Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Silent Stigma of Postpartum Depression - those who don't get it, don't get it...

The Silent Stigma of Postpartum Depression - those who don't get it, don't get it...

Happy Thursday new feminism friends! 

As we share posts from women around the globe, here is a new one I know you will want to read. This one was sent to me by someone who wishes to remain anonymous. Many women battle some form of depression. Please do not judge; please read this with an open heart. Most women have feelings of desperation from time to time, but full fledge depression is serious and real. 

Perhaps some of you are dealing with this yourself and might find comfort in these words. Perhaps it can help those of us without firsthand experience understand with more compassion...

One in eight to one in five women struggle with postpartum depression.

   "Recently, my doctor reduced my Zoloft since I am pregnant and now I have started experiencing depression symptoms again.  Since I know what it is, I can deal (and talk to my doctor about my dosage again!), but I can also share about it. 

   When I was first struggling with depression, a very nosy friend asked another friend what it was like when she wasn’t on her anti-depression medication.  Thankfully, that friend answered candidly, allowing me to realize what was going on inside me.  I was then able to talk to my doctor.  I would have never asked that question myself in my state, so I am sharing this for anyone else who might need to read it.

   So, what’s it like when my doctor reduces my medication or I am not on it at all?  Have you ever wanted to be injured just enough to have to go to the hospital for a couple of days?  Not enough to have serious complications, but maybe a seriously broken arm or something where everyone would have to take care of you and everything around you?  That was the example of my friend that made me go – I know exactly what she means!  Lately, I have been hoping for a natural disaster.  Nothing that would cause serious danger, just shut down everything for a couple of days, so I could go to a hotel, be waited on and know that they kids didn’t have school that they were missing, work was cancelled, nothing was happening back home without me.  That’s what it is like – all the time!

   I am easily overwhelmed.  You may not know it because I can put on a smile and do my job and play the part that I am suppose to play in life, but if you ask my husband, I complain all the time.  When I was first diagnosed, I had to deal with so many people saying, “not you!  You can’t be depressed!”  Lesson learned: listen to your heart, not to others. 

   I get through each day.  If my husband asks me how I am doing, surviving is the keyword.  If anyone else asks, my answer just has to do with my pregnancy symptoms – am I feeling nausea right now or not?  I look at my schedule and think – maybe if I just cut out something.  But, like most people, there is nothing I can cut out.  And the reality is that the first time I experienced this, I had a newborn, a 2 year old and we were living with my in-laws who did everything for us, and I had the same feelings!  Nothing really makes me happy and that makes me sad.  I look at my kids and cry.  I don’t know what I want to eat – ever – and nothing really satisfies my hunger.  I am hungry, so I eat, but then I worry and stress that I am gaining too much weight and get anxious over it.  I don’t want to get out of bed in the morning and I have trouble falling asleep at night.  My wonderful husband waits on me and helps me so much, but I still just feel overwhelmed.

   Being with others is nice and distracting, but then I am totally worn out afterwards.  Now, some of this has to do with being somewhat of an introvert, but I remember this feeling the first time around.  I would purposefully avoid social situations unless I had to be there.  As soon as I was taking Zoloft it was like a night and day difference!  (Another sign I need my dosage increased or a different medication if my doctor doesn’t like Zoloft during pregnancy.)

If you are having feelings of constantly being overwhelmed, helplessness, wanting to injure yourself or child,  unceasing sadness, inability to cope, please get help!  Speak up.  Your doctor can help you.  There are other natural remedies to try as well if you do not want medication, though sometimes it is necessary.

   And the lies that you have heard that sit in your head:  Well, it’s just because you homeschool and have a job… maybe you shouldn’t be having another baby… it’s just a choice – just choose to be happy…  The lies make it hard to talk to anyone about it out of fear.  (Like I said, since I’ve been through this before, I can tell what is going on with the reasonable side of my brain!)

   Oh, and my poor children!  I try so hard everyday to not yell at them!  They are such angels and all they hear from me is – do this, do that,  do your school, clean your room, etc.  Of course, then I just spiral into feelings of guilt that I am not giving them the individualized attention that they need – especially the toddlers… but the guilt is a big part of the depression – and so it is important to remember that!  I second-guess everything I am doing – wondering if it is the right thing.  So, when anyone else second-guesses me, I flip because I am already doing that to myself and I can’t handle anymore criticism.

   When anyone asks me to do something else, I flip because in my mind, I am already overcommitted and overextended and cannot do anything else – even come in the other room for a minute!  It’s really ridiculous when you think about it reasonably.  But this is my reality.  Thankfully, I know what it is and what to do about it (talk to my doctor!).  But I am sharing it in case it is your reality, too.  I know that so many cases of depression are left untreated and they don’t need to be!  It is a misfiring in the brain that can easily be fixed with drugs – thank God!

There is HOPE!
   I always like to think about Susanna Wesley.  Hopefully, she’ll respond and pray for me even though she’s not Catholic! ;)  She had 18 or 19 children and suffered from depression.  She lost a number of them (yeah, that wouldn’t help the depression!), her husband was a great guy and a preacher who loved the Lord, but they dealt with bankruptcy and all sorts of other hardships.  Yet, somehow she got through and turned out some seriously structured kids (the founders of Methodism!) – even when she spent months in bed after each baby due to depression.  So, there is hope!  Even amidst depression – even when untreated!  But when treated, think of how much we can help the Lord in his work in our lives!"

We as women are so wonderful at relationships, let us not be too quick to judge others with this problem.  Let us instead be an ear for listening, a heart for loving and a hand for helping. 

your friendly new feminist,

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Well, that’s my view of it and I welcome yours!  (Please comment below!  And please use initials or first name or even pseudonym instead of simply “anonymous” so we can have some way to distinguish each person in the discussion.  Thank You!)

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  1. I think these conversations are so important. I struggled with a not-fun and too-long period of depression in my 20s and now, from the other side, I can see a couple years of very very gradual downhill in and then a full year in without assistance before reaching out for the climb back out...and I still refused meds which would have helped me so. much. I just didn't know how bad it was til I was coming out of it and re-feeling things like I used to! And, somehow, I thought it was my fault, so meds were irrelevant to me - I had to fix it. (NOT ACCURATE!) I did ok, but I think it was just a lot more drawn out than it had to be. It was pre-kiddos, and though my hormones go pretty crazy in the 6-12 weeks post-baby, I am so grateful that it hasn't ever been like that again. From a much happier place I have more recently been able to work on some underlying issues that I can only see now much further down the road - that's not to say the depression was my fault, just ways I can grow now that I'm happy and more balanced. Mental health is a delicate balance of so many things, and its hard to understand from the outside. I found this post so helpful and humorous and insightful when I read it - it might be a little weird for someone who hasn't been there, but it's a great way to describe the internal experience, how vague and pervasive it can be, and how you can still think so many things but feel so disconnected. WARNING: profanity abounds!!!!

    1. I'm so glad you commented,LPatter! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Many of my pre-natal and post-partum depression symptoms persisted until I was finally diagnosed with hypothyroidism and treated for it. Women with PPD are more likely to test positive for thyroid antibodies, and a "normal" blood test result for TSH doesn't tell the whole story. I don't know that it would help every woman, but it might help some.