A new mother posted a question about postpartum depression over at Yahoo the other day, and her words really struck me. She is six months postpartum, and this is part of what she wrote:
“I’m moody, I’m sad, I’m grumpy, my sex drive dropped from a 10 to a 1, I’m gaining weight, I’m stressed, I can’t sleep! And this list goes on and on… And my life is fine, I’ve gone over it a million times. My relationship with my husband is fantastic (other than the me not wanting to have sex), my daughter is the light of my life, money is tight, but not overly tight, and everything is going good. I don’t have a reason to be like this! And it’s driving me nuts, I want my life back. I’m normally such a happy person, I’m not used to being like this and it’s taking a toll on my health seriously.”
I’ve been over it a million times, she says. “I don’t have a reason to be like this!” It makes my heart hurt.
Just because your life is generally good doesn’t mean you don’t have a reason for having postpartum depression or anxiety. Maybe your reason is genetics. Or a family history of mental illness. Or a bad childbirth experience. Maybe your reason is … in fact, you don’t have to have a reason at all. It’s an illness. You don’t have to feel bad if you can’t come up with what you would consider a good enough excuse to have postpartum depression or anxiety. You just don’t.
If you have it, you have it and it’s not your fault you have it and you didn’t do anything to make yourself have it and if you could just get rid of it by doing more or doing better I’m certain you would have done that already.
Please don’t feel bad that you are in this position, as though you just aren’t grateful enough for what you’ve got. What you have is temporary and treatable. Just reach out for help. We’ve got your back.
"If you have it, you have it and it's not your fault you have it and you didn't do anything to make yourself have it and if you could just get rid of it by doing more or doing better I'm certain you would have done that already."
So true! If we could just snap out of it, wouldn't we all choose to do that? PPD is an illness. No one tells the cancer patient to just snap out of it. It should be the same with PPD.
The best thing we can do for ourselves is to seek out support and treatment.
Not having is a reason is how I finally figured out I had it. It "only" took me 3 kids to figure that little gem out. I had a "reason" for the other two (and also didn't have it quite as severely as with the third).
Great, IMPORTANT post, Katherine!
if you havnt been to a dr. you may want to get your thyroid checked. Postpartum Thyroiditis is a real disease and it affects a lot of women. It can make your hormones go nuts and you can feel just the way you do without any tangible reason.
Excellent post, Katherine.
I remember telling my husband that I was a terrible person for being so ungrateful for all of the blessings in my life. Now that the good days are outnumbering the bad days I see that I never stopped appreciating the blessings in my life. Even when thing were so very dark I was grateful that I had the support of family and friends.
As I sit here playing on the internet b/c I don't want to snuggle, with my 4 month old baby right now and counting the minutes (about 40 left) until I can put his brother (17 months) down for a nap (so *I* can take one, I'm feeling like s***. The house is a trash heap. I keep telling myself that I "should" have the energy. That it's not that hard to get up, empty the dishwasher and then fill it full of the huge pile of dirty ones in the sink. I have all these shoulds and coulds and woulds and oughtas.
BUT…I just sit here and cry. THEN I read your post. And for the first time in a long time, my tears were happy. Thank you, Katherine, for the reminder that this is an illness, not a character flaw. I love my children more than life itself. Being sick doesn't make me a bad mother or a less loving mother.
I needed to read this today. It helped. But so would another nap. ha ha ha Here's hoping the 17 month old is in the mood for a siesta today!! Sometimes I can still get 2 naps out of him, sometimes not. We shall see….. 🙂
Hang in there, Heidi K. We all have your back. I am sending positive thoughts and hope for a long nap in your near future!
I didn't have a reason, either. Uneventful birth, easy baby, wonderful husband, blessed life… but it happened anyway. Some well-meaning friends in my life tried to make me feel better by constantly pointing out how lucky I was to have a healthy child and all the means to support him. They, too, thought that I could snap out of it if I just rationally counted my blessings.
I think the guilt (I had everything and still couldn't cope–what was wrong with me?) made my downward spiral even faster and more furious.
Thanks, Laura. I appreciate your support more than you know.
Truth is, I have plenty of reasons. Difficult birth w/ 1st one (failed natural delivery to c-secion), failure to breastfeed followed by having to give it up b/c of need to go back on meds. Got pregnant again before i had a chance to heal from PPD w/ the 1st one. Very painful pregnancy– emotionally and physically– along with gestational diabetes– followed by a 3 1/2 week early delivery (planned section, but not planned for that weekend!) Oh, did I mention the previous bouts of depression in my own life and history of mental illness in the family?
Yeah, I have plenty of reasons. But it's still SO easy to fall into the "my boys are beautiful and healthy, my husband is amazing and supportive, i love my job, so why do I feel this way?" mentality.
I am always so frustrated b/c it is an "invisible" illness. I am an administrator of an academic after-school program–had an issue with a parent the other day, with whom I usually have a good relationship. I made a comment about myself and she retorted, quite angrily, "Your personal life has no bearing on this situation with my daughter. I could care less about what is going on in your life." Or something to that effect.
If I (Heaven forbid!) had cancer (with my apologies for the analogy and sincere prayers for all who DO have cancer), but if I had cancer and it was out of remission and I chose to share that info with people, they'd be bending over backward to help me. BUT b/c I have depression that is out of remission, if you will, I have to work twice as hard to fake it. I would never tell the general public about my depression. It is still too misunderstood. I fear losing my job when parents complain that my reprimand of their child (deserved or not!) was too harsh (or whatever) and must be a sign that my depression is interfering with my work.
After hanging up the phone with that parent, I sobbed hysterically for a good 20 minutes in my office. I HATE HATE HATE that this disease is invisible, misunderstood and still so stigmatized.
So, I muddle on using up all my energy just to appear normal, healthy, happy and pulled together. F***, I hate this disease!
I'm glad this made you feel better in some small way! Keep repeating to yourself over and over: This is NOT a character flaw. I promise you it isn't.
I know the cause of the PPD I had with my kids – it's genetic, it's simply what is. And for me, it didn't begin or end with PPD – it was a major depressive disorder – all I can say is take each good moment and hold on to it – find a fantastic therapist – take care of yourself – love yourself. Blaming will never help.
Hi Heidi, just wanted to say the way you express yourself about how you feel about the disease sounds just exactly like me…. I can't tell you how many times i've used the phrase "muddling along" and hating the disease, it truly is real and so debilitating, and when one comes out of it and normality resurfaces, for me, it feels miraculous and I am so relieved.
Of course it is natural to look for an "external reason" for how we are feeling, it's a logical response, but the awareness of the fact that external factors are not the reason, the fact that even if everything was ticketyboo in your life, you would still feel really bad, I think that awareness is helpful.
I've had a nasty bout of it this winter and just recently got better, new meds regime seems to be working, hallelujah. And yes I've had plenty of stress in my life, but the stress didn't cause my illness, but the illness sure impeded my ability to cope with the stress. I am feeling much better recently and nothing has changed in my life externally. well except the longer daylight hours 🙂
I pray that you are well or soon will be.