Postpartum Depression ( PPD ) can happen to anyone, even someone like me who already has mental illness and is medicated and treated for depression. With my first child, I thought “I’m cool,” my meds will protect me from PPD, and I think for the most part they did. BUT I wasn’t so lucky when I had Ellie. Perhaps it was because I changed meds in between kids. Or maybe it was the stress of managing 2 children. I’m sure it was all of that and more.
I hate pregnancy, or more to the point I hate the way my body and brain feel during pregnancy. The aches, the pains, the anxiety. So having the baby is blissful relief to me. I get my body and stamina back. But the first few months with 2 kids was really really hard.
My son, who was just over 2, had been a completely attached child. Mommy and Daddy were his whole world and he was the center of the universe. Now the universe had two center points and one needed mommy 24/7 for breastfeeding and care. His jealousy was BAD. Our sweet little boy was acting out so terribly I was losing it. I felt like I was on the defense protecting Ellie every minute of every day…besides the typical lack of sleep and general stress of caring for a newborn.
PPD was creeping up and I didn’t even realize it. My husband had suspicions when I started talking about desperately needing to get a tattoo, like yesterday. I also decided I needed a hobby, and got to work finding one by buying up the fabric store and sketching a million clothing appliqué designs. And I don’t even own a seeing machine, much less know how to use one.
I finally hit a breaking point, and started to realize what was going on. I do have some experience in this are afterall. I’m surprised I didn’t see the signs sooner. I FINALLY wrote my husband the below email asking for help. Here is my voice from inside of PPD.
On Wed, Jul 21, 2010 at 2:14 PM, Cristi Comes wrote:
“I don’t know who else to write this to. I hate to pour it on you when I know youre tired and stressed. I suppose it’s something I should tell Dr P (My Psychiatrist) but making an appointment is hard. Maybe (my girlfriends) would understand. You can forward to them if you want, or want advice but I just can’t right now.
When I get out with you or friends, distract myself and entertain Ronin with outside things, I feel a bit better, even just fine especially when other adults are with me and Ronin is somewhat behaving and I don’t have to listen to the dog bark. I even feel somewhat good when I’m creating, making something fun, but Ronin acts out if I do it too long.
When I’m home and alone with the kids and dog I feel overwhelmed, out of control, sad, angry. When Ronin won’t listen my anger and tears bubble up and he just laughs at me. The dog is barking, Ellie’s crying for a nap or to nurse and Ronin is throwing things or chasing the dog, he’s not listening to me when I ask him to pick up his puzzles and just dumps more, he splashes his milk on the floor, he asks for food, Rocky growls and snaps at him because Ronin’s pretending to or actually throwing stuff at the dog. He asks for more TV but when I ask him to do something before I turn it on he laughs or acts out more. I want to immediately discipline but I’m nursing or Ellie’s asleep and I don’t want his yells to wake her and I’m just so angry and frustrated I’m afraid I’ll spank him. I’m depressed. I think I have post partum depression. I know it often doesn’t look like it but if I can distract myself I can forget for a little bit. I’m self medicating with coffee because it’s really the only drug I can get. Alcohol gives me a headache and I’m afraid of what it will do to Ellie.
I’m depressed. That tattoo midlife crisis you asked about is depression. I know a tattoo would give me a high so I want one badly right now. If I could find something else I’d take it too, just to feel high and happy.
I’m so sick of him hitting and kicking Ellie, going after the dog, the dog going after him and the cat. I’m overwhelmed. Right now I want the cat and dog gone and Ronin at daycare because sleeping and playing all day with Ellie seems like the only thing I can really handle on my own at home. I can’t fall asleep at night and have anxiety because I know the next day is coming and I’m trying to avoid it. At night I can lay in bed, snuggle and nurse Ellie, look on my iPhone, check out all the cool stuff on Etsy I could make to distract myself or buy something for retail therapy, another high, right?
Help me. Please help me. I hate when you’re gone to work or golf or soccer games or hockey games, not because I don’t want you to have a life but because I’m stretched out further into my land of depression with no you to distract me or give me a break from it.
I know what I should do but I feel trapped and can’t make myself. I suppose going into Dr Paddison would be smart, taking more time for me, going to the chiropractor, getting a massage, a pedicure, even keeping up with the laundry and groceries might make me feel better, but I can’t motivate. I can’t do it right now. I need help. I need help. I need sleep. I need a break. I need a kid and a dog that don’t drive me utterly insane.
I love you.”
I luckily have a very supportive husband. And from years of medication and therapy, I’ve learned a few things about when I need to ask for help. Not all moms know their own breaking points because for many PPD is something totally new to them. I was lucky that mine was situational. For some, PPD can begin at birth with a complicated labor, or a premature baby, or a health problem. Some moms even do not feel love for their babies right off the bat. I personal know several moms who had it even more severe, and could not find a way to love their child for months and months.
It is a normal response that our bodies sometimes have to the stress and hormones of pregnancy, childbirth and newborn care. I’ve learned a few tips to help me. Perhaps you have others to share. Please post a comment with your ideas. You may help a mom who is feeling alone right now.
Tips for PPD
1. You are NOT alone. I understand and so do many moms who have been there.
2. Asking for help is NOT a weakness and DOES NOT make you a bad mom. You are having a crisis and need help.
3. Making a therapy appointment or finding a support group will help you. BUT you may not have the energy to do it yourself. Ask a loved one to find one for you and make the call to schedule the appointment or even take you. If you need something more intensive, like in-patient therapy and treatment, do it. This is ok. Here are some Mental Health Resources.
4. Remove unnecessary stressors. Does your dog drive you insane? Look for a better home for him/her. Do you hate grocery shopping? Find a grocery delivery service. Does your house being dirty add to your stress? Pay for someone to come in and clean even if its just once, or once a month until you are feeling better. Your sanity is worth it.
5. Distraction. Distraction. Distraction. I know it can feel impossible to get out of the house, but truly being with other adults, and giving your child(ren) time to burn some energy will help you. Find a hobby that will relax or calm your mind. Find a way to take a bath all by yourself. Anything that will help take your mind off of things for a few moments.
6. REST. Other moms have been there. We know what you’re going through. Ask a friend for help so you can take a nap, even if only for an hour. Pump so your husband can take a 3am feeding. 3 or 4 hours of straight sleep will help you.
7. Communicate. Be open about how you are feeling, with your husband, your partner, your best friend, a mom you just met. A therapist. Anyone who will listen and just let you get it off your chest.
8. THIS WILL GET BETTER. If you are feeling like you can’t see past where you are today, you need help. Things WILL get better even if you cannot see it right now. I promise you.