One of the hardest lessons I have ever learned is that talking about mental health makes people uncomfortable. Most people just aren’t sure how to respond, how to feel, or how to process something they are either taught to hide or fear. Postpartum Depression was not what I thought it was, at all. It was also not the first experience I have had with Depression. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression in High School.
Anyone can be diagnosed with Postpartum Depression – it doesn’t discriminate. Of course, there are a number of risk factors that can make a Mom more likely to develop PPD, such as medical complications in pregnancy, lack of support at home, a stressful life event during pregnancy, and in my case, a history of depression.
I think that a part of me believed that I wouldn’t need to worry if I ended up with Postpartum Depression because I had been battling these feelings for almost 20 years. Over the years, I had found effective ways of coping (art therapy, anyone?) and did my best to communicate with my husband, Mom, and sister – my go-to lifelines. I was great at adulting; no one could convince me otherwise!
It turns out that even though I thought myself as a professional, I had no idea what I was about to experience. I’ll be honest, I have been dancing around this post all week. I wanted to share so many things and nothing, all at the same time. We are conditioned not to share our feelings, lest we are seen as weak or unstable. I know and believe that mental health advocacy has come a long way since our Moms were raising us.
Screening for Postpartum Depression is standard for your follow up appointments after having a baby. When I finally told my doctor that I was scared to end up with Postpartum Depression, she was completely supportive. I never had to justify my feelings, explain them, or prove anything. I didn’t feel ashamed to admit how I had been feeling. Be your own advocate and don’t be afraid to just tell your doctor “I am depressed” if you can. Be honest on the questionnaire and especially with yourself.
You are NOT alone
Repeat after me: I am not alone. I can find help. I can do this. The thing about depression for me is that it sneaks in. After my daughter was born in July, I was on cloud nine. I couldn’t understand what anyone even meant by baby blues. Yeah, I was in physical pain and I could barely stand or walk those first few days. It was absolutely the hardest thing I have ever done, but I still had my little girl. She is the most beautiful person I have ever seen and I just wanted to stare at her as much as possible. I thought of nothing else.
I had more support than I could comprehend. When the social worker came to my hospital room to do her evaluation, I had no problem speaking to her with other people in the room. We laughed when she got to the questions about having anyone I could turn to when I was in need. “Yes, currently present.” My Mom was there for me in ways I could never possibly dream to make up to her. Plus, my husband really rose to the occasion and he’s truly the best teammate I could have ever wished for. When I started to feel cut off and secluded, despite the support I so clearly had available to me, I knew something wasn’t quite right.
I ignored it, in classic fashion. It was easy not to be bothered. It was easy to not leave my home. I have unlimited data and pretty much every streaming option out there. My girl and I watched hours and hours (well, she mostly slept) of movies and TV. I was hiding from the world and hiding from my depression. Not everyone has the guts to admit they’re feeling different and it’s most certainly not something everyone is ready to handle.
I wasn’t ready. No one really is.
In the end, I was able to utilize my support system to level myself out. I started seeing a counselor and medication was absolutely essential. The difference between Clinical Depression and Postpartum Depression isn’t too drastic, but at least with PPD, you have your wonderful bundle. My daughter has taught me that no matter how bad things feel or what type of thoughts I need to work through, she will always beam that sweet smile when she sees me after work. She rocks away to music and loves animals. Her happiness keeps me going and for that, I would consider myself a whole new person.
If you or a loved one are in crisis or thinking of suicide, please call the 24/7 National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at
TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889)