I’m taking meds for post-partum depression

I’m taking meds for post-partum depression.

There, I said it. Posting has been sporadic around here because I didn’t want to be all, “Hey, life is great!” without first ‘fessing up. At the same time, I was a little worried that any subsequent, “Hey, life is great!” posts would then seem to be medication-induced.

Of course, they are. Everything is. My experience of everything is better.

The other reason I hadn’t posted about PPD is that I wasn’t sure I’d do the topic justice. I’ve started and restarted posts over and over, but I’m not hitting on anything I really love.

Let’s try by answering this question: why did I wait nine weeks to get help?

Because it wasn’t all the time (but it was enough of the time).

Because I still loved my kid and recognized his awesomeness (but I didn’t feel the awesomeness).

Because every hour wasn’t bad (but every day was).

Because I wasn’t suicidal or having thoughts about harming myself or my kid (but suddenly I couldn’t stop thinking about all the ways we might all die or how much I didn’t want to have to survive all those minutes left in my life).

And why did I finally admit I needed help?

Because my son could tell the difference between a fake smile and a real one by his fourth week. And by his sixth, he would only smile back at the real deal.

Because at one point I was afraid he’d never smile since he didn’t see much of us smiling.

Because thinking about the thousands of minutes stretched in front of us, waiting to be filled, made me so tired and down I just wished I could sleep through every one.

Because I couldn’t function as a parent, so deep was I in my sadness. I couldn’t bring myself to have Jav do tummy time because I couldn’t bear to see him frustrated. I would put off changing his diaper because he so hated being cold. I wouldn’t move for fear of making him uncomfortable, and spent most of my time holding my breath in anxious anticipation of anything changing.

~~~

Five Mondays ago I cried from morning until night, able to get through the day with my newborn son but lacking any capacity to do so well. Suddenly I couldn’t ignore the impact it was going to have on his life to have a mama that couldn’t find joy in anything. The next day I saw my (new) therapist and finally said what I’d been too chicken to mention before: “I think I need help.”

We talked as per usual, albeit with a few more tears, and then just before I left, I made myself ask what I’d been wondering all along: “Do you think meds would help me?” He said yes.

I made an appointment with my OB/GYN, not sure what to say to the scheduler and eventually settling on, “I need to discuss PPD.” They found me an opening within a week. Oh, right, they would be pretty experienced with this kind of thing, wouldn’t they?

Four Mondays ago I saw my doctor and forced myself to tell the truth. Yes, I’m down far more than I’m up. Yes, it’s affecting my ability to function. No, no thoughts of suicide, but when I think about the future, I’m somehow too tired to want to go through every one of those thousand minutes. I forced myself to be honest and not minimize anything I was feeling, a struggle for someone who has a lot of practice acting like everything’s fine.

I left with a prescription and a caution that the med I would be taking could take up to two weeks to make a difference. Note that, okay, because that’s the general experience.

I felt better – brighter, alive, awake, out of the fog, aware – within two days. I didn’t even really notice it until I looked up and realized I hadn’t felt dejected in more than a few hours. Oh, wow. Was that really my life?

Three Mondays ago (six days after I started the prescription), my demeanor was so different that my new therapist felt the need to take me aside and triple-check that I was really okay.

I am really okay. Super okay. Incredibly, deeply, gratefully okay.

Holy cow, people, I have this cute kid! And I feel his cuteness now! I want to hug and squeeze and snuggle him! I look at him and can’t help but smile! He smiles back! OHMYGOD THIS IS WHY PEOPLE WANT TO BE PARENTS.

Two Mondays ago my baby started day care and it went well. I started down the “make myself as miserable as I think I should be right now” path and was able to redirect myself back to, well, myself.  I could not have done that pre-medication.

Last Monday was also a good day, and I believe Mondays in the future will be too. This is my new normal.

~~~

I am honest enough to admit that I have qualms about the whole thing, something I discuss ad nauseum with my husband and therapist.

“How is this different than taking uppers to feel less tired?” I ask.

“It’s not an upper,” the therapist responds. “It’s no different than taking insulin because you’re diabetic. Insulin makes diabetics feel better, too, and quickly.”

“This kid of ours is so adorable I could just eat him!” I say to my husband. “Um, he is adorable, right? Or is this just the medication talking?”

“Nope, you sound like a mother,” he replies.

I can see why schizophrenics go off their meds all of a sudden. When mental meds are working, you start to wonder if you need them. Maybe I was just tired and overwhelmed? Maybe now that he’s older, I’ll be okay? Maybe it was taking him to daycare that made a difference, not the medication?

