Monday, November 8, 2010

I Have Emerged From A Very Long Journey Out of the Depths of Depression

A few weeks ago, a friend and I were discussing the similarities in our pregnancies.  We both experienced hg and pretty severe Postpartum depression (PPD).  I've been thinking about that discussion frequently since then, reflecting on my struggle with PPD.  Not once, but four times.

PPD #1

I remember waking up some mornings wanting so badly to sleep some more.  Hearing Emily wail, I often wondered why I ever decided to become a mom.  I would call my mom, constantly on the  verge of tears, and tell her how difficult everything was.  She would console me and tell me how great I was doing.  I would listen, agree, and promptly forget as soon as I got off the phone.

I lived in a constant haze of pessimism.  I blamed it on being a first time mother and still finishing my own degree.  On Ben being busy with classes, Emily not sleeping through the night, Emily's colic, the darkness of winter, the never ending homework, and the list goes on and on.   My usually optimistic self would write posts on our family blog that mirrored my old self, but it was a lie.  I wasn't optimistic; I could hardly string two positive thoughts together on a good day.  But I was a good liar.

Poor Ben handled my listlessness and random crying bouts very well.  He would come home and take Emily from me, ordering me to rest.  I believe he carried us through those very dark days.

And then one day it went away.  I thought it was because I had successfully changed my attitude.  I mean, it was all my fault anyway.

Pregnancy Depression

When I was 6 months pregnant with Andrew, the depression came back.  We were living with Ben's mom for the summer while Ben finished an internship, and I was miserable.  She was a marvelous host, who did her best to make all of us comfortable; unfortunately, I couldn't find any positives in our situation.  I was alone during the day in an unfamiliar home with an active baby.   I was without a car and feeling very deserted. I thought once we moved back to our own apartment those feelings would disappear.

They didn't.  So we moved.  The move was a good decision, as we needed a bigger place, but I still could not change my attitude.  I prayed and prayed and nothing changed.  I went to the temple, studied my scriptures, and blamed my silly weaknesses for the cloud of darkness that had enveloped me.

It was at this time that I started blogging more frequently.  Some of you might remember me during those days.  I was a miserable person.  Finally, Ben suggested that I talk to my doctor about possible depression.  I was put on medication and finally felt somewhat normal.

PPD #2

After having Andrew, I thought my old self had returned.  At my six week appointment, I asked to be taken off my medication.  I thought I was ready.

But, in my haste I  had not considered that my PPD would return after that 6-week mark.  Which it did.  I blamed it on everything: Ben's work and school schedule, Andrew's colic, my job, the messy house, a busy toddler.  I tried to change but couldn't.  One would think that I would recognize the symptoms; however, I am quite dense when it comes to simple solutions.

I finally emerged shortly after Andrew's colic relented.

PPD #3

And then I got pregnant and had my first miscarriage.  Once again I was on that roller coaster ride that seemed to only point down, with small hills sporadically placed here and there.  I expected grief, but I did not expect depression.  Severe depression.

PPD #4

If you notice the pattern, then I'm sure you can guess what happened after I had the second miscarriage.

I remember one evening in particular while walking with Ben to a mission reunion.  I remember wanting so badly to be at home in bed, having no desire to see people and feeling a sense of hopelessness.  The kind of hopelessness I have only felt when suffering through PPD. Ben was unnerved.  He asked me what he could do, I couldn't give him any definitive answers.  I blamed this and that.  Until it hit me: PPD.  Again.  Luckily,  the depression eased a couple weeks later and I have come to my old self for the longest time this year.

Lesson Learned?

I don't know if you've sensed the change in my writing.  I know I have felt it vividly.  I no longer feel that dread when I wake up in the morning; I am not terrified when I think about Ben working two jobs; I finally feel hope, optimistic, joyful.  When I write, I can poke fun at my self and laugh at my silly kids.

I can also see clearly.  I know what I want and don't feel guilty if I can't accomplish something.

I feel free.

I would like to say that I've learned my lesson, but I have a feeling that it won't be that simple if it comes back again.  I just hope I can read this post again and quickly find the help I need.


  1. It is SO HARD to notice the obvious when we are in the situation or going through the trial. Seriously. And having a bit of "baby blues" after Camie was born for 2 weeks, I knew something was wrong and that I wasn't myself, but I had no idea how to change... and I didn't have the energy to do anything about it.

    My mom has suffered through depression issues and a couple nervous breakdowns. It's no fun, but I am very grateful for modern medicine to help those who need it. I feel really bad for those that are told they need to pray more, have more faith, etc. Because that has nothing to do with it at all. It's a hormonal imbalance that won't just go away with "thinking positive thoughts". It's real. It sucks.

    But I am SO GLAD you are getting through this last time of it, girl. I had a great time on Friday, fyi!

  2. Baby girl, I knew something was up. But as a mother in law and grandmother I guess I don't really feel I have a place to say anything. I love you and the work you do for my son and grandchildren. I think you are doing a wonderful job and I hope you guys pick a school close by so all the family can be close and helpful.

