A year ago today was one of those day that changes the trajectory of your life – although, I wouldn’t realize it until months later. This is my story of postpartum depression – the second time around.
Around 4 am one year ago, my phone rang. I saw that it was my dad calling and I knew what it was. My 90-year-old grandma had been very sick for a long time. Even there hadn’t been any “prepare yourself” moments in recent days, I knew there was no other reason he would be calling me at that hour. It was a quick call, he told me she had passed away. I hung up the phone and just sat there, waiting for some sort of emotion to wash over me, but I felt nothing. My husband reached for me, but I shrugged him off and went back to sleep.
The next week was a blur – we drug our then 2.5-year-old and 5.5-month-old along for the visitation and funeral. I was only 2.5 months back into work after having my youngest. I was still exclusively breast feeding and was well past exhaustion. My oldest was, well, a 2.5-year-old. By the time the weekend ended, I still hadn’t shed many tears and honestly, I just felt…nothing.
At the time, I chalked it up to trying to get through that week with two small kids. I thought I just hadn’t had time to properly grieve because all my attention and energy went to them. I had a brief breakdown after everything had died down, but I did find it odd that my usually dramatic, emotional self hadn’t shown much emotion.
The next few months, I spiraled.
Just a year later, I don’t remember a lot of it. Thankfully I took a lot of pictures and videos because that is the only way I can retrace a lot of the memories. I became impulsive and irritable. Then I became tired. A kind of tired I had never experienced before – even after two pregnancies.
Then one day I was sitting in the lactation room, pumping for the 90-millionth time and I came across a story. It was about a mom – who I later learned was a local mom – who was nursing her four-month-old who had just been diagnosed with leukemia. His name was Lincoln and his picture reminded me of my eight-month-old. That story got to me and I felt so helpless…and hopeless.
From there, things got bad, fast. The feeling of hopelessness I felt…I still struggle to find words to describe it. I went from weepy to downright uncontrollable crying at the weirdest times. I would not say I was suicidal – but I remember a few times driving home after work and just not caring. I just felt nothing.
Still I hid everything. And I continued to brush things aside.
Finally, one Friday afternoon in August, I was having a conversation with my coworker. I don’t remember what the conversation started with – it was nothing really. But somehow I steered the conversation to that little baby I had read about a couple of months prior and I just started bawling. Uncontrollably, bawling.
Luckily, my coworker seized the moment and told me that this was not normal. My behavior the previous few months was not normal. She had struggled with postpartum depression as well and she was seeing things I was not. She made me promise to make a phone call, to get help.
On the way home from work that night, I called my husband with tears streaming down my face. I didn’t even know how to start the conversation – to find the words for what I was feeling. Even a year later, I still can’t quite articulate what I was feeling.
I did make the call the following Monday, and unfortunately, it took a while to get in to see someone. I do not wish to get political here, but I would feel first-hand the mental health crisis we have in our state; it would be eight weeks to get an appointment with a mental health professional in our area. If things were bad – if I feared I would take my own life – I was to go to the ER.
I felt strong enough that I did not need to do that, but I continued to make phone calls until I got in with a psychiatrist and a counselor. It did not take long for the psychiatrist to prescribe medication and I started seeing a counselor once a week.
I am happy to report that a year later, I am in a much better place. Looking back though, I am so mad at myself.
I was diagnosed with PPD after my first baby, but it did not present the way it did this time. It also didn’t get as bad, as fast as it did this time. I knew the signs, I had experienced the signs, but my hormones had a way of tricking my mind into thinking I just wasn’t strong enough.
I share this story now as a plea to not let it wait. Don’t let postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety get as bad as I let it get before seeking help. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It took a few months of talking with my counselor to realize a lot of my resistance was my own subconscious judgements.
I also share it as therapy for myself. I am normally a very open book and fall on the side of “over-sharer”, but this was something I kept very close to me. Many of my friends and family reading this are probably learning about this for the first time. For some reason, I have found this hard to talk about, and talking is my therapy. So this is my way of getting it out all out there and starting fresh, one year later.
If you or someone you know is struggling, you are not alone!
- Adjusting to Motherhood – Anxiety & Postpartum Support Group: (319) 369-7580
- Anxiety and Depression Coping Skills Group: (319) 398-6575
- Foundation II Crisis Hotline: (319) 362-2174
- Healthy Families Line: 1-800-369-2229
- Iowa Concerns Hotline: 1-800-447-1985
- MY NURSE 1-800-IA-HEALTH 1-800-424-3258
- Postpartum Support International (PSI) Warm line 1-800-944-4773 or www.postpartum.net
- Suicide Prevention Hotline 1-800-273-TALK (800-273-8255)
- University of Iowa Women’s Wellness & Counseling Service (319) 353-1898
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