The Truth About Postpartum Depression

January 31, 2011 at 7:15 am 27 comments

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!

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27 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Lindsey Rowland  |  January 31, 2011 at 7:30 am

    I had the same thing. Not so much the dark, sad portrayed depression but with David I was so overwhelmed having 2 that I asked myself…”what have I gotten myself into?” and then I would snap out of it. With Adeline I was stingy and didn’t want to share my baby with everyone. Only I could feed her, hold her or get her to sleep. It all passed after the first few months and now I gladly welcome help.
    Sleep for me is crucial. I am in bed some nights at 8:30 since I get up with Adeline at 4:45 to 5:00. It helps me not flip out on the little things that don’t really matter.

  • 2. Ashley  |  January 31, 2011 at 8:45 am

    I have no experience with PPD but it seems completely normal. You have a lot on your plate right now, and it’s more than okay to feel yucky now and then. I know I feel overwhelmed with classes, writing my thesis, two part time jobs, wedding planning, and the anxiety of figuring out where I’ll go to medical school. Sometimes I feel on the verge of tears for no apparent reason, and I had to talk about that with Matt and my family. Talking seems to be the best medicine and I’m glad you already know that! Hope your family is doing wonderfully, especially that way too cute smiling baby boy.

  • 3. Joy  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:06 am

    Hugs, yes yucky days come to us all and the lack of sleep makes it seem so much worse.

    Huge kudos for pumping, I know what a tough commitment it is and so want to offer whatever support I can ~ YAY YOU!!

  • 4. Kate  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:26 am

    Umm…you’re doing awesome. I get this way just with the stress of my life building and building until I break, and I have no kids. 🙂

  • 5. Tiphany  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Chelsea- It is completely normal! I went through something similar about a month after being back at work. Paige started daycare at 6 weeks. It was also hard on me (and sometimes still is) because we aren’t planning on having another child. And I still have those days where I don’t want to share Paige with anyone!!! 🙂

  • 6. osarah  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:55 am

    Thanks for sharing this, Chelsea. I fully expect to come face to face with it in a couple months. I noticed a significant change in my hormone levels and moods once I hit the third trimester. I wasn’t really ever that moody prior to 28ish weeks, but lately, things really easily send me over the edge. I spent nearly an hour crying and talking on the phone to my mom weekend before last when John was out without his cell phone and I felt like everything was going wrong around me.

    I don’t really know what else to comment other than to say that’s where I have been, and I will probably be in similar shoes once Monkey gets here. I do, however, look forward to sharing our experiences in motherhood soon. Hugs.

  • 7. Mama Fuss  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:15 am

    Oh my goodness yes. I am so tired, I’m beginning to think that being awake simply HURTS. And my baby is a fairly good sleeper, so I can only imagine what a mom with a bad sleeper feels like. And sometimes, I just want to throw something or scream or hide. It’s a constant state of motherhood, I’m afraid.

    I’m wary of calling my problems “PPD” because I always think they aren’t “bad enough” to deserve that label after I hear of other women suffering so much more.

  • 8. lisa  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:26 am

    Ahh, PPD. When I went for my 4 week postpartum check up, the nurse asked me — in that usual conversational way — how I was doing and I started to cry. If she had asked me anything else I probably would have been fine, but it’s like “How are YOU?” were the magic words that opened a pressure release valve. They put me on medication at that appointment, but I was limited on meds I could take because I was breastfeeding.

    I’ll probably always remember those first few weeks that she was home as ‘When Mama Tried to Kill Herself by Breastpump’ — overdramatic I know, but the amount of physical and emotional strain it was putting on me really felt like I was trying to do harm to myself. When I finally came to terms with the fact that it wasn’t gonna happen and I stopped pumping, I was able to change medications. Even with the new meds it is a daily struggle, so I’m with ya, I have NO clue when it finally balances out. Any time now would be great!

  • 9. Nora  |  January 31, 2011 at 11:08 am

    I have some friends who have gone through PPD and like you, they weren’t totally aware of it until after the fact (or until it was a very serious problem). I’m glad you’ve shared your story, have been able to pull yourself through, and that you’re doing well. we are always here for you & rooting for you, even from afar!

  • 10. Stacie  |  January 31, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    So hard to comment without knowing what that whole experience is like. But I do know stress and I do know meltdowns, and you’re right, it does make you feel a whole heckuva lot better to cry and maybe even punch a pillow (or shoulder of a certain husband who thought it was the appropriate time to mention you’re not doing your share of the dishes…but I digress). And girlfriends who’ve been through this can be encouraging and supportive.

