Postpartum Depression: An Interview on Living With PPD
Postpartum Depression just proves the point that one of my psychology teachers made to, “always check in with people around the happy times too…weddings, babies, new jobs, new homes often precipitate depression as much as unhappy times.”
I have received the gift of hearing many candid disease descriptions over the years, and I hope that this interview will resonate with those in need of understanding Postpartum Depression, or PPD, as we will often refer to it in the following anonymous interview.
Dr. Nicole: When Did you First Develop Postpartum Depression?
I didn’t develop PPD until I had my 3rd and 4th children. Some people experience it with their first baby; that didn’t happen with me. I started to notice symptoms around the 3rd or 4th month after birth. My symptoms consisted of being chronically tired, but not being able to sleep. I noticed I was drinking and smoking more because I felt overwhelmed (self-medicating). I noticed that I was just “not myself”.
I never took naps before, and was now taking them; I never missed appointments before and was now missing them, I have never been late to work and was now late to work every day because I just didn’t feel like I could get out of bed. Your entire day seems so overwhelming; you just don’t even know where to begin, so you’d rather just not begin and hide and pretend everything is okay.
Dr. Nicole: In Your Personal Experience, What Has Postpartum Depression Felt Like?
It feels like you are overwhelmed. When the baby cries you want to cover your ears and pretend its not happening, but you KNOW you have to get up and comfort the baby. You KNOW you need to change their diaper, or feed them, or give them a bath, but you just DON’T want to. You feel like you are forcing yourself to perform “regular mommy duties”, but you just don’t have the energy to. All these thoughts make you think that you are a bad mom.
Dr. Nicole: Has Postpartum Depression interfered with parental bonding?
My PPD has been debilitating and incapacitating. Going to the bathroom feels like a hassle, the thought of taking a shower seems overwhelming. The only thing that makes me feel better is seeing my daughter. Rocking her, playing with her, and feeding her makes me feel better. I feel bad that I have this beautiful little angel, and I am still sad. I feel guilty for being sad and always tired. However, I think I have bonded with her more than any baby I’ve had. I love holding her, I love looking at her, I love her – and I’m sad that I’m sad.
What is the uttermost worst aspect of Postpartum Depression?
The worst part about PPD is having people judge you. I’m not Andrea Yates, I have no desire to hurl my baby out of a window or drown my children in the bathtub. I love my kids, they are the only thing that keeps me going through this horrible disease. I didn’t ask for PPD, and now I feel like I’m being judged and punished for having it. I hated having to leave them for a week and checking myself into a hospital. I hate having to take medication. I hate having a “mental illness”, and admitting to it, because then everyone assumes you’re crazy.
What is Helpful for Your Postpartum Depression? How can your friends and family support you?
Everyone who has PPD just needs a “time-out” occasionally. When you feel overwhelmed, you need to feel like you are allowed to go sit in the bathroom and cry for no reason, and know that someone will be there to help you. You need to get a hug and have someone tell you everything will be okay. You need to NOT have to “make a sandwich” or “do the laundry” or “change a diaper” for 2 minutes. You need support, and for people like me, it’s hard to ask for it. People just need to see how tired you look and allow you to take a break. People with PPD don’t think they are “allowed” to have any of these feelings.
There is no way to prevent PPD. You know me, I’m a funny, up-beat person and now I feel horrible, and I feel so guilty for feeling horrible. I cry for no reason, and I’m not a “cryer”. The only way to help a woman with PPD is to recognize the symptoms (chronic exhaustion, feeling overwhelmed with mundane functions, noticing they are not taking care of themselves, paying attention to their eating habits, “self-medicating” with drugs or alcohol, feeling guilty, crying a lot, feeling like they have to hide in a bathroom to take a break, etc…)
To help someone with PPD, you need to spend the time and do the research to assist your loved one. You need to make the doctors appointment, you need to put her in the car and take her there, you need to pick up the prescriptions and make her take them every single day.
You, as a family member or friend, have to do the foot-work because if you are dealing with someone who has PPD, they cannot do any of that. She would be crying in the bathroom, unable to make even that first phone call; knowing she needs help but unable to take the first step.
I dont have any books or online resources, which is probably why I’m in this predicament for the 2nd time.
Any final thoughts you would care to share on PPD?
PPD is so “looked down upon” that I have now have the Dept. of Health and Welfare coming to my house because the kids have missed a few days of school. I called the teachers, counselors, and social workers at the school FROM THE HOSPITAL and told them I was in the hospital, and now my husband was at home with 4 babies and the kids might miss some school because he is overwhelmed.
I asked for homework packs to be sent home. I explained to them why I was in the hospital. I thought I was doing the right thing. Having Health and Welfare randomly show up on your doorstep and threatening to take your children is the worst feeling ever. Having people search your house is retarded. Having people randomly show up because they need to do a “visual check” on the kids is humiliating and insulting.
If I had just called the kids in sick or said we were taking a ski vacation to Tahoe, no one would have cared. BECAUSE I did the right thing, I now feel like I’m being punished.
Dr. Nicole: Thank you for sharing your very personal experience, it was very touching to read for me, and I hope it will resonate with others challenged by PPD.
If anyone else would care to share their personal experiences with Postpartum Depression please do so in the comments. You may do so anonymously or under a fake name for all I care. My only hope is that people can be more aware of this form of depression, and not feel so alone if they are also struggling.