I had heard the term. I thought I was familiar with it. It was something I equated with overworked, distraught mothers who couldn’t handle their shit. And so they got sad. Crazy hormone levels, baby blues, leaving their newborn at the fire station. That sort of thing.
I never got sad with the births of my children. And being completely uneducated in the spectrum of affects of Postpartum Depression, it never occurred to me that I, too, could suffer. Years after, I realized that I had a mild case that manifested into anxiety. Due to the fact that I discovered it after the fact, I never did anything about it. I just suffered anxiously in silence until it eventually dissipated.
PPD can rear its ugly head in many different forms. It affects every person differently. The best way to combat this issue (that more than 15% of women face) is through information. There are a ton of resources out there– utilize them. I have included a bunch of links at the bottom of this post.
The more I have talked to friends and family about PPD, I have realized that there are a lot of misconceptions out there. There is still a stigma, still embarrassment and shame associated with this condition. The spread of facts, personal stories and resources can help women across the country– nay the world– get the help they need and deserve.
I don’t have a lot of experience in this arena, so I turned to my amazing community of mom friends. One of my closest pals, Shyle, has two beautiful children. She is upbeat, happy-go-lucky and a great mom. I would have never guessed that she had PPD except that one day it came up casually in conversation. I distinctly remember saying, You? But you’re so happy! Are you sure? She was so open to talking to me about her experience and I thought that maybe her story could be beneficial to other women out there. I asked her hesitantly if she would answer some questions. It can be anonymous! I promised. Shyle responded the way that every single of us should– Anonymous? Nah. Go ahead. Put my name on it.
Thanks, friend. Way to reduce the stigma.
Interview with Shyle; January 2017
When did you first realize that you had postpartum anxiety?
I was about one year postpartum with my first child. I had clearly had
it from when he was born on, but didn’t see it in myself until then.
What did/does it feel like for you?
Like I had to run away – not leave my family, but physically get away
from my trigger (my son crying – and he cried a lot). It would put me
into a panic and I would try to escape it, but couldn’t stop thinking
about how I couldn’t leave him – so I would be worried about not doing
enough for him, not caring for him properly, etc, but at the same time
needing to get away.
Did your doctor recommend medication or did you ask about it?
Yes – I was pretty bad by the time I got help. I went to a therapist
weekly and went on anti-anxiety meds, which honestly I should have
probably been taking my entire life. However the stress of being a
mom, not sleeping, my entire life changing (left my job, staying home
with an infant, having the fact that I was a mom become my identity,
and moving across the country) made the anxiety unbearable.
Did you feel like there was any stigma attached to it? Did you feel self-conscience? Embarrassed to be taking medication?
Absolutely. But the first time I felt better almost instantly. It was kind
of crazy. And so I went off the meds after a few months and was proud
to have gotten help and be ‘cured’. But then after I had my daughter,
I went through the same thing, only I caught it MUCH earlier. I am
still on the meds (she is almost 2) and do not plan to get off as I
now can see it is something I need. It should not be something that I should
make a goal to get off of, because so I could be ‘better’.
How has taking the medication effected your daily life?
It keeps me ‘even’ and helps my anxiety stay under control. I don’t
have panic attacks when I am on the meds, which is awesome.
Have you experienced any side effects?
Weigh gain, which is a bummer.
Do you think there will be a time where you don’t take it anymore?
Maybe? I don’t want to take it forever, but I think I may need it to keep myself sane 🙂
In your experience, do your friends/family with kids talk openly about postpartum? Do you know anyone else who’s had a similar experience?
I talk about it ALL THE TIME because I want other people to feel comfortable talking about it. Once you start talking about it, you realize pretty much every mom has some version of it – whether it is just the ‘blues’ or full blown panic attacks/depression. It is so helpful to have a community to normalize how you are feeling. When I first started going through this I felt very alone. But once I started talking about it, everyone was so supportive, understanding, and it made me feel OKAY.
If someone wonders if taking medication could help them with postpartum depression/anxiety, what would you advise them?
One of the first things the therapist said to me was, “What you are feeling is so normal, and you have postpartum anxiety.” That was enough to make me feel free. She named what I had and helped me figure out how to deal with it. For me, I need the meds. Some just need someone to talk to. I only needed two sessions – and it was determined I just needed meds, which was perfect for me. But everyone is different!! I went to a few support groups and found they were not helpful for me. But for some they are! I say reach out for help and see what YOU need.
Postpartum Depression Facts:
- 600,000 women get PPD each year in the United States alone
- Postpartum depression is the most common complication of childbirth
- Many women feel as if admitting their illness makes them a failure
Symptoms of Postpartum Depression, as defined by the National Institute of Mental Health:
- Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
- Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
- Worrying or feeling overly anxious
- Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
- Oversleeping, or being unable to sleep even when her baby is asleep
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
- Experiencing anger or rage
- Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
- Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
- Eating too little or too much
- Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
- Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
- Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
- Thinking about harming herself or her baby