A Lighter Shade of Blue
Postpartum Depression, Anxiety and Adjustment Support
Our Founder’s Story: Rachel
My precious baby boy was born on May 16, 1997, which is where my story begins. Delivery was wonderful, one half hour of hard labor and out came Grant at 9lbs, 12oz. My first issue came just hours after delivery when the doctors refused to let me see my baby due to the fact that he was having trouble breathing. They would not even let me nurse him. As with any mom, that was cause for concern and fear. It turns out that he was just fine. We came home the next day and life seemed great, two beautiful boys and a great husband. Wow, did that end fast! By day three, I was so sick in bed that I could hardly move. I had constant vomiting and diarrhea for 21 days straight-I lost 40 lbs during that 21-day period. I lay in bed paralyzed with fear--I had no idea what I was scared of. Consciously I had nothing to fear. Early on we learned about colic. Grant would scream from 8 to 11p.m. every night. After a while, I couldn't deal with it and my husband would walk him up and down the street for hours nightly. Why was my baby screaming? Why couldn't mommy help? His colic lasted for 3 months and 1 week.
When Grant was born, he contracted thrush (yeast infection of the mouth), which was transferred to me through nursing. I spent countless hours working with LaLeche League to heal the problem. My OB said "the mother can't get thrush", so it was left to untreated. Many times Grant had to suck off the scabs before he could get milk. I would cry every time he nursed. Eventually, 4 months later, a dermatologist was able to treat the thrush as well as the staph infection that had set in. Things with nursing were looking up. Why didn't I just stop nursing? It seemed to be the best thing I was doing for him and I had enjoyed my nursing relationship with my first son, Zachary.
I was still physically sick during this whole time. I visited my Primary Care Physician several times, blood was taken, cultures taken and no answers. I was sent to a gastrologist, and after dreadful tests I was diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome. They put me on several medications to help. They help with the diarrhea, but my fears and panic were still out of control. I kept thinking that I was such a wonderful mother to Zachary, why couldn't I be to two? I spent approximately 15-19 hours a day in bed. That was my only safe haven. My grandmother had to come to play with Zachary and keep the house up. My home business was failing fast. My husband learned to do everything. I couldn't even dress my children, make dinners, feed the dogs, or even shower myself. I was physically too sick, but the guilt of not doing it set in and added to the problem.
I had lost all my friends but one. I wish someone had been there who had experienced this before, just to talk to and know that I'm not "crazy". No one understood what was going on including my family, and since I didn't either they didn't know how to help and decided to keep their distance. I was so embarrassed not to be the "perfect mom". I tried to tell everyone that everything was okay. My family and friends never pushed the issue, so nobody stepped in. They didn't know how horrible life really was. I was petrified to be alive. I was getting so frustrated with the continual doctor's visits with no concrete answers about was going on. When Grant was 5 months old they finally agreed to put me on valium 4 times a day to help with the anxiety. I saw my primary care physician for the 12th time. I truly believed that I was dying from a disease that they couldn't find. I had previously been taken to the hospital 3 times only to be hooked up to morphine until the pain subsided and then sent home. I later figured out that the pain was brought on by extreme anxiety/panic attacks. On the 12th visit to my primary care physician I cried for 1 1/2 hours about everything and nothing. Finally, he looked at me and said, "you have postpartum depression." I was so grateful. Surprised, but grateful. Surprised because I was a very in control kind of person, this couldn't happen to me. Grateful to at least have a name for what was wrong and knowing that I didn't have to die.
Finally after so many doctor visits with no one helping with the extreme anxiety, fatigue, hopelessness, continual crying and guilt, I began to see a therapist. He was wonderful. He taught me how to handle panic attacks and start working through a lot of issues. Even through this time I was still having upwards of 10 panic attacks a day. I kept telling my husband "don't let me die". I wish now that he would have documented the thing because the most painful part is that I don't remember my baby as an infant at all! That really hurts a mom's heart. I loved him and did everything that I could, but everything wasn't much at all. He lay next to me in bed and I'd roll over and nurse him...I don't even remember how much I really talked to him, that's painful. I would love to go back and remember his first smile, his first tooth, his precious personality, anything: but I can't. His baby book is still pretty empty. My postpartum depression ended at about 10 months, but the severe panic attacks lasted until he was 16 months old. I continued nursing until he was 13 months. It helped save me.
