I was fortunate, and oh-so-grateful to have a friend who shared her experience with PPD with me. I heard how she had plodded through years of her kids' lives before she was able to get help and how she felt that she finally had her life back after all that time. I'm thankful for her transparency because it prepared me for what was to come.
The first few weeks after we brought James home from the hospital were tough but not overwhelming. It took us a few nights to get into a routine of being up every few hours, but thankfully we had a lot of help from our parents. In fact, I'm not sure I would have survived without my mom and mother in law. They were truly instrumental in keeping me sane during an otherwise crazy time. I figured since I had made it several weeks and feeling pretty good, I was in the clear from PPD. I was so wrong.
When James was 7 weeks old I started a new job. I was only working 3 days a week for a few hours, but something about having to be away from him triggered what seemed like a total emotional breakdown. And I'm not an overly emotional person. I felt like I'd been hit with a train and was suddenly overwhelmed easily by simple tasks around the house. When James would cry, waves of anxiety would wash over me and I felt paralyzed. It seemed as if the world was caving in around me, and it was truly terrifying. I would go to bed at night praying to not wake up the next morning.
I'm fortunate to have the most amazing husband on the planet and he would swoop in and save me from these frightening panic attacks. I don't know what I would have done without him. Patrick encouraged me to call my doctor, which I resisted for a long time, because I didn't want to have to be on medication to feel normal. I was afraid of becoming dependent on pills and forever feeling like the "real" me just couldn't hack it anymore. But I realized I was doing a disservice to my baby and husband. I hadn't been myself in a long time and wanted so badly to feel normal again.
Let me offer this bit of encouragement to anyone reading this who's going through something similar: this is normal. I've heard a lot of women say they felt guilty for having feelings of depression or sadness because they should be happy with their new baby. Let me tell you, I love James with a fierceness that scares me sometimes, but what I was experiencing was completely outside of my control. When your brain takes a hormone bath like the one after childbirth it's a wonder any of us stay sane during our kids' first years of life. Sometimes you just need a little help getting back in sync. And that's ok. I was on meds for a few months, and have successfully weaned myself off of them, and I feel completely like my old self again. Anti-depressants don't have to be for life. And just because someone suffers from PPD doesn't mean they'll have to go on medication. There are certainly other ways to get help, and it might look different for different people.
I went back and forth for months about whether or not to blog about this because it's hard to publicly admit my own weaknesses. I like to be the person that has everything together and who doesn't have to ask anyone for help. From a Biblical standpoint that's nothing but pride, and a sin I've had to repent of time and time again. I felt compelled to write because as I talked with more and more women I realized that most people aren't talking about this issue. That means there are new moms out there who are suffering alone, and it doesn't have to be this way. It's ok to need help. It's ok to not have it all together when you have a baby. The sooner you can admit your need, the sooner you'll see the light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me, you don't have to suffer in silence!