  3. I only realized I had PPD after the fact. I'd wake up one morning and feel okay, and then I'd realize how NOT okay I'd been feeling for the last few months. I'd think, "why didn't I get it?" It made me feel so foolish. But I'm glad you are feeling better.

  4. Depression is so very tough. I had it with all three kids...and never got "over" it. It is also so hard to explain to those who have not experienced it. You did a great job here of putting the feelings into words.

  5. Like TKW I only realized I had suffered from PPD pretty much after the fact. I knew I was "unhappy" eventually, but it was only when I started to feel better that I knew just how unhappy I had been. I think PPD is something that requires far more focus and attention, I believe pretty much all new mothers get it at one time or another, to larger or lesser degrees and figuring out how to prevent it and get early help when it does raise it's ugly head to Moms I think is important. Here in the US there is no follow-up care for new Mothers. In England a mid-wife comes and visits all new Moms at home once or twice a week for the first couple of months at least.

    I am glad you are feeling better - build on that is all I can say, look for the rays of sunshine and figure out what small things can and will make you even happier. Treat yourself now and again - the small things are the ones that make the difference. Build yourself stronger so it doesn't knock you back down again.

  6. I love you, Amber! I wish we lived closer so we could go out to lunch or something.

  7. It seems like PPD affects so many women. I think there has been a lot more light brought to the subject so women know what to look for, and when to seek help.

  8. "I feel free." That says it all.

  9. I'm so glad you're feeling better!

  10. Looking back, PPD hit hard for a few months after the birth of my oldest. I didn't know what to do with him, I didn't know what to do with myself. Looking back, that's the thing. I wish it was as easy to see in the moment.

  11. Depression is a tricky thing. I've suffered through it, taken medication for multiple bouts. My doctor always told me that if I came to her and said I was in a depression, that was about two or three months into it and should've seen her sooner! Would be good to "know in advance" but I'm not sure that's realistic.

  12. I'm glad you're writing about PPD - the more it's acknowledged in our community, the less scary and taboo it is for women who go through it to talk about it. I always feel that talking helps so I hope more mothers know to give a voice to their pain. PPD is real, it's scary but it can be treated as long as people know to seek help. As a society we put so much pressure on the moms to be perfect that we're afraid to admit to our faults, and it's to our detriment (and our family's) when a treatable illness goes untreated.

    Thank you for this Amber. I am honored to be privy to your journey, and I'm glad that you feel yourself again.

  13. Bravo for writing this, sweet friend. I applaud your courage in sharing your story. I am with the other commenters who mentioned how important it is for mothers to be honest and open about their struggles with pregnancy depression and PPD. No woman should feel "not good enough" at such a difficult time of her life.

    You are a brave and strong person and I feel lucky to know you and to have the chance to read your words. And I'm so glad that you feel like you're on the way up.

  14. You are amazing. So glad you are feeling better.

  15. Thanks for sharing your feelings. I had PPD after the birth of my fourth child. I was so depressed, but somehow I lacked the fortitude to do anything to change my circumstances. I'm so glad your husband suggested that you seek help, and that you listened to him.

    I don't know why PPD strikes women at certain times. Why wasn't I depressed after the birth of my other children? Especially the second one, for whom I had so many health concerns?

  16. It took me a long time to recognize my pattern with pregnancy and depression, too. Just realizing it was a huge step to preventing it from getting too severe. Happy emerging!

  17. I am so terribly sorry I haven't been keeping up with anything lately and didn't read this post until just now. I hate that you have struggled so much with PPD. I had a touch of the baby blues after both of my boys, but it went away gradually over time. I had never known anyone firsthand who had really suffered from PPD until my friend M. I had just met her and she was just falling into a horrible bout with PPD. I wasn't sure how to help her. Like you described, there is no easy fix. You cannot just decide to feel better or change your attitude. Some people in her life told her this, and I think those kind of comments are so damaging. They make you feel even worse for being unable to see through the fog. I helped her find a good dr. who specialized in PPD and she got on some medication that helped. She also asked her mom to come and stay with her, which made a huge difference too. Eventually she came out of it and now she is very happy. But watching her struggle really impacted me and made me understand that PPD is very very real and not at all just a touch of the baby blues. I'm impressed that you are able to be so honest and share so freely about your experience. For anyone who has gone through this themself, it is a huge comfort! Thank you for being such an amazing person, Amber.

  18. Oh man, thanks for sharing. I'm glad you were able to come out of it . . . so good. And so freeing to be honest and not feel like you have to write from the perspective of your 'old self.' PPD is one of my greatest fears surrounding pregnancy--but I take comfort from your story in that, even if it happens to me, it is not the end and it doesn't last forever.

  19. I'm so glad you're feeling more "you" again. You are a strong, brave mama.

  20. Feeling free. It's like a fog lifting. PPD is so complicated. I experienced it with only two of my post partum periods and for that I am grateful, the depression I exxperienced after my third baby was debilitating, difficult for my family and it was a long journey back to the feeling of freedom. Recognition of it and treatment (however, you seek it) are key, you are a wise mama. Good for you for talking about it, there is so much stigma attached, so many woman suffering.


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