Living with Undiagnosed Postpartum Depression
This entire blog was written from the heart by my sister in law!
Let’s talk about a subject no one likes to talk about or even admit they are struggling with, Momma’s I am talking to you, Postpartum Depression (PPD). It’s something that is completely unexpected, comes out of left field and I think even doubted when you are actually living with it. (I vividly remember telling myself there was no way I had PPD) And I think a lot of moms go undiagnosed. Moms who are undiagnosed because we don’t say anything to anyone or even let it show. I am talking about the ones who show up to parties and events with a smile and when asked “how are you,” we just say amazing, or good, or I am great. The ones who just go through the motions of life, but aren’t LIVING life. The ones who cry for no reason in mid day or cry themselves to sleep and then have extreme guilt for crying over this beautiful life many dream and pray about and strive for. I am talking about the moms who have horrible thoughts and dreams that just randomly come into their heads and they are so heart wrenching you wouldn’t dare tell a soul that you even had that thought or dream? The moms who feel alone or extreme isolation and think that you are the only one feeling this way. If any of this sounds like something you have experienced or struggled with, first off, know you aren’t alone, many moms struggle with some form of PPD on a scale from hardly at all to extreme and this post may just be one you can relate to you. I am writing this mainly so other mom’s don’t feel alone, or weird, or awkward, or different or whatever negative feeling you might be having that you are too scared to talk to anyone about. This is my story and how I over came undiagnosed PPD.
Two pink lines showed up on Pregnancy test in the Target bathroom, yes I was that girl that was so excited to get pregnant because we were actually trying to conceive our first child and OMG it worked!! Let me tell you, being the oldest child and oldest grandchild on my dads side, first one married, first one to buy a house, etc, it was somewhat expected that I would be the first to have a child. And here I was standing in the Target bathroom living up to that expectation, overwhelmed with joy and teary-eyed, I couldn’t wait to get into my car and call my husband to tell him and then share our news with…. The world!!! We were ecstatic to say the least. From that moment on, it was nothing but pure bliss when it came to telling everyone our news, and then giving updates, and counting down months, weeks, and days, planning the baby shower, shopping in the baby section at Target (Obviously I love it there), and finding out we were having a GIRL!! The list goes on and on. For 9 months, I was literally on cloud 9!
Then she came!! (Labor was hard, but thats another topic for another day.) OMG she was the cutest little human I had ever seen. We counted fingers and toes like every proud parent does. We started nursing, dressed her in the cutest outfit we had, put a huge bow on her head, took a thousand pictures, the list goes on. I was just smitten and over the moon for her. And truthfully I was for 4 straight months. Nothing could bring me down or change my mood (except sore nipples and stitches in the hoo hah).
Then things changed. I got my period 4 months PP and my hormones changed like nobody’s business. And I think it’s important to mention that I didn’t realize my hormones we changing, only now looking back can I write this and know what was actually happening. Anyway, I woke up feeling like garbage. Like I had been hit by a bus, lethargic, no energy, didn’t want to do anything and felt like my happiness had been pulled out from right under me. Why? Why do I feel like this? Why was this happening? And I remember justifying in my head, oh its my period and I’m just having an off day and I will be back to normal soon. Boy was I wrong….
I felt like this everyday until I pregnant with my son. (They are almost 2 years apart). I would have horrible dreams, like someone coming into my house and murdering my brand new baby, or taking them to sell them on the black market. (And these dreams were VIVID) I would wake up sobbing and scared. I did not know why I was thinking like this and then I would beat myself up all day about it. And then I hate to admit it, but it almost became an obsession. Like “I wonder what horrible dream I will have tonight?” I hated bed time or even when it got dark. I was in my own head and I would try to talk myself out of my insecurities all day long. “Stop it, you’re being dumb, that stuff doesn’t happen around here, you can’t live in fear, I am a new mom and should be so incredibly happy for what we have created, this is the life you wanted, and (worst of all) other moms don’t think like this, what would people think if they knew you were having these thoughts, etc.” But it didn’t help. It was a vicious cycle and I didn’t dare say anything to anyone because “who thinks like that?” And don’t get my wrong, I was simultanionsly so happy being a mom. I felt weird experiencing multiple emotions at the same time. Watching my daughter laugh for the first time was so magical. I still can see my self running down the hallway as fast as I could to get my husband out of the shower with shampoo still in his hair so he could hear and see it!! But, deep down I was fighting this internal battle with myself that even he knew nothing about.