But I recognize this messy logic, and I remember how dark and gray and hopeless I felt when my son cried, or fussed, or looked into my eyes. For weeks (months!) I was horrified to find I had no optimism about anything. “Life is just a series of disappointments, frustrations, pain and discomfort,” I’d find myself saying to him. “I’m so sorry we did this to you.”

Now? “You’ll get to love, and hope, and dream,” I say to him. “You will have a child with whom you’ll be unable to help smiling sooo big your face hurts.”

Women aren’t getting help for PPD not because they don’t know the symptoms or who to talk to, but because we convince ourselves what we’re feeling isn’t bad enough, must be normal, shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.  Everyone must feel this bad after having a baby, right? And they can all handle it without meds!

After a tiff with my husband, I found myself calling an 800 number I thought was for a PPD hotline. After a few minutes of confusion, we figured out I’d been routed to a help line for all manner of needs, but primarily used when people felt suicidal. “Oh. Well, I’m fine, thanks. I’m just a little sad. Yes, I’ll get out of the house and rely on my husband more, sure. Thanks. Good night.”

We tend to minimize ourselves when we have a new baby, even when we know we tend to minimize ourselves when we have a new baby. (Get it?) But we musn’t. Our children need us to be well and alive and even somehow happy through the fog of exhaustion and transition. I had been lacking the capacity to handle anything even the tiniest bit negative, but my son needed me to be his shield, not his burden. Now I can deal when he’s spitting up incessantly or fussy for no reason or frustrated because he’s a baby. It’s hard for me to believe how overwhelming I found all of these things before, actually.

So if any of this seems familiar to you, I will ask you what I finally asked myself: what’s worse, taking medication (and thereby admitting you’re not perfect or something) or losing more minutes to the sadness? What do you have to lose? Only you can know if what you’re feeling is “bad enough,” but let’s be honest. You know it is.

I still struggle with the idea that I have to take medication to get through being a
mother. What does that say about me?  But I look at my son and can’t help but smile, see my husband and feel love and appreciation for this awesome kid we created, and I feel much less worried about what it all means and far more grateful to have found a solution.

38 thoughts on “I’m taking meds for post-partum depression

  1. You are very brave. I know so many moms who have been through the PPD journey – you’re not the only one, and there is nothing wrong with you, or with you as a mother.

    I know it doesn’t mean that much when people who don’t actually know you say things like that but, well, just thought I’d say it anyway.

    Much xoxo.

    • @beka, Of course it means something! Any time anyone admits that they know someone who had PPD, it gets a little less scary for those of us who might be there too. I suspect it’s like miscarriages – until you’ve had one or are close to someone who has, nobody mentions their experiences either. Once you do, you realize how many women have gone through the same thing.

      So keep saying it! And thanks. Much xoxo to you too.

  2. Oh Marisa. Thank you for sharing your experience. Having been down the depression path numerous times in my life, and having had experienced a bad case of the baby blues, I can completely relate. And due to my history, I know that I need to be extra careful after BebeDeux is born too. I hope you know that you’re not alone, we’re all rooting for you, and I know that you will have tremendously helped at least one mother who is experiencing something similar by writing this on a public blog. *hugs*

    • @Geek in Heels, Thanks. My husband was a little taken aback when he saw my blog title, I’ll admit, but I remember freaking out that I didn’t know anyone – even in blog world – who had PPD so it must be really unusual. Hopefully this helps someone somehow. Who knows?

      I knew to be vigilant because I don’t handle transitions well and go off the deep end rather easily, but I’m still amazed at how long I let the suckiness go on before deciding that, even if I could handle it or talk myself out of it sometimes, there had to be a better way.

      Be careful with yourself, and feel free to email if you ever need to just get it out, huh?

      Oh, and “baby blues” that last past six weeks deserve special attention, I was told. Most of the time, baby blues will go away by then. If they haven’t, or get worse (as in my experience), it’s probably PPD.

      • @Marisa,

        “Women aren’t getting help for PPD not because they don’t know the symptoms or who to talk to, but because we convince ourselves what we’re feeling isn’t bad enough, must be normal, shouldn’t be blown out of proportion.  Everyone must feel this bad after having a baby, right? And they can all handle it without meds!”

        You just described me after Little G to the letter.

        I too have blogged/written about the bad days to various reactions so that’s why I’m attaching my response to Jenny’s. And I too hope to be more aware oth signs so that if it happens after baby 2 I can be more aware of it.

        My question is: now, two+ years later, I know I’m much better…if I were on meds, how would they know when to bring me off of them?

