Postpartum depression is a real thing. I didn’t realize until my third child that I had experienced it with each of my kids. Until recently, the only thing I really knew about postpartum depression was that some people had thoughts about harming their babies. Because I hadn’t experienced those thoughts, I assumed incorrectly that I didn’t have postpartum depression. Instead, I would tell people that I was in a funk for months after each baby was born. With my first two births, I experienced a slowness where things that were normally easy became difficult for me, such as cleaning the house. Even caring for myself seemed to require too much effort.
However, with the birth of my third child, my emotions intensified. I frequently wanted to run away and be alone. Even when I got a break and was alone, it wasn’t enough. Crying while curled up in the fetal position in my closet became normal. I was irritable and even little things had me feeling out of control in seconds. The worst part of this experience was not being able to feel joy, or feel anything for that matter. I literally felt like I was in a bubble watching life happen in front of me. I would watch my kids play and wonder why I was even there; I was disconnected.
Additionally, I was so frustrated because I was aware of my disconnection, my feelings of stress and irritability, of my aloofness. However, as much as I tried (and oh, how I tried), I just couldn’t pull myself out of it. I just felt heavy – I literally would feel pinned to the couch willing myself to breathe under the heaviness. These feelings were real, and I felt helpless.
I tried to help myself through spiritual means. I prayed. I read scriptures. I attended church and the temple. While these actions helped me feel lifted enough to perform daily functions, I needed more. In addition to seeking spiritual help, I focused on self-care. I got back into exercise, but it wasn’t enough. Why couldn’t I shake this?!
Postpartum depression is not like regular depression in some ways, while in other ways it’s identical. For me, I didn’t feel down on myself or worthless like in regular depression, but I felt just an enormous inability to deal with life. Some people who struggle with postpartum depression experience anxiety and thoughts of hurting themselves or others. In contrast, I just wanted to check out completely and run far away. I knew I wasn’t myself.
Finally, I turned to medication. My baby is 14 months old, and I’ve been on meds for a month now. After countless pleas from my family to seek help, I finally did. I resisted and avoided confronting the reality that I needed medication, hoping I could get rid of the depression on my own. It didn’t work. So, I finally caved and took the medication. The relief I felt even after the first day was remarkable. While I don’t plan on being on medication forever, I have to let my brain recover from this illness. And while I am not completely healed yet, I actually enjoy living. I feel present and alive again.
How can you help someone with this illness? Answer their calls for help. Help them. Love them. Encourage them to take the steps needed in order to recover. Even helping with childcare can help give them a break (don’t just offer, but instead tell them you are coming to help). Make sure they are taking care of themselves. Above all, listen. Let them express how they are feeling because you never know the difference the little things make.