I’ve had depression and severe anxiety since I was kid. Though I wasn’t officially diagnosed until 24, I can look back at certain times in my life and recognize the signs. When I got pregnant with our daughter, my husband and I were both very aware that postpartum depression was a real possibility. We were hyper-vigilant in watching for signs that I might be spiraling deeper.
Yet, it wasn’t until I started decreasing my pumping schedule that I started feeling and behaving in ways that caused concern. When I was down to 3 pumps a day (such a relief!) the mood swings started. The lethargy kicked into high gear, and the worst part of all – I didn’t want to hold my baby girl. That was my ah-ha moment–when I looked at Hattie and thought, “If I don’t get you out of my arms right now I will scream!”
Postpartum Depression Onset
Two and a half years ago my daughter was born. Best day ever. Two years and 2 months ago, I realized I had postpartum depression. Worst day ever. Even though I’d been here before I felt like a failure: I had failed myself, my baby, and my husband.
I felt angry. Not again! Not now! Stupid, stupid brain chemistry!
I felt hopeless. What am I going to do? I can’t do anything – it will all hurt my baby.
All those all too familiar feelings made me want to try and manage this myself. This was partially because I was still breastfeeding and partially because I didn’t want to go on meds again. I tried St. John’s Wort and Fenugreek; both worked to help keep the edge off, but just barely. I started walking again as the weather got warmer. Exercise is a known depression remedy because you create endorphins when you exercise. Endorphins make you happy, and as Elle Woods said, “Happy people don’t kill their husbands!”
All these things helped to a degree but it still wasn’t enough to remove the anvil sitting on my chest.
I started medication 6 months after my daughter was born, and have been on it ever since because sometimes, you need the big guns.
And while the meds take the worst of the edge off, I still get angry, moody and lethargic. For those who are also trying to take the depression beast to task, here are some things that help me:
- Breathe. Find a quiet space, close your eyes, and do deep breathing: in through your nose, out through your mouth. Keep doing this until you feel your body start to relax.
- Focus on your body. If breath work doesn’t help, I sit down and focus parts of my body. I tense my hands or feet, then relax them, tense and relax. I do this five or six times then move on to another part of my body. The concentration and the act of focusing on something I can control allows my mind and emotions to release the anxiety enough so I can move on or work through.
- Step away. If in the middle of an event, meeting, conversation and you start to feel panicky – excuse yourself and step away. No meeting or conversation is worth ignoring anxiety and in fact, you will be less successful if you are in a bad place.
- Talk about it. For me, the first step is speaking the words out loud, either to myself or to a sympathetic someone. Saying, “I have depression,” or “Something’s wrong,” takes the power away from the depression and puts it back my hands.
- Hug my baby. Before my daughter was born sometimes the best thing for me was to be alone and wallow. Oh, I love a good wallow! But now, a quick trip on the snuggle bus can be just the thing to take the edge off.
What are some things you do to help your anxiety, stress, or depression (postpartum or otherwise)?
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