I’m in the clear, I told myself. My baby girl is 10 months old and the most cheerful being on earth. I’ve been blessed with a busy work life, which has served as a great distraction from personal life and responsibilities. Surely, I couldn’t get postpartum depression again?
Turns out, my brain had other plans.
I’d had postpartum depression (PPD) with my oldest daughter and had decided we were not going down that rabbit hole again. However, I hit a wall about two weeks ago and felt the urge to escape from my family and life for one night at a hotel, in an attempt to self-evaluate, reclaim some sanity, and relax on my terms — and in hopes of emerging as a renewed person.
I’m generally a people magnet and a prime target for all small talk, unsolicited life advice or a “therapeutic dump.” On this day, however, I had zero capacity for anyone else’s issues, so in the Lyft on the way to the hotel, I pretended to sleep so the driver wouldn’t engage. He resorted to singing loudly over questionable music (hoping I would comment on what he perceived to be an excellent voice, but I bit my tongue and told myself that I would not entertain today or open my eyes). If I wasn’t already on the way to my silent oasis, I may have exploded at that moment and destroyed my stellar 4.89 Lyft passenger rating.
You’d think things would have gotten better once I got to the hotel, but alas … turns out, isolation is the devil of PPD (for me, at least) and I would not recommend it. Yeah, you’ll get a full night’s sleep, improve your tan poolside, order a great dinner (that’s not chicken nuggets and fries), and binge-watch your favorite shows without little people climbing on your back. Wouldn’t you think all that relaxation would make a person the slightest bit HAPPIER? Well, not me. I was crying the entire time, which became my “aha” moment: this isn’t me. I surely have postpartum depression: round 2.
It wasn’t a singular event that did it for me — it was built up. Between the morning rush of getting the kids up and ready, working at a fast-paced startup for the majority of the day, returning home to more routines (bath/dinner/bed), and hourly boob demands throughout the night (from the baby, of course — sex is out of the question), it felt as though I had people pulling me from each limb, in all directions, until I essentially split and died (graphic, I know).
Everyone experiences postpartum depression differently, but for me, the signs were:
- Extreme lack of energy and motivation
- Continuous sadness and uncontrollable crying
- Tired all day but anxiety when it’s time to sleep
- Excessive irritability — anger, worry and agitation
- Inability to derive pleasure from previously enjoyed activities — or any activity at all
- Lack of interest in my children, friends and family
- Feelings of guilt and worthlessness
- Brain fog: inability to concentrate or make decisions
- Migraines! From all the damn thoughts
It’s hard to pinpoint if you have postpartum depression when you’re in the thick of it because you can’t help but think “what if I’m just being tired, lazy or selfish?” If you can relate to any of these symptoms and/or have threatened your darling husband that you want a divorce for no given reason, and/or simply don’t care when your daughter tells you she is hungry, or brushing your teeth seems like a hell of a task — take a step back and re-evaluate.
Although there is no magic pill for PPD, it’s helped me to do a lot of reading and self-reflection. The best move I’ve made since the meltdown was to speak with a therapist regularly. With her guidance, these five tips have improved my quality of life – in one short week:
#1 – BALANCE: This is HUGE. With so many channels in our lives (family, friends, work, self) it’s necessary to set limits for yourself. A time for work. Time to close the laptop. Time to play with kids. Eat with family. Go see a friend. Unwind by yourself. Having this awareness and segmenting the day to tackle priorities brings on a new and refreshing sense of fulfillment.
#2 – WALKING: I’m hiking all over town trying to hit a 10k step per day goal. Bonus: you will lose a pound a week. Double bonus: you can phone a friend to catch up (that’s social, self-care and exercise — bam, three birds with one stone). If you have the energy for more than a walk (say, a higher intensity workout), then all the power to you!
#4 – COMMUNICATE: Tell your partner exactly what you need and why. Even if the “why” seems undeniably obvious.
#5 – SELF CARE: You must do one thing a day for yourself — even if it’s that walk. Get a massage, do your nails, buy a rockin’ iced coffee. It doesn’t have to be monetary; read for 30 minutes, take a long shower (it counts), watch your favorite show — whatever makes YOU happy, be sure to make time for it and do it.
There are many suggested ways to address PPD, including better diet and exercise, and medication. For me, it also helps to share and be open about it — so thank you for reading. Knowing that “this is not me” is encouraging my recovery. If I’ve helped just one parent get in touch with their emotions and have the “aha” moment that I had, I’ve done my job here — and, hey, just by acknowledging your PPD, you’ve taken an important step in the road to recovery.
For more information about postpartum depression and treatment, check out these resources: