Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Postpartum Depression

Location: New Jersey

Occupation: Full-time Mom
Age: 27

When did you first experience symptoms of depression?

When I had my first daughter at 24 years-old, I experienced the usual two week blues that they say every mother goes through at first. I think it has a lot to do with your life being turned upside-down; no one can really prepare you for it. It was the middle of the summer, and I was nursing, so while everyone was outside enjoying the sunshine, I was tucked away in a room somewhere with my newborn baby for the better part of the day. As time went on I adjusted, and things got better. Our daughter was perfect, happy and healthy, and a great sleeper. Baby number one was a cakewalk, to say the least. When we got pregnant the second time around, I knew it would be more of a challenge having one child in the terrible two’s, but I didn’t think it was going to be anything I couldn’t handle. My second daughter is currently 8 months old, and I am only recognizing now that I have postpartum depression.

When did it get worse?

Shortly after my second daughter was born, my personal life took a hit. I didn’t realize that the things I was feeling were actually going on in my own mind, if that makes any sense. I attributed everything to what was going on around me. A few months later when the dust settled, I started to notice I was still feeling the same things; I was getting irrationally angry with my daughter when she would act out, feeling anxious almost every day, smiling a lot less, and completely lost interest in the things that once made me the happiest. I was, by nature, a very happy, easy going, and optimistic person. I never got overwhelmed or stressed out to a point that I thought I couldn’t handle it. I noticed, though, that I was starting to lose my patience, especially with my oldest daughter. 

Was there a specific time you can remember where it was really bad or uncontrollable (when you just weren't yourself)?

I think I hit rock bottom when I spent an entire day yelling at [my oldest daughter]. She wasn’t even really misbehaving or being fresh, she just wasn’t doing exactly what I wanted her to do, and I was reacting in a completely irrational way. I knew it at the time too; that was the worst part. I could hear myself yelling, and as the words were coming out of my mouth I knew I was wrong. I thought to myself, You are crazy! Why are you getting so worked up? She’s only two. RELAX. But I truly couldn’t even understand or control my own thoughts and emotions. I was overwhelmed and exhausted. That night, my in-law’s offered to watch the girls for the night so [my husband and I] could go out to dinner and have some quality time together, but I couldn’t even bring myself to leave the house. I poured myself a bath, sat in the tub, and soaked in the dark listening to my favorite record. 

Did anyone else notice something was wrong? Did you talk about it?

My husband, who had been giving me space for a while that night, finally walked into the bathroom to check on me. I took one look at him and broke down sobbing. All I could say was, “I think something is wrong with me.”

What were some of your worst thoughts (i.e. harming yourself or your children)? How did they make you feel? 

I think when people hear the term 'postpartum depression' the worst case scenario automatically comes to mind. For me, that wasn't the case. While I know that wanting to harm yourself or your children is a very real possibility, for me, I just kind of wanted to disappear. I felt like I wasn't being a good mother or wife, and I was really beating myself up over it while also feeling like I just couldn't handle it. I know harming yourself or others literally does nothing but damage in the long run, and I still feel rational enough to remember that, so instead I just felt like I wanted to just go away for a while. You know, everyone dealing with depression, whatever it type it may be, has that thought, they would all be better off without me.

Did you worry about your ability as a parent? What were some of your fears?

I felt like a terrible mother. My kids are happy and healthy and thriving in school, but I felt like a total failure. On the hard days I just had to cling to the hope that it won't always be this way, and that every day wasn't this way. I grew up with one older brother, and while I love him dearly, I always thought that when it came time for me to have a family I was going to have a huge family! I wanted at least four kids. Now I'm terrified of having more children. If I can't get what I'm going through under control, I feel like having another child would break me. I want to get healthy, because I still want that big family, and I want to be the best mom I can be to the girls I already have. 

Was it difficult to open up about it? 

I felt it for a long time, but I didn’t have the courage to say it out loud. I did not want to admit that something was really wrong. I was always a strong individual. I could always handle what was thrown at me, but I was starting to feel like I couldn’t do it on my own anymore. I needed to lean on someone else for once, and it was something that scared the hell out of me. 

Has your family been understanding?
I am very fortunate to have an incredibly supportive and understanding husband. He knew before I did that something wasn’t right with me. He’d ask me casually here and there if I was feeling okay but never tried to force anything out of me. He always helped out with the girls when he could see I was struggling but never made me feel guilty for it. Until now he is pretty much the only person who knew. 

What did you do/are you doing to cope with it?

Today I am taking it day by day, but honestly, recognizing and acknowledging what was making me feel so anxious and miserable has helped more than I could have ever imagined. I am taking steps to get outside help, which is a step in and of itself! What I’ve realized is that sometimes certain things are beyond your control, and you can’t freak out over that. I have people extremely close to me who suffer from depression, so I know it’s sometimes beyond fixing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t try. It’s okay to talk to someone about it. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to take medicine if you feel like your walls are closing in, and if it makes you feel better. 

What advice would you give to someone struggling with postpartum depression?

What I want people to know is that it’s okay to talk about! For so long women were made to feel ashamed if they had postpartum depression, but why? It’s not something we chose. It doesn’t mean we love our children any less. It’s just something we caught, basically. I’m choosing to open up about my experience because I need help, I need support, and I need advice and there is probably someone out there reading this who can help with that. Then one day when I feel better, hopefully someone going through this can come to me for support, help, and advice. It’s okay to talk about these things. We all have to start somewhere. 

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