I was the youngest of eight children (four boys and four girls), born on December 15, 1966, and raised in Cincinnati. My mother died suddenly when I was 23 of a massive heart attack. My father died 3 years later when I was 26. I married Doug Korengel on February 6, 1993. He had one child before we were married Adam, who is 17 and we have Ellie, born February 6, 1996.
I had no signs of PPD before my delivery nor did I have any signs of any type of depressive illness before getting pregnant. I did take an anti-depressant right after my mother’s death for about three months (the doctor said I looked anemic and gave me the medicine). Being the youngest of eight, I already had 23 nieces and nephews before I got pregnant. Two of my sisters had grown children and the other sister’s children were all over the age of 10.
I had a doctor’s appointment on February 6, 1993 at 4:30. When I went to the doctor, I had signs of labor (very slight contractions). Upon examination, he told me that I was 100% effaced and was about to go into labor, however, the baby was backwards. He told me to meet him in the hospital at 7:00 and he would perform a c-section. I wasn’t upset that I had to have a c-section, I was just worried about going through an operation awake and being afraid that it would hurt. Upon arrival at the hospital I was extremely nervous. They had to give me some type of nerve medicine because I couldn’t calm myself down. The c-section when fine and she was born at 8:34 p.m.
Everything was fine with recovery in the hospital. I actually liked it there. I had no signs of the PPD in the hospital at all. Three days later we went home. Upon coming home, we had a flurry of visitors. I was able to eat the first day I was home. I tried breast-feeding and the first night she slept six straight hours.
The next day, whoa! The PPD hit. Although at the time I just thought I had the stomach flu. Everyone kept telling me it was the c-section -- I had just had a major surgery and I needed rest. My sister came over and cleaned my house while my husband took care of the baby. I wasn’t producing any breast milk because I was dehydrated from throwing up excessively. I was so anxiety ridden that I thought it must be the flu or something. I stayed in bed all day with an overwhelming feeling of guilt for not being with my baby. I decided I couldn’t breast feed and sent my sister out for formula. I thought this would be easier on me because someone else could feed her while I rested, I felt very guilty over this decision.
The next four weeks were extremely difficult. I had extreme anxiety, panic attacks, bizarre thoughts, a feeling of being trapped or drowning, feelings of no self-worth, severe insomnia; I just wanted to die. I felt as if the baby would die she would be better off without such a terrible mother. I never had thoughts of hurting the baby I just wanted her to go away from me because I knew I was such a terrible mother. I never ate, I couldn’t sleep or even nap, I was afraid to be alone with the baby because I felt I couldn’t handle the responsibility, I was extremely lonely and I had the dry heaves constantly. My dominating thought was of killing myself. The pit I was in kept spiraling down.
At four weeks post-partum, a friend from Arkansas called me. She had heard that I was having a rough time. She told me that I had PPD and to immediately call my Ob/Gyn. She also told me that if he told me it would pass, I should call her back and she would find me a doctor that could help. It was 9:30 on a Sunday night and I called my doctor. He was wonderful, he told me to come in first thing in the morning. Upon arrival at his office all I could do was cry. I was down below my pre-pregnancy weight from practically eating nothing over the last four weeks. I was very sick—mentally and physically. He saw the signs and immediately put my on an anti-depressant (Serzone) and told me to seek counseling for the guilt I was feeling. He recommended a counselor who was in my area. She was not in my insurance book and upon calling her she told me her fees were $160/hour for the first visit and $80 per visit after that. She would not do a sliding scale and there was no way my husband and I could afford those rates. So I didn’t go, I figured just the medicine would be enough.
