Saturday, August 10, 2013

PPD and Me

Well, what started out as intense baby blues blossomed into complete Postpartum Depression (PPD) about a month ago. I think that overall I've been doing okay, but I thought it would be helpful for myself (and maybe others) to blog about what PPD has been like for me.

I love how the therapist described it. She explained that having depression is like a sunburn. You know how your skin is really sensitive when you have a sunburn? You're really sensitive to touch, and even the slightest touch can be very painful. Well, when you have depression you're extra sensitive to thoughts. And you have to wade through your thoughts carefully because you can quickly go from emotionally normal to emotionally hurting in a trice. Just like you have to move gingerly when you have a sunburn, or you're going to be in pain.

It's interesting to me that this analogy got rid of a lot of unhealthy guilt. Before I realized that what I had was depression, I only knew that I was getting stressed out over really little, stupid things. Then I would mentally berate myself for letting such little things bug me. And I'd wonder what I was doing wrong that I was such a basket case. Was I reading my scriptures enough? (I could certainly be reading more) Was I falling short in my relationship with God? (Well, I know my relationship and devotion to Him is far from perfect, so probably I was falling short) And thus I would become even more discouraged and berate myself more for being such a nincompoop.

Can you see the vicious cycle?

Once I realized that I had PPD, I still battled with ideas that it was my fault that I had PPD. (If I had only acted differently in this or that situation a year ago or a couple years ago, would I have been as susceptible to depression?) Again, not a healthy line of thinking.

But knowing that what I was facing was regardless being exacerbated by post-pregnancy hormones led me to go see a doctor. She recommended both medication and counseling. So far, I've just done the counseling, (the medication just didn't feel like the right thing for me to do in my situation, but I'm open to the possibility that that might change) and that's where I got this analogy of depression being like a sunburn.

The way I look at it is that my sensitivity to thoughts (which can quickly lead to anxiety and stress and... well.. depression) are just the pregnancy hormones talking, and I don't need to blame myself for those hormones being out of whack. It's not my fault that those are out of whack. What I can control is what I do when I start noticing self-defeating thoughts creep into my brain. When those thoughts start poking their way in, I can either encourage them, or turn away from them.

There are various ways that I've found to turn away from those thoughts. Sometimes I just consciously think, "No, that thought isn't true. That's just the depression talking." Sometimes, I change what I'm doing and go do something that I find enjoyable. It always seems to help to go outside, and it also helps to stay busy.

I'd say that most of my days are good ones. There are certainly fewer bad days than good ones. More often I find that I'll just have bad morning, or a bad hour or two and the rest is okay or even good.

Thankfully, Chris has been amazingly supportive in all of this. He's really good at helping me do things when I'm feeling down. And he's also really good at taking care of lots of the mundane things that need doing (like cleaning the apartment, doing laundry, changing diapers and the like).

Also, it's a big help that Nathan is such an easy baby. He's a very mellow, very sweet kid. And his smile or laugh always lifts my spirits.

This challenge of postpartum depression is ongoing, but I'm hanging on and learning lessons through it all. Lessons that I probably wouldn't have learned without it. I feel that the Lord is mindful of me. This is a struggle that He sent my way because I needed to grow more, not because I sinned or made a mistake.

To any of you who have already gone through this, who are going through it now, or may yet go through it in the future, I say, "God bless you." It is difficult to experience, but I have confidence that it will end and that the Lord will turn our ashes into beauty.

Until then, keep me in your prayers, would you?

P.S. If any of you have your own stories to share I'd love to read about them in the comments. :)