  • 11. Marlena  |  January 31, 2011 at 2:44 pm

    Ramble ALL you need to! Whether you have a great life / family or the worst one in existence part of being alive is that stressful things will eventually knock the wind out of you. Being a new mother ALONE gives you a free pass to the occasional meltdown. Add the job stress onto it and I am SHOCKED you have kept it this much together! All I know for sure is that you WILL find a better job and you’ll come out of this situation (PPD + all the other stresses) for the better. Until you’re through the storm don’t you dare make any apologies for your feelings! Anyone with a soul will completely understand.

    Thinking about you. ❤

  • 12. mom (nana)  |  January 31, 2011 at 2:45 pm

    Oh honey – hormones are awful things aren’t they? I have known all along that you have struggled but didn’t dare say anything for fear it would really set you off AND there wasn’t anything you could do about your situation (other than NOT pump) so why make waves? I am glad you have personally addressed that yes, things are yucky even though they should be great – it is okay to feel the way you do. It is normal. I would suggest you quit pumping, however, I am not you and you alone know what you have to do. A good, good cry is imperative however! Never hold it in…no, not a good idea. hugs and more hugs…(even though you don’t like them) 🙂

  • 13. DebbieQ  |  January 31, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Oh my friend I know just where you are. After Shoe Queen came along I had a rather severe bout of PPD. I let no one know. I suffered in silence. HHBL was unaware of this until I told him about it…..a year ago. I quake now at the knowledge that if I had been able to go out by myself during that time I would have put my car right over the bridge. But the Lord protected me, I never was without at least one kid in the car. You cry all you want. You vent all you want. You throw things (but not a Stephen) so that you can get this all out. And if you need it, you go find someone to talk to. We all love you. And a lot of us have been right there too.

  • 14. Stephanie  |  January 31, 2011 at 3:40 pm

    You are totally not a freak job. You’re doing an amazing job, and you’re right– hormones suck. Try not to be so hard on yourself, and rememebr that it is totally OK to feel those yucky emotions. Dark days… or even weeks happen, but as a mother you’re strong enough to get through them. I always tell myself “this too shall pass.”

    On the whole sleep issue, I feel you! My goodness, Anabell was sleeping just fine and now she wakes up 2-3 times per night. Rudy and I take turns. During the work week, it’s my turn, but on the weekends, he takes over during those middle of the night shifts. It totally helps. I’ll still wake up, but knowing that he is the one tending to her let’s me get just a teentsy bit more sleep.

    You certainly aren’t weak. You’re one of the strongest people I know, and again, you’re doing a wonderful, wonderful job raising Jansen. A happy baby is the biggest compliment in my opinion, because you are the right mother for this baby. You’re going to get lots and lots of advice, but your way is the right way for you and your family.

    Hang in there, keep your head up. And remember, you’re not alone.

  • 15. Lauren from Texas  |  January 31, 2011 at 4:25 pm

    Chelsea, I love you. You are one of the strongest people I know. Thank you for writing this. Too many people try to hide these things and act like their lives are perfect. GOOD FOR YOU for being honest. We all have these times. It’s what makes us human. Recognizing the problem is the first step. Can’t wait to see you and give you a big hug (even though your mom said you don’t like them, I’m getting one!). xoxo

  • 16. Abby  |  January 31, 2011 at 6:53 pm

    Hormones are one of the most unfair chemicals/mechanisms in our body — b/c they are so incredibly out of our control!

    I admire you so much for being able to speak out about this and put your feeling into words so well.

    PPD is such a natural part of the process of birthing a child — and sadly, it’s something that many people don’t understand. You have already done the toughest part — facing the facts.

    I’ve never had children myself, so obviously haven’t been through this. But know I am sending my heart-felt thoughts and prayers in your direction! xoxo

  • 17. Erin  |  January 31, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I could have written this post myself. Shortly after going back to work, I had a complete meltdown. I was a screaming hysterical mess in the middle of the girls’ bedtime routine. Not pretty.

    I never get to sleep before 11, and I get up at 5 every single day. I work a fulfilling, but physically and emotionally exhausting job. My house is a wreck, I look like crap, and I’ve got a lot of infertility baggage that likes to rear it’s ugly head from time to time. I’m exhausted, but I feel like I’m supposed to be on cloud nine all the time because I was a lucky infertility survivor. Crap.