  3. Thank you so much for sharing this. Like infertility, PPD is something so few women discuss openly due to the shame attached to it. I’m glad you’re getting help and that you’re happy!

    I’m curious what medication you’re taking, but I understand if you don’t want to share.

  4. By no means does taking medication make you a bad mother. Ignoring the symptoms would make you a bad mother! I really wish there weren’t a stigma attached to mental health. It’s the same as any other health issue you may have. It’s just science. It doesn’t mean you can’t cope, or aren’t cut out to be a mom. Women have suffered far too long without help. You are so lucky to be living in an age where there’s medication available. I’m so glad that you’re now able to fully experience the wonder of mommyhood, and no longer drowning in the sad feelings. Good for you! This post is so inspiring.

    Just curious, have you noticed any feelings about the fear of your baby dying? I have horrible thoughts sometimes when I’m walking near a high place (like a balcony) of slipping and dropping my baby over the edge. Or accidentally dashing her head against a sharp edge of furniture. Maybe they’re just normal new-mommy fears.

    • @Brooke, Yes, I have those thoughts, but just because I have them doesn’t mean they’re NOT just new mommy fears. :) In fact, all of my new mommy friends IRL have copped to having them.

      Also, I should go back and edit: I didn’t mean to imply that I’m a bad mother, only that I still struggle with the idea that I’m a mother who needs meds. But hey, this is my reality. I will own it.

  5. You are wonderful and brave to post this! My own mama had serious issues with this, so it’s something near and dear to my heart. You are definitely not alone. So wonderful that you are feeling better!

  6. Such a great post – while I didn’t experience PPD, I have experienced depression several times in my life and have taken anti-depressants to help recover. Kudos to you for realizing that things weren’t quite right and taking the right steps to getting a healthier life back. I’m so glad that not only did it help, but that it did so quickly!

      • @Marisa, I eventually began feeling so well and my life was in a better place so I quit cold turkey. I wasn’t on a very high dosage and was fine. If I were you I’d discuss it with your doc/therapist when you think you want to try to wean off of the meds. Some people (my mom) just lowered her dosage but still take them.

  7. Love love love this. I just read several snippets out loud to husband because I wanted him to remember these accounts for the future. It annoys me (maybe enrages?) when anonymous online people ask me if I’ve been treated for PPD yet (not those who are genuinely asking, but because they are jerks and trying to make me feel bad) because I feel like it discounts what actual PPD is. How can women know when to get help when we act like someone talking about how motherhood is hard (me) is characterized as someone in denial of PPD. I just feel like it makes everything more confusing.

    You, however, have made things very clear, and I think more women are going to be willing to ask some hard questions about their own processing of motherhood after reading this post. And that’s a really important thing!

    • @Jenna, It’s funny, caring readers asked me about PPD pretty early on and I was appreciative but a bit confused. All the new mamas I was following were feeling as overwhelmed and exhausted as I was in those first few weeks!

      I think the critical clues for me were that it wasn’t getting any better, even after the hormonal wackiness should have calmed down and my child was less of an enigma, and also that it was constant, consistent, and dulling, somehow. Nothing was beautiful or wonderful or fun, but rather dulled by the effects of the thing. There’s a difference between finding motherhood hard (I do, even now) and finding that it sucks every bit of functionality out of your body.

      Thanks for your comment. It was much appreciated.

    • @Jenna, One more (big) clue: I isolated myself from everyone but my husband. Talking on the phone was exhausting (probably because I’d pretend everything was fine, which is tiring) and I could barely get it together enough to leave the house at all, much less to see people. My mom’s spidey sense would perk up and she’d call me over and over – which I’d ignore – then call back a few days later when I was having a good moment. *sigh* I feel stupid when I put that all into writing. How could I think that was an okay way to live for that many weeks?

      In contrast, when parenting is hard, I reach out for help, as do you and most mamas I know.

      • @Marisa, I had similar experiences when my baby was born five and a half months ago. I felt like the world seemed a little sadder place now that I had a baby. (Totally awful to say out loud, but hey, that’s how I felt at the time.) It was 8 weeks before I sought help and it was because my own mom’s “spidey sense” was triggered. I *knew* it wasn’t okay to live like that, and I *knew* I needed help, and I’d even supported a friend who’d gone through PPD, but yet somehow I couldn’t get the ball rolling to actually get help myself. I finally did, and life is sweet again. I’m glad you are now able to enjoy your time with your baby. They grow so very fast! Thank you for blogging about your experiences!

