Monday, May 5, 2008

Looking into the mirror instead of around it?

Even hearing the words "postpartum depression" pisses me off. What's there to be depressed about? I have a beautiful healthy daughter, a very hands-on husband who does more than his fair share, we're both employed in an economically uncertain time, and we have a roof overhead and food on our plate.

Every day I edit stories at work about people who have it far worse than me. Like the one about a teenage mother in Afghanistan whose much older husband killed her 3-year-old son in front of her, then beat her so badly with a rock that she only has six teeth left. Then he cut off her nose and ears. Why? She went out in public without permission. And because disobeying your husband is a crime, she is the one in jail. Where she just gave birth to a daughter she has to care for in a cell.

I have too much knowledge about the world around me to allow myself to be depressed. It would just be a slap in the face to people who have every right to be. Like the spoiled rich kid throwing a temper tantrum over a toy because it's the wrong color.

Besides, depression is an angry, isolated place. I've been there before.

I remember days when I intentionally cut myself and couldn't feel the pain. I remember thinking no one would even care if I died. I remember not being able to laugh, not wanting to get out of bed and feeling alone and empty.

And what would falling back into that now say about my daughter? That she's not what I expected? That the challenge is too great? That I'm not strong enough? Not capable?

After everything I went through to have her?

There are women all around the world who would love to be in my position. Who struggle every month to conceive and spend thousands of dollars on ovulation kits, hormone therapy and embryo implanting procedures. What would my being depressed say to them?

But the truth is, a small voice inside kept telling me there might actually be some substance behind the concept of postpartum depression, and that I shouldn't automatically dismiss it.

It was a big step just to Google the words. It was like I was validating it. Giving something merit I didn't want to believe in.

I almost couldn't believe what I found. A bulleted list on a government-run site was like looking at my worries in print:
  • Feeling overwhelmed with a new baby to take care of and doubting your ability to be a good mother.

  • Feeling stress from changes in work and home routines. Sometimes, women think they have to be "super mom" or perfect, which is not realistic and can add stress.

  • Having feelings of loss — loss of identity of who you are, or were, before having the baby, loss of control.

  • Having less free time and less control over time. Having less time to spend with your partner and loved ones.

And the symptoms? Lets just say I can relate.

  • Feeling restless or irritable
  • Feeling sad, hopeless and overwhelmed
  • Having no energy or motivation
  • Eating too little or too much
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Trouble focusing, remembering or making decisions
  • Feeling worthless and guilty
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in activities

Maybe it's denial, but I still don't think I have it. Sure, I'm overwhelmed and stressed, have trouble maintaining focus and keeping up my energy, but I'm completely and thoroughly sleep deprived.

Besides, I still feel indescribable joy and fulfillment every time I look at my daughter. Her smile is like a contact high. And seeing her and Jerry together? My heart rate nearly doubles.

Even so, I forced myself to scroll through the rest of the information on the web page. I'm going to try to stop putting pressure on myself to do everything. To hell with the Easter decorations -- they made it to the attic steps and that's where they'll stay.

The "helpful tips" list also advises talking about it and joining a support group.

Translation? Blog.

24 comments:

Lioncloud said...

Kell,

The description of symptoms you listed describes the feelings of everyone with children. The tricky part is deciding how much your feelings of guilt, inadequacy, etc. etc. actually are interfering with your ability to function.

Glrr

julie said...

Postpartum depression isn't about sadness over the baby. It's all about your body's chemicals. Not enough sleep - hormones all wonky - daily schedule thrown right out the window... All of that builds up and your natural brain chemistry gets all messed up and BAM! Postpartum depression. It's not a choice you make, it's just chemicals. It may be regulated by letting the little things go, not stressing over the cleaning and such, and even eating properly and getting more sunshine and exercise (if you can find the time, you and Alli might both enjoy mom-n-baby yoga or something like that). But if not, don't be ashamed or angry at yourself if you need to ask your doctor for help. ((hugs))

Katherine Stone said...

Wow. Very powerful. A lot of women feel the way you do, but you shouldn't have to. It's okay to have a great life and be totally in love with your child and ALSO suffer from a postpartum mood disorders. These things are not mutually exclusive. You are not alone.
Katherine Stone, Postpartum Progress

Naomi said...

I was going to say that our chemicals in our brain don't always know we are living very blessed lives--but Julie has already said it.

Blogs are definitely the support groups of today! What would we do without them--always just a click or two away, and do not require make-up and decent clothes or syncing schedules!

Rachel said...

hormones do some crazy things! Taking the birth control pill, hormonal changes during teenage years, and having a baby can all cause hormonal changes that just make your body out of whack, even if you live a perfect life and have no reason to feel upset. Good luck! Go soak up some sunshine. Long central PA winters can make anybody burst into tears at the littlest thing!

aahcoffee said...

