Friday, June 3, 2011

I'm finally ready.

I've written and re-written this post a thousand times in my mind. That's the main reason why I've been so substandard in my posting lately- I've wanted to address the issue at hand, but couldn't find the time/didn't feel up to facing it directly. So instead I've been tiptoeing around my feelings, putting off this post and instead writing about more upbeat activities like yogurt making. I guess that's part of the facade.

I contemplated over and over whether to actually write this down- seeing it on "paper" makes it seem more real. Acknowledging it, I feared, would give it more power.

But here's the thing- I'm not alone. Other women have experienced- other women will experience- what I am going through. The fact that so few of us talk about it- especially to anyone besides our spouses and perhaps best friends- makes us feel even more isolated.

So I'm going to share in the hope that this helps at least one other person- and because I need the kind of catharsis I think writing will provide. Deep breath, here goes:

I have postpartum depression (PPD).

I have been experiencing symptoms for approximately three months. My PPD struck right when my doula training said it would- at about three months postpartum.

That's right- I'm trained in identifying PPD. More broadly, I have training in identifying PPMD, or Postpartum Mood Disorders, which, besides PPD, also includes anxiety, psychosis, and a handful of other postpartum issues. Mind you, my experience is in identification and referral only- treatment is for the experts.

So why was I in denial for several weeks? Simple.

My PPD didn't manifest itself in the manner we often read about and see in the media. It didn't come on suddenly, and I wasn't acting irrationally. My moods weren't directed at my children, and I didn't feel like an inadequate mother. I felt good when I was with my kids. I had an amazing birth experience with Junie, she was breastfeeding well, hell- she was even sleeping through the night! What did I have to be depressed about?

Still, I felt like a cloud was hanging over my head, following me everywhere I went. I might have two, three good days- days where I felt like I had kicked this thing- but then ol' Mr. Raincloud would show up again. I felt anxious. I was distracted at work. I couldn't focus, I felt sleepy all the time, and I wasn't interested in things that I normally loved to do. I felt like I was in a haze. Small setbacks that would have seemed like minor issues before suddenly grew to mountain-size.

I don't know why I'm talking in the past-tense- I still feel this way frequently.

One time-tested approach to dealing with PPD is peer counseling- talking with others who share your experiences. So that's what I've been doing, and it is helping.

I've come close to asking for a low dose of Zoloft (one of the only drugs used for treating PPD that is considered "safe" while breastfeeding), but there are no long-term studies regarding its use by breastfeeding moms. Also, taking the drug would prohibit me from donating my extra breastmilk, which is one of the big motivators I have to keep pumping. Donating gives me a big emotional boost, and I don't want to give that up.

So I'm hobbling along, trying to take life a day at a time. I've come up with strategies to help me through the day, and I schedule in fun activities with the kids, as well as time to myself, to provide me with little things to look forward to. I find that simply getting more sleep (I only average 5-6 hours a night currently) and making exercise a priority are helpful as well.

And I refuse to be ashamed of my PPD. I've been through a lot over the past two years- losing my Dad (while I was 6 months pregnant, no less), a job change, a relocation and new home, back-to-back pregnancies...I certainly have had a lot to process emotionally.

I'm eagerly awaiting the day when I feel like myself again- when I'm not feeling so overwhelmed and emotional and frustrated. Not feeling like yourself is a terrible feeling.


Additional confession: See the picture above? The one of me smiling and holding my two beautiful girls? That was taken about one hour after I had a complete meltdown because I couldn't fit into the dress I was planning on wearing for Easter. I won't go into details, but it was bad. My point is that many of us hide our feelings very well, and it is often impossible to identify how a person is feeling from their outward appearance.


Kacie said...

Big hugs! BIG BIG BIG HUGS from me to you, ma'am.

This mothering stuff ain't easy, and throwing PPD into the mix really makes it a challenge. I shall keep you in my prayers and I hope that you get the resources you need to pull on through the cloud.

You are right -- nothing to be ashamed of! It can happen to anyone, and maybe your experience will help others now or on down the line.

I strongly suspect I had PPD after Jonathan was born, but I was never diagnosed and I couldn't self-diagnose. If I didn't have full-on PPD, I was super close. I finally made a friend in Pittsburgh when Johnny was 2 months old and I think her help and friendship seriously saved me from big troubles.

Sarah Norman said...

I am so proud of you.

Megan L said...

Big hugs.
I am still trying to figure out what by best way forward is.

Bridget said...

Gosh. I really appreciate your honesty and exposing your feelings about PPD. I also appreciate your comment at the end where you said things aren't always as they seem on the outside. I struggle with feelings of depression and anxiety myself and I haven't even had our baby yet. I worry that once I do, I will be a complete mess, worse than I am now. It's hard to explain as I should be very happy and excited about this new life I'm created, and truly I am excited and feel very blessed. But I'm also very hard on myself and think the worst case scenario about everything and that doesn't help things. I will be thinking about you and just now that you do SO much and I'm seriously amazed and inspired at all of your motivations and good causes. Hang in there girl.

SA said...

I love you, Emily, and hate that you're going through this but know that you're not alone. I'm pretty sure I had undiagnosed PPD after Abigail was born as I was pretty isolated in Savannah without any real mom friends for the first few months, and David was working 12 hours days 6-7 days a week.

I wish I'd told someone, but there's something weird about us new moms where we feel like we have to keep it all together and say we're "doing great, just tired!" or whatever.

Thanks for being brave and putting it out there. I know your post is helping more women than you realize.

Hope to see you soon and can't wait until you're in GA!

Tamika said...

You don't know me - and I honestly can't remember how I found your blog - but I just wanted to say GOOD FOR YOU!! That is the hardest thing - to realize and admit that you do have PPD. And all your training has likely told you that too.

I wish you all the best on your journey to fighting Mr.Raincloud. You are beautiful - and your daughters are too.

Ida Mae said...

Big hugs Momma. I really am proud of you for posting this. You have indeed gone through a lot, and I am sure you'll get through this too!

Take it easy on yourself, and be good to you! Unfortunately, I know just how hard this can be sometimes.

Ed and Elizabeth said...

Emily this was such a brave post! So many women experience PPD and don't even realize it. I see it all the time at the hospital. It is scary, but recognizing it and acknowledging it is the first step to feeling better! You are an AMAZING mother and this will pass. :)

Denise said...

I have been so out of the blogging world, I just read this entry.

I want to say, of all the women I know, you are one of the very best at embracing with joy all that motherhood entails. You make the most of the time you have with your children, and you dedicate so much time to learning what is best for them, even from the womb.

Emily, you've never had it easy, though! Just being a working mom AND an attachment-parent has to have an enormous set of challenges. Yet you've worked so much to overcome that with co-sleeping (even when Lucy would kick you in the head night after night!) and with pumping or coming home every lunch break in GA to nurse Lucy. You WORK, girl.

Just add to it some of the things you never anticipated... Your precious father's death, your intense pregnancy nausea/vomiting, your surprise pregnancy with June, your moving and changing job descriptions (also disallowing you the midday nursing, so more pumping for you), Brett adjusting to being a stay-at-home-dad.... And yes, battling the post-baby body that you never had with Lucy.... So much, I'm sure I've missed a lot more!

The thing is, even someone as upbeat and beautiful as you, who loves her children more than herself... Someone with busy hands and a busy mind... Well, I would never ever be surprised. I have seccumbed to depression from far less. There were times post-miscarriage where I'd crawl in the bed at 3pm fully dressed, unable to face the day any more... And I had everything else "going for me." Grief and loss and change are all so intense.

I just want to say, I admire you and I KNOW you will persevere through this. I think MORE of you for sharing, because it's brave and true - you aren't hiding the truth, which will help others - possibly even myself. I can't know how baby #2 will affect me! You are very loved by all your friends, and I am praying for you to break through this. Hormones are such strong, real, volatile things.

Anyway, just wanted to make sure you knew I'd read this and was very much impressed and proud of you!

Jenny said...

Thanks for sharing. It really does help others. I love your closing point; you never know what someone is going through.

I was okay after Ivey and Robert were born but with Suzi it was rough. I'm not sure if I had PPD or OCD that got a ton worse right after the baby or both. It was horrible anxiety that weighed me down and ruined what should've been wonderful days, aggravated by six or seven other stressful things I had going on. After a few weeks I told my doctor and started taking Zoloft, and it helped. I appreciated reading the experiences of others at the time because I couldn't believe what I was thinking and feeling were somewhat common. I remember deciding not to say anything at one point because I thought they might take my baby away, and when I finally told my doctor I told him as little as possible.

I'm so sorry you're going through this. You have overcome so much and are such a strong mama. I hope it gets better for you soon.