The anti-depressant seemed to take the edge off. At this point, Ellie was six weeks old and I went back to work. I couldn’t wait to get back to work. Work was my saving grace. It was the only place I felt in control. I felt semi-normal at work and could focus on doing my job versus being what I thought was a “terrible mother”. My co-workers for the most part (at least I didn’t think) knew what was going on. They could see I wasn’t eating and loosing weight rapidly, however, they did not know the depth of my problem.
I kept feeling the need to up my dosage. I still was having panic attacks and extreme anxiety. After about 3 months of being on the medicine my Ob/Gyn asked me to see my family physician (who is an internist) because he felt as if my family physician could better monitor the medicine I was on. My family physician immediately took me off my high dose Serzone and put me on a high dose of Paxil. That night was the worst night I ever had. I had hallucinations and should have gone to the emergency room. However I was afraid they would take my baby if I went. At this point I knew I had lost my mind or was having a nervous breakdown. I didn’t think I’d make it through the night. I laid in our living room and a little voice in my head just kept saying sleep it off . . . sleep it off . . . you will make it until the morning. I did make it through the night and paged my doctor at 7:00 a.m. the next morning. He told me that it couldn’t have possibly been the medicine that soon and that I sounded as if I had an inner-ear infection.
At this point I was extremely low. I called my Ob/Gyn back and he was very supportive. However, there wasn’t much he could do. I told him that I was afraid of the medicines at this point. He told me that I had probably been overdosed and that it would probably be best to go off all the medicines for awhile. I felt as if I had no help anywhere. I made the decision that I was going to win this battle and fight it on my own. I could do it without medicine and any doctor! At this point my baby was 5-6 months old.
I was trying everything I knew to ease the pain of my PPD. I read any information on PPD I could find, I took herbs, I tried exercise, I meditated, I tried massage, I took time for me . . . nothing worked. I was deeper than I ever had been. The panic attacks got more intense. The thoughts of suicide were constant. I heard voices telling me I was a terrible person and terrible mom. I knew something needed to be done so I started to look for a support group. Through DAD, I found one in Columbus. I couldn’t believe that there was no means of support in Cincinnati. I began to think I was crazy and that this only happened to me and a select group of other women who wrote articles about it. I had to drive to Columbus to attend a support group meeting. I spoke to a woman named Terese who made me feel comfortable about coming to the meeting. It took every ounce of strength to travel the 2 hours alone in the car but I knew I had to do it.
The meeting was wonderful. There were mothers that had just been through PPD and mothers with two week old babies just starting with PPD. They talked about the same exact symptoms I had. They had the same fears. They were just like me. It was recommended to me to try medicine again with the experience of a good Psychiatrist. I trusted these women and finally found hope that I too would one day be “normal” and PPD free. The next day I called a new family physician, went for an appointment and he referred me to a wonderful, knowledgeable psychiatrist.
Finally I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. A tunnel that was once suffocating me was now showing signs of letting up. My new psychiatrist immediately knew ways of helping me. She prescribed Atavan for the panic attacks (Atavan is not an anti-depressant, it simply is a type of “chill pill”, as my husband would call it). It would help with my extreme anxiety as well as an immediate relief from the panic attacks. Then I started my long journey with trying medicines. Because of the previous overdose and side effects of the medicines, I had to try many medicines before we found one that I could tolerate although I now had the Atavan that helped tremendously with the panic and anxiety. My psychiatrist was very reassuring that we would find an anti-depressant to help and that she would stick with me through thick and thin. I now had a doctor on my side.
My daughter is now three years old. I still suffer from slight Depression (after the baby turns 3 they no longer consider it PPD, it is depressive illness now). I am on Zoloft, which is helping. I can function normally and no longer have the debilitating effects of PPD. I have anxiety for which the Zoloft helps and still carry Atavan with me just in case.
I had a supportive husband who carried me through this. I also had the unconditional help of a sister who was there for me at a drop of a hat! Without the two of them, I would not have lived. I also had the names of several women from the Columbus group who were always there to call anytime I needed someone to listen, which helped tremendously. They all saved me from this debilitating illness. Now, I want to help anyone I can by telling my story. I have no medical training and can offer no advice on what is best for you. I can however tell you that you have a friend that has been through this illness and has recovered. I have been there, I know how that darkness surrounds you, I know that you do not see the light at the end of tunnel and I will remind you that there is a light there and I will help you until we can reach that light.