Awww hon, depression isn't something that there is a reson or an explanation for why you are suffering from it. You don't get depressed because of things you lack or situations (at least not postpartum...), it could just be a chemical thing. There is nothing wrong with seeking help if that is what you are dealing with. I've had two kids now....and I can say with absolute certainty that I had postpartum after my first was born. I went from being a teacher to being a full-time, stay at home mom, and I felt isolated and tired and overwhelmed and under-appreciated. I didn't know enough to get help for it, and it led to a VERY long first year, and a 4 year gap before I even thought that maybe, just maybe I could have another child. With my second child, it was a whole different ballgame. I was tired, yes, but not so sad, so overwhelmed, so alone. I still felt much love during that first year with my first one, but I can tell you that the underlying sense of desperation...that was totally gone with my second. Anyway, all of that to say....it will hurt no one if you were to just go and ask about ppd. :)

Anonymous said...

my fiance goes through spells in his graduate program where he feels depressed and really unlike himself due to the stress and his loss of self identity - school work at this point is his identity!

i was trying to cheer him up one day by telling him how many people would kill to be in his position, doing what he does...

he sort of put it into perspective and said, "yes i know, but this is my life."

he says he has no doubt that others go through worse or feel worse, but to him at this moment in time it has been his hardest reality. these are real feelings that have real stresses and causes. despite whatever might be happening in africa his pain is real. i can understand that now.

it's not anyones fault. "growing pains" "motherhood" whatever anyone wants to call it... they're all stressfull and should evoke a reaction from us.

Marcy said...

I know I'm reiterating what others have already said, but, again, depression, particularly postpartum depression, has very little to do with how blessed you feel and much more to do with hormones and brain/body chemistry. Admitting that you feel overwhelmed and maybe even depressed is not a defeat, it's not something to feel guilty about, it's not something to "power through."

You're not doing anyone (not yourself, nor your daughter, nor all those who are less fortunate than you) any favors by denying your feelings or emotions (or the fact that, having been depressed before, you are at a higher risk of developing PP depression).

You may not have full-blown postpartum depression. But recognize that it's a real thing, recognize your thoughts and feelings, and acknowledge them for what they are. That alone can do a world of good. And if there's something you can do to help you feel better (make a conscious effort to stress less, exercise more, or yes maybe even take medication if needed) it will make life for you and your family so much better.

It's true, there's a whole world full of people who have lives that are much, much, much worse than ours. whose problems we cannot even imagine. That doesn't mean that you and I are not entitled to enjoy our own lives to the fullest, it doesn't mean we should suffer needlessly, just b/c we don't have it as bad as others.

Julie said...

One more thing...
I really recommend MOPS. It is a mom's group for moms with kids from newborn through kindergarten. It was a life-saver for me! You can find more information on them at www.mops.org

Anonymous said...

I'm a first-time mom (my son is 8 weeks) and I think a lot of your feelings are very normal. I know when I especially get sleep-deprived I have all those feelings, but you are the best judge as to whether it is a true problem.

I say talk to your doctor about it, and see what he/she says. It can't hurt. It could be a simple fix-medication if it is hormones imbalanced!

Traci said...

I think all parents (moms, anyway) feel this way at least some of the time. It's just a hard job! There have been several times when I've wondered if it's okay to complain about it even though it's what I wanted, chose, and wouldn't change. ???

That's just life, right?

Really I think talking (blogging) about it IS the best thing ever. Plus we all have good material to read.

Ray said...

You're such a STRONG woman Kelly. I admire that a lot. And I love how you aren't letting those two little words, "postpartum depression" get to you. As soon as you're feeling down or something's not right with you, doctor's/people always feel the need to LABEL you. It makes me upset. Not everything can be cured just because you finally have a name to your problem. And being labeled only makes most people feel defeated. And who wants that? No one. No one deserves that, especially not a great woman like you.

You're so right on for not letting, "a feeling" steer your life. Only you have that control. The control to not feel sad. The control to finally feel happy and feel like yourself again. And I hope you find your way there. Even if it's a slow process. As long as you get there, on your own (or with loved ones), that's all that matters.

I love when you wrote:

"Besides, I still feel indescribable joy and fulfillment every time I look at my daughter. Her smile is like a contact high. And seeing her and Jerry together? My heart rate nearly doubles."

Beautifully written. You always do it best. ;o)

Take, care.

Anonymous said...

take some time off. it just might make all the difference.

Anonymous said...

I have no experience with postpartum depression but I do have experience with depression, and let me say that that doesn't mean that I can't see I have it good and that I have things that other people would kill to have. It just means that no matter what I do, my brain chemistry is a little off and I can't enjoy what I have, even though I can still appreciate it. Depression isn't something you "let" yourself have. It is something that I have been trying to "ignore" for a long time and that has gotten me into the worst place I have ever been.
I hope you will seek help, even if just to deal with the stress.

julie said...

And please, don't hold yourself up against tragedy. It's really hard to be grateful you don't have someone else's misery. Saying to yourself, "I know life is overwhelming and stressful right now, but at least I have a wonderful husband who's not addicted to crystal meth and selling all our stuff and I'm not dying of cancer!" - that's not giving your emotions and your circumstances the respect and acknowledgement they deserve. Your life is YOURS and only you have to deal with it, and it's the only life you HAVE to deal with. Please, respect your own feelings. Acknowledge them. If you ignore them, they will own you.

