1 in 5 moms will suffer from postpartum depression or anxiety after the birth of their child and some even while pregnant. Postpartum Support Charleston staff member, Amber, is one of those moms. She shares how she experienced ppd with both of her children and how the path to her recovery was different and exactly what she needed. Thank you, Amber, for sharing your story and "Standing for Moms".
Editor's note: This blog originally appeared on Amber's personal blog in March 2016.
Last year in January , I remember vividly what my life was like. My daughter was 3.5 years old, and my son just turned 5 months old. When I went to bed on New Year's Eve 2014, I was cursing my neighbors for lighting (loud) fireworks, causing my dog to have a meltdown and inducing a panic attack over whether my infant was going to sleep through the noise. As I scrolled through Facebook, I saw friends around the world ringing in the new year. I was so jealous, especially over a college acquaintance being on an incredible African adventure filled with yoga, massages on the beach and solitude. What kind of bullshit was that, I asked myself full of anger.
On New Year's Day 2015, I went on a big Facebook friend purge. I deleted that acquaintance, along with other people I didn't consider absolutely essential. That helped, but only a little. I was SO tired, I was SO sad because I was SO tired, and I was SO overwhelmed with juggling toddlerhood with infantdom. Through all this, I was sending emails and Facebook messages to my most trusted people about my sadness. They really tried to help as best they could. It really put a strain on my relationship with them -- I'm sure it was stressful for them to witness this all from a distance.
By mid-January, I had a phone conversation with a friend of mine who talked to me about her own experience with anti-depressants. This mama had gone through a really tough year and found incredible relief from it. And to me, she would've been the last person I ever would've thought would use pharmaceuticals to help her through something. She helped facilitate the courage I needed to have to admit that, yes, I was dealing with postpartum depression again, and yes, it wasn't going to be the end of the world to go on a drug like Zoloft.
A few days later, I took my kids up to see my health care provider. While the kids were cared for by the staff, I cried to my nurse-midwife that I felt like a horrible mom and that I couldn't sleep and that I wish someone else could take care of my kids and, again, that I was a horrible mom for not wanting to be around my kids all the time. Lots of hugs were given, and my nurse-midwife reassured me that this time was temporary -- that I would one day come off the medication, most likely a year from then, and be in a new and easier place in my life. And she wrote me a prescription for Zoloft.
I took the plunge, and took the meds. And it was the *best* thing I have ever done for myself.
Yes, taking an anti-depressant does change your brain. I was scared about that. But I took them anyway, and a few weeks later, my internal sunshine started shining again. It didn't change my situation with my children. But I could actually sleep at night, without waking up constantly, listening for my baby. I didn't dwell on all the bad stuff as often as I used to. I could actually be the mom that I wanted to be, and the wife I wanted to be for my husband. And I could be the best version of myself in that period of my life.
Like all things, change is inevitable, and I knew that it wasn't always going to be like this.
Fast forward to March 2016. My goal had always been to wean in the spring time of this year, when the sun was shining more and the temperature was warmer. Earlier this month, I decided to act. For two weeks, I halved my tiny little Zoloft tablet before I went to bed. And then last week, I decided that I was done. I knew that the time was right. I didn't need this anymore.
Slowly, I have embraced my old emotional self again: the woman who cries easily when she is sad or happy or when someone else is sad. I missed her -- I missed this version of ME. I am happy that she is back because I love her. I have found over the past week that I still can get pretty angry at my kids; I can still get overwhelmed. Those are things I need to work on, and they are easier to work on because my kids are older and I can approach them differently.
I share this story because it is important. I am being vulnerable, laying out my story of my experience with postpartum depression (round two). I did talk therapy the first time, and it was awesome and it was what I needed then. And this time, I used medication, and it was awesome and it was what I needed when parenting two kids. Taking medication is never an answer to everyone's problem. It's a very personal decision. But no one should ever feel ashamed to take it. It is only one tool to utilize if the need arises.
Plus, the great thing I have learned by being open about taking medication is that there are so many other women who have turned to medication. These are friends that I never would've guessed would've used it. We don't talk about these things, and it's only a detriment to others. When we get these things out in the open, it helps everyone.
Mama, if you find yourself going through a rough time, just know you are NOT alone. The light at the end of the tunnel may feel far away right now, but you will get there eventually. Open your heart, and let yourself be open to help. I got through it, and you can too.