Friday, March 11, 2011

Please Research: Postpartum Depression

She may seem completely normal to you. But inside, she's broken. Confused. Angry. Scared. Sad. Tired.

She has no motivation. She exhausts herself trying to get her daily chores done. She has trouble interacting with her kids as often as she knows she should. She knows her husband is sorely neglected. She can't form complete sentences. She feels that she has no friends. She can't sleep, even though that is all she wants to do. She gets angry about even the smallest of things. She often doesn't feel like cooking good food and sometimes doesn't want to eat at all. She feels guilty that she isn't well. She feels like she should be able to shake it off, but she can't. She has zero desire for physical affection. She doesn't show much interest, or take much time to enjoy, the things that she used to do all the time. She has headaches and body aches and heart aches. She's unhappy with the way she looks. And even more unhappy with the way she feels.

Sometimes she has good days. Days where she is happy and productive. But other days, she cries.

This is the life of a woman who suffers from Postpartum Depression (PPD).

PPD can happen to any woman. It can happen a couple weeks after the baby is born, or it can happen months after the baby is born (sometimes depression comes even a year after baby). And if it happens to you, don't feel as if you should have been able to prevent it. That will often make it feel worse.

Instead, start doing things that will make it better. This is definitely easier said than done, because those who have PPD have a hard time finding the motivation to -do- the things to help...even if they desperately want to get better.

First, you should tell someone, that you love and trust, how you feel. You NEED someone to be your anchor to reality. Ideally, this should be your husband. Make sure he doesn't go into "Mr. Fix-It" mode, though. Tell him that you need him as a sounding board. And help him know what ways you are comfortable with him helping (i.e. doing the dishes, making dinner, changing poopy diapers, practicing healthy living with you). You can also have your mother, sister, or a close friend be your anchor. Women, especially mothers, can often relate. They may have even suffered from PPD themselves. It might be hard to tell someone that you are depressed. It might make you feel ashamed or embarrassed. But once you feel like you don't have to hide your feelings any more, it will be easier to find ways to alleviate them.

Now you need to start figuring out how to feel better. This may seem like an impossible task. But pick something that you think seems easiest, and put your energy into doing it. It might help you find the energy to pick another thing off the list. Then another. And another. Until you find that you are back to feeling like yourself again. Here are some ideas for how to kick PPD to the curb:

-Focus on good nutrition: When you don't even feel like eating, or you would rather sit on the couch with a spoon and the sugar bowl, good nutrition can be really hard to fix. Start off by taking a vitamin supplement. Niacin, or Vitamin B3, is especially good for helping with depression. You can also continue taking your prenatal vitamins, these are really good if you are nursing. Then you can look into taking an herbal remedy for depression, such as St. John's Wort. Go to a health food store and find brands of vitamins that are minimally processed. (Or send your husband, because chances are you didn't feel like showering today...and getting out of the house may seem like too big of a task for you right now.) Once you start taking the vitamins, you might start feeling better. Whether it is a real effect or a placebo, it doesn't matter. You have your foot in the door of "better health". And now you can start eating better food. Cut out the junk foods and pre-packaged dinners. Eat lots of raw foods, fruits and veggies. Drink plenty of water. Minimize sugar intake. Try asking if your husband would be willing to cook dinner during the week, even if only on a couple days.

-Focus on light therapy: Fresh air and the shining sun can do wonders for improving mood. But getting ready and dressed for public (and getting all the kids dressed and ready for public) is not always easy. There are nap times and feedings and diaper changes to contend with. Or you don't have a car. And sometimes the sun -isn't- shining. Or sometimes it is too daggone cold. If you can't get out and about, try at least playing in the yard, if you have one. Or sitting out on a deck/balcony. At the very least, open the curtains and blinds to let the natural light into your house.

-Focus on exercise: If you can, combine exercise and light therapy and go for a walk outside. But if that seems too hard right now, try to find a quick and easy workout that you like...and just do it in your underwear at home. You could just put on some music that makes you want to move and dance around. If you have a toddler, it will be even more enjoyable, as those little guys love to dance.

-Focus on music: Like with exercise, upbeat music can help you get going. Put some music on, even without the plan to exercise to it, and see how it makes you feel. Or you can try calming, classical music that helps you relax.

