Most people don’t think of postpartum mood issues (in short, PPD) in relation to infertility. I sure didn’t.
I’ve written numerous times (here, here, and here) over the years about my struggle with infertility. It was a struggle of 4+ years and I dreamed that once I had my child, all would be right with the world. The dream I had desired for so long would come true and I would get to hold my baby in my arms and love him immediately.
Because I have struggled with bipolar disorder and anxiety issues in the past, I was a prime candidate for suffering from PPD. But I tried to remain optimistic. A baby is what I had long wanted. I would get it; PPD be damned.
Often, you hear the stories about how women overcome infertility and their dream of having a child comes true. And it’s the best thing ever. They instantly fall in love with the baby of their dreams and everything seems wonderful except for that darned newborn period when you don’t get sleep. (But that’s pretty much everybody, right?)
What about the stories of women who struggle with infertility and then get PPD? No one talks about them. We feel guilty because for so long we wanted a child and now that we’ve received one, we don’t feel a bond. We don’t feel a connection. We worry too much about hurting the dream we had so longed for. We lose touch with reality and nearly harm our child or even ourselves. Panic attacks over losing our baby or taking care of our baby are a daily occurrence. Or we simply cannot get out of bed, too depressed to care for this human being who is completely and totally dependent on us.
Then there’s the added guilt of knowing that there are mothers—tons of other mothers—who are silently suffering the loss of what could be. Many mothers grieving month after month over not having a child. And here we are, finally over that hurdle. And we feel horrible. We don’t want this child. We don’t care for it. Take it away. I don’t want to see it. I’m a bad mother; I can’t care for this kid. But there are so many women who want a baby just like I have one. I have to love this kid—for them.
But those who suffer from PPD after infertility should know they are not alone. The internal pressure we give ourselves to be happy during (what should be) a joyous occasion can often be a tight cord around our neck. It’s OK to admit that after your years-long struggle that you’re not exactly overjoyed to be holding that “bundle of joy” in your arms. What’s NOT OK is pretending that everything is fine and trying to suck it up. This isn’t the time to pull yourself up by your bootstraps. This is the time to seek help. And there is no shame in admitting that you’re feeling sad, anxious, or worried about your mental health.
Reading this and don’t know where to turn? Here are a few resources:
- Postpartum Progress – Katherine Stone runs this advocacy organization to help raise awareness about postpartum issues among mothers, clinicians, and the general population. You can also discover great information via the Postpartum Progress blog.
- Postpartum Support International – Another organization that helps guide women through the changes surrounding them during the postpartum period. It offers resources, such as a toll-free hotline specifically catering to those with postpartum mental health needs.
- Postpartum Stress Center – This center provides professional support to women suffering from postpartum mood issues. It’s worth noting that PPD tends to be a catch-all abbreviation for conditions such as depression, anxiety, OCD, bipolar disorder, and psychosis, to name a few. The Stress Center tends to serve residents in the eastern PA area but will help those outside of the region find a local resource.
Remember, PPD can affect anyone, infertile or not. Don’t be afraid to seek help as soon as you recognize that something isn’t right. The sooner you get help (even if you think it’s just the baby blues), chances are, you’ll recover more quickly. Get your life back. Get help today.
I’ll break you down
I’ll take you down, down
Fill you with sadness
Make your life madness
— Fauxliage, “All the World”
It’s 1:11 am. I went to bed at 9:30 and I cannot sleep right now. I woke up restless, agitated, and irritated. I am almost always restless, agitated, and irritated these days. My patience is a thin layer of ice. Every day, I have thoughts about suicide or just not being around anymore. This doesn’t seem like a temporary regression. I feel like I’m practically right where I was in late September sans the panic/anxiety attacks.
Let’s be frank, here. I don’t want to live anymore. I’m tired of the different medications, I’m tired of the insurance hoops, I’m tired of the trial and error. My emotions are being torn apart and people tell me to “hang in there” until this science experiment yields some kind of solution.
I slog through my days, trying to deal with simply living. Making coffee, brushing teeth…basic tasks are difficult again. I’m writing this post through sheer force of will but I want to sleep. But not enough time has passed since I awoke from tossing and turning.
All I can think of is using a gun. Quick and easy. I know that method would offend many but it’s the only form of suicide I know that will be effective.
And I’m tired of talking about suicide. I’m tired of threatening to kill myself. One day, I’ll make good on my threat.
I suppose I’ll begin chronicling my bipolar depression journey here rather than on my other blog, depression introspection.
Since August, my mood has been up and down with “down” being severely low. I was suicidal. I’ve been suicidal. And when news of Robin Williams’s death hit my ears, it hit my mood as well. I honestly began thinking, How could someone so vibrant and alive kill himself? How could someone so talented and loved by so many people commit suicide? Then I thought, I’m not as talented as he was. Maybe I should kill myself too. I’m certainly not as loved as he is. What’s the point of living? I should join him.
