After the births of each of my children, I went through periods of postpartum depression, which I am still going through today. The one surprising thing is that after the birth of each child, the PPD symptoms were different. Just like each child is completely different, so were my mental health problems, I suppose.
I was 22 when my first child was born, I was young, I was not prepared for the realities of motherhood, and really, who is? But I know in my heart that my maturity level wasn’t truly ready to accept the changes in my life. I was weepy for the first few months of my daughter’s life. They called it the “baby blues”. I would cry at the drop of a hat, I wasn’t ‘sad’, I didn’t feel ‘depressed’, but I would cry for no reason at all. I tried to keep it hidden away, pretend everything was okay in my life, and on the surface I thought I had succeeded. Only the closest people in my life really knew, and the closest ones usually receive the shit end of the stick (like my poor husband found out)…
It hit me the hardest when I weaned my baby girl from the breast, at about 5 months. Those were my lowest moments, and when I say ‘low’, I don’t mean suicidal. I never thought of myself as “depressed”, since I wasn’t simply just sad all the time. I felt conflicted, confused – wasn’t I supposed to be enjoying motherhood? Why was I always crying? Why was I waiting for the fog to lift? Why was I numb to joy?
Recently I discovered many articles linking postpartum depression with weaning, including these posts from A Cup of Jo & Helen Jane. And I just wish that I had told a doctor how I was feeling back then, I wish I had confided in somebody and gotten help, instead I felt like it was my cross to bear alone, I felt that it would eventually go away on its’ own, perhaps? I’m not sure exactly, as it was six years ago, but I look back and think that I could have benefited from some help, instead of trying to be “strong” and ignore my pain.
With this recent pregnancy, the first four or five months went by in a blur! I was waiting for the baby blues to start, I was apprehensive about it – and when it didn’t seem to show I was somewhat in disbelief but also very relieved. I even talked to friends about it, that I was simply “too busy to be sad”, which was also true, at the time. But during the sixth month, and then seventh month, this “busyness” attributed to anxiety and panic attacks.
Having never felt true anxiety before, I was confused. I felt weak. I felt I couldn’t complete the simplest task. The thought of throwing in a load of laundry, or wiping the counters, or answering the phone would turn my stomach. I would have trouble breathing to the point where I one time googled “what to do when having a panic attack” in the middle of one, and started doing breathing exercises in my daughter’s room. My poor husband would call and ask me to send him a file by email and I would freak out. I stopped listening to what people asked of me. I didn’t want to leave the house. I just felt overwhelmed.
Was this post-partum depression? I didn’t feel sad. I wasn’t running around crying all the time. I just couldn’t handle life anymore – which pissed me off, more than anything. I thought of myself as a strong woman who could handle anything life threw at her – I used to be an events planner for chrissakes! And now I would miss my daughter’s swimming practice and forget doctor’s appointments and couldn’t even handle making food without breathing exercises. I stopped going to play groups, I stopped socializing, and instead would just hole up in my house, not leaving unless I absolutely had to. I was disappointed in myself, in a way – and I didn’t understand what was happening, and I didn’t want to go out in the world and let someone see my cracked, and fragile, exterior.
This time, I went to my doctor. I sat in his room, looked at him and proceeded to blubber on for twenty minutes, alternating between crying, looking away and trying not to cry, and admitting to him that I just wanted to get away from it all. I just wanted to leave and go somewhere – no kids, no husband, no phone calls, no responsibilities, no one depending on me, nothing. I apologised for ‘losing it’. I told him I didn’t feel like myself, that I felt crazy, and I knew ‘crazy’ wasn’t a term doctors were PC about, but it was the only way to describe how I felt at the time.
He was concerned, and after some discussion we decided that I would go on an anti-anxiety & anti-depression medication.
It takes a lot for me to admit this. That I’m not perfect. That even though I am a strong person, I can benefit from help – that everyone can. I know I’m a better mother to my children, a better wife to my husband, and a better person all around, now that I am allowing myself to help myself.
I’m really glad that I took the time to write this, and if you’re still reading, thank you.
And thank you to Alice from More Than Toast for writing this about her own recent experience with Post-Natal Depression.
A great source for more information is Postpartum Progress, which helped me identify my anxiety being linked to PPD.