When I was pregnant last year, I showed several early warning signs that I would be an unlucky mother with postpartum depression and anxiety: terrible rages I couldn’t calm down from, days of crying over every single thing that went wrong, and a constant voice in my head, belittling me and telling me I was the worst. Each year, millions of moms are diagnosed and prescribed something in order to help them cope with the life change of a baby, just like I was. But I didn’t start to get better until I decided it was time. Nine months ago, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, whom we call PBJ, and that brought on a slew of emotions for me. Sadly, most of them were negative and unpleasant. You’ve no doubt heard about or experienced the baby blues, and I had them with my first. But as someone who has had anxiety issues her whole life, postpartum depression is a whole different ball game, and it does require more than a night away from the baby every week.
During my second trimester, when hormones usually even out a little, mine got crazier. I had started feeling more anxious, as well as being upset over everything. But we were buying our first house, and I was dealing with a toddler who was developing his own emotions, so I brushed off my feelings and made everyone assume it was just the way I was handling stress. The baby came, and I made the decision to eat my placenta raw in smoothies to help regulate my milk supply and keep the baby blues away that I had experienced with my son. It did a wonderful job, and I had more energy and was feeling positive and in love with my family. But then it ran out at about 3 weeks postpartum, and the waves of emotions and insecurities I had been hiding came bubbling to the surface.
I had highs and lows hourly, cried for entire days, and had an intense fear of leaving the house. Fortunately I was in a place where I felt like I could confide in one of my friends. She knew enough from her own struggles with depression to know that what I was experiencing wasn’t normal. After several long talks with her, and a visit so that I could get some me time, I decided to speak with my midwife at my six week checkup. I told her that I felt like I was losing my mind. That I was afraid that if I left the house with both kids, we’d all die. She told me that she had some resources for me, made me accept that I was not crazy, and sent me on my way.
After that check-up, I met a very amazing woman named Birdie Meyers who sat and talked with me, let me cry to her, and gave me a written assessment. In Indianapolis, she is the top nurse practitioner working with moms who have PPD. She diagnosed me with postpartum depression and pregnancy induced anxiety. Ms. Meyers also runs several support groups for women to attend every week. Without her, I don’t think I would be where I am emotionally today.
After meeting with Birdie, I paid a visit to my regular doctor. My treatment plan was life changing, and it goes as follows:
-Daily walks or exercise, and outside is best. I’m naturally happier when I’m in the sun.
-A routine for me and the kids every day. This is perfect for the whole family and keeps me on track with deadlines as well as keeping my husband informed of how much gets done while he’s at work.
-10 minutes of alone time daily, no kids, no husband, just me. Typically, I use this time to write, read or meditate.
-Dates, dates, and more dates. Part of my depression was stemming from not getting to spend as much time with my husband, so we’ve made going out without the kids more of a priority.
-Lastly, I started taking a low dose of Zoloft.
I continued to take the Zoloft for about 6 months. At that time, I was feeling rather disjointed, and my only clear emotional state was anger, which wasn’t helping anyone. When my husband and I started counseling, I took the initiative and worked out how to wean off of the medication. It took about 3 weeks, but then I was finally able to get in touch with my underlying feelings and handle the stress of them without taking the train to crazy town. Things are still a long way from the way I had envisioned, but we’ve worked on overcoming everything as a family.
If you or someone you know is experiencing the baby blues and their baby is older than three weeks old, it’s time to get help. I know that’s a scary thing for us mothers to ask for. We all want to take on everything and keep a smile on our faces, but if you can’t find humor even when your toddler does something you’d normally laugh at, or if a song comes on the radio and you have to pull over because you are crying too hard to see, do it for yourself. I am currently getting help from Birdie, checking in with friends who make me feel safe, and relaxing on my own to ensure I don’t slip back into that terrible and scary place.