After all is said and done, I must give some credit to PPD (I know that sounds crazy). Before PPD, I went through life not knowing what a precious commodity my health (mental and physical) was. I took for granted the power of the love and support my husband, family and friends had for me. I walked through life thinking life would always be there for me--during PPD, it was not. I am now a stronger person. I can help others in many ways I was never able. I am more caring and compassionate. I treasure my “normal” days and realize that on “bad” days I am strong and will survive.
After suffering through PPD (the severe time) for 9 months, my daughter was waiting for me. I don’t know if I will ever be what I considered “normal” before pregnancy again. However, the Mom I am now is great! I make mistakes and I kiss boo boos and play games and I still occasionally cry. This is all part of the “normal” me now. And I really like this normal me.
My story of PPD is somewhat different than most mothers suffering from this disease. One year prior to becoming pregnant I began suffering from panic attacks. At the time they began I had no idea what they were. Finally, after about three months of suffering through once weekly or bi-weekly attacks I decided to go to my family doctor. She prescribed Paxil, took some blood tests, and sent me home. I ended up in the emergency room 2 days later and decided I needed more help. Through my father's referral, I made an appointment with a psychiatrist and began therapy and continued on the Paxil. After a couple months of therapy, I discovered, among other things, that contemplating motherhood somewhat scared me. Eventually, the panic attacks went away and I discontinued therapy and medication.
I became pregnant the following summer. My husband and I both were ready and had discussed parenthood at length. I had a few bouts of anxiety (no panic attacks though) during the 1st trimester and took Paxil during that time. I was determined to get off the medication as soon as possible and stopped my 4th month.
Having been reading books and articles on mental illness since my panic attacks began, I was aware I was susceptible to PPD. I gave birth to my daughter, Madeleine, on Jan. 22, 1999. Pregnancy was completely normal and labor and delivery were relatively easy, although the baby eventually had to be delivered by forceps.
I had planned a 4-month maternity leave. I thoroughly enjoyed my new role as a mom. I had no symptoms of anxiety or depression. I even mentioned to my sister-in-law- "Knock on wood, maybe I'll be lucky and not have to go through PPD."
My PPD symptoms started about one month after I returned to work. The anxiety, hot, prickly skin sensations, loss of concentration and loss of appetite were all familiar to me. In addition, I had overwhelming feelings of concern about Madeleine's well being while I was at work, although I didn't want to be with her. I dreaded picking her up after work because then I would have to listen to her cry. I dreaded weekends when I had to spend 2 whole days in a row with her. When I was at work, I felt much better, more in control. Since I knew what was happening, I immediately called my psychiatrist and began therapy and medication again. I was not happy about my situation, but I knew it was what I had to do.
It took about 3 months to get the PPD under control. I started attending A Lighter Shade of Blue meetings one month after my symptoms returned. Rachael and all the other moms are great-it's extremely helpful to know others share your symptoms and you aren't alone.
I'm still taking Paxil and go to therapy occasionally when things get tough. I attend A Lighter Shade of Blue meetings mostly to help other moms with PPD, but also to get post PPD pick-me-ups when I need them. I am also the webmaster for our web page-its my way of giving back to Rachael and all the other moms that helped me, and to those future moms who will need our help.
I love my beautiful daughter, Maddie; she is such a joy to watch. I think I will always struggle with my pre-motherhood self image and my post-motherhood role, but in the end, PPD has made me a stronger person. I'm much more aware of the small joys in life and those things that make it worth living-like Maddie!
