Ask Me Anything is a collaborative series featuring individuals and families that are facing challenges or are unique in some way. People can ask them anything they’d like to know about their story as long as it’s respectful.
The goal of this series is for people to gain a better understanding of those in unique situations. Open communication is key to understanding one another. If you would like to be featured in a future post, email me at [email protected]
This post was written by guest blogger Jenn R. of This Mommy Is Real.
Ask Me Anything: Postpartum Depression and Anxiety
When did you realize you had PPD? Did you seek help right away?
Around the third week post birth I realized something was not right. I had a difficult and unexpected birth process, and I suffered from insomnia and anxiety right after. I felt really out of it and not connected to anyone or anything. I didn’t feel any motherly bonding or blissful moments. In my mind, my son was a baby, but not MY baby. While I provided care for him like every mother should, I felt like a shell or a robot doing a job.
My mind would not rest. I was constantly worried and scared. In the third week, I experienced a very debilitating panic attack in the middle of the night. The next morning, I realized that something was very wrong and that I needed help. I started calling the local urgent care office, but eventually spoke with an online psychologist the same day.
Can you share with us the signs or symptoms of PPD so new moms can recognize it better?
PPD and PPA can happen to experienced and first time moms. It’s not guaranteed that a mother will experience it with each birth. PPD and PPA are different from the “baby blues”, which are temporary and fade within a few weeks or so.
Some signs may include:
- Excessive crying
- Intrusive thoughts
- Irritability, anxiety or feeling overwhelmed
- Insomnia or eating problems
- A feeling that something isn’t right
What was it like parenting with PPD?
Truthfully, to this day, I can’t remember all of it because I was constantly in a fog. I do remember that it was very difficult. My thoughts and feelings consistently affected my ability to function normally. I am a first time parent, so I was already struggling with childcare skills. PPD/PPA didn’t make it any better.
The lack of sleep and constant struggle with breastfeeding made it worse. Because I was anxious, I felt like my son could sense it when he nursed. I felt like a complete failure. I was nothing like the person I used to be, and I could not recognize the person I had turned into. I was no longer confident. Instead, I was a fearful person who constantly suffered. I cried constantly. Certain thoughts were always running through my mind:
- I am a failure at motherhood.
- My poor child is going to suffer because I am a bad mom.
- I can’t do this. Please don’t leave me alone with this baby.
- I am so scared. What if I hurt him?
How do you think your mental state affected your child?
A lot of mothers worry what affect PPD / PPA has on their children. The only issue I saw was when we were nursing. I’m sure that my anxiety and lack of sleep affected the feedings and his ability to be comfortable. However, aside from this, the good news is that as babies, they are too young to commit this period to memory. As long as their needs are being met, and they are not neglected, they are unaffected. My son is proof positive. He is known as the “super happy baby” out of the baby groups. He smiles all the time, and is hardly cranky.
What was the most frustrating thing that people would say to you during that time?
It was really difficult when people called it a “phase” or “just the baby blues”. I know they meant well, but this is the time when the mother is so vulnerable, so statements like that feel dismissive. Sometimes it seemed as if what I felt was not important or trivial.
It was also really difficult to see other mothers (both in person and on social media) have seemingly perfect experiences. I definitely didn’t feel that way, so seeing that made me feel worse and alone.
What was your response to that?
In the beginning, I would remain silent, or I would start crying without explanation. I had no idea how to process my feelings and deal with their intentions at the same time. However, as I slowly began to cope and recover, I learned to be my own advocate. Because it has made such a significant impact on my well-being and my role as a mother, I started to share what I was really feeling and how it was affecting me. I became more assertive and open which actually shocked people because they don’t necessarily understand PPD/PPA and its effect on mothers.
Did you use any medication to help battle your depression? Was it effective?
In beginning, I did not. I was very anti-medication because I was afraid of effects on my son (research shows little to none depending on the medicine). I attempted non-medicinal strategies for a couple months.
Eventually I decided to include medication in my recovery because I felt as if my recovery was stifled. My body rejected the first medication. After a few weeks, I switched to the medication that I am on today. I haven’t had any side effects, and I feel as if a fog has been lifted. While I still have my moments, I am able to recognize them and deal before they overtake me. I am in a better mindset to utilize my coping skills. There is a new clarity, and I think it has given me the opportunity to take more initiative in my recovery.
What strategy was most effective to overcome your PPD?
I don’t think there is just one catch-all strategy for overcoming PPD and PPA. For me, it was a combination of the following:
- Having a strong support network (friends, family),
- Consistently attending and participating in a PPD/PPA Support Group
- Undergoing Therapy with a Psychologist that specializes in Women’s Issues
- Seeking the assistance of a Psychiatrist that specializes in Maternal Mental Health – she was in charge of reviewing my medication requirements
There is one thing that I did on my own which I felt was instrumental in my recovery: I challenged myself to avoid isolation at all costs.
Isolation has a profound effect on the intensity of PPD/PPA. Thus, it is important to take the steps to talk to trusted friends, family and mental health professionals. It’s important to take yourself out of physical isolation as well – having some freedom and a change of environment will help. Once you put yourself out there, it becomes easier to talk about the situation; it helps you become more receptive to care and coping strategies. You feel less trapped or stuck in time.
What advice would you have for new moms who think they might have PPD?
If you suspect that you might have PPD or PPA, don’t feel ashamed to speak up. Your OB should provide you with a simple post birth questionnaire. It asks you about your feelings and well-being. A certain score indicates that you might be suffering. You shouldn’t feel bad if that’s the score you get. It means you will be getting the help you need!
Don’t be afraid to seek help. Don’t be afraid to advocate for yourself. You’re doing this for both your well-being and that of your child. Remember, you are NOT alone and this is common. These moments are all but temporary, and you will find yourself again. PPD and PPD ARE treatable and there resources out there to help mothers like us.