In my adult life I have experienced seasonal depression now and again. This of course was a red flag for my doctors when I got pregnant with my sweet girl. So they consistently reminded me after I had her that if I had any feelings of hopelessness or hurting myself or anyone else to let them know as soon as possible.
Postpartum depression can occur any time during the first year after having a baby. You may not experience the symptoms right after having a baby. Here is my story.
On a spring morning in April our sweet girl entered this world after 4 weeks of bed rest, 38 hours of induced labor and 2.5 hours of pushing. I was immediately overwhelmed with love for this heaven sent beauty.
Right away my every breath and every action was for her. I provided her nutrition from my own body, I would awaken at her slightest startle or whimper. I was a new mom. At this point I was experiencing the typical emotional rush of baby blues (which should last no longer than about 2 weeks). But by the end of about 2.5 weeks, I was great! My energy was coming back, my 26 pounds gained while pregnant was gone by 3 weeks postpartum and we were getting into the swing of things. I went back to work when she was almost 8 weeks old because bed rest took part of my leave. It was hard to leave her, but I found some relief in the break. She stayed home with my husband during the day, which was a big blessing due to our opposite work schedules.
Fast forward a few months and we find ourselves blessed with my husband's first job just a few months after he graduated from college. I would have the opportunity to be a stay at home mom! I was excited. My husband supports me on whatever I choose to do with work, and we agreed that my choice to stay home with our daughter was the best thing for our family. I would also be finishing up my Bachelor's degree through Utah State University's online program.
This job had us moving out of state and about 6-9 hours away from our families. To a strange, HUGE city where we had no friends, or even any idea on how to get to the grocery store. We relied heavily on the wonderful members of our church to guide us, and will be forever grateful for them.
Fast forward a little more and we are making friends and having a good time getting to know people. I have always been an extrovert, people oftentimes see me as very outgoing and it didn't take me long to meet many new people. But even as I was meeting people, I was alone. Going from a fast paced life of parenting, working and going to school, to suddenly not working anymore was a shock to my system. I went from a job where people consistently thanked me and told me I was doing a good job, to one where my thanks came in the form of poop and snuggles. A blessing, but hard. This was the first check in my box.
I got really in to fitness and lost an additional 27 pounds and was feeling great. I felt like, because I was a stay at home mom, I had no excuse to not try to perfect my body. This was check two. It did not take long for extreme mom guilt to set in if I didn't do things perfectly every day. Pressure I didn't get from anyone but myself. This was check three. By Christmastime, I began to withdraw. It was our first Christmas away from our families and a big one being our daughter's first. I didn't admit it, but I missed being home for Christmas. This was check four.
From there is where I began my slow but steady spiral. I began to get irrationally angry with my spouse and family members. I was hurting them and I knew it, but I couldn't stop it. I had constant rage and frustration in me. I thought it was just due to the fact that I missed working and that my life was so much the same every day.
I also began to withdraw from friends. I didn't make any effort to be social, and when my husband would suggest that we did something, I would say no and just want to stay home.
It didn't take long to stop hearing from friends as often. And I do not blame any of them for this, because I always play myself as someone who is always okay. I help others, I don't need help. So I assume most just thought I didn't like them anymore rather than ask if I was okay. Again, I do not blame anyone for this.
I got a call from a dear friend and she asked me how I was really doing. I have relied on her sage advice for years now, and when she asked if I could be suffering from Postpartum Depression, I denied it and wrote it off as maybe needing to go back to work. She didn't let me escape with that excuse, and that is the best thing anyone could have done for me. She made me call her to check in and talk. She had me promise I would ask my husband for a blessing and see a doctor. I said I would, but continued to go on without doing the things. I was in denial. I KAITLIN do not need help. And that is when things got worse.
I don't really know the moment when it happened, but my world went dark. I stopped doing things that I loved, like running and cooking and being close to my husband. I began to resent my husband for the smallest of infractions. I began to be angered by the cry of my baby. I began to want to die. I didn't want to live. Every time I got angry with my baby and my husband the guilt would hit me ten fold and I would sink deeper into my depression. I stopped getting dressed and wore the same pair of sweatpants every day. I was withdrawn when my husband got home and would just hand him our baby and sit on the couch. One night he had to put me to bed, because I just didn't want to get up, or go on. I sobbed with guilt. And as someone who has studied different aspects of mental health, I knew I was 100% in denial.
I decided to get help. Calling the doctor's office and telling them I need an appointment for PPD was the hardest thing about it. I felt like I was saying "HEY LOOK AT ME, I CAN'T HANDLE MY LIFE AND NOW NEED HELP." Which I know is not true. My doctor truly listened to me, and for that I am grateful. He suggested medication. Something I thought I would never do, but my baby girl needed her mom, and my husband his wife. So I took it. It is not a happy pill, but it did not take me long to notice that the darkness was being lifted from my mind. I started getting up each day and being pretty happy. I fell in love with my family all over again. My doctor said that we should be able to ween off the meds after a few months, and I hope I will be able to.
People should never be ashamed for being depressed. The best thing you can do for a friend or a loved one, when you notice they begin to withdraw, is to follow them. Get closer to them and ask them what you can do. If you notice some darkness in them, suggest they seek help. I would almost say that my over presence on my social media accounts was a big sign. I was seeking the approval of my hundreds of friends in order to feel like I could function each day. I still post, but have removed social media applications from my devices so that I am not so focused on thinking everyone else's lives are perfect. I still call my friend, and we have "therapy" which to me is better than seeing a therapist, because I am so very honest with her, I know she isn't going to admit me to a mental hospital for something I say. There is no fear, she has always been there for me. It is a whole family effort for me to heal. My husband has stepped up even more that he had before! He works so hard for our family, and comes home and is amazing with our daughter to give me a break. He tells me to go out and be social. It is taking some time to heal socially, but I hope to feel like myself again soon.
What I have learned from all of this, is that no one is too strong to get depression. Those who smile on the outside, may really be hurting on the inside. 1 in every 8 women will suffer from PPD. That is huge seeing as there are are around 4 million births in the United States each year. So here is my soapbox! Seek help, and help others to seek help.