Author’s note: This is a part of a series written at different stages of my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you feel like something is not right, please reach out. You do not have to suffer. Also, this post is in no way intended to be medical advice, rather it is my personal story. Please seek professional help if you are experiencing any of the symptoms of postpartum depression or anxiety. You can read about my journey in part one, part two, part three and part four.
I had every intention of sharing this final piece of my journey with postpartum depression and anxiety when my baby turned one year old. I genuinely believed that at one year, I would be healed. And although I was healing, it was a process that was not complete by one year. When my baby was 8 months old, I no longer had any of my symptoms of PPD/PPA. I was sleeping well and felt no anxiety. The problem was that I was starting to feel numb and not like myself. Although I was no longer sad or anxious, I felt flat.
I made the grave mistake of playing doctor with myself and decided this meant it was time to slowly wean off my medication without the guidance of a trained medical professional. I took 6 weeks to wean off my medication and for two months following, I felt great. Then the baby got an ear infection that took 3 rounds of antibiotics to clear and he stopped sleeping well at night. One night, I couldn’t fall asleep and all the anxiety came crashing down. It was not as severe as it was when I initially reached out for help at 7 weeks postpartum but it was not mild. I immediately reached out to my therapist and resumed therapy, hoping that would be enough. After 4 weeks of struggling, I decided to try medication again. I opted for a new antidepressant in hopes to not have the flat feeling I had with the first. It took a couple of weeks but I recovered quickly. I kept up with therapy for several months and then continued even when I felt it wasn’t necessary.
I have now been on antidepressants for 4.5 months
And I feel like myself. To those of you who are struggling, my best advice would be if you are thinking about weaning, do so under the guidance of a professional. In hindsight, I weaned too quickly. I don’t know if I will ever be able to be off medication. I do know I am not even going to think about it until after being on it for a year. Although this is not the story I thought I would be telling, I am beginning to be proud of myself again. I am beginning to see the positive. If you are hurting, know this: it is temporary, you will not always feel this way.
What caused this?
My very nature makes me try to find the cause. I believe that my need to compartmentalize is what also makes this more of a struggle. But alas, I am who I am. There is a part of me who is able to accept that it just is, that there isn’t one cause. The other part of me tries to come up with reasons :: Is it because I had a difficult baby? He wasn’t comforted by me? He didn’t enjoy breastfeeding? He didn’t sleep well? I had a traumatic birth? I was terrified because of my prior miscarriages? Was I selfish? I am a perfectionist? The truth is it is all of those reasons and it isn’t. When I let myself just accept that this is part of my story and the reason doesn’t matter, I am at peace.
One thing I have learned is that is part of my journey, and it isn’t over. I cannot wrap it up and put a bow on it. Every day I feel better, and my son and I fall into a better stride. He now is comforted by me; he sleeps; I am no longer tied down to breastfeeding; and most importantly, I am letting go of the unattainable goal of perfection.
To the mommas who are hurting:
Hold on. I promise it gets better. You have to take care of yourself and that means asking for help across all areas. Not just around the house or with the kids, but also help for your mental well-being. I never imagined this would be my story but I am beginning to see the beauty in the pain. I am starting to see myself as strong again, something that I haven’t felt since giving birth. PPA stole my confidence and my perspective, it brought me to my knees and I didn’t have the clarity to see myself rising. But rise I have, and it is only up from here.
Dear Amanda, Sounds trite,but I feel your pain ….your story makes me look back at my marriage and my child rearing years…..never thought of seeking help in those days when all I could do was pray that I could keep my wits together till bedtime….you’re in my heart and my prayers….Love you,MawMaw