My post partum experience began in 2002 after the birth of my first son, Oscar. Labor was long – seven days – and I had to have a c-section because I could not ‘give birth’. In addition, my milk supply simply never came in. My son lost so much weight that his pediatrician wrote ‘failure to thrive’ on the diagnosis line at his 2 week check-up. I was completely confused and crying a lot. I felt totally inadequate. I was also, like all new mothers, sleep-deprived and overwhelmed with all the demands that come with a new baby. These stresses are a lot for anyone to handle, but for a woman with PPD, they are impossible. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I just wanted to put my baby back in and reduce him to the original material, so to speak. I thought I had ruined my life. I felt like a failure as a mother because I could neither birth nor feed my own offspring. I couldn’t sleep, and when I did I was awakened by my very poor sleeper of a baby. I lived in fear of his cries. My husband worked and went to school evenings and I was terrified to be left alone with my son while he went to work. My mother and sisters rotated in on the nights he had to work so I didn’t have to be alone. My one panic attack occurred on a night no one could come over. I thought I was going to die. I did have thoughts of suicide – often. I would drive around in the evenings with my son in the car wondering how I could hit a tree or telephone pole, killing myself, but not my son. I also did not really bond with my son at first. I never called him by his name, only “the baby”.
It wasn’t until my 6 week check-up that the doctor told me I was suffering from PPD. While I wasn’t very happy to hear that, I was relieved to finally have an explanation of my feelings. I started therapy and began attending A Lighter Shade of Blue support group meetings. That first meeting, when I listened to other women tell their stories, I felt like a load had been lifted! I was not the only woman to feel this way. I still had a long way to go, but at least I knew I wasn’t a horrible person for having these feelings. I continued therapy, and it was very helpful. But for me, an antidepressant was also required. I resisted that for 8 months, but eventually accepted my doctor’s gentle guidance. It’s not for everyone, but it was for me. Medication helped with the racing thoughts and overwhelming depressive mood. The therapy helped with the feelings of guilt and inadequacy I felt. It was a long journey back. I don’t recall having feelings of love for my son for a good 10 months… at least. I don’t know how old he was before I told him I loved him.
I don’t really have many memories of my son’s first year. I have a lot of pictures though and Oscar has a great baby book. In every picture that I have of him and me during that time, I’m smiling. I know I didn’t feel the happiness at the time, but something tells me, now that I can look back on it, that the happiness and love were there, I just couldn’t feel them. There was a physical dysfunction in my brain that wouldn’t allow those feelings to be felt. I wouldn’t wish PPD on anyone. However, it has led me to some realizations I never would have had otherwise. It has also led me to some great friends and a desire to help other new moms. In fact, when I hear that someone has had a baby, I don’t ask about the baby. I ask about the mom. I want to make sure she has as good a support system as her child.
You’ll note that I called Oscar my first child. When he was about 2, I was feeling well enough to entertain the thought of having another child. My second son, Sam, was born one year later. I did not have PPD with Sam, for which I am eternally grateful. But even if I had, it would have been OK because I survived it once and I know what it takes to get through it.
As the oldest of my siblings, I was always the “mothering, nurturing” one. I started babysitting when I was 13 and continued to do so until well into college. I loved kids and they loved me. As a result, it was always my dream to have a big family with at least 5 children of my own. My husband and I married young and I was anxious to start a family right away. Wisely my husband held us back for several years, but finally three years into our marriage, Devon Tyler was born.
I was a full-time elementary music teacher. (Yep, I worked with children every day!) Devon was due the day before our spring program. Being the rigidly scheduled perfectionist that I am (ahem, was) I had it all planned out. I fully expected to wait and have my baby after the program and then once that obligation was taken care of my maternity leave could begin. Unfortunately my son had other plans. The morning of my due date I went into labor. I was in serious denial so I went to school and continued to direct the dress rehearsal anyway. Finally by noon I could no longer deny that I was NOT going to make it to the program. I informed my student teacher that she was going to need to take over and drove myself to the hospital.
This was all very characteristic of the person that I was back then--fiercely independent, no-nonsense, do-what-needs-to-be-done-without-bellyaching, don’t let anyone see any sign of weakness, etc. My son made his appearance exactly 2 hours after my arrival at the hospital. I did not use drugs of any kind even though he was 9 and a half pounds and I was ripped from stem to stern because I was STRONG. I was NOT a pussy that needed coddling!
