Perinatal and postpartum depression (PPD) are beasts. While each case is unique, I’ve discovered a few common threads among women who have suffered through—and emerged from—PPD.
These five things will likely happen when you’re living with PPD. I’ve consolidated a few notes on what you can do about them.
You’ll be confused by your symptoms…or occasional lack thereof. Perinatal depression and postpartum depression are like clouds that are always in your vicinity but they are not always covering you. You may find yourself in their shadow throughout the day or the week.
The good news is that you may have spurts of time where you enjoy the life that you’re living! The bad news is that you may not fully enjoy those spurts because you’re in fear of the next low point.
The worst news is that no two days (or hours) are the same. You and your loved ones won’t know what to expect or when.
Try to notice patterns. Are there certain conditions that precede your low points? Are there conditions that encourage you to feel your best? Pay special attention to your diet, hydration, and the company that you keep. Try to maintain a journal, creating a road map through your PPD. Knowing the conditions that help you feel your best (or worst) will empower you to handle what comes your way.
Know that not all low points can be predicted or avoided. That’s okay.
You will think that you can outsmart depression. You can’t wash dirty water. You can’t think yourself out of depression. A chemical imbalance in your brain can’t be defeated by reasoning with your brain.
This was a hard truth for me to accept. I thought I could rationalize my way out of sickness. I couldn’t. So far, I haven’t met anyone who could. That doesn’t mean its hopeless. It just means that you have to address depression differently.
It may help to start by addressing the health of your brain and gut. Their ability to function impacts your ability to function. Start by nourishing your body. The chemical balance of your brain and the release of hormones are influenced (in part) by the fuel of your body. Foods rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and Vitamin D can nourish your brain and promote the healthy cycle of hormone release and uptake.
Avoid hormone disruptors, allergens, and any food that causes internal inflammation.
Now, you’ve just had a baby. Your brain power is being exerted elsewhere. A diet makeover will probably overwhelm you. Hand the responsibility over to someone else. Invest in a nutritionist to tell you what to eat, and when, and take the guesswork out of it for you. Or consider a meal subscription service. Your wellbeing IS worth the investment.
You will think you can fight depression alone.
No, you can’t. And if you have suicidal ideation or thoughts of hurting your baby, trying to fight PPD alone is a risk that you can’t afford to take.
Pursue and maintain outside help. A therapist, psychologist, or psychiatrist can help you discover tools to manage the symptoms of your depression. Your community groups (church family, yoga circle) can keep support flowing your way. Even if you aren’t spiritual, it can be uplifting to know that there are people thinking about you and rooting for your wellness.
Depending on the severity of your condition, you may consider prescriptions. EnBrace HR and Serotinin have been incredibly helpful for me. Others may consider a prescription like Zoloft, which is rated safe for use during pregnancy and nursing. Talk with your wellness professional about your options.
Please do not try to fight depression alone. Get outside support.
You will hurt someone that you care about. When you aren’t fully in control of your mood, emotions, and responses, you will inevitably hurt someone that you care about. Most likely, this will be a verbal exchange gone terribly wrong.
You can’t undo what you’ve done. In retrospect, you may not even understand why you behaved the way that you did. Obsessing over what you have done won’t help, either.
But what you can do is try to rectify any wrongs caused. Be open with your loved one about your PPD and how it has affected your behavior. Apologize for any wrongdoing and open the door to making it right.
After that, you’re done. You can’t make someone forgive you. You can’t mend the relationship single-highhandedly. You can’t worry your way into a resolution. Stop beating yourself up and press forward.
You will be misunderstood. It can be hard for you to determine what is “you” and what is your depression. Naturally, that will be a challenge for those around you, too.
At a low point, your words and actions won’t line up with what others have come to expect of you. Your behavior won’t line up with what you expect from yourself. It can be easy to confuse your symptoms with changes in your character.
If you feel unmotivated when you are depressed, they will mistake you for a lazy person. If you say something mean when you’re depressed, they will mistake you for a mean person. You will feel misunderstood and likely very isolated and frustrated.
Try to remember that others don’t understand what’s happening in your mind. They can’t interpret your words and actions through the lens of PPD. You will likely have trouble explaining yourself because depression (and anxiety) aren’t logical. Even if you try and try, your explanation will fall short.
What you can do is take time to understand what is triggering your responses. Are you angry because you are afraid of something? Do you lack motivation because you feel defeated? Why? Talk with a health professional or loved one about your thoughts and reactions. Journaling may help organize this important mental work.
Above all, stop beating yourself up. Let people know that you love them and you’re struggling through something right now. Then press forward.
You will discover that there are women in your circle who have experienced perinatal depression and postpartum depression, too. It’s rare for people to talk about their mental health unless the topic is intentionally brought up! Once you open up about your depression, you will be surprised by how many mommas share your challenges.
This network can provide life-saving reassuring through difficult times. Be open to giving and receiving support.