Monday, August 24, 2015

Bigger than a bad mood: Coping with Baby Blues

When I was pregnant the first time, I had read about post-partum depression. I was given a list of the warning signs that I might have a higher risk factor and toll-free numbers to call if I felt like I needed help. I logged the papers away with all of the other paperwork I had received in the birthing classes and whatnot to save for if the time came.

A "less severe" (for lack of better terms) for PPD is nicknamed "the baby blues." During and after pregnancy, hormones are raging throughout a woman's body, struggling to get back into some sort of a rhythm. In the meantime, they can go a little crazy.

Little known fact: baby blues can occur during pregnancy, not only after the baby comes. This came as a surprise to me, given I wasn't expecting any "warning signs" until after the arrival of my bundle of joy. However, it can be aggravated by different things during pregnancy, and I was one of the effected.

I had never experienced anything like depression before (closest I came was PMS, which was nothing compared to this). It felt like a dark cloud is hanging over you and it will never leave. I was told that it felt like "a deep loneliness, sadness, and boredness that goes as deep into you as you can feel." That description was spot on. I remember wanting to sit on my couch and cry. It felt like even when I tried to be around people that I loved, I had to fake a smile and wait patiently to be alone again. I felt like they could see right through my forced grin and see no light behind my eyes. It seemed like no one got it, even though they meant well with their wishes to pull myself up by my bootstraps and "buck up!" I had never felt so alone. 

I was blessed to have an amazing support system who did their best to keep me distracted and in good spirits, although I only felt apathetic at best. It is different for everyone, but for me it was a few boughts that lasted a week or two at a time. I knew this meant again that I had a higher risk of developing PPD, but I didn't after Celine was born. I began seeing a counselor, whom I still see regularly to this day. She has helped me tremendously to validate what I'm feeling, call it what it is, and move forward. I know now that it is bigger than a bad mood: it is a real, clinical, and treatable condition that more than 3 million women experience every year.

I was hoping to avoid the experience this time around, but God had other plans for me. It came on slowly, but when it came I knew it right away. I had forgotten how deep it went and how hopeless I felt. I'm finally over bought #2 this pregnancy, and to help if/when it happens again, I'm writing the following points to remember (per the suggestion of my chosen professional):
  1. You are not alone. - This happens to millions of women around the world every year. You are not the first to experience this, nor the last. There is always someone else who has also experienced this. Isolating yourself will only make it worse.
  2. Call it like it is. - I spent way too many hours repeating "I don't know why I feel like this, I can't do this anymore, I just want it to go away, I want to run away." You do know why you're feeling this way: your body is doing crazy shit right now and it's affecting more than your growing belly. Ride the wave instead of beating up on yourself for feeling so crappy. It's not your fault!!
  3. Talk to someone--anyone--but preferably a professional. - They're professionals for a reason. They're trained on how to deal with a bazillion problems, and they've definitely seen this before. Find someone you trust and put your thoughts and feelings into words. Write a poem/song/journal, talk to a dear friend, whatever... don't bottle it up. As soon as you shed light on what's going on in your head you can start to cope in a healthy and safe way.
  4. Get off the couch. - As much as it sucks to hear, depression (or the blues) only worsen if you sit on your ass all day. Forcing yourself to walk down the driveway, around the block, or to do a load of laundry sounds like the worst thing in the world (and frankly makes you want to stay in your spot even more), but you need this. Break the cycle, find some creative or productive outlet, and try to distract yourself.
  5. It always gets better. - This may feel like it, but it is not the end of the world. You are stronger than this. You have people who love you and people who are depending on you, especially the little one your body is working on. Trust your support system and know that this will not last forever.
  6. Pray, pray, pray. - You may not be able to escape to the desert like Christ did and we have no idea if the Blessed Mother experienced this, but pray, pray, pray without ceasing.
Note: This is not an expansive, all-inclusive, one-size-fits-all list of what a mother struggling with PPD or the baby blues may be going through. This applies to me in my experiences, but it is different for every mother and even each pregnancy. If you or someone you know is carrying this cross, be sure to seek help from the right sources.

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