How I'm Finally Getting Through Postpartum Depression After 10 Long Months
Postpartum Depression is no joke, and after months of not feeling myself, I feel like I am turning a corner. As a warning, some of this might be triggering for you if this is something you have dealt with. I had severe Postpartum Depression. I started medication at six weeks postpartum, but it seemed like after a couple of months of feeling a little better, it would start to get bad again and I had to increase the dose.
It wasn’t until I started therapy after 9 months of struggling that things started to change. To be honest, I probably would have recovered more quickly if I had started therapy sooner, but I just was not ready to talk. In the beginning, I didn’t have the energy to do much more than roll out of bed, sit with the baby for a couple of hours, then go back to sleep.
There was one particularly bad day when I went upstairs into our closet, closed the door, and sobbed in the dark for hours before finally making it back to bed to sob there too. I couldn’t let go of these terrifyingly negative thoughts, and I just felt like a broken and empty shadow of who I was before. Before this, I was a high achieving medical student with open doors of opportunities and the drive to seize them. But in the midst of my depression, I didn’t know who I was anymore. I knew I was not ever going to be that person again even if I made it through, because of how the experience of mental illness was changing me.
Therapy was hard, and it was scary. I didn’t know what to talk about. How could I possibly explain the depths of my feelings within a 30 minute period of time, and could I be completely honest with my therapist without her being extremely concerned about my wellbeing? I had my doubts, but therapy was the one thing that could change the trajectory of my depression, so I gave it a shot. After all, medication and therapy combined are supposed to be more effective than medication alone.
Doctors like to recommend therapy, but the places I was referred to either did not take my insurance or they were not taking any new patients. This was such a huge barrier for me. Imagine struggling on your own using whatever energy you have during your darkest moments scrolling through a directory of therapists. That was so overwhelming and so hard for me at the time. I gave up in tears on several occasions until I tried a subscription-based counseling platform.
I signed up with one of those counseling web services that allows you to meet with the therapist over chat, video call or phone call. I will admit that the monetary investment in therapy was another one of the barriers keeping me from getting started. It wasn’t until I reached out to my mom and explained my situation that she helped me with some of the costs. I still don’t know if I would have done the therapy if I could not come up with a way to pay for it. Mental health treatment needs to be more accessible for everyone.
After introducing myself to my therapist and briefly explaining what has been going on, she validated me. She told me that what I was experiencing was very common among women with Postpartum Depression, and I immediately felt less “crazy” and less alone. That lifted such a heavy weight off of my shoulders because I wasn’t getting that support from family and loved ones who just did not understand why I was feeling the way I was feeling. I was still uncomfortable sharing with my therapist but I made myself attend the appointments and do it anyway, because I wanted to get better.
What I got out of therapy was the support and the tools I needed to work my way towards recovery. I learned how to remove myself from stressful situations to take time to breathe before responding. I learned effective communication skills and I learned to commit to doing an activity everyday because getting out of the house and doing something helps improve my mood. It was the accountability that I needed to help keep me moving forward.
By the time my son was 9 months old, I felt like I had the coping skills and the support to finish my recovery without medication. I stopped having those dark thoughts and I was more functional. I was able to keep track of deadlines and appointments, keep up with cleaning and cooking, and I started sending out resumes and cover letters to apply for jobs. I was almost back to baseline. We eventually reduced my dose of the medication and then stopped it altogether. Now I would say that I am at 90% of where I was when it comes to managing my mood, but I know when something is not right, and when to ask for help. I am also going to continue therapy as I transition into working again.
I don’t know if my story is typical, but if something is not right and your mood is different, tell your doctor right away. There is no shame in asking for help, and it is a good choice for both yourself and your family. Surround yourself with supportive people, take care of yourself and get therapy. Ask for help so that you can get on track to feeling more like yourself. If you are struggling with thoughts of hurting yourself, call the suicide prevention lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.