Postpartum depression (PPD) is often talked about as something that is normal following childbirth. While PPD is definitely something that can happen after childbirth and is fairly common, it is far from “normal” and should not be taken lightly. The term PPD is used synonymously with “baby blues”, and generally just overlooked and under treated. Baby blues is quite different, and while it is difficult to navigate at the time, it does pass relatively quickly. However, if it doesn’t, it may have progressed in to PPD and you’ll want to act accordingly.
I have decided to share my most recent experience of PPD to give my readers a real unedited look at how PPD is experienced. I had PPD with all of my babies (I have four), with my 4th being the worst for me. What I realized is that if you leave PPD untreated, it will compound with every birth, and naturally progress in to your every day depression. That is my theory anyways.
Soon after having my fourth baby, I became pretty weepy. This is really not anything unusual, but it didn’t end. Thoughts would go through my head about how I never should have had children, and I had made a terrible mistake. I stopped wearing any sort of makeup (because it just got cried off anyways), and frankly, I just didn’t give a fuck. I went in to survival mode.
I knew it was bad when I would spend most of my day dreaming about dying. I would come up with these grand schemes of how I could kill myself, but have it look like an accident. I spent hours writing in my journal about my plans. Here is one page from my journal dated June 6, 2008, just 5 months after having my baby.
“If I had to choose, I’d eat a bunch of sleeping pills and drink myself to sleep. I’d have to make sure the kids were all taken care of first, and then I’d consider leaving town and killing myself in some random hotel room, or maybe in my vehicle at the side of the road.
Sometimes I just wish for an escape route. This whole life thing is making me insane.”
When my fantasies of death turned in to an actual plan, I realized I had two options. Option one was to die by my own hand, and option two was to call the mental health clinic and get help. I opted for the latter and phoned the mental health clinic. They told me to come straight in to their office and they would assign me a psychologist, which is exactly what happened.
I spent the next 4 months going to see a psychologist 1-2 times a week, and she helped me realize that it was PPD I was experiencing and that I needed a plan of action. She gave me a list of things I need to do daily, even if they seemed minor. The initial list was simple, and included:
- Go outside for at least 10 minutes
- Drink water
- Do something for myself (bath, read, garden, whatever)
You’d be surprised how hard it is to do the most simple things when you’re depressed. Going outside for at least 10 minutes does not seem like something that would be challenging, but when you can hardly even get out of bed every day, going outside feels nearly impossible. Regardless, I followed her instructions and also sought advice from a Naturopath. The ND was very helpful too, instructing me on what supplements I should be taking and what foods will help with my mood. I took a combination of items including Vit. B complex, Calcium Magnesium, Fish Oil, and St. John’s Wort. If you’re considering taking supplements to help with your PPD, I would suggest seeking out a ND to make sure you’re taking to correct dosage and best combination for you.
So with the weekly counselling, the supplements, and following the list of daily items to do, I began to feel better. I started doing more once my energy level rose. I returned to kickboxing, starting hula hooping and also started roller derby. Physical activity is incredibly helpful for PPD, although it is so hard to just jump in to something while feeling so terrible, and that is why I worked to get my energy up a little before taking on any activities. That said, I have often said that “roller derby saved my soul,” and that is the truth. After joining roller derby, my mood increased so much that I didn’t even need to go to counselling anymore. It was amazing.
So if you’re currently experiencing PPD, I definitely recommend reaching out for help. Call your local mental health office and book yourself in with a counsellor, and begin your journey to recovery. If you’re in Calgary, call the Access Mental Health office at 403-943-1500 Ext 2, or get in touch with the Women’s Mental Health Clinic (they specialize more in birth and PPD) at 403-944-5872. Also, you may be surprised that many women keep their experience of PPD a secret, so break the silence and talk to anyone who will listen. And if you feel there’s no one, drop me a line. You are not alone.