Somehow, I managed to hang on to see my psychiatrist and I told him that the death of Robin Williams had triggered persistent suicidal thoughts. I hadn’t attempted to kill myself, but I was seriously considering it. He suggested that I try taking lithium, which has a track record of reducing suicidal thoughts.
I’ve been reluctant to take lithium because it requires that you get your blood levels monitored every 6 months. But when you’re desperate, you’ll try just about anything. (Probably just short of eating cockroaches. I certainly don’t have the stomach for that.)
Monday, August 11, 2014 will be one of those days that live on in infamy for me. I will never forget where and when I heard the news…
I was working at the library for the evening and a patron came in.
“Did you hear the news? So sad.”
All three of us looked at her like she had three heads. What are you talking about? we all wondered.
She caught on to our looks and replied, “Robin Williams died. Isn’t that sad?”
At first, we gave each other puzzled looks, wondering who in our community was named Robin Williams and then… oh, we realized it was the big-time actor.
Perhaps this is a blog post that belongs on my other blog, depression introspection, but this blog has been rather active so I prefer to post the following here.
My psychiatrist has added two more medications to my regimen. I was on Abilify and Prozac daily. I took Ativan as needed. Now, I’m on Abilify, Lamictal, and Prozac daily with Xanax as needed. Read more…
You turn the radio on
Play your favorite song
~Sarah McLachlan: In Her Shoes~
I’m battling. Warrior mom FTW (For The Win).
I want to share how my day at the Philadelphia Climb Out of the Darkness event went. It was fantastic.
I met several amazing and inspiring women who had been through some form of perinatal or postpartum mood and anxiety disorder. It meant a lot to me because the women there were able guide me out of darkness and into light. Even, if only, for a few hours. I was able to watch children happily run around, share my story with other women, and receive an amazing massage. I also was able to receive 3 hours of doula care from Main Line Doulas. I connected with a sweet n’ sassy counselor at the Postpartum Stress Center. The event organizer for Philadelphia, Heidi, is an amazing woman who encouraged me with her own story of climbing out of the darkness. And to meet Heidi’s mom, the official photographer, was such a blessing because it reminded me that we all can find support from somewhere.
I was originally supposed to meet up with a more local group at Valley Forge but due to communication issues (I’m looking right at you, Yahoo! Mail), I missed out. But that’s all right because I connected with the climb leader, Christy, who is A-MAY-ZING. My husband believes I was able to make a better connection with her as a result of my email snafu, and I have to say it’s been a blessing just getting to know her.
I have to recognize several women in my postpartum journey who have helped me above and beyond their call of duty: in person—my mother-in-law, Chris and my friends Rachael D., Karen W., Christine R., and K.C.; online—A’Driane, Lauren, and the many, many of you who left positive uplifting comments in my blog post, Heaven Can Wait.
Today was a difficult day. I was depressed from the moment I woke up (thank God the baby was with the grandparents overnight) and I could barely get out of bed to brush my teeth and shower. Life just seems so bleak. So many women have echoed in my ears, “It gets better,” and I really hope it does. I’m holding onto the hope of other women.
You turn the radio on
Play your favorite song
And sing out
~Sarah McLachlan: In Her Shoes~
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I don’t really have anything special planned for this blog. Although I probably should.
In going through old posts written in May, I have never once blogged about mental health. I suppose I’ve been so consumed with my infertility struggle that mental health issues really fell to the wayside. It’s something I’d like to change, but when it comes to topics on mental health, my mind is blank now. What can I blog about on mental health that hasn’t already been covered in depression introspection?
I’ve dealt with depression and suicidal tendencies since 1994. I ended up in a behavioral hospital in Jamaica, Queens back in June 2000. In November 2006, I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and wrote a post about it. I briefly suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after a stay in a psych hospital. In May 2010, I wrote a post about trying to conceive with mental illness. Little did I know that was part of my path in my infertility journey. (And little did I know there would be many a “spell caster” ready and willing to help
spam solve my infertility problem.) In September 2011, I dealt with severe anxiety. Now it’s May 2014 and I’m receiving treatment for postpartum depression after giving birth in the beginning of February 2014. Since 2004, I have taken the following medications (on and off) to help manage my mood and anxiety disorders:
Not a whole lot of meds compared to some people but it’s a wide and varied history for me. For the most part, I’ve tried to maintain a consistent attitude that medication can have a proper place in treating someone who seriously needs it. Heck, I’m currently on an Abilify-Prozac cocktail currently. I take Ativan for anxiety when necessary. I am not anti-medication.
Another thing that I need to work on is being more positive. My postpartum therapist tells me to “be kinder to” myself and to “be patient with” myself. I am hard on myself, in every aspect of life possible: Jesus following, wifelihood, motherhood, daughterhood, livelihood. Nothing is ever good enough for me when it’s done by me. I guess the problem is that I don’t know what being kinder to myself looks like and what being patient with myself looks like. This is something I’ll have to muse on quite a bit.
Someone tell me: why is the official color for mental health month puke neon green? Hmm…