Often when we think of women suffering from post partum depression we think of Andrea Yates drowning her poor children in the bathtub, but it’s not like the the vast majority of the time. There is a spectrum and I am very grateful that mine is on the mild to moderate end and feel greatly for those, including those I know, who are suffering or have suffered from more severe encounters with this ugly thing.
Mild to moderate postpartum depression can be hard to identify. You are already exhausted and overwhelmed by the state of your life and so in the beginning you think that the symptoms are normal and you ignore them and this is just what I did and then it morphed into something more debilitating and which eventually resulted in a mild breakdown.
I couldn’t really see the depression for what it was at the time. I even remember saying that I just didn’t understand why I felt the way I did, I wasn’t a depressed person. But I was. As I look down the list of symptoms, it seems so obvious now.
I find it really intriguing that looking back at the past year, I can see it all so clearly and how relieved I feel to finally have a name to put on what’s been going on with me. Yet, when you are in the middle of it all, you just feel horrible and don’t for the life of you know what is causing it.
To talk about how I could barely get through the day, feed the kids and manage the minute by minute is a difficult and somewhat embarrassing thing. But it was what it was. It took every ounce of energy I had to do the most basic things and everything beyond that just didn’t get done. This is how it started and then it progressed into paranoia and self-loathing of the sort I have never really experienced. I felt like I was terrible at everything, that nobody cared about me and that I wasn’t worthy of anything positive.
As things started to get worse and worse, I knew something was wrong, but I just couldn’t fight my way out of it. I tried to commit to things that would help me heal, inspire me and help me to reengage with the world, but I just couldn’t do it and then I would feel guilty and helpless and like I was letting everyone down, including myself.
As a strong, intelligent, independent woman who has overcome and crawled out of some pretty dark spots in her life, it was very difficult for me to ask for help and I think this is why it went as far as it did. But, sometimes a little breakdown is the best thing that can happen to a person.
There were a few things that finally broke the cycle for me and got me moving in the right direction and asking for help. I ended a destructive relationship, which empowered me to stand up for myself and understand and communicate my needs. I sought out therepy and was very picky about who to see. I waited for the right person, connecting and being on the same page is really important. This is the person you need to share your darkest moments with, you better trust them implicitly.
I also made a personal choice not to medicate. This is a very personal decision and for me it was about finally facing my demons head on. There are many things that I have learned to deal with or pushed aside throughout my life, but never really faced and integrated and learned from. I felt that now was the time to do that so that I could move forward in my life on a more meaningful path. I felt that medication would only impair the process for me.
My therapist discuuses my journey as two parallel paths. There is the current situation with the depression and this involves a lot of talking and learning of tools to deal with the day to day. And then there is the deeper issues (the demons so to speak) that I am trying to face and deal with. For the latter, we are using a technique called Lifespan Integration. This is where the timeline of my life originated and I will talk more about this technique at a later time.
My goal is that those two paths will meet down the road and that I will be able to use all of the tools and knowledge to find a way to live a more fulfilled and full life, to become the person I want to be and to establish more meaningful and healthy relationships.
I have days now when I think to myself ‘wow, could it really have been that simple, I feel great, I must be cured’. And then I have a day that reminds me that this is a journey and a process and that although I am feeling much better, there is still a lot of work to do.
Today is a bad day. I am tired and uninterested and easily irritated and counting every minute until I can have just a minute of quiet to close my eyes and reflect on what is happening. The good news is that I haven’t had one of these days in several weeks and that I can see it clearly for what it is. That doesn’t mean that I am not fighting it and managing it every second, but I can own it and know that it will pass and that I will feel better when it does.
A few months ago this day would have been the beginning of a downward spiral that may have lasted days to weeks and ended in my sobbing in the shower and scaring the crap out of my poor husband as I am reduced to puddle of self pity. I’d say we’re making progress.