Being diagnosed with postpartum depression is only the first step of many. Realizing that the way you feel isn’t because you’re a horrible mother or that you did something wrong can lift a huge weight off of your shoulders. But, unfortunately, it doesn’t end there with the diagnosis. For some, it can be a very long road ahead towards recovery.
When I was initially diagnosed, I was prescribed a nursing-friendly anti-depressant, Celexa, part of the SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors) family. It worked for a while, controlling my depression and lack of interest, but as my hormones began to change because of nursing and overall postpartum changes, my PPD symptoms changed as well. Celexa became less and less effective. More information about nursing and postpartum depression medication can be found here.
Unfortunately, I hadn’t yet begun therapy for PPD. I was only seeing my obstetrician for my medication management, which is NOT something I would recommend. Because I was not under the care of a clinically trained therapist who specializes in depression, I was left to my own assumptions that I no longer needed to be on Celexa because I felt that it was no longer working. I was incredibly wrong.
Around the same time that I went off of my medication, my husband and I moved to Manhattan from North Carolina. We left both of our families and friends (and my support system) and traveled to a new city with a completely different way and pace of life. We also moved in the middle of winter, something else I would recommend against.
At this point, Marlo was seven months old and I thought I had a much better handle on my condition. However, with the huge life change came new obstacles and my postpartum depression reprised its role in my family’s life – and as a main star. I not only suffered from severe depression, but also uncontrollable anxiety.
It was all-consuming and physically draining. My body would hurt because of the tension that my anxiety manifested itself as. I never slept, my temper and mood were so volatile, and I was absolutely at a loss for what to do. I thought I was better. I thought I was done with this. I was wrong.
It became crucial to regroup and revise the next course of action.
Through my new OBGYN in Manhattan, I was recommended to a psychotherapist who specialized in postpartum depression and general anxiety disorder. Our first step was to go back onto a medication program which took months and months to find the correct dosage and the right medication. In fact, we went through three different rounds before finding the one that worked the best for me.
Even after we found a medication that worked, we had to address the bigger issue: why was I now suffering from this paralyzing anxiety? Although the answer was not concluded upon simply, the answer is quite simple: the loss of control I experienced within my new life in New York City – finding a new routine, figuring out how to get around by public transportation, getting lost so often, being alone a lot – brought me back to all of the feelings that I had in the beginning of parenthood.
I have been in therapy for eleven months now and I can say, without a doubt, that being in therapy has helped just as much, if not more, than the medication. Personally, medication is not in my long term plan, but I plan on having therapy remain a part of my life. Life changes at a rapid pace and being able to manage it is important as a parent. I have to be stable, not only for my own sanity, but for my daughter who craves consistency and a routine.
The other thing that is highly beneficial for women who suffer from postpartum is to talk about it – to find other mothers or a support group who can relate to your condition. Being open and honest about my struggles as a mother has helped take away some of the guilt that I feel. WhatToExpect.com offers an open forum where moms can share what they are going through with others.
More than anything, I want more women and men to learn about postpartum depression so that honest conversations can happen among families before it gets too bad. Experiencing depression during what is supposed to be one of the most joyous times in life is out of our control. However, we do have the power to support those going through it and to lighten their load as much as we can through support, compassion, and knowledge.
What did you do to manage your PPD? Did you, or someone close to you, find something particularly helpful in managing PPD?