Imagine this : you’re wandering around aimlessly while you’re trying to find an address in a city you don’t know, where street numbers are jumbled up and don’t follow any particular order so you just walk around until it feels normal for nothing to make sense. You’ve become accustomed to 6 coming after 3 but before 1. But then one day, it’s all jumbled up again and you have to figure out the new order, the new normal. And it becomes so routine that you don’t realize that it’s all mixed up… Until you do. And then you wonder how you’ve lived so long in such a state of fog and confusion and frustration.
That basically sums up the last two years.
I’ve cut through the fog and am starting to realize that life doesn’t have to be like that. That it’s not normal. That I shouldn’t just accept that being the usual.
A month ago I was diagnosed with postpartum depression.
For those of you doing the math… That’s 22 months after I had a baby. Approximately 90 weeks. Somewhere over 600 days.
Yeah, apparently it can linger that long. Who knew…
I noticed I was getting impatient with my oldest during the pregnancy but I chalked that up to being tired, pregnant and working while trying to still fit in quality time with my oldest. I felt like I didn’t have the effort for things like crafts, sensory projects and simple things that I’ve loved doing during my years as a nanny.
After baby was born, I had just grew to believe that was my new normal. That my patience levels had dropped. It happens. People change as they grow older. It wasn’t anything severe, it was little changes at a time. I was still patient on many levels and to a decent degree. But *my* old normal was much more patient.
With two young children that are 25 months apart, you expect a certain about of crazy. But I handled it well. I felt like those first 4 months were a breeze… And then the four month sleep regression hit. And now, after 18 months of it, we’ve only started to see the end of it. S went from a wonderful sleeper who would put himself to bed without fussing, to being a raving maniac who would wake and freak out every other hour. If we were lucky to get that long of breaks. It was gruelling. But it became our normal. Husband and I would take turns doing the dreaded nightshift and we’d try to catch up on sleep the next night. We waited for the long nights to end but, while it improved to only 4-5 wakings and an hour to get to sleep each night, it still didn’t end.
I felt like a zombie. An emotional, exhausted, grumpy zombie… Which I guess isn’t a good description for a zombie since they don’t need sleep or have emotions. But you get the point.
It became the new norm, up from just being short on patience.
Sometimes I yelled at my kids. And then I would cry because I yelled at them. I don’t generally yell. I will raise my voice at times (you know, “Put down the sharp knife!” and “Don’t jump on your baby brother!” just don’t have the same effect when you whisper them) but I’m not one to yell.
I went to my family doctor around 7 months postpartum, asking if this could be PPD. She assured me it was normal for having two young kids.
About six weeks ago I started to get even more emotional and tired and found myself getting angry about things that really shouldn’t matter. I felt like I was on the verge of tears, if not crying, for the better part of a week. I talked to two friends who have PPD and both of them said that it sounded like PPD and that I should get a second opinion since my doctor wrote it off the last time, 15 months prior. I decided to go to my family doctor again and ask for blood tests to check iron. At least if I could write that off, I could get closer to a diagnosis. Those results came back fine. So I booked a follow up appointment and told her about my emotions and frustrations and how I felt like I wasn’t me anymore. And that I wasn’t the mother I wanted to be because of it.
I left with a prescription in hand. I felt like there was some weight off my shoulders… And I hadn’t even started taking the medication.
It’s been a month of taking the medication now and I feel so different. It’s like night and day. I look back and wonder how I hadn’t realized it before. And wonder why I hadn’t fought the first brush off of the idea of PPD.
Postpartum depression is something not enough people talk about. Not enough mothers are willing to put themselves out there and say, yes, this is common. It’s real. And it’s something that needs to be addressed as soon as you can. I never got to a point that I thought of self harm or hurting my children but I can only imagine how people – mothers and fathers, both can get PPD – can slowly get to that level and assume it’s the normal for them. That it’s what they do. PPD plays awful tricks on your mind and your heart.
I’m writing this for moms, who like me, dismissed their feelings as tired or stressed out or just general “mom feelings” to look into it more. Knowing that I’ve spent the past year and a half, likely even more, suffering from PPD and knowing I could have been less annoyed, less snappy, less angry at times kind of hurts. I could have been better than I have been. I could have enjoyed more. I could have enjoyed my children and my husband and my family more.
But I have to remember I’m only human. And I still have a ton of time to slow down and enjoy my children as they grow. There’s many more years for that, now that I am me again.
If you, or someone you know, may be suffering from postpartum depression, talk to someone. Anyone. Even just a spouse or a friend. Even an anonymous forum.
Until recently, I never really talked about it. Because “I didn’t have it” and it was “just how I am” – but it wasn’t. I felt like I was surviving so there was no way I could have PPD. But that’s the problem, I was just surviving, I wasn’t living to my full potential. I was just going through the motions.
Lately I’ve been talking about it with my village. A few close friends, my husband and a moms group that has many of my “mom friends” (and many more strangers except as an online entity) who I felt comfortable sharing my new diagnosis with. And I am shocked by how many people have had some kind of mental illness after having a baby. I knew it was more common than society lets on… But I had no idea that it was *this* common.
If you’re local to the Lower Mainland (Vancouver, BC) here are some recommended-to-me places that can be of help to you :
- Reproductive Mental Health
- Pacific Post Partum Support Society
- Fraser Reproductive Mental Health
One in six women and one in ten men have some sort of anxiety or depression after having a child enter their lives via birth or adoption. You are not alone. Let’s end this stigmatism about postpartum mental illnesses – be it depression, anxiety, OCD or others.