If you have ever struggled with postpartum depression, anxiety or psychosis, go read this lady’s blog. Right meow. Amanda over at Blessy Messy gave birth to her fourth little one, eight weeks prematurely, about three months ago and since then she has been dealing with some mental health issues. She has been brave enough to blog about them.
This is so important because many times women either think that what they are feeling is normal OR they know it’s weird and they don’t want anyone else to know because they are afraid of what will happen.
I hadn’t really ever heard of postpartum psychosis until I read Amanda’s blog. It’s a whole other level and much more rare than PPD. As I was reading her story, while I realized that what she experienced was infinitely more severe than what I dealt with, it also kind of freaked me out. Because I recognized some of her symptoms as being mine, too. I’ve blogged about my PPD before but now I kind of want to again. I want to share a little deeper. I mean, I really was crazy.
I don’t know how it is for everyone, but since I only have one kid, I didn’t know which feelings were normal and which ones weren’t. I was told by my doctor to expect some baby blues and I was told by friends on FB one day in the middle of a meltdown to remember that my hormones were all kinds of crazy right then. If you’re a person who has ever dealt with depression, maybe you’re like me. Once I come out of it, I can look back and say, “Whoa, I was clearly depressed then.” But during it, I don’t see it. Looking back now, I can see a lot of red flags that I just couldn’t put together when I was in the midst of it.
Here are some of the things I didn’t share on my last post about my PPD (I’m not going to explain the whole thing again so if this is confusing, go read the other post first). I think I feel like a list. (Note: I know not all of you care about this. My advice to you would be don’t read it. I’m tired of justifying what I write on my blog because someone else might not like it. Every single post I make is because I think others will find it amusing, because I need to express myself or because I think it will help someone.)
1. My brain was making me picture horrific images. Every single bad thing that could happen to my baby crossed my mind and when it did, what it would look like was immediately in my head. For instance, you’re driving down the road and someone doesn’t use their blinker. I instantly have a picture of the possible accident we could’ve had with full gory details. Now, imagine all of the extremely unlikely but possible things that could go wrong in any given day. I pictured my baby in each one. I was scared to tell anyone that because I knew that had to be real crazy. I didn’t even tell Spencer. I was afraid I would get hauled off. Luckily, the rational side of my brain was still working well enough to tell the paranoid side to calm down and I repeated to myself how unlikely these tragic circumstances were. I knew that I was being illogical so I just told that stuff to get outta my head! And I prayed every time that God would not let those ugly things cripple me. And even though they freaked me out, I guess they didn’t cripple me because I kept walking.
2. Hallucinations. Yep. I was hearing noises and seeing things. BUT, the things I was seeing weren’t like visions. They were little blips in my periphery, like a flutter or a little sparkle of lights. That happened to me once when I was pregnant so I figured it had to do with my blood pressure (which was notoriously low) or my hormones or something. The noises were confusing. They weren’t voices but just like a boom or a crashing noise when I was falling asleep or small little sounds during the day. Sometimes I would think I heard Jack crying when he wasn’t. That, I would say, could definitely be attributed to a lack of sleep.
3. I felt hopeless. I felt like my life was changed forever and even though I loved my baby I thought it was going to be this hard for the rest of my life. And I didn’t know if I could make it. I missed Spencer and I. It felt like we didn’t have “us” anymore. Crap, I felt like I didn’t have “me” anymore. I felt like a robot. A milking machine who was here solely to feed and change a baby. I was not expected to need sleep or to feel anything other than blessed. It’s important to note here that now things are pretty normal with me and Spencer except we have this awesome little friend with us. Babies are just a lot of really intense hard work in the beginning but things are MUCH easier now (mainly because he sleeps like a normal human). My problem was that I didn’t know if or when things would get easier so I was afraid. I was the first one up in the morning, often before 5am, the last to go to bed at night (I’d usually try to do the last scheduled feeding around 11pm) and the one getting up in between. Some people don’t mind that. I see women posting that they love their alone time with their baby at 3am. I didn’t. I hated it. I wished I could be like them.
