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.