Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Post Partum Depression


I debated about whether or not to write this post because this is a very difficult thing to talk or write about. You would think that it would be easier because this is a faceless thing, blogging, but for one, many people I know read my blog (I think?) and it's still this deeply personal thing to be experiencing and to talk about. For the first several weeks after Ella was born, everyone, including myself, was waiting with bated breath for post partum depression symptoms to show up in me. Being on bedrest, having a premature baby who was as sick as she was and the fact that I'm prone to anxiety and stress made me exceptionally high risk for PPD (PPD risk factors). I had a 4 week appointment and by then, I was so cheerful it was sick. I had an attitude that since Ella hadn't died those first 2 weeks when she was SO sick and on the ventilator that I could take anything that was sent my way. In fact, I was so disgustingly cheerful, it should have worried me. I went to the doctor for a check up since I had had such severe pre-e and they were shocked by my positive attitude. It seemed that I was in the clear.

It was about two weeks later when I started feeling different, give or take. I started getting crankier then usual. And not just, I'm tired and my baby is in the hospital cranky. Cranky like I was screaming at and spanking my 2 year old for the stupidest little things. Yes, spanking. I've been the occasional hand slapper and the very rare spanker but all of a sudden everything she did was setting me off. Somedays, I'd get up and just think that I was so sick of the same old shi* happening at the NICU, I didn't even want to go to the stupid place. I thought it didn't make any difference and I just didn't want to go. I was sick of it. I was stressed the heck out. I talked to my friends about it and I started retaking my placenta pills (yes, placenta pills. And yes, they are what you think they are) and I started evening out. I was still stressed and got irritated even more easily then usual but I calmed down a little.

One day after her due date, on December 17, Ella came home. I was SO happy. That first day was magical. We had big family cuddles and Olivia was so thrilled that Ella was home. Our family was finally complete and under one roof. My husband's work found a loop hole around FMLA (I don't even want to get into that) so he only had that one day off. It was the next day that the crying began. The hours...and hours...and hours of crying. Did I mention that she cried? And then...she cried some more. She would scream and cry and NOTHING I did would make her stop. For the first day or two, I rocked her and sang to her and loved her and it just didn't really bother me because I was so happy my baby was home. After that....my mind got to the point where the screaming was like nails on my brain. Sometimes she would nurse, sometimes she wouldn't. By the time Shane came home, I'd be sobbing that this baby was horrible and nothing I did made her happy. I felt like a rotten mother. I was failing. And then I started thinking things like, why didn't she act like this in the NICU? Why is she doing this to me at home? Why does she want to make me crazy? I hate this baby. I wish she'd stayed at the NICU. I would cry as I thought these things because I was a rotten mother for thinking it. It just got worse and worse. After about 2 weeks, I figured out how to stop the crying from lasting hours and hours but I had exhausted myself and was to the point where the smallest cry would immediately bring the stress from 0-100% in 1.5 seconds. I was a mess. I was yelling at Olivia and spanking her for no good reason again. Time out was like every 10 minutes at times. I would cry as I did it, knowing I was a mess but feeling like I was spinning out of control. I hated myself for how I was acting towards my girls, especially towards Ella who had spent 74 days in the NICU, fighting for her life and here I was acting like the crappiest mother ever.

The things I've thought and said to my girls during my episodes...I told them both that I hated them, that I wished I'd never had children. I fantasized about getting in the car and leaving my family behind. I didn't want to be around them. I can't even say everything I thought. It was putting a strain on my marriage too because I was uber sensitive to my husband as well. One time, I went to put Olivia (2 year old) in the car and went to the wrong side and my husband asked me why I did that. I LOST it. I screamed at him that I must be a loser and a horrible mother because I didn't know which side of the car Olivia sat on. It was at this point, after a horrible morning of me losing it and being on edge all morning, that I knew it was time to get some help. I wanted to leave my kids and go away. I constantly thought my kids didn't deserve this and they'd be better without me. A few days later, I called the doctor and made an appointment to be seen.

When I went and saw the doctor, I completely broke down. It was obvious to her that I was suffering from pretty bad depression. She prescribed me Zoloft and set me up with a psychologist. I've started the Zoloft and it wasn't long after that I started feeling better. It was like someone flipped a switch in my head. I could deal with my children easier, every word that came out of my husbands mouth didn't make me feel like I wanted to shoot him...and I just feel better overall. I have always had some issues with handling stress and anxiety so throw the fact that I had a traumatic pregnancy as well as a baby in the NICU and it was pretty much a guarantee that I'd have this happen. I could never have imagined that it would get as severe as it did and once it WAS that bad, I never thought I could come out of it. I went to the doctor and when they prescribed me Zoloft, I didn't actually think it would work because I didn't feel like I could ever feel better. I thought I would feel this psycho for the rest of my life and eventually I'd totally lose my mind.

