Ever since I was a pre-teen, I have struggled with depression and anxiety. Part of it was genetic, and part of it was situational, but all of it was me. I was a pretty upbeat kid, able to entertain myself for hours, and smart enough to recognize when I was on a downward spiral. I knew I needed help handling my emotional roller coaster because everyone else was riding theirs and I seemed to be clinging to the car for dear life. I eventually took it upon myself to do my own research and self-diagnose my chronic depression since the adults in my life were missing the signs (because, obviously, I was hiding them.)
I was incredibly fortunate to have watched several siblings, friends, and other relatives go down the self-medication path. While I did dabble in the world of marijuana for a little bit in high school, it wasn’t really my scene. And of course I drank a few times, but not to cope with anything; I was just 15 and it seemed fun. I tried not to get into anything to deep because I watched substances destroy the lives of people I loved, and I was scared. So I turned all the pages of every psychology book that I could find (and understand), until I got a handle on what was happening in my brain and how I could correct it. I lived with my depression for about 5 years without any therapy or medication because I recognized it and took proactive measures when I needed to.
So when I had my son, I knew right away that the way I was feeling was not my garden variety depression and anxiety. Before, on a really bad day, I would feel useless and broken; like I deserved the abuse I received as a child; like I should just go to bed until the sun stopped coming up. Postpartum, I thought of myself as a horrible monster who couldn’t even feed her kid or keep her house clean and I might as well just kill myself and my baby and my husband.
Obviously, I got some help because we are all very much alive.
One in seven women reports experiencing PPD.
One in three women actually experiences PPD.
That means more than half of women who have this medical condition don’t receive treatment.
If it was just about any other affliction, our society would totally have our backs. Support would come flooding in! There would be fundraisers and ribbons.
If you have a mental illness or an STD, nobody gives a shit how you get treatment. We don’t want to talk about the messy stuff. There is this expectation that even first-time moms have to immediately know what they are doing.
THAT IS FUCKING BULLSHIT.
No one knows what they’re doing. One of my sisters has NINE children and she STILL doesn’t know everything about being a mom. She’s even a freaking doctor, ok? There is no end to knowledge you can gain regarding children.
I was very fortunate to have a veritable army of mothers at my disposal for every moment I thought I was slipping and failing. I belonged to a cloth-diapering group with 10,000 members who had all either been there, or were experiencing it right along with me. The weirdest part, though, was even in our safe community of folks who all knew exactly what it was like, very few women wanted to discuss, in detail, their darkest moments. Comments like, “it gets better!” and, “we’ve all been there, sweetie” were a dime a dozen, which is great! The first step of recognition was there; the second step of asking for help was there; the follow through of the community was utterly missing.
When I see these comments and posts now, I try my very best to privately message a mama and let her know that she is not alone and that, while it might get better as soon as her hormones level out, it might get exponentially worse and she needs to have a plan.
Here’s what I recommend.
- Write down your triggers.
- Make a plan for what you’re going to do when it gets too overwhelming.
- Discuss with someone close to you (your partner, your mom, your closest BFF) what your plans are and see if they are on-board if you need to bail for a minute (read: five hours).
- Make a realistic goal for yourself every day, week, and month. Sometimes, it’s brushing your hair and teeth. Sometimes it’s writing out a budget or a menu. Sometimes its moving across the state. I don’t know, these are YOUR goals. Don’t cut yourself any slack on the reward part either. You brushed your teeth every day this week? Fuck yeah! Get a Snickers.
- Schedule yourself for some counselling. Remember that you will get out of it whatever you put into it. I know its hard to open up to a total stranger. You might be like me, where you open up for a few sessions, tell most of your life story, and then you have to start all over because your therapist quit her job. It gets easier the more you do it. You WILL have breakthroughs. Does therapy fix your whole life? Of course not. But at the very least, it is an hour of you, getting to talk about whatever you want.
- Talk to your doctor about different medications. Know that you’re not alone, you’re not weak, and you’re not broken if you need the assistance of medication. If you need it, you need it. I’ve never been a big supporter of treating the symptom instead of the affliction, which is why it took me so long to talk to my doctor about drugs. But I can tell you this, my friend; I noticed a difference almost immediately in the way I felt about J and Ransom. Medication doesn’t usually work that fast for people, so maybe it was psychosomatic, but who cares? I loved my husband again.
I don’t know if any of this helps. I wish someone had talked to me about this stuff before I gave birth. I guess that’s why I’m putting it out there now. Talk about this stuff. If you don’t have anyone to talk about it to, I’m here. If you don’t want to talk to me, there’s a link below for an online, anonymous chat.
Good luck friends.
Or call 1-800-273-8255 24-hours a day.