I had a very specific glowing image in my mind of how the hours following my son’s birth would go. He would be placed tenderly on my stomach and the midwife and nurses would leave the room while my husband and I bonded with our new baby. The baby would begin to nurse and we would look on in total awe and wonderment at this beautiful creature we created. It did NOT go down like that.
As I mentioned before, I endured a degree 4 tear and was hemorrhaging blood everywhere. They immediately knocked me out so they could stitch me up. I was out for over 2 hours and even when I came too a little, I was not allowed to hold the baby because I was still groggy. (Upset #1) When I finally did get to hold him all I remember is him screaming and screaming and nothing would calm him.
Breastfeeding did not go well. He wouldn’t latch on and just wouldn’t stop crying. They finally gave him some formula to calm him down. (Upset #2: This was not part of the birth plan!) I had also instructed the nurses that the baby was to be in my room at all times so we could “bond.” The first night he wouldn’t stop crying, so finally in desperation I sent him to the nursery so I could get some sleep. (Upset #3) He hadn’t been gone 45 minutes when they came wheeling him back in the room because there was a bad thunderstorm going on. Apparently hospital policy dictated that all infants had to be in the same room as their parents in case of an emergency of some kind. There was no more sleep that night.
Breastfeeding continued to be a nightmare--nurses ramming my son’s head into my breast time after time while he screamed and I cried. Finally we went home. I kept thinking, “Everything will be fine if we can just go home.” Wrong.
We hadn’t been home 2 days before I knew something was very wrong with my baby. A trip to the pediatrician confirmed my fears and Devon was admitted to Children’s hospital with a serious heart condition. He was there for 6 weeks. During that time I rarely left his side. I slept there, ate there, even showered there. I watched him nearly die. (I’m pretty sure something inside of me snapped that day.) I watched as doctors and nurses worked over him for hours on end. I watched him have needles inserted all over his tiny body. I watched him be put on a respirator. But through all of this I was somewhat numb. A friend told me later that someone said I looked and sounded like I had been drugged, but I wasn’t.
I could only hold my child with assistance because of all the wires and monitors he was hooked up to. I didn’t get to change his diaper or give him a bath. All those little “firsts” that new mothers enjoy were nonexistent for me. After 6 weeks, Devon appeared to be well enough to go home.
This time when we went home I once again knew something was wrong, but this time it wasn’t the heart problem. Devon cried ALL THE TIME. He only slept in 30-45 minute increments. I developed severe insomnia because I would lay there thinking, “I only have a half hour to get some sleep before he wakes up again, so I need to fall asleep RIGHT NOW.” But my body just wouldn’t let me.
Devon never did breastfeed because of his heart condition, so we had to start forking over exorbitant amounts of money for formula. (Keep in mind we went directly from 2 full- time incomes to just one.) I have since come to believe that he probably had acid reflux (which could’ve been easily taken care of with some medication), but at the time the pediatrician just told me, “Oh, he has a little colic. He’ll grow out of it.”
It took him nearly 6 months to “grow out of it.’ During that time Devon and I rarely left the house. For that matter, we barely left the bedroom. He would scream. I would cry. I began to hate my own son. Nothing would shut him up. Rocking, walking, swinging, singing--nothing worked.
The only time he would sleep is if I was holding him (another symptom of reflux) but then I couldn’t relax and sleep for fear of dropping him. I didn’t dare go anywhere because of all the stares I would get. When you’re walking through a mall and your child is screaming bloody murder, everyone looks at you like “Can’t you shut that kid up?”
My days became very dark, and not just because I was holed up in my bedroom. I began to fantasize every day about ending my life. I would plot the various ways I could do it. How to do it and make it look like an accident so my husband could collect the insurance money. When to do it so that someone would quickly find my son and he wouldn’t be left alone. I also thought about hurting my child. When the screaming would go on for hours on end, sometimes I would imagine throwing him against the wall just to shut him up. Then I would be so horrified by my own thoughts I would have to leave the room, worried that I might act on them. (I have since learned that if you are rational enough to realize that the thoughts you are having are wrong, then you will not act on them. Psychosis occurs when you have harmful thoughts, but don‘t realizes there is anything wrong about them.)