Why am I sharing something so incredibly personal? Because I never, ever thought that PPD could be this bad. I never realized how deeply this can affect women. I was humiliated by my actions and my feelings. Absolutely humiliated. I didn't want to go to the doctor because I was afraid of what they would think, say or do. I wondered if having these kinds of thoughts could get my kids taken away from me. I had asked my husband to make a huge change in our lifestyle so that I could quit my job and stay home with our kids. I had asked for both my children to be conceived so how dare I feel anything but love and appreciation towards them? It seemed like a failure to ask for help from a doctor and even worse, to try medications. But I finally had to and now I realize that there was truly something going on that needed to be fixed. My patience has multiplied. When Ella cries, I don't automatically feel like screaming at her. When Olivia acts up, I don't feel like spanking her and when my husband drives his car into a median, I don't feel like stabbing him in the eye.

I wanted to share my struggles through post partum depression because if another woman experiences this I want her to get help. I want her to know she's not alone. So while it's incredibly hard to write this all, and share it, especially with strangers, I hope that other women know they aren't alone.

22 comments:

  1. I can relate to this so well. My baby turns 1 tomorrow and it has been such an intense and difficult year -- amazing and beautiful, but so hard. It's so important for women to read stories like this that can validate the seriousness of PPD, even for us nursing mamas, even in great scenarios/births, etc. My husband's work also screwed us on paternity leave, so I really feel you on that. Thanks for writing this.

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  2. You are such a wonderful mother. You saw the signs and got help. Hugs

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  3. simply beautiful, Christa! So many women feel like they need to be super mom after delivery,we wont admit when something is wrong. Or, like you said, that people will look down on you for being a good mother.

    Anyone else a Scrubs fan?

    "You can't get rid of this by sheer force of will or positive thinking or taking advice from a big Hollywood movie star and the dead science fiction writer he worships. You need help."

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  4. bravo to you, I welled up reading this because I have been there too, only I never got drugs and suffered through it for the best part of 2 years. You are a great mother, and a greater person for sharing something that could potentially save a life.

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  5. This was hard for me to read. A small blink of your pain of actually going through it, but still... I think I may have been/still am suffering from PPD. But I'm not sure. Most days I feel so happy and calm and positive. But sometimes I have flashbacks to my c-section, and sometimes the need to escape is overwhelming. Thank you for your brutal honesty. You are brave, and strong, and a great mama.

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  6. That sounds like PTSD...not that I'm a medical expert but I know that's another thing they watch for in NICU parents so they told me a bit about it.

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  7. Thank you for writing this. Your honesty is breathtaking. I believe that if more women were honest about this then women would seek help more quickly and not hide out in shame and fear as frequently as they do now. Stories like this need to be told and heard. I am so happy for you that you are feeling better now. {{hug}}
    Also could you say more or link to more information about PTSD in relation to NICU? The first hospital my boys were in was fantastic but they were transferred to a different more clinical hospital for a medical condition they had and the staff there didn't tell me anything they didn't absolutely have to. This is the first time I have heard of it.

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  8. Sasha,
    It's a newer thing that they're starting to recognize the risk of PTSD in NICU families. The hospital we were at was trying to figure out what kinds of things they can do to support the families better, especially moms, because of the risk of PTSD.

    Here's a study done on PTSD in NICU families done by Standford: http://psy.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/content/abstract/50/2/131

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12685667?ordinalpos=39&itool=EntrezSystem2.PEntrez.Pubmed.Pubmed_ResultsPanel.Pubmed_DefaultReportPanel.Pubmed_RVDocSum One done by Duke University

    I found these studies through an article by the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/08/25/health/25trau.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1&em

    I think I had a bit of it while Ella was in the hospital. I kept having nightmares that she was sick and dying again. I'd have flashback to her looking pale and dying again or hooked back up on the vent and dying.

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  9. This is amazing. I've always had anxiety and a little bi-polar. and right around the start of my 3rd trimester I started feeling like crap. I was crying all the time. sleeping all the time (i put it off as being pregnant.. but lets face it, i was sleeping over 12 hours a day and that's not normal). Anything my husband would say would either make me end up in tears of yelling.
    I decided I needed to talk to the Dr... her answer was "we usually don't start treating depression in the 3rd trimester". so now I feel stuck. I try to put on my happy face for everyone to see. but there's so much going on. I'm counting down the days for my job to be done, we are behind on all our bills already, i'm going to have a baby in 7 weeks. I don't know what to do.

    Has anyone else heard of needing to wait until after the birth? and if I have the PPD, what do medications do during breastfeeding?

