Before Judah was born, I had never experienced real depression. Just normal, situational anxiety and sadness. Then, when Judah was about 6 weeks old, something shifted. I had been dealing with the normal postpartum emotions, some weepiness and hyperactivity, but suddenly that got much more intense. Whereas in the first 6 weeks I might be weepy, have a little cry, feel better, and move on, I now became inconsolable. No amount of crying, talking to Brett, or baby cuddles made me feel better. We thought it was just a hormonal low patch and I’d get over it in a few days.
Then the anxiety kicked in and I couldn’t sleep. Nothing in my world had changed, but the normal mommy thoughts of “Is he getting enough to eat?” or “How long is he going to sleep?” went from being passing concerns to obsessions. It was like a worry switch flipped inside my brain and made it impossible for me to sleep. The days marched on with my mood spiraling downward and my body and mind getting more tightly wound. 5 days, 6 days, 7…no sleep longer than little 30 minute dozes.
I cannot describe how miserable I was. Exhausted, stomach in knots, headache on and off, crying often, anxiety through the roof, wondering if I’m going crazy…Brett finally convinced me to call my doctor who gave me some sleeping pills. That gave me some blessed relief in being able to sleep, and after getting several nights of good sleep I wasn’t as anxious, but I was left with the dull, joyless existence of depression. I eventually went on medication for depression and got counselling, which got me back to being more functional, but it was months before I was myself again.
I share this part of my story because postpartum depression is still underdiagnosed (the experts tell me) and even though I knew something about it, it took me a long time to recognize it in myself. Because mine didn’t hit until after my 6 week check-up (where the doctor asks you all the questions that are supposed to screen for it), I didn’t have a medical safety net. I also doubted it could be postpartum depression since it didn’t show up for 7 weeks. I had also never heard how closely related anxiety and depression are, so when my most severe symptoms became anxiety/sleeplessness I didn’t know where to go for help.
If you are dealing with any kind of anxiety or depression right now, you are not alone. There are thousands of us who have suffered through it not knowing what it was or thinking we were crazy, but that does not have to be your story. There are so many ways for you to get help.
First, don’t be afraid to ask for that help. If you have a loving spouse, parents, pastor, or friend – be honest with them about where you are and what’s going on with you. If they aren’t able to help you or say something that shames you, they are speaking out of ignorance. Give them grace for their inability to help and ask someone else. Keep asking until you find someone that will walk with you through the journey and support you.
Second, look into the professional help that is available to you locally. I know here in Tampa there are groups that offer medical care and counseling help for women at all income levels. There are places to go where you will not be turned away for lack of money.
Third, know that this will not last forever. I think the scariest thing for me was feeling like I’d lost my mind and wondering if I’d ever get it back. Would I ever feel happy again? I think the first thing my counselor told me was, “This is normal. It happens to lots of women and you WILL get better.” I was so relieved and had so much tension spilling out of me I couldn’t focus on anything else she said for 10 minutes.
Sister, you are not alone. Keep the faith. Ask for help. Better times are coming.