You have all the tools and support and love to overcome any level of depression, emotion or stress - whether it's postpartum or just a bad day.

its just ang said...

I think it's great that you are able to recognize your feelings as being possible depression instead of being in total denial about it. You'll probably be able to feel better faster about feeling down in the dumps whether it's really post partum or just a funk if you can recognize it. I hope you feel better!

Shalini said...

Like Julie recommended before MOPS is really good.. it got me out with other mothers, and we were able to just talk and I saw other mothers in the same shoes as me, and older ones that made it through where I was feeling "stuck"... it's a good group, and I had a lot of fun... so much that I'm still a part of it!

~rita @ www.xanga.com/thatsmypoint said...

Everyone else who has already written has said everything I was thinking. Just know that, IF you are suffering from p-p depression, there is no rational explanation for it. You don't need to compare your situation with anyone else's. And please know that many people care for you and want you to recapture your own self that we know. Depression takes that personality away from you. When you can say that you feel like yourself again, then you are over it. If blogging or anything else can get you through it, then that's what you need to do. If not, then it wouldn't hurt to at least discuss options with your doctor.

MUCH LOVE,

~rita

shimajan said...

postpartum or not, good for you for recognizing how you feel and giving yourself a break. i've been reading your blog for years and you truly are an amazing person.

mercurial scribe said...

I have felt every single one of those feelings and don't think I have PPD. I'm just a first-time Mom who is dealing with all the changes in my life - mourning, celebrating, lamenting my exhaustion. But then again, I can function - granted it's only to be in pjs, breastfeeding and napping and maybe emptying the dishwasher, but dang it, I'll take it! I accept my hormones are all over the place, I'm seriously sleep-deprived and need time to adjust to everything.

As someone with bipolar, the sadness I feel at having no time for myself, feeling overwhelmed and like maybe I'm not doing this right does not even touch the depression I'm familiar with. This is just sadness and frustration - normal emotions in response to situations, not my brain's chemicals going wonky. This isn't the big, looming black hole that is either so out of perspective or out of context with my situation in life that I can't handle it and cannot function. This? This is just dealing honestly with the momentous and gargantuan change that has just taken over my life. It just takes some compassion and some getting used to...

kimmelin said...

Kelly,

It is so difficult for me, and at the same time, so healing to read posts like this one. While I wrote extensively about my own experiences with prenatal and postpartum depression in my book, and counsel my childbirth prep. students on the issue of PPD on a regular basis, it still hits home in a BIG way when I see PPD described so succinctly by someone brave enough to put it out there.

Post Partum Depression is a very real thing, and has NOTHING to do with the advantages you do or don't have in your life situation. You've taken an amazingly important step in writing about this, and I hope the other people's comments on your post will help to bolster that courage in seeking the assistance you need to get beyond this.

There IS a light at the end of the tunnel. There just simply is.

Kimmelin Hull
A Dozen Invisible Pieces and Other Confessions of Motherhood

The Plainsman said...

Gee, away for a long weekend and now to catch up with some important posts.

I think it is excellent that you have consdered the possibilities, although it would seem that the descriptions are tailored to most parents experiences that I've heard honestly admit. I too, like some here think that some of the toughest times are getting shorter as well, and more normal sleep will be realized.

There are many shifts in our lives with effects that can't always be predicted. From kid to responsible adult; from single to married and one of the major ones, from couple to parents. You have already documented many of the physical changes and emotions experienced through your pregnancy and now early motherhood.

But although your pre-pregnancy jeans now fit (Woot, Woot!)** there are still other chemical adjustments that take longer, as identified by previous commenters (and I think you may have mentioned it as well many months ago).

Some of your priorities have and will change, not because you no longer care about them, but just because they do. And if being able to talk here about it is not enough, don't hestitate to talk with a professional, either. That reassurance may be enough to set your mind at ease.

And we are still all here, too!

**Thought you looked great in that recent photo with your two friends and the babies!

Heidi said...

Kelly,
I don't know if this is unsolicited advice, but I highly recommend the book, "The Sleep Easy Solution." I had Keagan sleeping through the night in 5 days, after previously waking up 3 or 4 times a night.

Kimberly said...

Kelly,

Having suffered PPD after the birth of my daughter I can relate. I too went through the "why do I feel this way, I have so much to be thankful for." Unfortunately for me all I could focus on at the time was the negative and I shut down. I think you already know this, but talking about it really does help. Even if you do not think you are suffering from PPD, being a new mom is stressful and you are bound to run the gamut of emotions; especially when you are working full time (I did this too) and have other responsibilities as well. There is no shame in admitting that you are sleep deprived and feeling overwhelmed. That is not belittling others who are “far worse off”, that is just being human. Once I started talking about it, really talking about it (for me it was a therapist who did not think I needed to be medicated) I felt a lot better. It will not happen over night, but with time and the support of your loving family you will get through this. Keep your head up.

Kimberly