Go easy on me, readers. I'm about to bare my soul here, and it's still pretty raw.
(And please note: I throw around the word "crazy" a lot in this post. This is a common word in the InkMom lexicon, and it's more descriptive than clinical in nature. Please don't take offense.)
I have a new baby. She is beautiful. Lovely. She is making me a bit crazy (there I go!) right this second because she won't go to sleep, but I adore her. My Miscellany.
I have always adored her -- from the first moment I knew her little body was taking shape and being formed inside of mine. It was the same with my sons, her three older siblings. I have never ceased to wonder at the miracle that is conception and childbirth, growth and development, emergence of personality and character.
When Miscellany was about eight weeks old, I started to feel . . . not right. I began to overreact to the normal messes and spats and needs-to-be-met that happen in a house full of little boys. I started to feel like I was drowning.
I was experiencing Postpartum Depression. Did you know it's the most common complication of childbirth? Yeah. I didn't know either.
I have a lot of people who love me. They knew something was up. My mom said it first.
"Do you think you might have some postpartum depression going on?" she asked me one day, after a long crying jag when I tried to convince her I couldn't possibly be a good enough mother for my children.
My husband was next. Three days a week, his commute home is exactly one hour. That same night, fifteen minutes into his commute, I called him and unloaded: the kids did this, then that, and I just can't do it any more and you have to get home right now. Needless to say, he was worried. He told me later that he was baffled, because all of those things I listed were pretty much the norm for our kids: a little wild, a little intense, but totally under the umbrella of average behavior in the InkMom & CPod household.
I saw my doctor, and PPD it was. She did not recommend medication for me, but she made me promise to give her phone number to my mom, my sister, my husband. If things became more severe, I might not be objective enough to ask for help, but they could make the call. We talked; we worked on some coping strategies. And I went home.
The last couple of months have been hard, but I finally feel like I have emerged from a fog. This is what I wrote to a dear friend during the worst of it:
"This has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced. My husband says he remembers a little bit of baby blues with MayDay (my third) but nothing like this last time around. I have had days where I have done and said things that make me not recognize myself. There are many days I feel like I'm flirting with the edge of an abyss of blackness, and it wouldn't take much to push me under. Most days, it's much better than that -- although I've never before in my life even known that an abyss of blackness exists in the world, and now all of a sudden I'm painfully aware of it even on my best days.
"I had never before entertained the possibility of PPD. I just thought I was crazy, and the crazy just sort of came out when I was stressed by my kids. When my husband and my mom mentioned to me that they thought it might be PPD, suddenly I became . . . lighter because there was a reason I was feeling so rotten all the time. Somehow, naming it made it more bearable -- naming it made it not my fault.
"Talking about it helps a lot. I am VERY lucky to have my sister, who talks me through some very difficult days. There are days when she talks to me for hours on end, and helps me get through the craziness of three little boys without hurting anyone, or yelling too much. I am grateful that she is not only willing but sane enough herself to help me see reality with some clarity.
"I also have a wonderful husband. My husband DAILY helps me to remember who I am. He literally holds onto me for dear life and tells me what he knows I am capable of doing, and how much he values me, and how grateful he is for the sacrifices I make to care for our family. He does this every night. I can't tell you how much this helps.
"My mom lives nearby, too, and she is available at the drop of a hat. She will rearrange her entire busy schedule if I need her to take over because I'm no longer capable. She checks on me regularly. Sometimes hourly.
"PPD has made me question the validity of my feelings. I have to really think now -- when I'm upset about something, I second-guess myself and wonder if this is just the PPD talking, or if I really have a reason to be upset.
"This is hard. I'm a highly logical person -- I don't usually get upset about stupid stuff. Sometimes I have a visceral reaction and it takes me some thinking to figure out what the root of it is, but I always figure it out and structure my arguments accordingly. Yeah. Isn't my husband lucky? He hates to fight with me because I am so darn good at it. Now, I find myself retreating into my internal space and having a crazy person's dialogue about whether or not I'm upset. This is a degree of insecurity that I am not used to -- because insecurity of any type is not exactly a common theme in my life."
And here is my friend's experience, which prompted me to write all that stuff in the first place:
"My little sister delivered her first child in January and is now experiencing some severe postpartum anxiety. There have been panic attacks, a lot of crying out for help while desperately trying to keep it a secret, and an overwhelming shift of life from 8 childless 'bliss-filled' years of marriage to this new mysterious and daunting present.
"I'm struggling with the balance of reassuring her that everything she's experiencing is normal and common among many women (in other words, she's NOT a freak), but at the same time helping her to recognize that it's serious enough that she needs to seek professional help and reach out to and allow help from others."
My friends, I know I'm not the only person out there who has experienced something like this. It's estimated that 15-20% of moms suffer from some sort of perinatal mood disorder. Why didn't I know that? Postpartum depression is temporary and treatable. How many suffer in silence because they don't even know their feelings indicate a legitimate and treatable disorder? Why are we not talking about this more?
Well, today, we are. Go over to Mormon Mommy Blogs, because the topic for Discussion Wednesday is Depression in Motherhood. Go. Read. Comment. The more we talk about this, the more prepared we will be to help our loved ones through it, or to recognize it in ourselves. The more we talk about this, the more we do to advance the cause of mental illness treatment and awareness.
I do not presume to understand what it's like to deal with the pain of depression on a daily basis, but my experiences with PPD have certainly given me a new appreciation for the fortitude it must take, for those of you who suffer from mental illness, to keep going. God bless you.
And -- if you or someone you love is suffering from a perinatal mood disorder, and you haven't gotten help yet, please do. You can find more information here:
Postpartum Support International
See you over at MMB, where I'll be reading and commenting all day.