Monday, November 8, 2010

My Battle with Postpartum Depression

Many of you probably wrote me off as yet another blogger who collected lots of items for review and then "ran away" with them without holding her end of the bargain and posting reviews.  I can't blame you for making that assumption since I just stopped blogging one day with reviews left unwritten.  I apologize to everyone with a review yet to come.  I didn't stop blogging because I just wanted to collect items, I stopped blogging because I literally couldn't blog anymore.  I reached a point in my battle with postpartum depression that left me with no voice for anything that brought me joy.  I'm going to share my battle with postpartum depression with you, not because I want sympathy or understanding, but simply with the hope that even one woman who reads this will be inspired to get herself help.

This is a very difficult post to write because although I have came a long way in my battle I still feel shameful that I ever experienced postpartum depression.  Of course that is a stupid thing to feel shameful for, postpartum depression is not a sign of weakness or something a woman brings on herself.  Postpartum depression results from changing body chemistry, change in life circumstances, and a variety of other things-- all beyond any woman's control.  It took me months to realize that I was suffering from postpartum depression.  I did not make the connection until Avin was close to a year old. 

The first signs of postpartum depression I wrote off as "normal" parts of new mommyhood.  If I hid in the bathroom, crying in the shower for 15 minutes it was just a natural response to the stress of taking care of a newborn.  If I was constantly sleepy it was the normal result of waking up to nurse a baby every hour or two.  If I didn't want to leave the house to do anything with friends it was normal because leaving home with a baby is so hard.  It wasn't until Avin was almost one that I had to face the fact that he was no longer a newborn, he slept for many hours at a stretch, and leaving home with Avin required just a little packing and scheduling but I was still experiencing those feelings.  I had a real problem.  

At my lowest I was spending hours every day planning ways I could support Avin and I if my husband and I divorced.  Avin was the one constant source of happiness in my life.  Everyone else in my life seemed to cause me stress and unhappiness.  One by one I started shutting out friends and family because I just couldn't deal with them, it simply took too much energy. In my mind my life was making me miserable and if I could just change it then I could be happy again.  I thought up elaborate plans to change my life by ending my marriage.  Looking back I think of myself as being "maritally suicidal".  I don't mean I ever considered ending my physical life but I daily fantasized about ending my marriage.  I have a wonderful loving husband who supports me in every way.  He has been my best friend since long before we ever dated.  There was no reason for me to be considering divorce, my husband was still the same wonderful man he'd always been and my marriage was still good.  It was just that I was so depressed that my twisted thinking made it seem like only the drastic change of ending my marriage could possibly bring back any happiness in my life.

I never left Avin's side unless I absolutely had to.  For the first year of his life I only left him long enough to go to college a few hours a night a couple of nights a week or for a hour or two after he went to bed.  Some nights I would be so worried about him that I would leave class early (or not attend at all).  My time away from Avin was marked with phone calls every few minutes with text messages in between to check on him.  Most of those check in calls and text were met with the response that he was fine and he and his daddy were having fun playing or watching Spongebob.  Even though my husband supported and encouraged me to go out with friends and take time for myself I simply couldn't.  The enjoyment I got from going to meet friends or spend a few minutes of time alone was vastly overshadowed by my overwhelming feeling of guilt for leaving Avin.  Every time I stepped out the door without Avin I immediately felt like I horrible mother who was abandoning her poor, helpless baby. 

My marriage and friendships began to suffer from neglect.  I found myself unable to care about anything (friends, hobbies, school, bills, etc) except for Avin.  Through every horrible moment of my battle my love for Avin was constant.  He was the one bright spot in my otherwise gray life.  That is what made it so hard for me to accept that I had postpartum depression.  I had always had the impression that postpartum depression was something that classified crazy women who couldn't handle being a mother.  I thought that if you had postpartum depression you wanted to hurt or kill yourself or your baby.  I didn't feel like any of those things applied to me.  I just knew that I lived in a constant state of sadness and walked around feeling overwhelmed by everything. 

I finally researched my symptoms online and found that the things I felt were consistent with postpartum depression.  When I finally realized that the things I had been feeling since Avin's birth weren't "normal" but they did have a reasonable explanation it was like tearing down a curtain and letting sunshine stream into my life.  I called my doctor and made an appointment.  When I went in I felt no judgement from him, just understanding.  We talked about what I had been feeling, sorted out the things that were linked to the postpartum depression, and he helped me to see what "normal" really looked like.  He also prescribed me Zoloft because it is considered safe for nursing mothers.  Now a few months later I feel like a new woman.  I've renewed and made lots of new mom friends.  My husband and I have a thriving marriage again.  I can finally leave Avin with his dad for some much needed "mommy" time without being wracked with worry and guilty.  Avin and I are active in multiple playgroups and are on the go all the time.  My dark cloud has lifted and I am basking in the sun once again.

I hope that if you could identify with anything I've shared that you will look into postpartum depression.  It can occur anytime between pregnancy and your child's first birthday (or even a bit later).  Do not let fear or shame hold you back from seeking help.  It is not something you have brought on yourself, nor is it a sign of failure.  But it is a joy-stealing illness and I hope you find the strength to fight it!  If you ever need to talk feel free to send me an email.  You can even just send me a quick note to let me know you could use some prayer support.  Whatever you chose to do, I wish you the best of luck and hope that you find your ultimate joy once again.

Thank you for reading my story and standing by me as a loyal reader through my long and unexpected absence.  I love blogging and am finally at a place where I can blog with joy and not anxiety.  Look for several upcoming blog reviews on great products like Ergobaby Products, Looster Booster, and more!


Crissy said...

You are very brave to write this post. I'm sorry for what you have gone through, but so thrilled that you are on the up-swing! I'm looking forward to seeing your posts again!

Mindy said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I think it is so brave to share this difficult time with others. The more we talk about depression of all kinds, the more we break down the barriers/stigma associated with them and, hopefully, encourage others to seek help and feel hope. I look forward to future posts!

EcoverUS said...

Welcome back! So nice to hear from you again. We look forward to hearing your reviews of many ecological products in the future.
-Deb for Ecover

AEK said...

Thank you so much for sharing your story. I hope it will help others and shine a light on the many shades of depression.

christine said...

hi. i came here by accident via that random blog thing at the top of the blogger toolbar.

you're brave and strong for your willingness to pour yourself out onto the screen. i'm proud of you. as a mom of a 18 yr old and a 13 yr old, i remember the days where i was in your shoes, not quite as seriously, but wow... i remember them.

be strong and courageous. keep writing when you feel that you need to get it out there.... you are not alone.

peace to you and hubby and avin. be blessed.

degood said...

I follow your blog in google reader and saw you posted something new.

I am so glad that you shared this story. I am glad that you in a better place now and will watch for more great reviews on your blog.

Kate said...

thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your story! I had VERY similar feelings after my son was born just over a year ago....and I didn't seek treatment because I was embarrassed about what I was feeling - even though I am a nurse and had a good idea about what was going on. I regret not taking that step to see my doctor. Thankfully, things are back to 'normal' but it will still be a battle to slowly repair some of the damage done to my marriage!
Thank you for your honestly and openness!

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Ellen Biggs said...

Thank you for sharing your story. I have suffered from PPD after having my son and it is always comforting to know that I am not alone. I wanted to share a website I found: It offers a lot of information for coping with PPD and it has been really helpful for me.

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