Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Down Came the Rain: My Struggle with Postpartum Depression
My struggle with postpartum depression was one of the hardest, most unexpected obstacles that I've ever faced. I never really expected to be "one of those" moms. I'd never really had issues with depression previously. I was a bit of a worrier, but that's something that I've inherited from my dad, who makes worrying a hobby and a career both. I had read a story about a young woman from my hometown of Pittsburgh, about my age, who had many issues with postpartum depression and ultimately ended up committing suicide, leaving behind her husband and newborn daughter. I remember being really affected by that story. It scared me. I couldn't really imagine how she must have been feeling, to take her own life, but I knew I never wanted to feel that way.
I remember Chris asking me in the hospital a day or two after Sabrina was born if I felt "okay", if I was having any issues with postpartum depression. And I answered honestly, that I wasn't. I felt great in the hospital. I was healing quickly from my c-section, taking advantage of the nursery to keep my strength up and sleep when I could.
Once I went home, I felt off. After that first horrible night, with almost no sleep, I felt worse than I've ever felt in my life. My c-section was a breeze compared to that. I didn't feel comfortable in my own home, in my own skin. This was my first clue that something was horribly wrong.
Life those first few days home was spent going through the motions. I fed Sabrina when I had to, but I was still breast feeding, and it was horrible. I was only getting an hour or two of sleep at night between feedings. I am not a day sleeper, so I couldn't catch up then. Sabrina was getting more jaundiced, and I felt scared because of that, but still very out of it, almost like I was in this sad fog that I couldn't come out of.
My parents and Chris all intervened and asked me how they could help, did I want to go talk to someone. We went to my OB about it, and he said I could either take an antidepressant, which would take months to really stabilize me, or I could wait it out. I left with a prescription for Prozac. I filled it to appease those around me but had no intentions of ever taking it.
At the time I was also experiencing a lot of physical symptoms. Trouble sleeping, even though I was exhausted, night sweats, headaches, dizziness. I just wasn't myself. I felt okay during the day, but then nighttime would come, and I would turn into a different person. I cried, became visibly anxious and upset, just wasn't myself.
I remembered hearing many years ago that Brooke Shields also had issues with postpartum depression with her first daughter, Rowan. In the middle of the night, while holding my sleeping baby, I downloaded "Down Came the Rain" onto my iPhone Kindle app. While reading her words, I felt like I wasn't alone, for the first time since Sabrina was born. Much of what she wrote I could have written myself. Feeling detached, hopeless, not feeling connected with your baby. How awful is that, not being attached to your child from minute 1. That's what we mothers are programmed for. And I wasn't.
I remember one of my lowest moments vividly. Chris was holding Sabrina, and he kissed the top of her head. I realized it hadn't even occurred to me to kiss my daughter. My only daughter, who I had longed for and dreamt of my whole life, and I hadn't even kissed her. I knew then that something was seriously wrong, and I had to fix it.
Ultimately I did take the antidepressants, although Prozac only made my headaches worse. So they switched me to generic Cymbalta, which I am still taking today. I feel much better than I did then (obviously), less anxious, not depressed. Eventually I'll taper off of it, but for now, I'm not messing with what is working. I did go to one counseling session, when I was going back to work, but I didn't really get a lot out of it. For some counseling works wonders, but for me I just didn't feel it was the right fit for me.
It's hard to describe how I felt 8 months ago, especially now that I've come through the other side of it. It is the hardest, scariest thing I've gone through. I luckily never felt so out of control that I thought of harming Sabrina. I took excellent care of her, however detached I may have been at the time. It was myself that I wasn't taking care of. I felt like the saddest, most anxious zombie, just walking this earth blindly, with no purpose, no emotion, no nothing. Just walking.
To anyone out there who may be experiencing this, or who knows someone who is, GET HELP. What worked for me may not work for you, but please do SOMETHING. Talk to a friend, find a moms group, talk to your mom, start a blog, send an email, contact me. Don't wait for yourself to feel better. You might get better magically overnight, but you might not, and you can't let yourself get to a point where you might harm yourself or your little one.
Finally, don't be ashamed. No one asks to get postpartum depression, just like no one asks to get regular depression, or cancer, or diabetes. Everyone reacts to giving birth differently. Talking to others will help you and it just might help someone else in the long run. That is why I want to write this blog. Because I was ashamed at first, and I know now that I am thinking clearly again that there is no shame in this condition that so many get yet so few talk about.
Believe me, it does get better.