Two years ago I would never have considered sharing my experience; even a year ago I wouldn’t say very much. But in light of Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness Month, I am finally at a comfortable place to share my experience.
My Post Partum Depression (PPD) actually started during pregnancy of my second child as what is known as antenatal depression. I was that 10% of pregnant women what while wanting to be elated about the pregnancy and our growing family- I was the opposite. I did seek some counselling during my pregnancy and was given the ever popular advice of rest, sleep and do less (which is much easier said than done with a toddler, trying to sell a house and working full-time). By the 3rd trimester, my emotions regulated and I was finally excited to meet this little man that would change our world yet again.
After my son was born, I was very observant for signs of PPD- I think specifically because of my experience with antenatal depression. Heck, I even encapsulated my placenta to help combat what would be the inevitable. We had a few medical obstacles to overcome in my son’s first few months, and I knew all along I had more than the ‘baby blues’; but I just kept telling myself that once we overcame the next hurdle, everything would be better. But the reality is that it kept getting worse. In hindsight, I know that there were some personal factors that probably fuelled my depression: 2 children under 2, a new puppy, new acreage and probably one of the busiest summers my husband had ever worked.
I vividly remember the day I realized that I needed help and couldn’t fight the fight alone anymore. On the news, there was a woman that had committed suicide after killing her 2 children, and for a very short moment- I could relate to it all. I hadn’t said much to anyone how I was truly feeling until that day, and told my husband that evening some of the dark thoughts that I’d been having. I was not met with the support and encouragement I had anticipated and expected. In fact, his angry response I would resent for years and would single-handedly nearly destroy our marriage. I vowed then that I would get the help I needed for my boys and I’d never bring it up my PPD again- this was going to have to be my fight to win alone.
So I embarked on a road to recovery alone. I immediately went to see my doctor and was given some anti-depressants and started to seek counselling again. My doctor and I changed up my medication and dosage a few times to try and find the best balance between the side-effects and my improvement. The funny thing about PPD and much of mental illness is that no matter what you are feeling, you will try to save face. To the world outside, everything is great! Your family is perfect, you’re out there doing things and making plans- but underneath it is just a facade. Nobody knew the struggle I had not to disappear, searching to find any reason to stay alive that day. I can confess that I am still here today because of my fear there would be no one to help my husband care for my boys, and didn’t want to put that burden on anyone else. It sounds pretty selfish now, but at the time, it was my inspiration to stay alive and keep on fighting.
After about a year, I felt comfortable in weaning off the anti-depressants and everything was starting to become more manageable. The boys were a year older and the dog wasn’t so much a puppy anymore. I had been back to work for a while and felt like a contributor to our family financially, plus I nailed down a pretty sweet routine for keeping up at home and on the acreage. The only thing that really never did get better was my confidence/anxiety of failing as a mother and the underlying betrayal I felt from my husband. Over the next year, I would continue to fight episodes of anxiety off the medication, and I regularly would question if I was truly doing the right thing.
It had been 2 years since I’d started that fight within that I confronted my husband with all the resentment that I had been building against him and the weight was instantly lifted. For the first time in a very long time, I felt good- I felt empowered and had self-worth. And that night I saved our marriage; there were a lot of tears, a lot of realizations and a lot of truth. Even today, I still struggle with my confidence and have anxiety in large groups- feeling like I am being judged and considered unworthy.
Sharing my experience with Post Partum Depression is not an easy milestone. I’m hoping that there is a mother out there that is battling her own internal demons and can find some familiarity and confidence in your fight from my story. You need support- and occasionally that support won’t come from your partner, so as a woman, a mother, and a human being- go find your support and maximize it for you. Use that support to fight your fight, because you are worth it and there is a little being that thinks so too.
* If you are experiencing tenancies of suicide or desire to hurt yourself or others, please seek immediate assistance by calling 911*
Family Services in Central Alberta FSCA
Perinatal Mood Disorder Awareness PPDA
Alberta Health Link (toll-free) 1-866-408-5465 or 811
Your Family Doctor and/or Primary Care Network