New Project (41)

New Mom? Postpartum Depression Is More Than “baby Blues”

Does this sound familiar? This was me, and it may sound like you. I want you to know that you are not alone in your postpartum depression! Others have felt as you do. You will get better. My story…

I had never been depressed, nor did I have any history of mental disorders. All I knew is that without warning, very suddenly I felt totally foreign and peculiar to my inner self; I felt distant and removed from reality and who I knew myself to be. With the usual light of the morning sun, I would wake up, and for a brief moment feel normal, but once I was fully awake an odd darkness and doom penetrated and surrounded me. I felt invaded by, and overcome with, weird and superstitious thoughts; these phobias nearly suffocated all good sense as they numbed me to my true perception of myself and the world around me—the familiar and comfortable seemed to have been stripped away, literally overnight.

The fact is, postpartum depression doesn’t always start during the postpartum period. I didn’t know that. For me, this was true because my symptoms began at 32 weeks gestation, after a bout of the flu and overnight hospital stay where I received the glucose-filled IV fluids. I left the hospital feeling unlike myself for the first time in my life.

I began to ask, “Who is the person I see in the mirror?”

Internally, a stranger; I certainly did not recognize the odd change of thoughts, feelings and symptoms that I was experiencing, mentally, emotionally or physically. I felt removed from myself, as if I was a mere observer—I wondered why this unwanted metamorphosis had taken place, of which I had no control. I knew something was off. But as a medical assistant, who had worked in obstetrics and gynecology for several years, I assumed I knew the realities of pregnancy and how it would affect my mind and body. Yet where postpartum depression was concerned, I had no clue what was happening to me as I began to walk through the fog and fear it created within me. I gave birth before the Internet, so it was not easy to find current information like it is now at websites like the one I recommend: Postpartum Support International

Additionally, I believe part of the reason for my own ignorance was that the treatment community at large, the doctors themselves, and even the psychologists, had little training or exposure to the clinical realities of the distinctive onset and nature of postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders.

Today, as I write this, decades after my own experience, some women are fortunate to have providers who are trained in depression and perinatal mood issues.  Thankfully for them, they are diagnosed and offered proactive support and receive appropriate care and treatment as specific symptoms of depression and perinatal mood disorder arise. But I must add, even today, this condition can be ignored or brushed off. It needs professionals who give it the attention it deserves, and women (and those who love them) who have the resources to become more aware of what to expect, and how they can better help themselves. If a woman is one of the 11–20 percent women who have depression or afflicted with a perinatal mood disorder while pregnant or postpartum, it can be the biggest challenge of her life.

But the frank truth of it, even among the good doctors I worked for back in the 1970s, such things were rarely talked about or addressed. If women struggled with the peculiar perinatal or postpartum depression symptoms that they could not begin to explain, they didn’t know where or to whom to turn. And if a doctor did diagnose and name it, they rarely offered more than medication—which doesn’t address the cause, or settle or answer in a woman’s mind, Why is this happening? What is happening?

Nor did medical doctors typically suggest to women the help to be gained by adopting good nutrition and light exercise. Insights into the benefits of all types of wellness care were not mainstream or commonly promoted when I had my first child. And more often than not, sound spiritual guidance was non-existent among practitioners, or in psychology self-help books. Sadly, many medical doctors and therapists still do not fully recognize or treat postpartum depression and perinatal mood disorders as they could or should. And when this is the case, what do many women do?

Unfortunately, like I did, I know many women leave doctors’ offices feeling like a hypochondriac, or they feel reinforced that they must be going crazy, which is farthest from the truth. Sadly, the defeat and feelings of inadequacy cause them to hide in shame; they feel incompetent and embarrassed, and for lack of a better word—they feel stuck in a dark grip, a prison of sorts, as they wrestle in unexplained inner chaos—all by themselves!

I want you to know that I understand how you feel.

I understand that you may be feeling inadequate and less able than other mothers. I did. And I know the absolute humiliation of admitting irrational phobias, weird thoughts and anxieties we feel out loud to someone else—especially if we do this with someone who writes it off, just because they haven’t been trained about PPD as a doctor, or personally experienced it as a woman. I empathize with you if people have responded to you in an uninformed way. I know the feelings of panic and the plummeting self-esteem; and the self-questioning that follows a multitude of doctor visits that all too often bring no help or hope for the mass of unwanted and peculiar symptoms that erupt and persist.

I know how it feels to simply desire to be a good mom, and the wish to be able to function in doing the normal daily things, yet barely being able to drag your mind and body through the day. It shakes us to our core, because postpartum depression occurs with such a sudden onslaught of physical and emotional symptoms.

I know the profound sense of aloneness, shame, embarrassment, and the fear that consumes us when afflicted with postpartum depression and/or perinatal mood disorder. It’s so very hard! If you are reading this book, you must know, too. Don’t despair. What I share will bring relief and help.

Or you may be the mother or husband of a woman who is experiencing symptoms such as these. If so, please get this book for her, and right away, please tell her she is not the only one to have this happen, because that is very likely how she feels. Try to listen, not explain away or judge her.

If you are a woman trying to come to grips, so you can break the grip, by gaining understanding about what, why and how this is happening to you—as you read, imagine that we’re personally talking one-on-one. I pray you find a small bit of relief by merely knowing that you aren’t alone in what can feel like an overwhelming and unexplained challenge that seems impossible to understand or resolve.

Beginning today, you can look forward to clearing out some of the confusion. Accept that you will learn through the tears and laughter, as you take one step and one day at a time. The good news, you can anticipate good things lay ahead, even though the time frames to be completely free of this clinical condition varies from woman to woman. Please remember, too—this is one of those stressful seasons you must determine to walk courageously through to the other side. I will tell you (depending on the degree of your postpartum symptoms), it takes perseverance, since there rarely a quick fix. In spite of this, the knowledge that there is an explanation—and the fact that it is a physiological and clinical condition where there is sound treatment and therapy to move you towards wellness and healing—will help you maintain hope in feeling better one day soon.

Most thankfully, on this earth absolutely nothing lasts forever or stays exactly the same—whether it brings with it tears or laughter! In Ecclesiastes 1:9, Solomon tells us… there is nothing new under the sun. This is a very worthy and wise verse to make note of. Knowing and believing others have experienced this, in similar ways you are experiencing, is a “must know” for your head and heart, right now, this very moment. Others absolutely have felt as you do. Please get more support from my book, Breaking the Grip of Postpartum Depression.