One in every seven women gets a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder like PPD. Perinatal mood and anxiety disorders can show up any time during pregnancy or in the first 12 months after birth. If you aren’t feeling like yourself, talk to your OB, midwife, primary care physician, or even your pediatrician.
During pregnancy, I knew I was at a higher risk for PPD because of my history of depression. My doctor agreed to watch me closely for symptoms. At my six week postpartum appointment, he asked me if I was having thoughts about hurting the baby or myself. I said no, which was the truth. That was the end of my “screening.”
My postpartum depression and anxiety ended up going undiagnosed for six months. During those long months, I fell into motherhood naturally. Friends and strangers complimented my abilities as a mom. What I couldn’t do was be a mother, wife, and my Jill-of-all-trades self. Even with his unending patience and love, I found myself resenting my husband. I recoiled every time he tried to get close to me. I felt so alone, except for my son, despite all the support anyone could ask for from friends and family. I poured myself into making sure everything was perfect for Bennett and let myself and my marriage go by the wayside.
I couldn’t sleep because I was constantly checking to see if my baby was breathing. I didn’t care to do the things I wanted to do before. I cried constantly, but I just assumed all of this was normal.
In between breathing checks, I would lay awake thinking about how screwed up I was. I stared at my husband while he slept, wanting to reach out to him, but I couldn’t. I cried while I breastfed our son because he became the only person I felt connected to in the whole world. I knew I loved my husband and he loved me. Something just wasn’t right.
Four months postpartum, at my annual pap smear, I told my doctor I was having intense, frequent headaches. I told him I wasn’t sleeping well, though the baby slept for 6-hour stretches. I was experiencing extreme mood swings. I was feeling numbness in my extremities that came and went at random. He attributed the headaches to dehydration or allergy season and said the other symptoms were normal for new motherhood.
It took all my courage to admit that sex was still terribly painful and that I had no desire whatsoever. The doctor told me to “suck it up or my husband would fulfill his needs elsewhere.” His nurse tried to convince me to get out of my own head and surprise myself by putting on a cute pair of heels and some lingerie. I never saw that doctor again.
Yet, I couldn’t get his words out of my head, even though I knew I had nothing to worry about. It added to my resentment: Maybe my husband SHOULD be with someone else. Maybe he COULD be getting what he needs elsewhere, instead of this shadow of the person he called his wife.
One day at work, I had a bad encounter with someone and I had a breakdown. I frantically Googled during my lunch break, and I finally pieced together my symptoms via this list of symptoms on Postpartum Progress. I got the courage to ask my son’s pediatrician for a referral. That’s how I found a primary care physician and therapist willing to listen and medication that was safe while breastfeeding. I was officially diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety six months after my son was born. Recovery took time, but I found myself again.
My husband stood by my side through it all. He supported every choice I made and took to heart what my therapist suggested for us. He held my hand as we decided that it would be best for me to remain on medication during a large part of my twin pregnancy due to my history. I avoided a relapse, thanks in large part to the tools and support I gained after my diagnosis in 2010.
Climb Out of the Darkness 2015
I owe a large portion of my recovery to Postpartum Progress. I began writing and advocating for them in 2012. Via the internet, I found a group of women who provided support and friendship throughout my recovery. I decided to share my story so that others would know they weren’t alone, and that sometimes, advocating for yourself when no one else will is the best thing you can do.
In 2013, Postpartum Progress launched the first Climb Out Of The Darkness, a worldwide event held on the longest day of the year. From the event website:
Postpartum Progress’ Climb Out of the Darkness™ is the world’s largest event raising awareness of maternal mental illnesses like postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, postpartum bipolar disorder, and pregnancy depression and anxiety.
Climb Out is held on or near the longest day of the year annually to help shine the most light on perinatal mood and anxiety disorders. The event features mothers and others across the globe joining together to climb mountains and hike trails to represent their symbolic rise out of the darkness of maternal mental illness and into the light of hope and recovery. We can’t wait for Climb Out of the Darkness 2015, to be held Saturday, June 20th.
Help us shine the light of hope with our words and our advocacy efforts so that our fellow mothers will receive better information and better treatment, and their new families will get off to the healthy and strong start they deserve.
Team NOLA, led by me with major support from Casey O’Keefe of 2020 Moms Postpartum Support Group and Amanda Devereux of Nola Nesting, will be “hiking” the hill and trail at the Couterie Forest in City Park the morning of June 20th. If you or a loved one are a survivor of postpartum depression, postpartum anxiety & OCD, postpartum PTSD, postpartum psychosis, postpartum bipolar disorder, or pregnancy depression and anxiety, please consider joining us for a few hours to celebrate the journey of recovery and gain support so that fewer people will suffer in the future.
Registration is required, but free, and by registering you are not agreeing to or required to raise money, though it is encouraged and very much appreciated. Registration simply lets us know that you’ll be participating. For information on how the money raised goes to use, go to #15 here.
We hope to see some of you there on June 20th!
If you’re in need of support, there are now local meetups and resources available to struggling moms. A list of local professionals can be found here.