But as you go to your knees in prayer, I want you to know that mental health is so much more than spiritual warfare; it is a literal chemical imbalance in the brain. An organ that houses the functioning power for every other system in our bodies.
Are you tracking that? Good, because you are fearfully and wonderfully made. Postpartum depression does.not.define.you. Mental health doesn’t define anyone. It does not define your friend or your co-worker…. your employee that is really sucking at her job lately…. and for the five men reading this, it does not define your wife or your marriage. Got it?
I didn’t struggle with PPD after my first was born but my genes caught up to me on my second lap. Despite being in the thick of some extreme stressors at work, we induced 3 weeks early to avoid a possible stillbirth and were thanked for our life saving measures with a case of colic and minor medical issues with the baby. Self-employed and without a real maternity leave, it was too much for my healing body to handle; I was drowning. I was waking up and conquering each day, getting out of the house and just ‘doing it’ but there was no substance to my shell.
At my 6 week postpartum appointment, we discussed my environment and stress levels. Two weeks later, I went back and was greeted with hugs, empathy and all the time I needed. I left with a script for an anti-depressant that day. I am beholden to Nurture OBGYN and love them as an extension of my family. Many in their care experience far greater trial and despair, but they treated me like I was the only person in the world. I’m a mess of tears just thinking about that group of women and what they mean to me. I was never a number to them.
So sister, if you are experiencing the pain of PPD and your doctor is dismissive, find help/a new doctor elsewhere. Someone else will guide you through this storm.
I’ve shared the symptoms, when to seek help and a smidge of my own story. But I want to end by pouring truth into you, mixed with a few tips for navigating it all.
- You are not flawed.
- You are a good mom.
- You are not alone.
- It is okay to not only accept help but to ask for help.
- Your doctor can help.
- Your loved ones may notice this first and like it or not, are in a position that requires they point it out. As much as you’ll hate hearing it, they’ll hate saying it. We all need grace in this situation.
- Your husband may not understand, but you owe your marriage the conversation. Give him the opportunity to love you well. And if he doesn’t, give him grace. He is overwhelmed too. Just keep focusing on getting better.
- This too shall pass and the opportunity for reconciliation will indeed come. Even if you are struggling with a lifetime of mental illness, this season is like those before — it is dark but it is followed by a season of light, hope and relief. There is love, life and health even in permanent mental illness. I know this to be true!
- Your kids will live. They are forgiving and resilient. I would scream and yell all day long just for my toddler to curl up in my lap that night and whisper that he loves me.
- Be honest at work. And if they can’t adapt, find a place that can, explore a temporary season away from work, research short-term disability or talk to your doctor about coping skills for an unadaptable environment.
- The more you talk, the faster you’ll heal. Pick your people and choose to be vulnerable. A professional counselor is always a great partner through hardships and one can be found for any budget.
- It may come and go…for a long time. It’s different for each person.
And with that, I bid you much love and grace. I pray you find courage and I don’t judge you if today is not the day. But please know that I’m happy to talk if you need to stalk my Facebook page and lean on a stranger.