9 things I wish I’d known about postpartum depression

Well, hi there! I know it’s been a little quiet here on the blog. You know how it goes: new projects at work, kids’ schedules, life, craziness, blah, blah, blah. Plus I’ve been a little unmotivated, to be honest. I even started wondering if it was time for me to quit blogging, and though I decided I wouldn’t, I still haven’t had the drive to blog late at night or early in the morning.

But then I got a phone call. I was away on vacation with no internet service. When I landed in Boston, I dreaded checking my email and voicemails, but one message caught my attention: My friend Brenna from Suburban Snapshots, telling me that the Today Show’s website was looking for me.

Huh?

So I checked my email and quickly got in touch with the editor who was trying to find me (shout-out to another awesome friend, Suzanne from Toulouse & Tonic, who told the editor I was on vacation and to please wait until I got back!). The editor wanted me to write a post about PPD, since it was a relevant topic with Hayden Panettiere checking herself into a clinic for PPD treatment. One thing led to another and now…

I have an article on Today.com! It’s called 9 things I wish I’d known about postpartum depression and I hope you’ll go read it.

If you want to show your support, you can comment on the Today Show’s Facebook page and/or Today Parents’ Facebook page. (As you may know, the more people who comment/like, the more people will see the post. And given this topic, the more women who see it, the better.)

Being on Today.com is kind of a big deal for me, professionally. Being paid to write for a major website is awesome resume fodder, and hopefully I will get to write more for Today. But what’s really exciting is that the Today Show is an incredible forum to reach more moms who may be suffering in silence. That’s the whole reason I started Honest Mom: to help moms dealing with depression and anxiety know that they are not alone and they do not need to be ashamed. And that’s why, even if I take a blogging break here and there, I’ll keep writing here on Honest Mom. I’m re-energized now and ready to rock!

I have 40-50 Honest Moms Speak Out essays waiting in the wings, and I’m looking forward to bringing a new one to you each week. So many women want to tell their stories, and now I just need to publish them! I’ll keep blogging about parenting and mental health and bringing you good stuff on Facebook and Twitter — so I hope you’ll keep following along and sharing the posts that you like. The more women we reach, the more we’ll chip away at the ridiculous stigma attached to mental health.

Have a wonderful week!
JD, aka Honest Mom

 

photo credit: “Mother and Son” via photopin (license)

Dealing with long-term postpartum depression: 6 tips for coping

woman alone

6 tips for managing long-term postpartum depressionMany women who suffer from postpartum depression get better and feel no long-term effects of their illness. But for some, PPD lasts a lot longer than you’d expect.

A January 2014 Harvard Review of Psychiatry report found that 38% of women with postpartum depression experienced chronic symptoms. As Medical News Today writes, “The review found the strongest evidence that poor partner relationships, stress, and a pre-existing history of depression and sexual abuse made women more likely to experience chronic depression after giving birth.”

None of this surprises me, considering that I’m still managing depression and anxiety six years after being diagnosed with PPD. I fall into the “stress and pre-existing history of depression” category, though my previous bouts of depression and anxiety were short-lived.

It is obviously frustrating and even scary to deal with long-term postpartum depression. No one expects to have a baby and then get a chronic illness from the experience. But if you are one of the moms out there who is dealing with long-term PPD, you are not alone. Here are some tips on dealing with PPD that seemingly won’t go away:

1. Don’t compare yourself to other moms and their PPD recoveries. Every woman is different. You are not failing or doing anything wrong if you are still dealing with PPD when others you know have recovered. Remind yourself of this.

2. Stick to your treatment plan and adjust as necessary. Just because you think your PPD should be gone by now doesn’t mean you should stop treatment. If you’re going to therapy, keep going. If you’re taking medication, keep taking it. And be sure keep the lines of communication open with your doctor(s) – if something isn’t working, speak up.

3. Be open to other ways of managing depression. After many years of cycling through medications, I tried some alternative ways of managing my mental health. They worked for me for a while, for sure, but I am now on a different type of antidepressant (an SNRI as opposed to an SSRI) and feeling great again. Of course, do NOT stop your current therapies without talking to a doctor. But if you’re like me and don’t tolerate SSRIs well, alternative/natural treatments or a different type of medication might be for you.

4. Don’t neglect the basics. I know it sounds so elementary, but eating well, sleeping, and exercise are SO key to managing mental health effectively. I know I can do better in this area. When I do the basics well, I feel great. I actually went gluten-free to see if it could help my mental health, and it has. There have been many studies on the mind-gut connection, and now I’m a believer.

5. Join a supportive community. Postpartum Progress is an excellent resource (and lists support groups around North America), plus has its own private online forum. I have a private Honest Mom Facebook community for parenting support (contact me through Facebook if you are interested in joining it). Or just Google “postpartum depression support groups” and you’ll find tons of info.

I find that women who deal with depression crave community. The comment I get from Honest Mom readers most often is, “I’m so glad to know I’m not alone.” There is huge comfort in knowing others are going through the same challenges as you, and blogs and support groups are excellent resources.

