What I’m Learning From My Experience with Postpartum Depression

What I'm Learning from my experience with Postpartum Depression - Tips and personal experience on dealing with postpartum depressionWomen are scared to talk about postpartum depression.  We often feel shame for experiencing such a common issue and don’t want to admit we struggled with a form of mental illness.

I’ve never had to deal with depression in my life. I’m one of the lucky ones who is naturally optimistic and generally cheerful. I’ve always been a happy person.

At the hospital the nurses giving out information on Post-Partum Depression, it was discussed at my doctor’s appointments and even my pediatrician has mentioned it when examining Ella.

I listened, but I just didn’t think it would be an issue for me.  I like denial land.

So when I first started to experience post-partum depression I didn’t really understand what was happening.

Even with all the literature and multiple questioning from the doctors I still didn’t recognize the symptoms.

Postpartum Depression:

My depression began slowly. It was so minimal I hardly even realized it was there at first.

I was just a bit more negative than normal. My temper (which in the past was pretty much non-existent) would flare up. I was just a bit quicker to anger.

I took offense at things I wouldn’t have even noticed before.

95% of the time I was fine, but the remaining 5% was really draining.

I remember one night in particular when I had been up 4 times with Ella already. It was 3:00 AM and I was exhausted. Ella on the other hand, was happy as could be. She was laughing and playing in her crib.

I finally got her back to sleep around 4:30, got back into bed and couldn’t go back to sleep.

Anger, frustration, pity, all those feelings went through my head as I lay there for an hour unable to sleep.

I don’t have a clue what I was mad about, but I remember just being annoyed at the little things that Aaron had done that day, stupid stuff from work, politics (this was during the presidential election). You name it and I was upset about it.

I finally started dozing off around 5:30 just in time for Aaron’s alarm to go off at 6:00 AM.

It wasn’t his fault, but I remember being so angry at him for waking me up.

I knew I was being illogical, so I didn’t say anything, but I remember crying after he left and feeling so sorry for myself.

My Realization I had Postpartum Depression:

That was the day I started doing research on Post-Partum Depression and made the connection between what I was feeling and realizing I was struggling with depression.

My crazy behavior suddenly made sense.

I started to notice a distinct trend. When I was really, really tired (as opposed to my new normal of tired) I would start feeling the negativity.

If I got extra sleep in the next day or so I was fine. If I didn’t get sleep, I would get more negative until I would catch up on my sleep.

It would very quickly spiral downhill from there, as I got more negative I had a harder time sleeping which led to more anger. Not a good cycle!

Once I was able to see the pattern I was able to take steps to reverse my negativity

I want to make it very clear that my depression was very minimal. Mine is tied entirely to my sleep. If I’m getting a reasonable amount of sleep then I’m totally fine.

I know that not all women are as lucky as I’ve been.

I don’t want to downplay the depression that other women feel and imply that they just need sleep to solve everything.

Post-Partum Depression is very real and very scary. I’ve had friends who literally couldn’t get out of bed or function as a result of depression.

These are women who were completely normal, healthy and happy.

Pregnancy can really mess up the hormones in our body and if we aren’t careful can cause some very major issues. Depression is real and affects people very differently.

I wrote this post, not for sympathy, but to bring awareness to this issue. If you know me personally, you would be shocked that I struggle with post-partum depression. Even my close friends I’ve shared my story with are surprised.

I held it together really, really well. I can be a bit prideful at times. From the outside, you would never guess I was struggling.

I wasn’t about to let myself get beat by some stupid depression, so I held my feelings of inadequacy inside for significantly longer than I should have. It wasn’t until I finally started talking about my struggles that I was able to admit it wasn’t my fault and start asking for help.

One of the hardest things for me was asking Aaron for help. I had it in my head that I could do it all. I was on maternity leave and shouldn’t need his help, he needed his sleep for work. I had all the excuses for not asking but forgot the biggest reason for asking.

Aaron loves me and Ella and wants to help. He can’t help unless I tell him what I need.

It sounds so simple, but when you are struggling with depression sometimes logic goes out the window. All you can see is your failures and inability to hold it together staring you in the face. 

How I Currently Deal my Postpartum Depression:

Ella is 9 months old now. You would think that everything was back to normal by now – it isn’t. I hope that my body chemistry gets back to normal soon. In the mean time, I still struggle occasionally.

It sounds extreme, but I track my sleeping on my Fitbit Blaze. If I go below 5.5 hours for more than 2 nights in a row, I take steps.

Tracking my sleep has helped significantly.  Since I’m getting more sleep I don’t have the negative feelings as frequently, but they are still there. They lurk at the edge of my brain and when I wake up at 3:00 AM, they are always right there just waiting to rush in.

I know it sounds stupid, but if you have been there, you totally get what I mean. If I let them in, they swirl around and build up until I’m just drowning in negativity.

Fortunately, I recognize the signs now and rarely get caught in the negativity track. When I do, I’ve learned to listen to LDS Conference talks or positive music. Occasionally, I get up in the middle of the night and do yoga.

The trick is to find a way of distracting my brain.  My tips aren’t going to work for those with extreme depression.

Ask for Help if you are Struggling with Depression

If you feel like you are suffering from depression (post-partum or regular), please share your concerns and reach out for help. Don’t suffer in silence and just expect your negative feelings to go away.

Depression doesn’t just disappear. Until you can locate your stressors and address them, you will continue to have issues.

Please, please, please ask for help. Don’t get caught in the cycle and hurt yourself further. It isn’t worth the pain you will cause yourself and your family. Ask for help!!

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