Did you know that 1 in 7 women will be diagnosed with postpartum depression? I didn’t. Or, I did, and didn’t pay attention to the statistics. Why? Because that would never happen to ME! I do not have a history of depression. I have a great kid, a great husband, a comfortable life, and tons of support from family and friends. What could I possibly be depressed about?
I started feeling depressed when my son was about 6 months old. Being a new, working mom, I figured the excessive mom guilt that I was feeling was normal. To some extent, it is, but I started to just mentally shut down after we put him to bed. Was I present enough with him during our time today? Did I make the most of our time? Was I on my phone too much? Does he know I am his mom?
Reality Check: Remember what it was like when you came home from work before you had kids? You would grab a snack, catch up on tv, wait forever to make dinner plans, maybe even take a little nap. With kids? Forget it. You don’t get any free time until they go to bed! You now combine your “wind down time” after work with taking care of your kid. You want to look at something mindless on your phone for a minute? You will not ruin your kid.
The nighttime sadness started bleeding into the daytime. I would become weepy out of nowhere at work and would hide in the bathroom to cry. Most of the time, for no reason. Then the culmination of the nighttime guilt and daytime sadness came to a head, and my coping skills for just about anything were non-existent.
Social events were just not something I even wanted to entertain. I didn’t really want to be around anyone. I can think of just a handful of social events I attended within the first year, and I struggled at every single one.
It felt nearly impossible to have to get up every morning, look presentable, and put a smile on my face for work. Hiding the fact that I was a mess inside, sad, and riddled with guilt for knowing there was no way for me to be both the best mom and employee.
I gave my OB a call and they prescribed Lexapro. I started taking it, and started having dark thoughts within just a day or two. I was so terrified of what my mind was telling me that I couldn’t even tell my husband until hours later. I stopped taking it immediately. I decided that I didn’t want to tell my doctor because the thought of trying another antidepressant horrified me. I hoped that what I was feeling would just get better, and go away.
About a month later my son started going through a BIG TIME “dad phase”. This was the lowest point for me. Dealing with uncontrolled depression mixed with feeling like my baby didn’t need me sent me to a dark place. I still have a hard time talking about this, and still can’t go into detail about it. The only thing I will say is that some days my struggle was so overwhelming, that I did not think I would survive my depression.
I called my OB again and they referred me to a wonderful family doctor. I was apprehensive about seeing a male doctor for postpartum depression, thinking that there is no way he would understand. He did, and I felt heard. He mentioned that what I experienced on Lexapro is a rare, but possible side effect, which made me feel so much better. He prescribed Zoloft.
I also found a wonderful therapist who specialized in postpartum mood disorders. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression, as well as PTSD as a result of my traumatic birth experience. I saw her each week for a long time over my lunch break. Having to go back to work after crying in someone’s chair for an hour was not ideal.
Through lots of talking, listening, and different methods of therapy, things started to get better. It took a while to figure out the best dosage of medication. The Zoloft did not help right away. There were many days where I would just cry in her chair, asking when I was going to stop feeling like this.
Eventually I started having fewer bad days. Then, I started having more good days than bad. I started seeing her every two weeks instead of every week. Then every month. This is around the time I started weaning off of the Zoloft.
Last night I took my last pill. I can’t even begin to tell you what this symbolizes for me. The last pill means that I have survived this. I have survived 18 months of dealing with the biggest life shift imaginable. It means I have survived the first 18 months of motherhood, the struggles of juggling a career and being a parent, surviving the trauma of my birth experience, and most importantly, surviving depression.
Will this be my last experience with antidepressants? Probably not. Can this come back? Yes. Will it happen again if we have another? There is a very high likelihood that it will, which means I will start on a low dose as soon as I deliver.
The difference is that now I can look at the signs, recognize them and know that it is not my fault. My experience unfortunately is so common, and so many mothers suffer in silence. I now understand why we so often hear on the news about a mother who has taken her own life because of postpartum depression, when everything on the outside seemed so normal.
Please know that if you are struggling that you should never feel ASHAMED of the state of your mental health. This was not something I ever expected to happen. The entire experience was so shocking since I had never dealt with it before.
If you are feeling this way, please get help. Do not feel like you have done something wrong, or that something is wrong with you. Do not feel like others seem to be coping more easily. Social media is maybe the worst thing that has happened to the societal expectations of motherhood. Please know that you are not alone, and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.