Archive for January 31, 2011

The Truth About Postpartum Depression

This is another one of those “let’s get real” posts. One that is really hard to write, but also really therapeutic. I’ve had a short version sitting in my drafts for a couple months but I decided it was time to revisit.

I had a meltdown on Friday. A complete meltdown with tears and yelling. It was a long time coming, I knew that. Women need a good cry on a semi-regular basis and I literally cannot remember the last time I cried. It’s been months, I’m sure. Let me tell you, girls, that is not healthy. Holding it in just causes a serious meltdown at a very inopportune time- like ten minutes before your husband leaves for a guitar lesson and 20 minutes before your baby has a similar meltdown.

Listen, my life is great. I’m in love with my husband and my son. We have jobs and a house and supportive families. But sometimes the little things pile up on your shoulders and weigh you down until you just can’t support their weight any longer. The only thing you can do is crush into a helpless heap underneath them.

That’s what I did.

I’m tired, y’all. Stephen and I don’t go to sleep until 11ish at night and we wake up before 6. I usually wake up 1-3 times in the middle of the night to put Jansen’s binkie back in his mouth. (He sleeps through the night a few nights per week, but it’s no longer the norm.) Then I get ready for work and then sit in the freezing cold car and pump breastmilk while my husband drives to his office. I then drive the second leg of the trip to my office. It’s a long, tiring commute. My job is less than stimulating. I have kept from discussing details of my job because I don’t think it’s appropriate. But I’m about at my wit’s end and every day is a struggle to maintain my happiness. It’s rough to spend so many hours at a job that you don’t love when you know that your baby is at home. It wears you down.

Things add up and eventually cause you to flip out when your husband says something that really shouldn’t bother you that much. Stress is a disgusting beast. Especially when it is combined with postpartum depression.

I’m not going to claim to be an expert on this topic, nor am I going to claim to have a serious case of PPD. I believe that it is a serious issue and some women have a very difficult time getting through it. Me? Mine was just this internal struggle that I knew would pass soon enough. And for the most part, it has. Every not and then I feel sort of yucky though.

I read in The Girlfriend’s Guide to Pregnancy (or maybe The First Year?) that most women don’t realize that they had a bout of postpartum depression until they are out of it and look back. They realize that they weren’t entirely present at that phase of their baby’s life.

I realized it one morning while I was on maternity leave. I was laying in bed, cuddling Jansen. The very thought of another person coming to my house for a “quick visit” made me want to scream. I didn’t want to get out of bed, I didn’t want to shower, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. I didn’t want to share my baby or talk about my new life as a mother.

For many of you, this is the first you’ve ever heard me mention PPD. And unfortunately, I believe that most women never utter the words, no matter how much they are effected. Why? Fear of judgment, fear of losing your mind even more, fear of people treating you different or thinking you’re weak.

The term “postpartum depression” is very misleading. It implies a darkness, a constant dark mood. That’s not always the case, friends. I wasn’t depressed. Not at all. I was blissful. I had the most wonderful baby in the whole world and sometimes I’d smile at him so much that it’d bring tears to my eyes. But that’s all I cared about. My baby. Nothing else.

There is a difference between joy and happiness. I was joyful. Deep down, these were the best days of my life. But there was this yucky feeling that stole a lot of my happiness. Thankfully, I was aware of it. I knew not to blame my baby or myself, I knew it was hormonal. (And I have to say that a lot of it was probably magnified by a situation going on at my job that was causing me serious grief.)

This is why I never talked about it. I didn’t want to breathe it to life. I knew that if I spoke it, it would be true. Does that make sense? So I just kept it to myself and prayed that it wouldn’t stick around for a while. I didn’t want anyone feeling sorry for me or treating me like I’m fragile. I don’t know if that’s healthy or not, probably not. But it made sense to me. I had no reason to be sad, I had no reason to want to keep to myself. And I knew that most people wouldn’t understand that.

This post feels like a bunch of rambling. I have no idea how to morph this into something cohesive so I’m not even going to try. I just know it needs to be written.

I don’t know when hormones balance out and become normal again. Maybe when Jansen goes to college? All I know is that last week was a crappy week. It was a combination of lack of sleep, exhaustion from pumping, hatred of pumping, discontent with my house, frustration with my job, period hormones (yes that’s right, I started 3.5 months postpartum), and general sadness.

I have no brilliant advice. I don’t know the solution. But I do know that if you recognize it in yourself and admit defeat, it helps. Don’t ignore yourself. Be aware of you moods and know that it is not your fault. My advice? Fake it ’til you make it. Is that the best advice? Who knows. But I do know that if you force yourself to smile, eventually the smile is real. In that same regard, if you force yourself to get out of bed and actually shower and see people, eventually it won’t become work to do so. It’ll be natural. And one day it may even be desirable.

Like I said, my life is generally great. I really have no real complaints. And I wouldn’t say that I’m struggling with PPD at this point. But I do have a day here and there when all I want to do is break into a puddle of tears and sulk. And you know what? I don’t think I’m abnormal. Mostly, I think I’m a new mother who works fulltime who is tired. Regardless, I think it’s important to talk about. I think it’s important to get you a good girlfriend or two to talk these things out so you don’t feel like you’re a freak job!

January 31, 2011 at 7:15 am 27 comments


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