Welcome to this month’s monthly PPD Recovery Story! This month we get to see just how much of a different sleep can make to your mood.
- How would you describe your postpartum experience?
The first 7 months of my son’s life felt like a blur. My whole world felt upside down, and I couldn’t find my place in it. Some days were okay and I got out and did things and felt like I was coping and others were so dark I couldn’t function. I felt hopeless and like a failure as a mother. I worried I had made a mistake by having my son because I would “ruin” him. When I finally got treatment and started on medication for PPD/PPA things slowly started to improve. Luckily, as I got better, I was able to enjoy the last few months of my maternity leave. I went from barely surviving, to feeling like myself again and actually looking forward to my time with my son.
- Did you receive a formal diagnosis of a postpartum mood and adjustment disorder? If so, how did you receive that diagnosis? If not, did you seek one?
I have a history of depression/anxiety and it runs in my family. When I was pregnant, my doctor proactively referred me to a women’s reproductive mental health clinic at the hospital where I would be delivering. The psychiatrist wanted me to start on antidepressants immediately following the birth of my son, but I resisted. At the time, I felt fine and I was too worried about the medication getting to him through my breastmilk (even though I was assured it was not a big risk). After I had him, and the “baby blues” never left, I felt like I should be able to “handle” things on my own. I kept convincing myself that if he would just sleep better and if I could just make breastfeeding work, I would be okay. Finally, things got so bad I accepted that I was experiencing PPD/PPA and I needed professional help to recover. I was formally diagnosed by my psychiatrist.
- What was your postpartum experience like at it’s worst? How did you know it was time to get help?
At its worst, I had such severe insomnia I could not sleep for days. I felt like I was losing my mind and that I would never feel “normal” again. I was hopeless and in despair. Everything felt dark and I was crying all the time. I was afraid to take care of my son because I couldn’t remember basic things like when he last ate. My mom moved in with me and my partner to help us care for him.
- What kinds of supports do you credit with your recovery (medication, one on one therapy, group therapy, naturopathic care, etc)?
Medication for PPD/PPA and for sleep was the turning point for me. Without medical intervention, I would not have recovered as well as I did.
- When did things start to turn around?
A few months after I started medication and after we finally decided to sleep train my son, things began to turn around. My son was waking up 5 – 10 times a night for months, and I realized that without proper sleep I could not take care of myself or parent him properly.
- What kind of support did you have from partners, family or friends?
My mother was incredible and a played a huge role in my recovery. She was a constant source of support, unconditional love and took care of my son (and me!) when I couldn’t. My husband tried his best to be supportive, but the situation was very challenging for him too and he worked a lot. I never hid my PPD/PPA from friends, but I did not know many people struggling as much as I was.
- What helped the most?
Medication! Realizing that I was not a failure as a mother because of my PPD/PPA. Letting people help me. Finding an online community of other moms going through the same thing.
- What helped the least?
Certain online parent groups were distressing for me. I would go looking for support/community, but end up feeling isolated as my son was very high needs as a young baby and I did not have an easy postpartum experience like some other mothers. I was left feeling like there was something wrong with him and me.
- What kind of support plan do you have in place ongoing?
I am still on medication and I meet with my GP regularly to check-in in regards to my mental health. I am intentional about self-care, like getting regular exercise, alone time and sleep. My husband and mother are there when I need to talk through things.
- If you could give one piece of advice to a parent struggling with their postpartum mood, what would that be?
You are not alone and you are not a failure. Do not be afraid to seek help.