Monday, August 30, 2010

~Mental Health Monday Guestblog~

Today's guestblogger is Esther. She is sharing her story of dealing with PPD after the birth of her first daughter. You can also find her at her own blog Journey Through PPD

My name is Esther. I'm blessed with a wonderful husband, a fabulous 16 month old daughter, another baby on the way (due in April), and 5 awesome pets. I'm happy with where I am in life right now, but a year ago that wasn't the case.

When my daughter was born, I had a bad case of what I thought were the "Baby Blues". I figured they'd go away and that I ought to just suck it up and drive on. I figured it was normal at 3 weeks post-partum to cry for no reason whatsoever, have no energy, be unable to sleep, and a myriad of other symptoms. I even googled it and read that that was fairly normal and that it ought to go away pretty soon. It didn't. I didn't cry for no reason as often (shopping buggies left in a parking spot at Wal-Mart no longer sent me into a melt-down) but I had no energy, had horrible mood swings, was pretty much uninterested in any activities whatsoever, didn't really care about much of anything, was always sad/down, couldn't sleep, so on and so forth.

At my 6 week post-partum checkup, I was given a questionnaire to fill out that would give the provider doing my exam an idea of whether or not I had warning signs of Post Partum Depression and if I needed to talk to anyone. I checked a few of the boxes because I had an idea that I needed to talk to somebody. However, the nurse practitioner didn't even look at the sheet, didn't ask me how I was feeling, and pretty much ignored me the whole time I was there. I figured this meant that I was fine and just needed to stop being a cry-baby and start chalking it up to fatigue, or that I was acting spoiled because I no longer had as much me-time and alone time with my husband as I was used to, or something like that. So I went on with life. I started pushing away my friends, I wouldn't answer calls or texts or return voicemail messages. I started occasionally having thoughts that brushed close to thinking about hurting myself. I started worrying that I would somehow hurt my baby. I felt guilty and I wasn't even sure what I felt guilty about. It didn't help matters any when I got my pap smear results back and they were abnormal. Being told there was a chance I had cervical cancer and that I needed to have further testing didn't exactly help my outlook on life become more positive. But I still didn't talk to anybody, I just kept going on.

In July, 3 months after my daughter was born, I finally hit a crisis point and realized that I really really needed help. It was something like 2am and as usual, I was up in the middle of the night. I was on the internet posting on a military significant other support forum. I had been posting a lot in the "protected" section about how miserable I was, how much trouble I was having sleeping, etc. and some of the ladies started telling me it sounded like I had some symptoms of Post Partum Depression. They gave me some links to read and I started thinking "Hey, that's exactly how I feel.". I walked away from the computer to try to go to bed and stopped at the stairs, thinking about how unhappy I was and how easy it would be to throw myself down the stairs to hurt myself. I walked away and went to bed. I couldn't go to sleep and found myself in the bathroom looking at leftover pain meds from an ankle sprain and my husband's surgery and thinking how easy it would be to take all of them and just sleep. I walked away and found myself at the stairs again. That was when it hit me how absolutely unlike me this was and that I had a serious problem. I did some more googling and read that with PPD symptoms, thinking of hurting myself meant I needed to call 911 or go to an ER immediately. I talked to my husband and ended up calling the chaplain (my husband is military), who told me that he and my husband's chaplain would meet me at the ER. As hard as it was, I threw on some clothes and went.

At the ER, everyone was so nice to me. I felt like a dam had broken, I started crying and literally could not stop. I was put in a room where they could watch me and some tests were run to see if there were any health issues that might be behind it (heart, etc.). Eventually, I was admitted to the hospital and transferred to a psychiatric care facility across town. I felt like the worst mom ever for intentionally leaving my husband and baby, but the nurse at the ER (who had struggled with PPD herself in the past) told me that it was a sign that I was a GOOD wife and mom for doing this for my family. Everyone kept telling me that but it took a few days before I started to realize it was true.

At Laurel Ridge, they tried talk therapy. That didn't work by itself so they put me on medication. I was upset about that because the medication they put me on meant I had to stop breastfeeding but I realized that my health was more important than breastfeeding and eventually I got over that hangup too. After about a week of medication, I was better enough to be able to go home (boy was I happy, and scared). I had to be hospitalized a second time a month later so they could adjust my medication again, because it wasn't working as well as it should have, but that second time did the trick and I was able to go on.

In early December, my Primary Care doctor discovered that I had hypothyroidism. We believe that the pregnancy caused this. Guess what... thyroid issues can cause depression! I was so happy that I almost cried, because I had a medical reason for the PPD. I was immediately started on Synthroid and within 3 months, I felt totally back to normal. 3 months of Thyroid medeication did what 6 months of anti-depressants, anti-anxiety, and sleeping pills couldn't do. I was able to come off of the depression meds and have been off of them since March.

Now I'm pregnant again and I'm excited, but I'm a little nervous too, about what will happen if I have PPD again. The difference is that this time, I know the symptoms and I know what to do if I start to feel bad. My family and friends know now too. I think that one of the most important things for women who are pregnant to realize is that pregnancy, delivery, and motherhood can impact your mental health, and that if that does happen, IT'S OKAY. Struggling with Post Partum Depression, Post Partum Psychosis, or anything else of the type doesn't mean you're insane, it doesn't mean that there is something wrong with you as a woman. It doesn't mean you are any less of a wife or mother, and there is no shame in admitting you think you need to talk to somebody. Another one of the most important things is to be educated on the warning signs and symptoms of PPD/PPP, whether you or someone you know are the one pregnant/just had a baby. If you have friends who you think are having trouble, ask them about it. If they blow it off, talk to their family. Don't let them fool you and don't push them to get help just because you don't want to be "mean" or "intrude". There's nothing wrong with admitting you need help, it's a sign of inner strength. Also be aware that thyroid issues can cause depression. If they check your thyroid and don't see anything, have them check again a few months later. In my case, it took about 6 months after my daughter was born before my thyroid levels settled into a pattern that was diagnosable as hypothyroidism. You are your own best advocate, never forget that.

1 comment:

sallyo said...

I'm glad to hear you got the help you needed. PPD is real. And so are depressions caused by thyroids and whiplash. I suffered with it myself years ago when it wasn't even discussed.
I'm so glad it's now in the open.
FWIW: I had 2 more babies after the ppd with my daughter and had no more trouble with it.

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