Postpartum depression is for real.
With my first kid, I think my emotions were pretty typically neurotic—everything was new and harder than expected, and there was little sleep. Number two, however, was a real kick in the mind-butt.
The anxiety began in the second trimester, which was, ironically, right about the time I started getting my pregnancy “glow” with my first baby. And this anxiety grew. I was short-tempered, irritable. I rarely slept. My mantra became, “This will all be over once I deliver.” But it wasn’t.
Female hormones suck. If anything, my moods got worse, darker.
I felt like I was living with a rain cloud over my head—one of those animated, dark and stormy things, just trying to get me wet whenever it could. I never felt suicidal, thankfully, but I dreaded getting up each morning and beginning the day. I cried—all the time, for stupid reasons, for no reason at all. It was so incredibly frustrating to feel so low for no reason I could wrap my mind around. It made the guilt worse, and along with it, the feelings of inadequacy. I started sleeping even less than a “normal” mother with a newborn can, because the anxiety was overwhelming. And getting help was overwhelming. Everything was overwhelming.
Around 14 months after my second child was born, I finally came up for air. At 19 months, I’m starting to feel like myself again. Which is such a relief! One night last week, sitting on the couch in pj’s and relating the day’s events to my husband, he stopped me to say, “You seem so happy.”
Ahhh, it felt so great to hear that. It had been such a long journey from postpartum depression back to me.
So if you’re out there reading this and nodding your head up and down, I’m here to tell you it gets better. You aren’t alone. You do bounce back. And if you’re doing as I did in the thick of it—scouring the internet for hope—here might be a few mood-boosters to try out (or don’t—whatever makes you happy! Like, for real, whatever makes you happy).
To start, take a shower—every morning. Not because you smell and your hair is oily and there’s someone finally coming over to help change a diaper, but because it helps you feel like a person. I was never a fan of the whole process of showering before I had kids. I hated having to dry my hair and put on lotion and put on makeup and the whole rigmarole of it. Now I look forward to that time. It feels good to put yourself together—even if you throw your dirty yoga pants on right afterward.
Side note: Maybe don’t throw on your dirty yoga pants. Maybe go out and treat yourself to some new mascara, and try it out the next morning—after you shower.
Side note on the side note: Try something simple like mascara first. Don’t do anything drastic, no matter how much you want to dye your hair blue. I’d suggest you make a go of feeling like yourself again before you feel like a whole new you.
Then, invite friends over. Even when your house looks like a disaster zone and you don’t want to host a damn thing. Distractions make all the difference. Go on playdates even if it messes up sleep schedules. Go to the library for story time, even if—like me—you have the child who never sits still. And, also like me, if you’ve recently moved to a new place, give yourself a break when you don’t meet friends in the first few months. It will happen. Your clan exists. Just continue to get out of your house once a day—once every day. The grocery store counts. Hell, the gas station counts. But find your clan. And in my opinion, it should include positive people. Sure, some days you really need to bitch about how your spouse does this and doesn’t do that, but it’s much better to forget about that stuff altogether when you’re with your friends.
Eat well. Sure, you feel like crap, you don’t want to cook, and you still wear your maternity clothes, but do it anyway. You’ll feel less tired than you do when you’re guzzling down the coffee. I promise. I think it’s been scientifically proven or something.
During my postpartum depression, one thing I hadn’t thought to consider was to stop taking, or to change, my birth control. I breastfed exclusively, which meant around the eight-month mark I decided to get on a progesterone-free birth control pill. Until I got off of it, I had no idea how much it was affecting my moods. I was significantly less depressed once I switched.
Lastly, ask for help. And when it doesn’t come easily, ask for more help. I’ve never been a lover of doctors and medicine, so I wasn’t sure if it was me or the social stigma of mental illness that kept me from getting help. But I talked about it—out loud. And the more I mentioned it, the more my close friends and family realized I was in a bad place. That’s when they found help for me when I couldn’t figure it out for myself. It still makes me uncomfortable, but I’ve been told it shouldn’t, and that alone helps.
Every pregnancy is different, and not everyone experiences postpartum depression, but some truly do—maybe even a lot of us. So if you or someone you know is feeling down and irritable and your/her moods are swinging from sky-high to bottomless-pit deep, hang in there. It gets better. It ends, eventually. I’ve tried everything from jumping on the essential oils bandwagon to hot yoga to Candy Crush—and while they may have been momentarily helpful, in the end it’s probably best to talk about what’s going on. Nothing’s going to get better faster if we keep our not-so-dirty secrets in the dark.
If you think you might be suffering from PPD or need some extra support, visit www.postpartumprogress.com.