Then the isolation set it. I must be different because I have never had these thoughts before and someone doesn’t just wake up and feel this way. I felt so alone. I googled what to do for bad dreams with no success. I googled what to do for bad thoughts, no great solutions. I feel like I googled a few things when it came to negative thoughts but I clearly wasn’t googling the right things and maybe there wasn’t as much information 7 years ago. Everything I could find on PPD was so intense and so far from what I was feeling that I continued tell myself there was no way I could have PPD, it must just be me being a weirdo. I’m really not sure, but I do know the loneliness was super real and I didn’t have anyone to call to talk to about this because, well I was the first one to have a baby. I tried to find Facebook mom groups, but that really just seemed to make things worse. I watched them all just seem so happy and all had their lives together (On the surface). They don’t cry for no reason, thats just me. Why am I like this?
I watched my husbands joy for this child just explode every single day when he got home from work, so surely he couldn’t be having any negative thoughts or feelings or emotions. He’s the best father I could have ever imagined for my kids. My other friends who are moms are just happy and post the sweetest posts about their kids, so I “copied” and followed suit. On the surface, nothing was wrong. But deep down I felt so alone. Have you ever felt so unhappy in a time of your life when you should be the happiest and you just can’t explain why? This was a daily battle. I wanted to be happy, but I wasn’t and I could even make up a half ass reason as to why.
Now because I was struggling with this, it led to my overall attitude just not being quite right. I was a stay at home mom (SAHM) so I was just home alone with my sweet perfect baby all day everyday. So I didn’t have any distractions(I will talk about this again) and could let myself get mopey, down and unmotivated. I would let the laundry pile up and just sit on the couch. Same with the dishes and all of the other household chores. Then right before my husband would get home I would run around like a crazy lady to just get it done. And remember I wasn’t in the right head space, so I would make comments like, “if he just helped me with one load of laundry I would be so overwhelmed.” “I mean I do everything around this house, cook, and am raising our only child with no help!” Whoa sister!! This is just yet another self inflicted vicious cycle that could have been prevented! But in the moment I didn’t see it because I was struggling with PPD and didn’t even know.
I was tired. I couldn’t sleep, I was afraid to. I wasn’t eating right because I was awake at midnight and would have “snack” which led to emotional eating. Then I was upset that the weight was building and none of my clothes fit. Do you see where this is going? One thing just continued to lead to another and I was becoming more and more unhappy with my life. But heres the kicker, I couldn’t let anyone know I was struggling. So what did I do? When I left the house I put my brave face on. Everything was always fine and so amazing and I would talk up my child’s milestones and make that the focus of my conversations with anyone, especially my immediate family. What would my own mom think if she knew I was struggling? What about my mother in law? Even my husband? After all, I had it made right? SAHM with a hard working hubby who provides everything for us, a perfect baby who sleeps all the time and smiles and laughs at everything, a cute first house, a huge family that really was there to support us no matter what. I felt like if I said anything about how I struggling it would make it seem like I was complaining, which now I know sounds so dumb! So truth be told, no matter what, I always made my life seem perfect and flawless, but inside I felt like I was dying. “God had picked the wrong person to be this baby’s mom because who in their right mind feels and thinks this way.” The guilt, OMG the guilt made it so much worse. This my friends, is straight up PPD and I wish someone would have just mentioned that this was a thing that happens in this way. However, I just continued to live my life as if there was nothing wrong.
So fast forward another year or so and I went to the doctor for a physical/check up. (My last check up was 6 weeks PP and everything was fine then, remember?) The doctor asks me how things are going and I tell her I am having a hard time losing weight, but its probably due me not sleeping as much as a new mom. She looked my straight in the face and she said that word. That dreaded word I had never heard of before. She asked me if I thought I had Postpartum Depression and I just said, “what’s that?” She went on to explain it slightly but her questions were not even close to what I was actually struggling with. She asked if I ever had thoughts of hurting my baby, or shaking her, or letting her cry for hours on end. And I just thought OMG NO! So my immediate response out loud was “NO! I am definitely not struggling with PPD.” She went on to say okay well if you ever do have these thoughts, you need to get help ASAP so we can prescribe you some antidepressants and some other medications that I can’t even remember the name of. I was caught off guard. Do moms actually have “those” types of thoughts? Surely my mental state was “minimal” if thats what PPD is.
Well guess what happens next, I find out I am pregnant with baby number 2! Almost instantly, all my PPD symptoms vanished. I know this sounds flipping crazy, but the excitement and joy were all back. It was a massive distraction. This time it was expected to feel this happy because I had already experienced what it was like to tell everyone I was expecting baby number 2! And then my daughter will have friend to play with, and what if its another girl, or a boy?!?!? I am telling you every single bad thought, moments of guilt, feeling defeated unmotivated…GONE!
But fast forward yet again. Baby number 2 is here and you might as well just copy and paste the 2 paragraphs about being pregnant and giving birth again. It was perfect and magical and all of the things you want mommy hood to be.
