Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Coping with Postpartum Depression



As many of you know, I had a baby 9 months ago. While she is the joy of my life and brings me so much happiness, I have faced the confusing battle of postpartum depression.
This depression is unlike anything I've ever experienced. I have felt depressed in the past, and for years experienced fatigue, feelings of sadness, and feelings of hopelessness. However, after giving birth all of these symptoms exponentially increased.

Yesterday, for the first time since giving birth, I got up the courage to go to the doctor and talk about my problems. What he told me was a little bit embarrassing and I am ashamed to admit that he diagnosed me with chronic depression, chronic fatigue, and chronic migraines. He said the main things that help are medication, psychotherapy, medication and psychotherapy, and exercise and diet. Now, I have been the kind of girl that has dieted and exercised rigorously since my pubescent years. When I was a teenager and I started to understand the inevitability of genetics, I became a little bit paranoid that I was going to turn into my grandfather who suffered from chronic depression and eventually died of it. My memories of my grandpa are limited to him sitting and staring. I think I'd seen him smile once. And I maybe heard him say my name twice. I remember exactly where those days were. Because of my fear of turning into a depressed victim, and the probability is high due to genes, I have taken diet and exercise very seriously. To the point where many have accused me of having an eating disorder or an addiction to exercise. While these cases are much more interesting for gossip purposes, they are not true. I always have enjoyed eating well and exercising and keeping my body in excellent condition. I have also refrained from any drug use, smoking, and excessive drinking because of the affect it might have on my health conditions. While I've tried to be good at getting sleep, it has become increasingly difficult with a newborn. This may be what has heightened all of my depressive behaviors, but I still am afraid of becoming that person who sits and stares and later dies of it.
Many of you might be thinking, Everyone is tired after having a baby. Or, Everyone feels depressed now and then. I believe you. I was one of you. And now I am one of them, the persons actually facing a very real, uncontrollable battle. I hope you never have to face it, or face the judgement, and lack of support, or loss of friends. I gave up most of my social media sites because of this lack of understanding. I haven't wanted to be around anyone or anything, I've found work difficult on some days...even being around family is hard. And I felt very alone. I should say we, we felt alone. All of us women experiencing this.
The doctor talked to me about my options, some medication and psychotherapy. Obviously, being as fit and active as I am the exercise is not helping and I need additional treatment. The problem I'm facing now is that me and my husband are trying to get pregnant with our second child. A lot of the medications these days are Category C which means they are not recommended for pregnancy. I've always been a little bit skeptical of taking medications while pregnant and therefore at this point I've decided not to take any medications for the depression. However, I am going to give psychotherapy a try, even though I don't know exactly how it will help with chronic fatigue. All I know is I am sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. I used to not understand what postpartum depression meant. I'll be honest, I was one of you that judged people who spoke of postpartum depression. I always thought you could control the mind and you could control the body and if people were depressed then they simply weren't doing enough about it. While this may be the case with some people who are simply lazy, they don't eat good, or they don't exercise at all, they sleep too much or they sleep too little. I am the walking talking example of what it's like to have depression that is out of your control. I do all of the things doctors recommend to control depression and anxiety. And here I am still suffering incredibly. My chronic fatigue is so much more than just feeling tired every now and then, or having a desire to stay in bed. There is no real way to explain it in words other than it feels like I've been enveloped in a dark heavy rain cloud that makes me feel like I'm going to fall asleep at the wheel multiple times a week. I have lost my short term memory. My sex drive has gone way down. My thoughts are mostly sadness and hopelessness and negativity. I don't want to be around other people, even my usual friends. Household chores are left undone. My interests are fading. I have to consume a fair amount of caffeine just to get me going in the morning, and more throughout the day, which negatively affects my chronic migraines. I'm taking energy supplements to almost no avail.
And people notice when I'm in a good mood. That tells you that most of the time I'm reticent and not particularly in a good mood. I hate to admit that. It makes me feel even more sad. Especially because my mom used to call me her sunshine girl. I had a smile and a light and a personality that would shine for days. Seeing that gone and feeling it is lost forever has been a big struggle for me, and I'm sure my husband agrees. Some days I can pull it together. I never act sad around my baby. I can put on a good front at work. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm a master of disguise. The problem is I'm not confronting the source of my internal struggles. I have made an appointment to see a psychotherapist and am looking forward to it. I'm taking charge of my health. I do not want to be a victim.
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I just want all the mothers out there to know that you are not alone and that if you have faced any kind of depression especially during your postpartum period that it is real and you are not crazy and I'm so sorry if people have judged you the way they have judged me. Try to know that you are the only person that lives your life and you are the only person who knows what it feels like. If you have a good support system and the good doctor you will be able to find treatment that will hopefully bring you out from underneath that heavy rain cloud. I will keep you updated with my experience with psychotherapy and maybe one day when I'm done having kids I can get on some medication that will truly help me overcome this depression.
Also know that your baby can sense your mood, so even if you feel crappy, wear a smile for them. My daughter makes me silly with happiness,which is maddening when I am overwhelmed with the depression. I feel emotionally drained and torn and wild. But I know there are people out there who understand. 