  • 18. Molly  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:24 pm

    “I didn’t want to breathe it to life. I knew that if I spoke it, it would be true.” You hit the nail on the head. I’ve been wanting to blog about this topic for awhile now but I felt like I couldn’t put it into words accurately. It’s not that I was depressed…I was just TIRED. And kind of…blue. But it’s not like I didn’t want Jack around or anything. You really did a great job of putting it into words. Thanks for sharing this, lady. You’re helping a lot of women feel not so alone.

    And it WILL get better, by the way. Never underestimate the power of sleep. When Jack got old enough to “cry it out”, we didn’t do it. Then at 9 months, the doctor finally made us so that we wouldn’t be up 6 times a night. It worked. And we sleep like normal humans now. And the sadness melted away.

  • 19. Rachel  |  January 31, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Part of the hardest thing about life after Caden was I thought everything would be “perfect”… I always wanted to be a mom, now I was one, so why didn’t it feel anywhere NEAR perfect? It was hard for me to accept that even though I had everything I wanted, that I still would have really hard and even sad days.

    It was also such an inner contradiction because I wanted to be left alone (one more “drop by” visitor and I would have gone crazy) yet I would cry because I felt “alone.”

    I think PPD is something no one wants to admit going through until they’re through it… It would help if more women would talk about it, like you have.

  • 20. Michelle  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:31 pm

    It’s so true that you don’t even realize how “down” you are until you look back on it. I know that I’m lucky that I didn’t experience much PPD after Jonas was born – but looking back, I can see how I felt so isolated and helpless, and how that clouded certain days.

    It is important to share experiences, so that we’re aware of what’s happening BEFORE it happens.

  • 21. Debbie  |  January 31, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    Awwww, I’m so sorry sweet girl. Mainly sorry that your work is so crappy. Bleh. I totally know what you’re going through. I had some of that after Jacob was born. And, I’m sure I’ll have another small bout of it after #2 comes out in a few months. It’s TOTALLY normal. So proud of you for sharing your feelings with everyone else. Also wanted to mention that there’s an in between elation and PPD…called ‘baby blues’. I know some people don’t want to give it the name of PPD b/c that’s “too big” of a name for it. But, really, it’s so so so common. I’m so impressed that you’ve kept up with pumping for this long. That’s another full-time job all by itself. You’re such a great Mommy to Jansen. One day he’ll be able to tell you exactly how much he appreciates everything you do and have done for him. Keep smiling, you’re too pretty not to!

    PS – Months without crying?! Dang girl, I’m lucky to go a few days without it. I’m such a baby. I cry over a lot, haha. It’s good (and healthy) to get it out….don’t wait so long next time. There’s nothing wrong with a good ol’ cry from time to time. 🙂

  • 22. Smile Steady  |  January 31, 2011 at 11:56 pm

    A good cry is most definitely necessary sometimes.

    I’ve not been in your exact situation, but I can see how it could easily happen to anyone- and probably does affect most moms to some degree. You’re strong for putting it out there, and you’re probably helping others to cope at the same time.

    I can say that PPD is not something I’ve given much thought to- right now my mind is totally consumed with just getting pregnant. But knowing that even you- someone I consider a level-headed person (who reminds me a lot of myself, actually) could be affected, will make me research it and hopefully be better prepared if that time should come for me.

    Sorry- rambling comment. I guess I’m saying thank you, and I hope things begin to look up for you soon. Blog love!

  • 23. Emmie  |  February 1, 2011 at 11:03 am

    I will do whatever you need to help you out anytime

  • 24. That Married Couple  |  February 1, 2011 at 3:00 pm

    It is so great that you’re able to be honest and share this. Sending up a little prayer!

  • 25. mintyfresch  |  February 1, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    I think this is totally normal! Also, I really appreciate your openness about your life, pregnancy through PPD.I know it will be really encouraging to look back on when I go through those life stages!

  • 26. the state that i am in » Internet Redux  |  February 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    […] The Truth About Postpartum Depression — Chelsea talks about those super tough mommy times that we all have, but often don’t talk about. […]

  • 27. JD  |  March 5, 2011 at 1:23 am

    I’m glad you shared this, it will help others. Some you’ll know about and some you wont. And in a way it will help you in the future too, it helps to get it out there in the open.

    Here’s part of my story with PPD

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January 2011


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