Whew! It feels good to get that off my chest. If you are a close friend or family member and are just now finding this out - I am sorry I didn't have the courage to tell you in person. But, yes, it is true. I have been struggling with unbalanced hormones, mood swings, anxiety, exhaustion. And I have also done a pretty good job of hiding it. Those of you who are closest to me may have witnessed small glimpses - but for the most part I have kept it all to myself.
It was hard for me to admit to myself. At first I blamed it on pregnancy hormones. Then I blamed it on sleep deprivation. And then it was my gallbladder. But I reached a point when I needed to be bluntly honest with myself about how I was feeling.
It was a stranger's Facebook post that got me thinking. The words were there in black and white - everything I had been feeling since my daughter was born. And a message: "if this sounds anything like how you are feeling - this is not normal and you can get help."
It took me at least another month before I mentioned something to my husband. And then another week before I asked a therapist I knew about it - off hand, of course. Hoping they didn't know I was asking for myself. And then another few weeks before I emailed my doctor: Is this normal? I typed, full well knowing the answer but wishing for the "just hormones- nothing unusual to see here" response.
Instead my suspicions were confirmed. Her response was a prescription for antidepressants and referral to a psychologist to monitor medication and progression.
After I read her response - I gave in to the tears that signified both relief and frustration with the situation I found myself in. But, I wished I could go back in time and hope it all away. I didn't want to be that mom. I wanted to be the mom in the movies who didn't have a care in the world or a stretch mark in sight. Neither of those would be true for me.
I now have a few months of medication and therapy sessions under my belt, and I am starting to feel lighter. It takes me less time to find my way through the confusing and anxious thoughts into being present with those around me.
I sleep better, worry less, and enjoy more.
I am by no means back to 100%. I still have outbursts and bad moments - but I know that I will get better with time and attention to the disease.
I also know that this is normal. According to the CDC, 1 in 9 women will suffer from Postpartum Depression, and that is only taking into account cases that were actually diagnosed. Through this experience, I have learned that many women go untreated. Chances are you have a close friend who is or has gone through this very thing.
If you find yourself having any of the following thoughts, I encourage you to reach out to your gynecologist and get a referral to a psychiatrist who can help:
- Anxious thoughts about the safety of you and your family - to the point of paranoia
- Letting yourself imagine the worse case scenario wherever you are so you can prepare for it
- Hopeless in your situation and stuck
- Wanting to escape your situation
- Wanting to harm you and/or your child
- Extreme exhaustion
- Extreme insomnia
- Unjustified emotional outbursts
- Inability to concentrate
There is a way to get out from under the cloud and enjoy the light. And remember, you are not in this alone.