At our first appointment, the nurse practitioner sat us down. She was looking at a sheet Tyler and I completed regarding our health history. She was reviewing the categories with us.
One of the topics she discussed was my history with depression and anxiety. As long as I can remember, I’ve had depression and anxiety. Apparently, if you’ve struggled with depression or anxiety before, you’re more likely to have postpartum depression. She expressed that it was a good idea to seek treatment while I was pregnant, before I took on the demands of motherhood. There’s one thing, though… I had such bad anxiety that I was terrified to take any medications. I was terrified of what it might do to the babies. I wanted to wait.
So, I didn’t take antidepressants during pregnancy. Of course, I didn’t go to therapy, either. Pregnancy made me exhausted, and I was working in a mostly stressful environment up until a few days before giving birth. The last thing I wanted to do was take time out to speak with a professional. All I wanted to do was go home and take a nap.
Tyler learned from his coworker about postpartum depression, and how I’d have this huge hormonal swing. We repeatedly talked about our life after the babies, and that we’ll seek a professional, if necessary.
It was the day we were getting ready to leave the hospital. I filled out a piece of paper with the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale, and gave it to the nurse. Shortly after, a social worker comes in. I knew as soon as she introduced herself why she came in. I hadn’t told Tyler my responses on the questionnaire, because I was kind of embarrassed that I had been feeling depressed. It was a time of excitement and happiness, right? I was given information on postpartum depression, and my ob/gyn came in to discuss next steps. I was prescribed an antidepressant, and had a packet on postpartum depression with various resources.
Unfortunately, just being prescribed medications doesn’t treat depression, you have to actually take them and go to therapy. It’s all up to you.
We brought the twins home. For some reason, tears started rolling down my face. I wasn’t sad. I wasn’t mad. There really was nothing wrong, besides being exhausted. I walked as fast as I could to the bathroom and locked myself in there. I just cried and cried.
Okay, maybe this is because I have two babies or maybe this is just the “baby blues”, which typically happens within the week after the birth of a baby due to the fluctuation in hormones.
I had lost all of my pregnancy weight, and then some by week two of postpartum. Over a whopping 60 lbs.”You’re so skinny! You don’t look like you even had a baby, let alone twins!”, I hear. Maybe genetics played a slight role, but the truth is, I wasn’t eating. I could barely look at food. I’m told how lucky I am that I lost all that weight by almost every person who sees me. I think, “Am I really that lucky?”, as I bring a fake smile to my face and acknowledge the person’s statement with a “yeah”.
More than anything, I hated hearing about my weight loss. It made me think about how I was depressed, and wasn’t eating. And the thing is, I love food. A little too much. But, I couldn’t bring myself to put a fork to my face.
Along with this, my mind ran a thousand miles an hour. Thoughts flooded my brain at all hours. The scary thoughts came on strong all day, and I had nightmares every night. There’s been a constant darkness. Then, there’s anger. Everyone just chalks all this up to sleep deprivation, and writes it off.
Sleep deprivation is only a layer. I thought that once I got more sleep, things would get better. That’s not how it works, though. When you have postpartum depression, your brain chemistry is not in sync. Postpartum depression lies to you to a point that you go into a truly deeply sad place.
With postpartum depression, you don’t want to leave bed. You don’t want to shower. You feel disconnected from your babies. You feel guilty. You’re overwhelmed, like you can’t handle anything. You just want to cry, for no apparent reason. You’re sick to your stomach. You’re having trouble sleeping, even though you’re beyond exhausted. Your thoughts are racing. You have suicidal thoughts. You’re worried about everything. Am I a good mother? Do people think I’m a good mother? You feel like if you reach out for help that you’re “crazy”, you’ll be judged, or your baby will be taken away from you.
It took a breakdown for me to start taking the medication the OB/GYN had prescribed. Even with the medication, on the inside, I was barely getting by. But, on the outside, I looked normal, because I knew how to hide my darkness.
But, this wasn’t the highs and lows of being a new mother. This wasn’t due to the demands of having two babies. This was a cloud hanging over my head that just wasn’t going away. This wasn’t something that 20 mg of lexapro could fix.
I finally cracked. I couldn’t keep up this facade. I was tired of having to force myself out of bed everyday. I had an anxiety attack. I cried. I felt like my heart was thumping, and I just wanted to yell. I couldn’t even concentrate. I felt claustrophobic. So, I made an appointment to see a therapist.
Unfortunately only 15% of women that have postpartum depression seek help, because of the shame and stigma. Unfortunately, due to this, I waited until months after the twins were born to get help. I couldn’t fully enjoy my babies for their first months of life. And, unfortunately, I can’t get those months back.
I’m now almost six months postpartum. I’ve been going to therapy, and I’ve had my medication switched. This last month has been a struggle, between feeling sick from switching medications to juggling the demands of adulthood and motherhood. I know everyday won’t be perfect, and I’ll continue to have struggles. But, I can finally say, that I’m starting my recovery.