Did you know that one in seven women experience postpartum depression? Postpartum depression is an ugly beast no one should ever have to fight on their own. I’m not talking about the “Baby Blues”. I’m talking about the deep dark stuff no one really wants to talk about. You know, those dark thoughts when you think your family is better off without you? When you feel guilt and shame because you’re not excited that you’ve been blessed with a happy, healthy baby. When all you want is to be alone, in darkness, with no kids. I’m talking about mood swings, withdrawing from your family and friends, feelings of worthlessness, irritability, reduced interest and pleasure in activities that used to bring you joy, thoughts of hurting yourself, and thoughts of abandoning your family. The ugly stuff. I wanted to share my experience with postpartum depression and a few things that helped me while navigating these unfamiliar waters. But first, this is my experience and what worked for me. I highly encourage you to seek professional help if you are experiencing PPD. This is an illness and should be treated as such. This ain’t no headache.
I’ve been dealing with postpartum depression for about five months now. I’m only now talking about it because I’m not in such a scary place anymore. I’ve done a lot of work and made a lot of changes that have brought me to a higher place where there’s light at the end of the tunnel. I finally feel safe to talk about my experience and own my story even though it’s ugly. The first stage of PPD is denial, and I’ve been there. Pretending that there isn’t a problem, and just telling yourself: “it’s just a bad day”. When I was finally able to address the issue and make changes, I got to work…
- I told my husband. I sat Brian down and told him I thought I was experiencing postpartum depression. This was huge. Admitting there’s a problem is such a big step in the right direction. Making sure your spouse knows and understands what you’re feeling is important. You’re going to need all the support you can get, so it better start in the home.
- I went to therapy. Therapy became a safe place for me to talk and get help sorting through my emotions. Having a certified professional validate my thoughts and feelings helped me to not feel like I was wrong for thinking dark things. I was able to let go of the guilt and shame I created in my mind.
- I went to a focus group. Attending a bi-weekly focus group helped me to know that I wasn’t alone. I gained so much comfort knowing that others were struggling like me. We worked on identifying our triggers, working through our emotions and giving them space to exist, and taking preventative measures for a more successful day.
- I attended the temple. If you read my blog, you know I’m LDS, and that the temple is a major part of my life. I upped my attendance to every week, sometimes even twice a week. Seeking help from on high gave me strength to endure and hope. Hope is a big thing. I firmly believe that if you have hope, you can work through anything. The temple has truly been my refuge from this storm; the place I have felt whole, never broken.
- I hired a nanny. Well, Brian did… and without telling me. The day before our nanny showed up for her first day, Brian mentioned to me, “Oh I hired Rachel, she’ll be here tomorrow.” At first I was angry. Why would he do this? Did he think I was weak? Did he think I couldn’t do it? (which I quickly came to realize were silly thoughts) No, he hired her to give you a break. So you could have time away from the kids (which is SO important). He did it because he knew you wouldn’t. So ladies, don’t be like me, be like Brian, hire a freaking nanny!
- I went to the gym. My happiness is closely correlated to the physicality of my body. I feel like this is true for many people, especially women. Embarrassing to say, but it’s the truth. So I signed up for a monthly membership to my local gym. I go four times a week, and I love it. Physical activity has been proven to stimulate various brain chemicals that leave you feeling happier and more relaxed. And although I haven’t seen much of a change yet, I do feel better about the way I look when I exercise regularly. Which gives me a boost in my confidence, and helps my mood overall.
- I scheduled date night every week. Yep, you read that right EVERY. FREAKING. WEEK. The babysitting bill adds up, but it is so worth the money. Having a night with Brian every week, just the two of us, without kids was a game changer for me. Sometimes we’d do something fun, other times we’d just go somewhere where we could talk and touch base for the week. Either way, it gives your marriage the opportunity for a weekly connection, which I desperately needed.
Not sure if you’re experiencing postpartum depression? Take this quiz HERE. There are multiple tests and quizzes you can take. But I found this one to be most helpful. It’s the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale used in my doctors office to help identify proper treatment. You can also read about PPD symptoms HERE.
Also, I’ve linked some helpful information below that really helped me…
- 6 Stages of Postpartum Depression, Knowing the stages and understanding them really helped me to climb out of denial and face this head on. I was also better equipped to identify where I was emotionally, and admit to what I was feeling.
- Climb Out of the Darkness, An event used to raise awareness for maternal mental illness. I attended a “Climb” in Provo this past summer and was able to meet a lot of other mothers struggling with postpartum depression and anxiety. The saying is true, there is safety in numbers! Finding support and making connections with other women with similar illness is so beneficial.
- Tara Tulley, Psychotherapist and certified midwife
- Amy Rose White, Maternal mental health specialist
- Postpartum Support Group Springville, Outpatient group focused on gaining mindfulness and coping skills.
I’ve made a lot of changes and it’s definitely helped. But my dark days still resurface from time to time. But they are less often and don’t last nearly as long as they used to. Sharing my story isn’t the easiest thing. Vulnerability opens you up for judgement, which is scary. But this truth is too important not to share. Working through postpartum depression requires that you show up in your life everyday ready to do the work. And showing up in your life requires authenticity, and authenticity requires courage. So cheers to all the courageous women out there telling their story and owning it.