Monday, June 19, 2017

My Silent Battle

Motherhood is quite the experience.  There is so much excitement and joy that surrounds a newborn baby.  A new life, a new experience, a clean slate.  So why do so many women suffer from this silent battle known as postpartum depression?  In my opinion, mental health care in the United States is subpar.  Even in the year 2017, there is a stigma of shame that surrounds postpartum depression (actually, any mental illness), even though there shouldn't be.

Please keep in mind that my battle with postpartum depression is subjective and anecdotal at best.  My husband and I were thrilled when we found out we were pregnant with our second child.  I didn't want to know the sex of the baby, so my husband found out and decorated the nursery and kept it under lock and key for nine months.  I gave birth to Josh on November 23, 2014.  After twenty-four hours of labor, I finally got to meet my baby.  Nothing out of the ordinary happened with my birth, and my physical recovery was better than my first birth.

Something wasn't right.  I felt it almost instantly.  I gave it a few weeks; after all, I had just given birth.  I had no hormones left, it was expected that I have some baby blues.  I didn't feel good.  I wasn't bonding with my newborn, and I was distant with my almost three-year-old.  Many nights I found myself crying in my closet.  I didn't want to be around family or friends.  At my six weeks check up I lied to my OBGYN and told her my moods were fine.  I think I was in denial.

As the weeks went by I felt worse and worse.  I was short with my husband and my toddler and not bonding at all with my baby, which made me feel even worse.  One of my friends suggested that I keep a journal of my feelings.  I wrote about my sadness and feelings of disconnection from the rest of the world.  I wrote about going through the motions of everyday life pretending to be happy.

I became an expert at hiding my emotions.  I learned to cry on the inside.  I walked around like a zombie for weeks.  I felt inadequate, and I hated myself.  I was exhausted.  I became so trapped in my darkness with no way to escape.  I thought Michael (my husband) and the boys would be better off without me.  This was my breaking point.  One cold night during February 2015  I looked for ways to take my own life and Jake (my three year old) walked in.  My son walking in on me was the beginning of my cries for help.  I broke down and wrote my husband a letter describing what was going on inside of my head.  He hugged me and said "I love you.  We'll get through this together".  A couple of weeks later we started seeing a counselor.  We went once a week for three months.

During that time, our counselor encouraged me to see my OBGYN.  I was hesitant at first because it was so difficult for me to go to counseling without feeling ashamed of my mental state.  In April 2015, I finally called my OBGYN and made an appointment with her.  I called her office and broke down on the phone to one of her nurses about what had been happening.  She arranged for me to come in the following day.  That was the best decision I've ever made.  She showed such compassion and concern.  She was so understanding.  She asked me a series of questions from the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale.  A score of ten or higher indicates postpartum depression but not the severity.  My score was a 17.  My OBGYN discussed going to counseling and medication use.  She also informed me that postpartum depression can worsen after subsequent pregnancies and suggested that if I get pregnant again to use an antidepressant once I'm 38 weeks along to give the medicine time to build up in my system.  I was informed that so many women silently suffer from postpartum depression because they're either in denial or too ashamed to admit that they have a problem.  My OB gave me information about support groups for postpartum depression.  All of her information was insightful and so helpful.

My OB prescribed Zoloft for me to take and suggested that I keep seeing a counselor with my husband.  I had a follow-up appointment with her six weeks later.  I felt like a new woman.  I no longer had thoughts of harming myself, I was starting to laugh again, and I was finally bonding with my baby and sleeping.

I'm only here because of my husband.  He saved me.  He held my hand every step of the way through counseling.  He also encouraged me to call my OBGYN.  I will forever be grateful to him.  He helped me to realize that I'm a good mother and wife.  I finally realized I didn't have to suffer this battle alone.  With all of that said, I'm glad it happened.  It opened my eyes to mental health awareness.  I didn't realize just how many women suffer from postpartum depression.  If I ever have another child, I will be prepared to handle the postpartum depression that may come along with a new baby.