My Battle With Postpartum Depression
Posted on April 24 2019
I honestly didn’t even realize I was in such a dark place.
I knew I felt horrible, but I felt so guilty for feeling horrible that I didn’t face it. I had a beautiful baby, a wonderful husband, and everything I needed. I wasn’t “justified” in feeling bad- so instead of facing it, I just hid it and felt shame.
A couple times the thought crossed my mind that I may have postpartum depression. But every time I thought it, another thought like “if you had postpartum depression, you wouldn’t have gotten out of bed today, let alone put your makeup on” would fire back.
I was pretty high-functioning. I could get out of bed and I put my makeup on. I could make dinner and act happy in front of family and friends. My baby was fed and happy. But I, on the other hand, was not.
I was extremely on edge. The smallest thing could spark tears or anger or intense anxiety. I found myself wanting to stay in bed all day- and not because I was tired- but because the day in front of me felt insurmountable.
I had zero appetite and eating felt like a chore. My brain felt scrambled and I couldn’t think straight or focus on anything.
But the hardest part was how I felt about myself. I felt completely worthless and like a failure. I was convinced that I was a leech to everyone around me – constantly draining everyone and leaving everyone worse than I found them. I began thinking thoughts like, “Everyone would be much better off without me. I’d be better off dead.” And after a while, I started entertaining that thought in my mind and thinking about how I would end my life.
This went on for weeks, until one day as I was driving home, just sobbing. Those dangerous thoughts were running rampant in my brain and I felt like I couldn’t logically push them aside. All of this was happening with my baby girl in the backseat, crying for me.
In that moment, something clicked in my brain. I realized that those thoughts are not normal and not ok. I realized that I had never felt that badly about myself. Even though I still believed I was worthless, some part of me whispered, “this isn’t true. You don’t have a character flaw- you have a hormone imbalance. You need help.”
I immediately called my doctor and went in to get checked out. My doctor took one look at me and asked only a couple of questions before telling me, “Elizabeth, you have postpartum depression. And it’s not your fault. It is way more common than you think, and we’ll help you feel better.”
My doctor prescribed me Zoloft to help stabilize my mood swings and I finally opened up to my family about how I was feeling. I hadn’t even told my husband until this moment because I felt so much shame.
Because I got immediate support from my family after opening up, things improved quite a bit. But I wasn’t healed, by any means. It took about 2 weeks for the medicine to get into my system and help balance my emotions. And it was another few weeks before my dosage was correct and I felt like I was truly myself again. During that month or so of recovery, things slowly improved, but there were still dark, low moments. I had 2 instances where I was on the brink of a panic attack, many days where I didn’t want to get out of bed, and bouts of crying. But just having the support around me made it bearable.
When my medicine was in my system and my dosage was correct, my life improved dramatically. I felt confident in my skin and knew I was a good mom again. I could focus on things again and I found joy in all of the things I used to. It felt like taking a deep breath for the first time after a month of struggling to breathe.
But the medicine wasn’t the only thing that helped. It took eating good food, consistent exercise, and planning days to drop off my daughter with family and get out on my own. It took prioritizing sleep and many, many long conversations to work through my feelings with my husband. It took a major attitude shift where I decided to give myself a little grace and realize that it isn’t selfish to take care of myself. All of these things contributed to the healthier state I’m in now.
I’m feeling so much better now, and I decided to write about my experience because I wish I would have read something like this before I had my baby girl. I wish I would have realized that every experience is different, and postpartum depression doesn’t look the same on everyone. Just because I could get out of bed and was pretty high-functioning didn’t eliminate the possibility of postpartum depression. Just because I didn’t check off every single symptom on Web MDs description of postpartum depression didn’t mean that I wasn’t struggling with it.
I want every postpartum mama out there who is questioning her own worth and feels like her emotions are outside of her control to realize that that is way more common than she thinks. And I want her to know that she doesn’t need a justification to feel bad. I want her to know that there is no reason to feel shame and I want her to know that healing is right around the corner if she seeks it. I want her to be brave and open up about it (because it’s really scary!) And I want her to know that she isn’t the only one out there. There is hope and healing and happiness available for her.
Read more of Elizabeth's articles here.