One day I even went so far as to write a suicide note, but somehow God kept me from ever acting on my impulses. At the time, I felt like everyone I knew and loved had abandoned me including God. I have very vivid memories of pounding my fists against the walls, screaming to God, begging Him to help me, but… nothing.
I had virtually no support system whatsoever. I had no family close by and they didn’t really understand anyway. The few people to whom I mentioned a few of my mildest emotions had expressed such horror that I quickly realized I was going to have to keep my shame and guilt to myself. I began to resent everyone in my life for not being there for me. My husband was working 60 hours a week trying to make up for my loss of income. At first he thought I was just acting out to get attention. Every day he went to work worried that either the baby or I wouldn’t be there when he returned.
I went along this way for nine months. No treatment. No support. I felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I should’ve never had kids, but now I couldn’t go back and undo it. I just was NOT cut out to be a mother and if I had to live this way the rest of my life, then life was not worth living.
When Devon was 9 months old, my husband found an advertisement for a support group meeting for women with postpartum depression. This was the first time I had heard about this problem. In all my informational packets from the hospital, they never mentioned this. Even my own OB/GYN had dismissed my tears and told me “I’d get over it.”
So, I went and it changed my life. Not only changed it, but I believe with all my heart that the women of A Lighter Shade of Blue saved my life. First of all, I now had a name for what was going on with me--postpartum depression. It wasn’t just “me.” There was actually something physically wrong with me.
They helped me get in to see a fantastic psychiatrist who got me on medication that I desperately needed. I would’ve never dreamed of going to see a psychiatrist on my own because of the way I was raised. Mental illness had no place in a Christian’s life and therapists were for weak people. All you needed to do was turn to God to heal your mind.
Well, by this point I was desperate and didn’t care what I’d been taught. God had been given 9 months to heal me and chose not to. The medication began to work right away but it didn’t deal with everything. While it helped the physical symptoms of my depression and anxiety (insomnia, constant fatigue, panic attacks, racing thoughts, suicidal thoughts, inability to cope with even the smallest of stressors, etc.) it did not deal with the countless emotions I was feeling: resentment, anger, grief, shame, and endless guilt.
I began seeing a terrific therapist who helped me work through these feelings and find healing. This process allowed me to grieve my lost expectations of how being a mom would really be. After all I had missed my baby’s entire first year because of this crippling problem. I was able to find relief from the crushing guilt that I was feeling. I was sure that I had scarred my child for life and that he would hate me. But my therapist showed me that just because I had not bonded with Devon, he had still bonded with me. I was able to forgive my family and friends for not being there for me. I was able to stop hating other mothers for being so happy when I was so miserable.
No, this was not some quick fix or instantaneous healing. It has taken years to get to where I am today. I fully believe that if I had gotten help earlier on I would not have gotten to the point that I did and probably would’ve healed much more quickly. But I can’t undo the past and there’s no point in playing “what if.”
The “gift” of PPD is a mixed blessing. On one hand it has made me a more compassionate person. I now have empathy for those suffering from mental illness. It’s not something you can just “snap out of” or “get over.” I have lost much of my perfectionism that made me such a rigid person. I’ve learned to just “go with the flow” and if everything doesn’t work out according to plan, oh well. I’m also more willing to ask for help when I need it instead of trying to deal with everything on my own.
On the other hand, I am now a more anxious person than before. I get stressed out and overwhelmed more easily. I don’t have the patience I used to have with children (even though I went on to have one more! Fortunately no PPD that time!) and probably won’t ever be able to go back to my old job. (I have found other work though that I love though.)
Most of all, going through PPD has given me a strong desire to help other mothers with this problem. It’s the only thing that makes what I’ve been through worthwhile. I now help lead the very support group that saved my life. If something I have said here has struck a chord with you and you want to talk more, please feel free to email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to help any way I can.
As I sit here at the computer trying to find the words to begin "my story", I am overwhelmed at where to begin. There are bits and pieces of a story in my journal entries, but those are scarce and barely touch the surface of the complete experience. So, I'll just let God help me move my fingers over the keys, and He will make a success of this written work just as He did of my experience with post-partum depression.
