Postpartum Before & After: Mental Health Edition

I've had a pretty cool physical transformation in the past two years or so. I've given birth to 2 kids in 2 years - one at the end of 2015, and another in 2017 - and here I am with my sometimes abs (if I don't eat too much Ben & Jerry's), and my pre-pregnancy pant size. 

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It's great.

I worked hard, I busted my ass, I might've damaged my abs going so hard (another story), but I don't pee when I sneeze so there's that. 

Anyhow.

What you don't see in my physical body is the mental health problems I struggled and still struggle with.

I got back in my pre-pregnancy jeans before I got back to my pre-pregnancy mental health and even now I'm not quire there yet - and may never be.

I've struggled with depression and anxiety for a while, since I was a kid, and I had really bad postpartum anxiety after my first child, my son, was born. But that felt more like, "Oh, I can do it all with no sleep, and no help! I am superwoman!" Until I crashed horribly, and burned...

But with my daughter, the beast that is postpartum depression felt like, "I can't do anything and I don't want to because this creature who is keeping me up all night long clearly wants me to die of sleep deprivation." And I couldn't sleep during the day because my toddler was up at 7 am (on a good day) seven days a week - my husband and I took turns letting each other sleep where we could, but to say it was hard is an understatement.

But the why isn't as important as the how. 

How did it feel? 

It felt like death with no afterlife. I believe in God, but this felt as if I would never be happy again, I was in a dark tunnel in which no light got inside, and no one could pull me out of the tunnel. No one could show me where to go to get the hell out. I had dug a deep grave, jumped inside, and now I was being buried alive. There was no help that I saw - and there literally was no professional help at all. My midwives tried as hard as they could, but the waiting list for a psychiatrist was months long and I felt I had hours left some days.

I was told I could drive myself to the ER for emergency services but I was too anxious to do that - I didn't want to be locked away.

I just wanted to be alone for a long, long time. Maybe forever.

So how did I get out of it? 

There's no set formula, no magic. This won't replace a therapist. I'm not a doctor. But I'm a real person who experienced the hell that is PPD. & this is how I survived.

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  • Time, for one. This isn't what anyone in the thick of the beast wants to hear, but over time your baby will start sleeping longer. & when my daughter was old enough - as soon as she was old enough - we did the cry it out method and it was a lifesaver. Some people think this is cruel. I think going insane from sleep deprivation and therefore not being the best parent you can be is even more cruel.

  • I also got out of the house, without the kids. I took a shower, got dressed, and went somewhere close by - Starbucks, the park, whatever. I just got out.

  • Speaking of - get outside. Being in nature was extremely therapeutic for me and very healing. [Side note: This is a good reason people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, SAD; from lack of sunshine and outdoors.] 

  • Writing was also very good for me during this time (& all times, really). I blogged, wrote in my private social groups, and journaled. Everyone can benefit from journaling. 

  • I cleaned up my diet. Eating well - vegetables, fruits, non-packaged foods - made me feel well. 

  • I blocked out negativity - I cut off anyone who didn't nurture my spirit. Some people believe this to be selfish. Sometimes you must be selfish to survive. 

  • I saw a therapist. Not a psychiatrist, who I was on a waiting list for, but a psychotherapist. It was very important and helpful for my healing process. We paid out of pocket and had to cut down on other areas of our finances, but it was worth it. Professional help is important.

  • I tuned out sad songs, sad movies, sad anything. Anything overly violent - ironically, even the book I was writing at the time I had to put on hold - I put it out of my life temporarily. This doesn't have to be a forever thing. But until your mind can create joy, don't stuff it full of artificial sorrow. 

  • Perhaps most importantly, I found reasons to live - my kids, my husband, the joy I knew was lurking somewhere around the corner. Joy that I had once experienced before and knew that, if I just held on, I would experience again. Even though I was in the midst of some dark shit surrounding my daughter's birth, I knew she wouldn't be this little forever. I knew I would miss out on being present with my children because I was surrounded by darkness. I knew that I would miss them, if I weren't here.

If you're suffering from PPD or postpartum anxiety, or really any type of postpartum mental health issues, send me an email. While I'm not a therapist, sometimes it helps to just chat. I won't try to sell you anything or give you wacky advice, but I will be an ear that's been there.

Most importantly, talk to your doctor or therapist. Talk to someone before it's too late. Don't suffer alone.

xo

Kali