Sunday, November 22, 2015

Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

Such a cheerful subject, right?

I wanted to post about this topic because postpartum depression and anxiety are super common, but for some reason, hardly anyone ever talks about it. I'm not sure why there is such a negative stigma attached to postpartum depression in our culture, or why we as women feel the need to hide our struggle with postpartum depression. A woman's body undergoes drastic changes when she has a baby; childbirth takes a huge toll on the mother, not just physically but emotionally. It seems natural to me that, just as we need to recover physically, it also takes time for our bodies to recover emotionally. 

When Lucy was born, I didn't really know anything about postpartum depression. When I went to my postnatal visit (at 6 weeks postpartum), they made me fill out a little questionnaire about my mental state. At that point, I was walking on sunshine. I had a beautiful, newborn daughter. I was basking in the glow of new motherhood. My body was still running on adrenaline and happiness. It was impossible for me to imagine that I could feel anything but sheer joy.

But just as every pregnancy is different, a woman's body recovers differently after the birth of each child. After Alice was born, I had the same overwhelming feelings of joy and elation. I remember going to my postnatal doctor visit when Alice was 6 weeks old, filling out the postpartum depression questionnaire, and feeling so good, so emotionally stable.

Well. That's because the postpartum depression / anxiety had not set in yet.

Here are some important things to know about postpartum depression and anxiety. These are things I did not know and wish I had...

- It can often take weeks, or months, for the symptoms of postpartum depression and anxiety to appear. Typically, healthcare providers do not follow up with you regarding your mental health after your postnatal appointment, which is usually around 6 weeks. At that point, you may not even be experiencing symptoms yet. 

- Postpartum depression looks different for everyone. For me, I have experienced crippling anxiety, which has led to insomnia, brain "fog", and an overall feeling of dread. My anxiety is not triggered by my children (Alice's crying, for instance), but rather, by things I read in the news, or random thoughts that pop into my head. I can't speak to what postpartum depression looks like for other women, but I know from talking to moms that the spectrum is VERY broad.

- There is nothing wrong with you. It is scary to feel so out of control of our bodies and minds. Usually, I feel like I have a pretty good filter for keeping dark thoughts out of my head; with postpartum anxiety, I am plagued with constant "What if?" questions. No matter how much I pray, or try to focus on positive things, or distract myself, I can't control what's going on in there. It's very easy to feel guilty, to wonder why you can't just pull yourself together. But there is nothing wrong with us. Struggling with postpartum depression does NOT mean that we do not love our babies, or that we are not happy to be moms. Don't even go there. There is absolutely no reason to feel guilt on top of everything else that you are feeling.

- We will not be like this forever. "Will I ever be normal again?" I have asked this question so many times. "Will I ever feel like myself again?" Yes, Yes, YES. Your hormones will balance out. Eventually, I'm told, the feelings of depression and/or anxiety will ebb, until they are gone for good. I do not know how long exactly it takes; I'm sure it looks different for everyone. But it is comforting to know that we will be ourselves again, that this struggle is by no means permanent. 

Obviously, this is not a medical post, and I am not a doctor. I am not attempting to tell you how to treat postpartum depression / anxiety; I just want to bring some awareness to the issue. If you feel like you might be struggling with postpartum depression, talk to your doctor immediately.

I believe that the lack of information on this topic is partially the fault of healthcare providers, but we moms also have a responsibility to share our struggles with one another. The worst thing we could do is bottle it all up, not talk about it. Other moms make great resources and even better support systems. Solidarity, ladies.

{photo cred Dan Steiner}

1 comment:

  1. I had a rough time after Charlie. I'll pray for peace in your mind.