|like to drown by Aimanness Photography on Flickr|
And yet, there I was, drowning. Batting away the life savers and ignoring the rescuers trying to pluck me out of the water. Because I thought I knew what drowning felt like and I didn't feel like I was drowning.
When Abigail was a baby, I struggled with post-partum depression and anxiety. Out of nowhere, I would be overcome with tears. Every time I closed my eyes, I would envision something awful happening to Abigail or her father. My greatest fear was that I would watch Abigial die in front of me, helpless to do anything. I feared sleep, because every time I closed my eyes I would see my fears played out; my nightmares were so realistic that I would awaken convinced that Abigail's body would be lifeless in her crib.
Unlike some women who suffer from PPD, I never envisioned hurting my baby. It was the farthest thought from my mind. So even though I knew some of the symptoms of PPD, I never suspected that I was suffering in an unnecessary and unusual way. I thought that breaking into unexplainable tears, inability to sleep, extreme weight loss, and frequently racing heart were just "baby blues." But by the time Abigail was 8 weeks old, my sister was convinced I needed help. She talked me into seeing someone, and within minutes of meeting, the doctor knew something was wrong. I left holding a prescription for Zoloft, with a tiny glimmer of hope that maybe I would be able to sleep again one day.
Eventually, the medications started working. I could drift into sleep without visions of my baby's dead body lying in a pool of blood in the street burning in my eyes. Sleep made a huge difference, and the bouts of crying eased away. Soon after that I was able to find a bit of normalcy in my daily life. Eventually, I realized that I no longer was sucked into the depths of fear, anxiety, and depression. I went off my medication, and I was able to experience the normal ups and downs of life with a toddler.
|Photo by heiressanj on Flickr|
Surely, with my swimming abilities I would never be in danger around the water. Besides, with age came the wisdom to avoid stupid situations, like getting into the water without a lifeguard on duty or swimming out too far and being caught in a riptide. The few times that I felt that my swimming wasn't up to par were all times that I was attempting to help a friend who was not doing well in the water. I mean, strong swimmers don't drown, right?
|its true by Josh Parrish on Flickr|
From the moment I had that first positive pregnancy test, one of my big, unspoken fears was that I would lapse into the post-partum depression and anxiety that I experienced after Abigail's birth. Once JA was born, I held my breath, waiting to see what would happen. If I caught myself crying, I would quickly fight the feelings inside me and force myself to calm down. I vehemently denied any problems to the pediatrician and OB. My mom and my sister visited. Both of them questioned how I was doing emotionally, but compared to my experiences after Abigail's birth, I felt... okay. I didn't feel great, but I chalked it up to true "baby blues." John even said something, following through on a pact I had made with him that if I was acting like I was falling into PPD, he would intervene.
But I was unconvinced. I didn't have the same contributing factors that I had with Abigail. I could sleep. My hormones seemed to normalize. I wasn't constantly envisioning my baby's dead body. I refused to believe that PPD was controlling my life again.
Then, before I knew it, I was pregnant again. We moved across the country. I was put on bed rest. This wasn't PPD. This was just the normal emotional roller-coaster of all those stressors combining. Then my sweet Ava Joy was born. I had a quick physical recovery, and overall thought I was faring well emotionally. My family would ask questions, John often gave me the side-eye, but I thought I was doing okay... all things considered. I mean, how well can you expect me to do, really?
|28.5 weeks pregnant with JA|
In the end, it was my baby that saved me.
After months and months of blaming everything on lack of sleep, I had a baby who slept soundly through the night, and nothing was changing. I wasn't in the depths of despair, like I had been with Abigail, but neither was I in a solid and strong place emotionally. I was fighting off the crashing waves, but it took so much energy to do so that I couldn't swim towards the shore. Every day was a struggle, fighting off the depression that was trying to pull me under. I was stuck. And I realized that I spent so much of my time and energy fighting depression that I was not able to move forward or do anything else.
I was not able to be the mother I wanted to be, because I simply didn't have the energy to be a mom and fight depression. I couldn't do both. And one night, as I rocked my sweet Ava Joy, I decided to stop trying to do both.
I got help. A life vest in the form of medication. The effects were evident within a week, even to John. It's been about 2 months since starting the meds, and while I still have bad days, I feel so much better, and my mothering has improved dramatically. Instead of fighting to stay afloat as waves of depression try to pull me under, I actually have the power to swim towards the shore. So I just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. Swimming, swimming....
PPD is a vile, ugly creature that can be debilitating. Unfortunately, it can also be hard to recognize. Please, don't hesitate to get help if you have any of the following symptoms more than 2 weeks after the birth of your baby, or if they interfere with your ability to care for your baby or manage the daily tasks of life:
- Loss of appetite
- Intense irritability and anger
- Overwhelming fatigue
- Loss of interest in sex
- Lack of joy in life
- Feelings of shame, guilt or inadequacy
- Severe mood swings
- Difficulty bonding with your baby
- Withdrawal from family and friends
- Thoughts of harming yourself or your baby*
Have you struggled with PPD? How did you find help?