I have gone through the dark, rocky tunnel that is postpartum depression twice now. I guess you could call me a veteran and a survivor.
The first round, in 2006, was long, winding and possessed many deep caverns. It is like that Godfather movie quote, “Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in!” That was PPD for me. I found myself incredibly violent and not towards my child but towards complete strangers. There was the time I checked a coworker into an office hallway wall. Or how about the day i inexplicably yelled out the words, “Sh*t, F*CK! Mustang and whore!” during a meeting. I still wonder what the hell that was about.
I saw my doctor. I saw a counselor. I journaled and had many conversations with my husband and mother, a PPD sufferer herself. I took my meds and tried to keep from crying while brushing my teeth or drying my hair each morning. It lasted almost a year. There were many highs and lows. It was pure unaltered misery and something I would never wish on anyone. I still sometimes feel robbed of the first year of my daughter’s life because of PPD. I got through it though and felt stronger than before. I put it all behind me.
When I became pregnant for the second time, something I was hesitant to do because of my postpartum diagnosis from my first pregnancy, I lived with a bit of fear that entire pregnancy. It was like there was a monster under my bed or a phantom menace always lurking just out of my sight. Would it resurface? How would I care for a toddler and an infant if I had PPD again? For a few weeks after the birth of my second daughter all seemed right with the world. I was a more confident mother, had more of a support system and I knew what the signs of PPD were. Both my husband and I were on the lookout for it. Then, the minute we thought we were through the window it came crashing down in a sea of splintering glass. PPD had struck again.
New meds, ones that would not make me homicidal (yes, really) and a new counselor was found. I saw my doctors regularly, had even more support from friends and family and I sailed through it. Looking back now, it was nothing like the first time. It was as if my ship just hit a stormy patch instead of being hit by a typhoon. I really believe it was because we knew the signs and I had so much support. I never stopped communicating either.
I recently had my third child, and when I was pregnant I was worried that postpartum depression would strike again. It is not just me that it hits either. It affects my husband, my children and anyone else with whom I have a relationship. I had numerous discussions with my midwife. We were vigilant and we knew that sleep, support and proper nutrition would assist in making the post-birth easier. I admit that I was still afraid. A case of “what ifs” combined with fear is what it is really all about. However, I had my support group already in check and by walking this through during the pregnancy and after the birth I knew that I would get through it if it struck again.
Knowing the symptoms of postpartum depression, knowing that no one will judge me and having support really do make all the difference. Each and every time, if needed.