Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Truth About Postpartum Depression

Postpartum depression. It's real. And it doesn't necessarily happen right after the baby is born. For me it happened 4 months later.

Obviously something was going on the last few months. I wasn't myself. I could barely get out of bed in the morning. Throughout the day, all I wanted to do was crawl back into bed. My body felt dead. I had two beautiful smiling children that made me happy - but as soon as I put them down for a nap and was left alone with myself, all I wanted to do was lay on the ground. And I did - literally. I would be cleaning up the playroom and I would stop what I was doing and lay down on the floor. Just to close my eyes. Or to cry. It felt like my hormones were rebelling. Like my body decided to start fending for itself.

This feeling started almost immediately after Deacon's surgery. I guess it technically started in the hospital - on day 2. When I felt like Deacon was replaced with a "new" baby ( And it lasted until about a month ago - the end of January. But the strange thing is - I never realized it was postpartum depression until recently. While I was in the throes of it, it never once dawned on me that what I was feeling was depression. It was only once I began to spiral out of it that I realized what had been going on. I knew I wasn't myself. I knew something was wrong. But I couldn't put my finger on what it was. All I could tell people was that, "I just don't feel right."

I convinced myself it was my thyroid. Or anemia. So I went to the doctor for blood work. Unfortunately I let myself wallow in this gray area for longer than I should have. I tried to go to my OB-GYN a few times, but they said (over the phone) that they couldn't help me - that I needed to see my primary care physician. Probably because I told them I was having thyroid problems. But I wish they would have recognized the reality behind what I was saying. I told them I felt like my hormones were going crazy. That my body felt exhausted and drained of all energy. That I felt off.

Finally in late-January I went to my primary care physician and had her draw blood. I told her it was my thyroid. She wasn't too interested in what I had to say after that. She went with it and drew the blood. Lo and behold, my thyroid was perfectly fine. The only thing that was low was my Vitamin D. So she prescribed me a hefty dose of Vitamin D and that was that. No follow up. No calls to see how everything was going. Nada. Oh - and that I may want to try a Gluten Free diet for a bit to see if that helped.

I'm not sure if it was the Placebo effect or if the Vitamin D/Gluten Free diet really did help jumpstart my mind again, but I finally began to feel a bit better. Everyday I was gaining more energy. I wanted to do more. To see more. To reengage with the world. I felt like I had more control over my body. My emotions. And that I was "myself" again.

So here's my question: How come I didn't recognize it? I still don't have the answers to this. I'm still coming to terms with the whole thing myself. I guess I didn't realize you could get PPD months after the baby's birth - I thought it was something that happened immediately. Maybe I suppressed all the emotions because of Deacon's surgery and once it was over, my brain needed time to recover. That's the only thing I can think of. I also think a reason I never considered postpartum depression was because I didn't have the "tell tale" signs you always hear about - i.e. wanting to hurt my babies, not wanting to mother them, not wanting to be around them. That's what I always heard post partum depression was. But I had NONE of those feelings. My kids weren't the problem - I was. My body was. It was actually Daniel that finally asked if that's what may be going on - if I may have post partum depression. I brushed him off when he said it, but it stuck with me. I wasn't willing to believe that happy, smiling, enthusiastic Erica was depressed. But in actuality, I was. For about four months.

And another question: How come the doctors didn't recognize it? Because I was smiling? I've found that if you ever want a doctor to take you seriously, don't smile. I've pretty much given up on doctors in general. The only doctors I've ever been happy with were Deacon's neurosurgeon and plastic surgeon. And the perinatologists I saw during both pregnancies. Because they were specialists. They specialized in a specific field and knew A TON about it. I feel like every other doctor is pretty disappointing - the doctors that fall in the "generalist" category. Doctors are supposed to know stuff. To diagnose issues. But in all honesty, general doctors are just like the rest of us... except they spent some extra time in school. They know an itty bitty bit about a lot of health-related things. As long as you have a pulse and are breathing, you are "golden" in their eyes. Unless something is very obvious, you are pretty much on your own. They say don't look on things like Wed MD and Google - but how the heck else are you going to figure out what's wrong with you?

Anyway... I wanted to share this because I feel like there are a lot of misconceptions about postpartum depression. You don't have to be hearing voices, be suicidal or want to hurt your babies. I felt none of those things. It can come on months after the actual birth. You can be smiling on the outside and still function to a certain extent. But inside you know something isn't right. You feel "off". Like the blood had been drained from your body and you've become a walking zombie. Like your hormones have a mind of their own. I was there. I'm spiraling out of it now. And I want other moms to be able to recognize it and get the help they need.