4. Manic. I don’t know if this can actually be considered manic behavior but I was going to the grocery store in full makeup. That’s soooo not me. I was doing my bootcamp workout video like I had prom coming up. My house was clean all the time because instead of sleeping when the baby slept, I was trying to do something to make sure I could still function successfully. I wanted to prove it.
5. Euphoric. This was mainly at first. Right after I had Jack, I just felt overjoyed. I was soooo happy and grateful and I couldn’t believe my good luck. And then when I started feeling depressed, I would have these crazy super-happy days randomly interspersed. And it would make me think I was all better and that I was feeling how other moms feel when they are posting on FB about how perfect everything is. Now, it’s pretty clear I was just on a chemical roller coaster.
6. I felt like everyone was mad at me all the time. I’m still not sure if this was a delusion or if they really were because I was so not a joy to be around. I really didn’t care about my attitude because I had no energy whatsoever to care about anything other than keeping Jack and I alive. But never in my life had I needed people not to be mad at me more than I did then. It was a very weird conundrum. I just wanted everyone to not get mad at me and for me to be able to be however cranky I was because I really didn’t feel like I could help it. It was a really lonely time. I felt like people were expecting me to do things that I didn’t feel capable of doing- like taking the baby to visit them.
7. Sleep. I can’t talk about this enough. I know you’re tired of reading about it but too bad. I’ve never experienced anything like not sleeping for months in a row. People were saying how “it’s just whatever you get used to” as far as amount of sleep you need. Um, no. Not me. I for sure need more than three broken hours of sleep per night. If you don’t, trust me, that is an immeasurable blessing and you should thank God everyday. Also if your baby is one who starts sleeping through the night at 8 weeks old, that’s amazing. I tried every sleep program out there.
8. I was sad about my appearance. I had floppy skin everywhere. It was sick. I thought it was always going to stay like that. I’m happy to report a year later that things are firming back up. I’ve never been skinny and didn’t expect to be but I wasn’t prepared for dangling saggy hunks of flesh.
9. I was so sad and worried about Jack having siblings. I never wanted to just have one until I just had one. I didn’t think I could go through that again but I didn’t want to be selfish and deprive Jack of siblings because mine are my best friends (no offense to any only children. I just knew that if I only had one it was for selfish reasons). Now that he’s so much fun and I’m not crazy, I do feel like I want more. But I’m also really scared about those newborn months. I do believe they will be better, though, because now I will get on meds lickety-split if I need them (instead of waiting four months) and I will know what to expect. I will know that I will feel better and it won’t always be a continual rotation of breast-feeding, pumping, changing poop and then starting right over again.
10. I was subtly trying to drop hints or say things in front of other moms in the hopes that someone would tell me if what I was feeling wasn’t normal. No one said anything but I did get some crazy looks.
Anyway, there are some more details for ya. I write these things publicly, not to scare any of my pregnant friends or discourage any of my friends who are considering getting pregnant, but to do the opposite, actually. I just want everyone to know that what I experienced (emotionally) appears to be worse than what my other close friends or family have felt (unless they just aren’t into airing their dirty laundry the way I am) so don’t worry that this will be you. But, if it IS you, then don’t freak out. It’s going to get better. I PROMISE! But, you really need to tell someone. Don’t be a dummy like me and hold it all in. Don’t feel weird about taking anti-depressants if your doctor suggests it. It’s not forever. I took mine from about October until April and then weaned myself off. I felt a world of difference going on the medicine and none coming off. Also, I know there are those out there thinking that they did it all on their own with no meds and way less whining. To you, I say “Good job! I wish I was so talented!”
These experiences have taught me so much and really changed me as a person. I want all the new moms to know that I am here for you! Please, feel free to contact me for anything you need help with. I’m going to go now. Jack is Swiffering the sun room…