  8. I am glad you wrote about this. I still often wonder if a part of how I felt was PPD, or if it truly was due to my J’s medical issues that went unknown for 5 weeks. As he has gotten better, I think I have as well, but looking back, so many of your words fit my life then.
    I wonder, do you think guys can have a form of PPD? I feel like my husband suffers from this in regards to the baby. Not necessarily life in general, but he appears sad that he thought being a father would be different, read: easier.

  9. Thank you for writing this. I’m not pregnant yet, but I do wonder about how it will be for me after I have kids (as I am not one to handle transitions very gracefully). It’s really helpful to hear about other people’s warning signs, but better still, it’s so powerful to hear about how you feel now. How much better you feel, and how your outlook has changed. Definitely something more for me to think about and make sure to watch out for once I do have kids.

  10. I am really, really proud of you for talking about this. Thank you so much for sharing. I think a lot of mamas (myself included) go through some of what you discussed, and it’s hard to know the difference between “this is going to go away soon” and “I need help right now.” High five, and I’m glad you are feeling better!

  11. Thank you for being brave enough to share your experience. As someone who has dealt with depression at many different points in my life I know how scary it can be to not only deal with, but also talk about. I am cheering you on!!

  12. Thanks sooooo much for sharing this!!!! This has helped soooo many people; and, not that I mean to imply that you *should* share with us your ordeal to help people, but because many don’t for the reasons you listed people feel like they are “less” of a mother for feeling what you eloquently put into words. (whew run on sentence)

    I’ve have bouts of depression and it sucks! But there is help available, and it is important to not feel alone. And, if one med doesn’t work- try try try another until you can feel warmth of sunshine again.

    So, really, just thank you!

  13. I am so grateful to you for writing this. Kids are a few years off in our future, but I’ve struggled with depression in the past, and don’t always handle huge changes with grace. Now I know to discuss the potential for PPD with my husband and family/friends before it happens. For some reason I feel certain I’ll be affected by it… I wonder if that then makes me predisposed? Anyway, I’m so glad you were able to discuss it and take the necessary steps to feel better. Hooray for wonderful happy moments with your son!

  14. So happy to hear you are feeling better. Admitting you need help is often more than half the battle. Mental illness is just that an illness no different than needing insulin or blood pressure meds.

    You are not a bad mother. You are a great mother who recognized she needed help and sought it out because you love your child. II just wanted to also tell you that PPD is super prevalent. So much so my mother, who is a therapist, worked in a practice that only treated women with PPD and the associated disorders. I’d say if several people can make a living doing that obviously it is a real and major issue. Good luck.

  15. As everyone before me has said, thank you for writing about this- and writing about it so beautifully. My Dr has given me some paper work on PDD, but this post is the best thing I have read that really outlines what to be on the look out for. And as someone who has felt depressed in the past- I know what it is like to feel that some moments are good and some are bad. I am sure in a few weeks I’ll be rereading this post. So happy to hear that you are taking care of you and your family. And please keep posting pics of Javi- he’s so cute!

  16. Keep on keeping on, girlfriend. I’m in the married and not sure if kids are in our future camp, but I think this is SUCH an important topic. And you are such a strong independent woman– I think it’s particularly important that women hear from women like you who aren’t afraid to admit that being strong sometimes requires asking for help.

  17. Beautifully said. I waited 8 MONTHS to get help, until that day when the crying wouldn’t stop. And like you, I felt better within two days. Then coulldn’t believe I’d wasted so much of my baby’s first year feeling miserable.

    In terms of getting off the meds, there will coome a time when you just feel like you don’t need them anymore. (Ever have an item of clothiing that was your favorite thing in the world, till one day you pull it out of the closest and think “eh, I”m over thiis”?) But sometimes getting off can be physically really hard — be prepared, and take it slow.

  18. thank you for sharing this. it’s probably kind of weird for me to say that, seeing as how im not married and have no kids. we aren’t at the same place in life so i shouldnt relate to you but somehow i do and i feel like the way you see and feel and experience and deal with the world is the way i will when i get married and have a kid. so thanks for helping me to recognize things. maybe ill make it through when the time comes too :)

  19. I love this post and am bookmarking it for the future. I wish more women would talk about this. I don’t have children yet but hope to someday…and I really, really, really thank you for sharing this, when so often all we see in the blog world about pregnancy & motherhood is “Rainbows! Butterflies! Roses!” Bravo.

  20. “I still struggle with the idea that I have to take medication to get through being a mother.”

    Taking the medication, getting help is the brave thing to do. It is not in any way taking the easy way out.

    I had post-partum anxiety/depression with my son and didn’t seek help until he was almost 4 months old. I had insomnia, anxiety – I lost all of the joy in my life. My feelings of inadequacy leaked into my professional life and I did become suicidal. It was a very scary time. The ironic thing is that I’m a physician. If you wrote down my symptoms on a piece of paper – anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight loss, irrational fears, etc. and showed it to me, I could have easily told you that person needed to take medication. But, I was so gone, I couldn’t recognize it in myself.

    After I really started to come apart, I finally sought help. I started taking Zoloft and ended up taking 3 weeks off from work. I didn’t feel better in 2 days, but in 3-4 weeks, it was as if the clouds lifted. I had thought that life as a parent just meant constant anxiety and unhappiness. It was incomprehensible to me how my beautiful healthy baby had made me so miserable.

    The reason I waited so long to get help was because I kept trying to rationalize/talk myself out of the PPD. I felt like I was intelligent and strong enough to power through it. But like your therapist said, it’s a disease. It has no basis in rational thought, so you can’t tackle it with your intelligence.

    Anyways, my baby is 13 months old now and life is great. I am in the process of weaning myself from Zoloft with the help of my psychiatrist and it is going fine. And for the previous commenter who posted about meds in breastfeeding – I breastfed my son until 11 months and was on Zoloft for 7 months of that time. There is data that Zoloft is passed into breast milk, but it has not been demonstrated at detectable levels in breastfed infants.

    I’m sorry this comment is so long, but your post really resonated with me. I’m so glad you’re talking about your experience – I think it really helps de-stigmatize treatment for post-partum depression. When I was going through such a dark time, reading about other people who had been through it made me feel less alone. I’m so glad you’re feeling better and I hope things keep improving.

  21. Marisa,

    Thank you for sharing your experience. PPD is something that not many people seem to talk about openly and mothers are so ashamed to admit they might have it. My daughter is now five months old and the first two months of her life were miserable for me. Breastfeeding was my main source of frustration and at four weeks post-partum, I had the worst insomnia and hadn’t slept for four days straight. I felt so helpless, crying everyday, and feeling immense pressure to breastfeed by everyone, even though it wasn’t working out for me. I went so far as to have my daughter’s tongue-tie clipped, and I pumped 8-10xs a day.

    I finally sought help like you and while the meds didn’t kick in right away, I felt like there might be hope. I started therapy with a counselor and subsequently started to see a psychiatrist to manage the prescription levels. I am still on two prescriptions, Zoloft and Trazodone to help me sleep. I also struggle with the feelings of needing meds for the rest of my life but at the same time, I know I need them right now.

    What I regret the most is not seeking help sooner. I think there is not enough information out there to help mothers recognize what to look for between having the normal blues and being depressed. Having a newborn is such an overwhelming thing anyway, of course you’re going to be tired, stressed, upset, etc. I feel like I missed out on a lot of my daughter’s first weeks of life because I was so sad. Believe it or not, I harbored somewhat resentful feelings towards her and my husband because I felt like I am the one doing all the sacrifice and not enjoying this life. Now I look at my daughter everyday and cannot imagine my life without her. I never thought my heart could be so full of love and I wish that I felt this way all along.

    I am so glad for you that you sought help and are on the road to recovery. It may be slow or it may be quick but don’t rush to just get through. You will do great! Enjoy your times with Javi, they really do go as fast as people say they do!

    jackie

  22. You are amazing! PPD is one of the things that worries me. It is so hard to really know when you are in the middle of it. I have seen a friend who I believe had PPD but wouldn’t get diagnosed. She finally started medication for generalized anxiety and is choosing to wean herself. She doesn’t see the change in herself that we see. It is so sad. I would hope that others would have the guts to tell me if they saw it but it is so taboo. It shouldn’t be taboo it should be welcomed and discussed and as important as any other medical situation. When my little man was sick I did everything I could to make him better. Why don’t women do that for themselves.

  23. Way to go – seriously glad that you’re taking back your life. Having studied the science behind major depression, PPD, etc, I can tell you what your therapist did – it’s nothing like relying on uppers. It’s about compensating for a problem in your brain chemistry!

    That being said, I relate more than you can know to the waiting to get help. Without meaning to be cryptic, I just went to the doctor for a medical problem that I’ve had for years. But it manifested itself well in issues that people normally have, and so I told myself I was weak, and broke the symptoms into more manageable, un-related pieces to convince myself that it was just me making a big deal out of nothing. It’s scary and a relief to be getting help all at the same time. Thank you for sharing your story.

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