Before I was pregnant, I heard of postpartum anxiety and depression (PPA/PPD), but I never thought they would effect me. I had never had mental issues like that.
However, my daughter’s birth came in a traumatic way. It was not at all what I prepared for or expected. We both made it through though and were home cuddling for 12 weeks before I went back to work.
I had a high-stress job that was demanding physically and mentally. I was ready to go back but knew something was off the first few weeks. I just figured I was getting used to my new normal. But, I found myself more angry than usual. I also found myself just generally annoyed with everything.
I found less joy in my job that I truly once really enjoyed. I was happy I had my baby, but I was sad at how much that baby had changed me. I wondered what was wrong with me.
Why can’t I do it all and be happy?
Prior to pregnancy I had sought counseling for stress and anxiety over life in general. I’d never needed medication; I was able to work things out through talk therapy. But something in me said it was time to contact her again.
Once I contacted my counselor, she saw me quickly and we had a few sessions. After about the third session when I finally opened up about what I truly was feeling, she mentioned postpartum anxiety. After the fourth or fifth session she mentioned postpartum depression and potentially exploring medication.
I will admit, I was caught off guard with the diagnosis.
This wasn’t what I thought PPA or PPD was. I was still functioning like a normal person. I could bath and dress myself, and I was going to work just fine. The more sessions we had though, the more I learned it truly was PPA and some PPD. These manifest in different ways in different people and it’s not always noticeable.
I finally got enough courage to meet the nurse practitioner in the office to discuss medication. After a few trials on a few drugs, we found the right one. I was so surprised at what the medicine did for me. It didn’t take away every symptom, but what it gave me was valuable.
It helped me not feel so overwhelmed with feelings. It helped me process my feelings appropriately without losing my patience. It helped me enjoy life more. I wasn’t angry at the world around me. I was able to continue my talk therapy and be able to make breakthroughs in handling stress and anxiety. It even helped get me back into the physical exercise that I had so missed, but was too stressed to figure out how to work it back into life.
It made me me again.
Several months later I was having a weird symptom I shared with a co-worker. We put on our google doctor hats and looked at possible causes.
One of the causes of my symptom swas “taking an SSRI or antidepressant.” She didn’t know I was taking them, but I said actually I am, so that’s probably it. (Don’t worry, I confirmed with my doctor that the medicine was causing the harmless side effect. It actually went away a few months later.)
A few weeks after that, that same coworker texted me to see if I wanted to walk after work. As we walked she opened up about her struggles with depression and the medication she was taking. We shared resources and gave each other tips. That bond would have never started had I opened up about taking medication for my PPA/PPD.
We still walk and talk about life and mental health now.
Mental health is not something that is easy to talk about. It’s not a topic you bring up at a party, but it’s important to discuss it without judgment. Especially us moms.
I like to always ask new moms around me how their mental health is. I check in with them without judgment. I open up about my struggles first to hopefully reduce the awkwardness of it all.
Not everyone needs medication or to pay a therapist. But everyone deserves to be heard and know that their feelings are valid.
Now, four years postpartum, I am still doing well. I check in with myself often to make sure I’m taking care of myself mentally and physically so I’m the best version of myself I can be. I owe that to my child and I’m proud that I am able to give that to them.