And then comes round 2, but worse. Much worse. Everything I described above was far worse and this time my baby boy wasn’t an easy perfect baby. He actually did cry a lot and had some health issues and then my limits were really tested. To the point that I went back to the doctor (different doctor) and said, there is something wrong with me. I think I am depressed. I am emotionally falling apart. I got the same dang questions. “Do you have thoughts about hurting your baby? Have you ever shaken your baby?” And again, my answer was no. In my head I was saying “HELL NO!” This type of PPD was never ever directed at my kids husband or anyone. It was all me and my thoughts and me putting myself down. I wanted to give up some days, but then who would take care of my family? No one would. That thought right there was the beginning of change. Enough was enough. I couldn’t continue to live like this. Perfect on the outside, but a mess on the inside.
And that right there is when I started to have a change. Like a light bulb went off in my head. “If not me, then who?” No one cares about your life and the life you have created like you do, so it’s my job to protect it. At some point you have to be able to shut off that negative voice thats in our heads, but how do we do that? It sounds easy to say or hear, but HOW do we actually live with PPD and overcome it without drugs. Well here is what I did.
- First things first, you need distractions. You need to have some type of a routine that distracts you from the voice in your head. So I did a lot of meal prepping, making home made baby food, cleaned the house before 12:00pm so when the babies took a nap I could sew an outfit for them. Anything. I was always looking for ways to stay busy and distract myself from myself. (If that makes any sense) I started mowing the lawns so I could spend more time with my husband on the weekends OR better yet he could watch them for a couple hours while I had some ME time. Bottom line, stay busy and distract yourself and you won’t have time to dwell in the negative abiss.
- I turned off the damn news. Yes! TURN IT OFF!! It’s horrible. They hardly report on anything good and do you know what happens when you hear a horrible story on the news, it regurgitates all of the negative thoughts you have ever had and brings them back the surface and thats what you think about all day… again. Then the vicious cycle starts. So I am serious when I say turn off the news, get it off your email, your phone, your Facebook, your TV, all of it. It’s straight garbage for the most part anyway.
- I started getting my hair and nails done again. Yes, on the regular. Me time. Maybe once or twice a month with no kids, no husband. JUST DO IT!! AND MOST IMPORTANTLY DON’T FEEL GUILTY! It made me feel good about myself and they way I looked so in turn I was a little nicer and happier towards my husband. And this doesn’t have to be hair and nails. When you think of Me time, what comes to mind? What do you enjoy? Do that!
- Date night, once a month. You have GOT to connect with your spouse if you have one. And I don’t mean just go to dinner and come home. I mean talking to each other about how each other is doing. Like how are you doing emotionally? You good? Anything I can do to make it better? On an emotional level. Example: When we would go to bed at the same time, if we even cuddled for even 5 minutes, I wouldn’t have a bad dream. Sounds so simple and so dumb, but it worked! So you see, it’s so important and I think this is one of our mis-steps in beginning of not knowing what I was struggling with.
- I started working, from home, doing a MLM business. Yes I know its something that you either love or hate, but the truth is it can be done at home and it made me strive to make myself better! I think working to improve yourself is huge. Even making an extra $100 a month is so dang rewarding and makes any and all guilt go away about spending money on yourself. Getting my hair and nails done was about me and if I could pay for it myself, well hot damn! My mood was immediately changed for the better!
- Lastly, I hired a cleaning lady. Yep, once a month, like clock work. Best $100 I spend every month to this day! Cancel the cable, or babysit someones kids, whatever I had do, I did it. It takes so much stress away that you don’t even realize you are carrying.
Today, life is great! My kids are now 5 and 7 and my husband and I are the best we have ever been. We are showing up for our kids in ways we could only dream of. Giving them the life they deserve. I think as moms we all have our break down moments, but in todays world they are few and far between. I still do all 6 of these things daily. I am busy all day everyday. We do not have cable and have no plans of getting it. Still get my mani/pedi and hair done regularly. That’s my thing! We have upped the ante on Date night and have decided in addition to that, twice a year we will do a husband and wife get-a-way weekend and work on just us and we had our first trip last month. It was amazing. I am now a full time working momma as a real estate agent and I love it. Adds to the keeping me busy and distracted. And last but not least, the cleaning lady or service still comes monthly without fail. My life is better than I imagined as a kid and most importantly, I am HAPPY!
Let’s face it, we are all just trying to do our best. We are all so excited about to having a baby and welcoming a new life into this world we expect to just love every second of it. But what happens when you find yourself crying “for no apparent reason?” Or struggling emotionally? I think in the moment we aren’t sure whats wrong or why. Only outsiders looking in can see or maybe they can’t. Maybe we can only look back and say wow I was really struggling. But either way, no matter what, know that you are not alone. As women we need to be there for each other, through thick and thin, support each other emotionally, and you are never, NEVER alone.
Stay Strong Momma’s!