After months of rest and healthy eating, our twin boys (Adam and Brandon) were born on June 22, 2000, There was extra concern during the pregnancy for an early delivery, but at 39 1/2 weeks they were born during a very easy delivery, Cory (my husband) and I were elated! Two more sons to take home to big brother Evan who was 2. With no family nearby to help us, Cory and I prepared for a lot of work!
Three to four weeks post-partum, I was simply exhausted. My mom had been to help for one week, my grandmother for 3 days, and Cory's parents were in and out. “Of course, you are exhausted, you have twins!” It was just about the only thing I heard from friends and family. But then it all started to change, I could not sleep. The babies would sleep for several hours between feedings, and I would lay awake dreading the next time they woke up. I didn't eat. I lost all the weight from my pregnancy at 3 weeks post-partum and was losing more by the week. I didn't laugh. Humor was gone and I couldn't even find a way to smile at Evan or the babies. I was forgetful. I could be in the shower for 10 or 15 minutes and not have washed. I would walk around the house looking for something but not knowing what. I began crying. I would feel the pressure to cry building inside and would try to find a place to be alone. I was anxious. When Cory would leave for work, the anxiety of being alone with Evan and the babies was almost too much to bear. Some days he couldn't even leave me or when he did I would call him to come back home.
One night in particular I remember... I'd not been able to sleep and it was around 1 or 2 in the morning. The tears and sobs were coming and I didn't want to wake anyone up so I went outside and cried sitting on my door step in the driveway. Something cracked inside of me and I knew that I needed to talk, so I called my mom. Mom had been awake and had a feeling that when the phone rang at such an early hour that it was me. Having had a nervous breakdown herself, Mom knew what I was feeling and that I needed some help. Not just help with the boys, but help for myself. But I'm so confused! How do I know what is wrong? Am I not just exhausted from twins and a toddler? Changes in behavior that are noticed by my friends and family are suggesting otherwise. Looking on the Internet about post-partum depression, I found that I was experiencing many symptoms, but still felt the denial. Cory supported me in attending a meeting of A Lighter Shade of Blue, where I found that other women are experiencing the same feelings. Now what do I do?? The only thing left was to get over the fear of admitting I was sick and ask for some desperately needed help!
With prayer and prodding, I called my OB and said that I had a problem. Now this was not a simple phone call! Here I was the one whom everyone said had it together (whatever "it" is). Independence was one of my best assets. Luckily, my doctor was knowledgeable of PPD and willing to treat it. We began treatment, not only with medication, but a plan of action. Friends came into my home once a week while I went out sometimes only to the grocery or alone with Evan, but out of the house. My wonderful friend who rescued me so many afternoons, encouraged me to join two small groups at our church. And I began faithful participation in A Lighter Shade of Blue.
About 10 weeks post-partum, I begin to feel small changes inside. They were very small. My husband said that he couldn't tell any difference, but eventually the changes occurred. My ability to concentrate, sleep and control anxiety became much stronger. As the holidays approached, the "old Lisa" began to return. However, the "old Lisa" was afar cry from what she'd been.
The "new Lisa" I would not trade back for the "old" for anything. I developed a greater appreciation and deeper understanding for everything. Spirituality has come into my life and reached deep into my soul. Humility has replaced some of my pride and independence. And I love it! God has a reason for everything! And He had a reason for my PPD. He wanted me more focused on Him and service to others. Of that I'm certain.
Had God not intervene in my situation, I would still be suffering today. Yet, I'm here fully recovered, able to share a witness to the powerful healing of the Holy Spirit. Some would say that my case of PPD was mild, and maybe it was. Some would say I was lucky to have an understanding husband, and thank goodness I did. But it was PPD and mild or not, lucky or not, it needed to be treated before the situation worsened.
Reading this, you must in some way be touched by PPD. My most sincere prayers are with you. Please reach out before you or someone you loves fall too far. You will be amazed by healing you thought didn’t exist.