-Focus on spirituality: Heavenly Father knows what you are going through. Sometimes, depression can put you out of touch with your relationship with your Heavenly Father. Rekindle that relationship. Work on saying prayers. Use God as your sounding board and begin by addressing Heavenly Father, then rattling off your list of woes. Finish by asking for help and expressing love and gratitude where you can manage it. Try reading your scriptures for 15 minutes a day...even if done in 3 minutes intervals (upon wakening, mid morning, after lunch, mid afternoon, evening). Or watch an episode of Veggie Tales and talk about it with your toddler. Sometimes it is the littlest things that will help!

-Focus on grooming: Wake up, eat breakfast, change diapers, nurse the baby, take a shower, change diapers, do hair, get the toddler a snack, do makeup. Whatever your morning routine -needs- to be, make sure to include personal hygiene. Make the time to shower, brush your teeth, put on deodorant. Make yourself feel as pretty as possible. Put on a bra and clothes, like you are going to go somewhere. Use soap that smells really good to you (not just something that smells ok, but find something that you -really- like). Wax or shave your legs and armpits. Go ahead and put on a movie for the kids, if it will give you time to take care of yourself.

Focus on cleanliness: This is not a focus on bodily cleanliness, this is for your house. Ask your husband to help you clean the house in the evenings. Then do what you can to keep it clean during the day. Make sure you keep up on laundry and dishes. Sometimes those chores that you -have- to do are the only ones that get done...because, let's face it, you need to do laundry if all your underwear are dirty! The task is to keep them from piling up. A week's worth of dirty dishes is a daunting task, and can aggravate depressed feelings. But getting the dishes done every day or having a freshly vacuumed floor can feel like a wonderful accomplishment!

Focus on hobbies: Remember those hobbies that you used to have and used to love. They seem dull now. So, remind yourself why you used to love them. Pull out your pen and paper and write some poetry. Or get out your paints and a canvas. Or your crochet hook and yarn. Get a new book from the library. Watch your favorite movie. Design a new ball gown. Shoot some hoops. Whatever it is that you used to do, find time to do it. Get the kids involved if you want. Or get them busy with something else (or down for a nap), so you will have time for yourself.

These are just some ideas for combating PPD. Like I said before, pick ONE of these and work on it. Don't try to do them all at once. It will not work. It will probably make you feel worse. But, picking one that especially appeals to you might make the world of difference. Get as much sleep as you can, and devote your days to getting better. You may not have much motivation or energy, but gather what you do have up, and put it to good use.

PPD is not healthy or normal (common...but not normal), but there are natural ways to make it better. These suggestions may not take all your troubles away, as PPD is often caused by hormonal imbalances that need time (and sometimes medical intervention) to be fixed. However, if you have thoughts of harming yourself or your child(ren), you need to get medical help immediately. If you feel like things are too hard to handle, and you haven't had any success with natural remedies, you are not a failure. PPD is a real illness. Just as you couldn't help it if you got cancer, you cannot help getting depression. But you can help get rid of it.

You are not alone.


Meghann Russell said...

I cried... Just reading this I cried. I had severe, severe PPD with Trys, and with Hunter it was just mild, we knew about it, and because so we're able to get the help before hand. It is so hard for Women to talk about the negative things. PPD, Anxiety, depression in general, as well as the sorrowful things like miscarriage, stillbirth and the death of little loves. Thanks Mall.

Naomi said...

Love this! I am going to forward this onto a couple of my friends and try to link it up in a post I want to do this week. Thank so much for putting this together. naomi x

Hilary said...

My PPD didn't go away til' I went back to work.
Finally having something that was the same, and that I could really get into.
Luckily I Have a pretty great work schedule for being a mom too... but it helped emmensely.

TopHat said...

I was recently listening to a podcast about PPD and the mom interviewed said she knew she was supposed to do all these things for depression: exercise, eat better, etc. but just couldn't even get out of bed. What worked for her was to try medication first, and then once she was out of bed, she could do everything else. It like "jump started" her road out. And now that she's been able to actually get up and do the exercise, it's much better and she doesn't need the medications anymore. I'm just sharing because that was a new way I had never looked at PPD medications before.

Anyway I like your list! I've had times in my life when the reality of "God doesn't want me to feel like this" really hits me. I don't know why, but that thought has been very powerful.

I'm currently training for a 5k for the first time since before I got pregnant with my first (so what- 4 years?!) and exercise is amazing.

Leejean Stanger said...

So true! thank you.