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In the past, Mental Health Monday has covered topics that were very obviously relevant to what I see as the twenty-something experience. For example, last week’s post on social anxiety covered how to get through it for a job interview. So many twenty-somethings are at a place in life where they’re trying to find their dream job. In May, you may have read The Food & Mood Connection, which discussed how to get more nutrients in our lives so we can be both healthier and happier. I thought that was awesome for twenty-somethings who, if they’re anything like me, lived off Easy Mac all through college.
But– there’s a reason I have other people write for MHM even though I’m on my way to a master’s degree in counseling. It’s because I only have one personal experience, and that’s from the professional side of mental illness. I don’t want to preach at you about things I only know from textbooks! I want you to learn from the personal experiences of others.
A few weeks ago, I was presented with the opportunity to feature Jenn from thismommyisreal.com. She wanted to write about postpartum depression and anxiety. At first, I wasn’t sure that my twenty-something audience would be able to relate to that, because it didn’t fit my experience. I don’t see children for me until I’m in my early 30’s. But then, I did a quick Google search, and learned that the average woman in the US has her first baby at age 26! That’s right smack in the middle of my target audience! This is the beauty of Mental Health Monday here at Uninspired– learning about people, and getting to re-shape your view of the world.
So, without further ado, here is Jenn from thismommyisreal.com, and her guest post about postpartum depression and anxiety.
This Mommy’s Experience: An Honest Postpartum Depression Experience
“When you’re expecting, there are so many recommendations and courses that you take. They run from dealing with the birth process, to caring for a newborn, to breastfeeding strategies. I’ve even seen courses on how to introduce your pets to your new baby!
Sadly, one of the things I did not see when I was planning, was detailed information on Postpartum Depression (PPD). I also learned nothing about it’s companion, Postpartum Anxiety (PPA). I remember worrying slightly that it could happen to me, but I wasn’t suffering from it, and I didn’t know anyone who did. After all, who prepares for depression that isn’t happening?
I, and many others, had heard of the “baby blues,” which can happen shortly after birth, but tends to disappear within two weeks. It has similar symptoms to Postpartum depression, like weeping, anxiety, irritability, mood changes, fatigue and insomnia, plus more which can vary from mother to mother. Like Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, the baby blues can also happen to both first-time and experienced mothers. We accept the baby blues, but have a harder time accepting how common PPD/PPA are. The fact remains that PPD and PPA are common, and many parents are unprepared.
Many who do suffer, suffer silently, so no one is ever aware that it’s actually happening.
The main differences between the baby blues and Postpartum Depression are the intensity and duration of symptoms. I noticed my symptoms a few weeks post-birth. It was a very difficult birth and recovery and afterward, I was sad every day. There was no attachment to my child. Yes, I cared for him like every mother should, but found myself detached from him, and everyone. Soon I isolated myself from the outside world and was consumed by thoughts of failure. I wept constantly, was anxious, and suffered from insomnia. I thought I was a horrible mother, and that my inability to function would cause my son harm. There were times I wondered if I’d made the right decision to have this child. I’d fallen into such a dark place in my life– so deep I thought I’d never get out. I panicked often, and found myself unable to breathe.
Around the fourth week, I suffered an extremely debilitating panic attack. I realized then that these feelings and thoughts were not me.
Something was wrong, and I needed to get help immediately.
The first thing I did was contact a local Postpartum support group that offered a warmline to provide support and resources to mothers like me. That same day, someone called me back. They listened to my issues, suggested mental health professionals, as well as parenting courses and support groups I could reach out to. Knowing that someone understood me, and that help was available, gave me hope.
A few days afterward, I attended a local Postpartum Depression and Postpartum Anxiety support group. It was run by a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who was compassionate and supportive. Joining this group proved to be a major turning point in my recovery, and brought me out of isolation. I had been terrified to go anywhere, especially with my son. I didn’t want to leave the safe haven of my home. And yet, each week, I was able to do so through this group. I met other mothers who had similar experiences, and who were just as understanding and open about what was happening to them.
Ultimately, I saw my own psychologist as well.
She helped me get to the root of my feelings and taught me coping strategies to deal with the episodes as they occurred. She also gave me an outlet to talk openly. I was relieved to share my thoughts and fears with someone who would listen without judgment. At times, just talking about my experience made it easier for me to recover.
Eventually, I decided to take antidepressants. It was a difficult thing for me to accept, but I realized that it may have been the most beneficial option in my particular situation. My body rejected the first prescription, but the second was a miracle. I had no side effects, and I experienced clarity in my life. I felt like a cloud had been lifted, and I was finally able to address my issues with a clearer mind. I’m still taking it to this day.
My son is now nine months old. It’s been four months since I’ve returned to work. I have many things on my plate, and finding the balance is always a challenge. There are moments where I feel a potential relapse, and times where it feels like recovery is still further away.
However, I learned that each day I try, I succeed.
Every day, those initial feelings seem more distant. When I do experience distress, the intensity is far less than what it was. Now, I’m able to recognize a problem much easier, and deal with it. Finally, I’m happy and enjoying motherhood.
I’ll never forget my experience with Postpartum Depression and Anxiety, and I feel sympathetic to those who suffer through it. I always try to educate people about it, because it’s something that just isn’t discussed enough. It was a horrific and debilitating experience, but there is a silver lining to it. Once the worst was over, I gained a new outlook on my life, a renewed sense of purpose, and friendships with wonderful people who I am proud to call my ‘Mama Tribe.’ Most importantly, it gave me the clarity to see how much I love my son, and how fulfilling motherhood can be.”