My Postpartum Depression + Anxiety Journey
Since writing about PPD some on both Instagram and on the Blog I’ve gotten some questions about what my PPD looked/looks like, what I’ve done to get better and how it’s affected my relationships and my life. It’s been a long journey and it’s one I’ve hesitated to share in part because it’s taken me this long fight off the shame I felt in the beginning. But I want to talk about it because I know I needed to read something like this so maybe it’ll be what you need to, wherever you’re at in your journey.
So let’s talk about it. Statistically as many as one in five women experience some form of postpartum mood disorder - I was diagnosed specifically with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. Those are the reported numbers - technically it could be even more women who experience these things. We aren’t alone in this journey.
I didn’t admit I had PPD/PPA until April of 2017 (Theodore was born in December 2016), in part because I didn’t realize I had it. My symptoms were pretty textbook standard including:
Feeling sad, hopeless, empty, or overwhelmed
Crying more often than usual or for no apparent reason
Worrying or feeling overly anxious
Feeling moody, irritable, or restless
Being unable to sleep
Having trouble concentrating, remembering details, and making decisions
Experiencing anger or rage
Losing interest in activities that are usually enjoyable
Suffering from physical aches and pains, including frequent headaches, stomach problems, and muscle pain
Eating too little
Withdrawing from or avoiding friends and family
Having trouble bonding or forming an emotional attachment with her baby
Persistently doubting her ability to care for her baby
Feeling constantly on alert and overwhelmed even when fatigued
I was terrified all the time pretty immediately after I gave birth. That I didn’t know what I was doing, that I would accidentally hurt (or worse) Theo because I didn’t know what I was doing, that I was completely and utterly unqualified to care for this child. I know some of that is generally the experience of new parents but mine went so deep that I would hear Theo cry after waking up from his nap, and I’d have a panic attack because I didn’t know what to do to help him. John says I cried basically the first three weeks after Theodore was born every time that any little thing happened. We fought all the time because I would pick at John with snarky little comments or remarks.
And I was so, so angry. I didn’t know I could be that angry for literally no reason. It terrified me. I never wanted to hurt Theo or myself but I thought often about running away in the middle of the night so that I wouldn’t be a horrible mother to this precious little boy anymore. On the flipside of that I was fully paranoid that someone would realize I wanted to run away and they’d call CPS to come and take Theodore away. I wouldn’t go to the mailbox or grocery store without John because I thought that only he would be able to protect Theo if they came to take him away.
The other huge way my PPD/PPA manifested was through a lack of connection with Theodore. It was like my brain couldn’t actually process that he was my child, that he was the same baby I had felt kicking away for all of those months. I just couldn’t wrap my head around it. Combine that with the constant fear of him being taken away and I had a hell of a time becoming attached to him. I was still very motherly, caring etc but it was almost like I was babysitting in the beginning instead of caring for my own son. That hurt the worst and still does.
I literally didn’t realize that these were signs of postpartum depression/anxiety. People were telling me I was too tired, not eating right, not letting other people help enough but the truth is it was more than those things (though none of those pieces helped).
John finally convinced me to go to a New Mom’s group here in town after I broke down in hysterical tears when he told me he needed to stay late at class the next day. He’d just started at MSU and was working on a midterm project. Being alone in the house longer than I had expected to be was just too damn much and I lost it. At the time I had a few friends and family to reach out to during all of this but I just couldn’t bring myself to do so. It was emotionally painful to even think of reaching out and pretending that everything was okay. Or worse, I’d spill the beans that everything wasn’t okay and it’d end up being exactly like I feared and they’d take Theo.
I remember John telling me that we couldn’t live like this anymore and that I needed help. Which made me so angry because I knew he was right. So I started going to a Mom’s group once a week in April of 2017 basically to prove to him that I was fine and he was the one with problems. That group turned my life around from the very first time I went. John joked that I was more like my old self after one week of going than I had been since Theodore was born and it was the truth.
Eventually the very qualified and extremely kind woman who runs the group told me that she thought I was ready for something more. For real one-on-one therapy. It scared the crap out of me - I knew that therapists were mandated reporters if they felt like someone was a danger to themselves or others. I wasn’t sure if I qualified in that zone or not.
I think I called her number 4 times before finally leaving a trembling voicemail explaining who I was and why I was calling. I went in and immediately relaxed. She was amazing and the technique she used (Somatic Experiencing) was exactly what I needed.
Don’t get me wrong, it took almost a year of therapy to really start feeling myself again. And I still have moments where I’m back in the thick of those feelings and getting out of bed itself is a struggle. I’ve been told I might have chronic PPD/PPA or they might go away after so more treatment. I finally feel the connection to Theodore that I wanted at the beginning though and it gets stronger with time.
The most important thing to me through this journey though is to know that there is nothing wrong with any of us who have any postpartum mood disorders. It happens to most of us and there are treatments and medications and support groups for it. We are absolutely not alone in this. I know how isolating it can be and I want you to know that you can always talk to me if nothing else. Send me a DM on instagram, send me an email. I’m here for you guys and I empathize with what you’re feeling. If you’re local to me, I’m more than happy to send you the information for the support group and the therapist that both helped me through some incredibly dark times.
(instagram: @sierrafromsalt email: firstname.lastname@example.org)