6. Remember depression can be a manageable condition. Of course no one wants to deal with long-term depression. But the way I look at it is this: No one wants diabetes. Or Crohn’s Disease. Or chronic back pain, epilepsy, or any chronic health condition. I consider my depression/anxiety to be a chronic illness that is manageable. It can go into remission and flare up. It doesn’t define me, and while I definitely would rather not have to deal with it, I’m not going to let it run my life.

If you want more info, you can read other posts about PPD on Honest Mom. Also, check out the wealth of posts on mental health, depression, and anxiety.

Share your thoughts in the comments below. Has PPD lasted longer than you expected? Months? Years? Do you think PPD-induced depression is something you will have to manage for the long-term? How are you doing it?

This post was sponsored by Molina Healthcare, an organization that believes everyone should have access to quality health care. Molina asked me to write about mental health and I was thrilled to do so. I love sponsors who are interested in women’s mental health, I thank Molina for their support of Honest Mom!

photo credit: Lohan Gunaweera via photopin cc

The Truth I’d Rather Not Admit: PPD and me

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It was raining harder than I anticipated it would, as I walked an hour to my psychiatrist appointment. I had an umbrella that barely did any good, but I didn’t care. It was a welcomed break. An hour to myself, without any cooing or crying, diapering or playing. Good or bad, I wanted nothing to do with my own kid, and I was tired, exhausted, by faking it. My daughter was 13 months old, and I was just diagnosed a week before, officially, with postpartum depression.

Looking back, I knew it was coming. It’s why I put an official diagnosis off for so long. Having been diagnosed with clinical depression at the age of thirteen, I was told I was three times more likely to end up in this situation. But I wanted a baby more than those women who get postpartum depression. Way more. So it wasn’t going to happen to me. No way, no how, no chance. Find another new mom, global statistics, ‘cause I am not the chosen one.

Well, I had my baby. Everything went as planned. A relatively uncomplicated pregnancy led to an incredibly textbook delivery. And I took one look at her, and I felt nothing. And I continued to feel nothing for a good long time.

My Type-A personality vanished as I handed my less than six-pound baby girl to whomever would take her. I felt no need to grab her back, protect her, snuggle her. I felt no void when I had to attend my own medical appointment at the same time as her first pediatrician’s appointment. No need to be there, to take a photo, to document the day. I needed the information, but I didn’t need her.

I have wanted nothing more than to be a mom for as far back as I can remember. When asked what I wanted for my seventh birthday, I responded with a stroller. A real stroller. When we had “flour babies” in sixth grade, I chose to have twins. So when it came time to buckle down and figure out what I was going to do with my life, it was no surprise that I ended up training to be a child life specialist, working with children and families from all walks of life. Later, I got my masters degree and worked as a child development specialist at a well-known parenting center. I prepared every step of my life meticulously to make way for the path of parenthood. From who I married, to when I got married, to where I worked and where we lived. Every duck in its row, set up for success.

And I failed. Miserably.

Until recently, I could count on one hand the number of times I could remember feeling love towards my child: Over thirteen months—less than five times. In fact, I believe the exact number was three. So far and few between that I could detail those exact three moments of feeling that way so many other mothers get to feel so often.

When told how beautiful she was, I could only say, “She’s a good one!” And when people asked me how it was going, the most I could bear to mutter was “It’s hard.” And even just last week, the furthest I could push myself to admitting the truth was announcing that “I wasn’t the happiest new mom,” which has become my signature line in describing the first year of my child’s life.

It took more than six months after starting treatment to see what a terrible and terrifying place I was in. I consider myself lucky; I wasn’t in the category of wanting to hurt my own child, though on those long walks to therapy looking over the Mass. Ave. bridge, I did wonder what would happen if I were to just jump in front of a moving car, or throw myself into the water. And now, it has taken almost a full two years to acknowledge, out loud, that this was my experience. That everything I had hoped for and dreamed of and put so much effort into came tumbling down. And that most people didn’t know. Because as I’ve said in the past, Facebook posts about milestones and Instagram photos of family outings do not a happy mother make.

To compare where I am today, and where I was for such a huge chunk of my daughter’s life so far, is unbelievable. To reflect on what she missed out on due to what I missed out on is so sad. Together, we were both gigantically ripped off. But, through therapy combined with medication, and some major attempts at late-stage bonding, somehow, we have both healed in a way I couldn’t have ever expected to be possible.

I miss her when we are apart. My heart sinks when she falls. I, to my surprise, finally feel that innate love that so many new mothers are lucky enough to feel. That quintessential baby-being-put-on-your-chest-for-the-first-time connection has happened over mommy-daughter dates for frozen yogurt, completing art projects, and celebrating holidays. It may not have been the standard path, but we finally are on the right track. And this time, it’s truly a good one.

Can you identify with Rebecca’s PPD experience? Or do you know someone who went through a similar situation? 

photo credit: Camilla ∆ Rocha via photopin cc