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  10. I have heard of pregnancy induced anxiety but I don't know much about it sweetie. I'm taking Zoloft and it's safe during breastfeeding. I think that if you're feeling that bad, you should go back to your doctor.

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  11. My days are so drastic tho, It's weird. Like yesterday I was happy as a clam. Smiling, everything was ok. but then a week ago, I was crying. nothing was going right. we were going to lose our trailer (that we are renting)and our electric was going to be shut off & I was losing my job. etc.. I was just uncontrollable. Maybe my bi-polar is back (I was doing so good, for so long).
    But it helps to know that something ilke zoloft is going to be ok. I will probably for sure need it....

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  12. I just recently discovered your blog and I really appreciate this post. I, too, took Zoloft for PPD. I didn't tell many people at the time, but now I want to be more open about it. Thanks for your honesty and the description of your own pain- I'm sure this will help other moms.

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  13. Christa, I have no idea why I didn't see this until now, but I read it and I am SO thankful you shared your story. You are so strong, mama. You have touched me and will touch countless others with this story. Sometimes I can't even believe that after struggling with depression for about 7 years pre-pregnancies, that I have escaped scot-free (so far) and for that I am thankful, but I do think I have some PTSD after the whole NICU/preemie experience. Such a rollercoaster of emotions, still, 10 months later. Any time I drive the way I used to take to the hospital my heart races and I start sweating and clam up, getting super anxious. I can't call the hospital, never have called them to update them because I can't bear to hear the beeping in the background, can't bear to be brought back there. So, thanks for sharing the links on PTSD. I have been looking for that study and couldn't find it.

    I think, because you have shared your story, that I would like to share my own story on PTSD - because if it helps only one person, I will have made a difference, like you.

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  14. I feel the SAME WAY right now. :s My son Harper, is 6 months, still not sleeping through the night, which makes things THAT much worse. I fly off the rocker with my 4 year old on a daily basis. I have smacked her, spanked her, said awful things to her. I get so infuriated that my blood literally feels like it is boiling. I can barely control myself. :'( I know I need help, but I am scared to be on meds, as I have taken numerous anti Ds and they all make me feel like a zombie. Also, I WILL NOT formula feed my son. I am stubborn as hell when it comes to that. No. Way. I guess I am just not allowed to be happy. I am a bad mom and my kids don't deserve me. :'(

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  15. Robin, that was me with my 2.5 year old. It's SO important that you seek help for this. I remember thinking that there was no way I could make it through the first year without killing myself. I wanted to abandon my kids. I told them I hated them. I would say I wished I'd never had them. I know how hared it is to seek help...it took me TOO long. The day I knew I neededhelp, Ella was laying on the floor as we were getting ready to leave screaming. I had this brief flash of kicking her in the head to make her shut up. I was mortified. Horrified that I would think such a thing about my precious baby who had fought to hard to be here!! Your kids do deserve you...and you deserve to get help honey. Both Megz and I are on zoloft for PPD and it's wonderful. I'm not a perfect mama...I still get PISSED off bcause my kids don't sleep (ugh!). I still yell. I still lose my temper. But I am in control of myself way more then i was before. It's safe for breastfeeding and doesn't mess with your supply. Please get help. It's essential to your life to do so. You will look back on those days before zoloft and you won't even be able to believe what you were like. ::hugs:: Pleasse feel free to add me on fb to talk.

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  16. Just started reading your site, and stumbled across this blog post. I wish I knew the symptoms and signs of PPD when I had my daughter a year ago. I too had constant feelings of inadequacy, thoughts of harming my newborn, crying endless hours. There were other factors as well contributing to the PPD, unable to breastfeed (boy do I know better now), cesarean, and a young irresponsible partner. Thank you for posting and sharing. I know now that I am prone to it, and with my next (when it happens) I will be aware of it.

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  17. ::HUGS:: When we know better, we do better. Welcome to our website - let us know if there is anything we can do to help you more the next time around. Our FB fan page is a great place to ask questions and get quick answers.

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  18. I relate to this so well. I had PPD with a stillborn daughter and three small children, I was divorced, and I wasn't on speaking terms with my mother. I lost my effing mind. Wound up getting arrested for neglect before I considered getting help. It was so horrible. I've spent the last year healing, seeing my kids on the weekends. It's hell, but it's better this way right now. Until I can honestly say that I'm out of the woods, they need to be with their daddy and his amazing wife. I don't know if I'll ever feel like a good mommy again, though.

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  19. Thank you so much for sharing. I didn't know that PPD could be like this. I thought people with it were depressed, you know not wanting to get out of bed, or eat, & whatnot. I didn't know that anger & impatience could be PPD too. Maybe that's what my problem has been lately. I've felt since I had my 1st son (a little over 2 & 1/2 yrs ago) that I've been more angry & impatient than ever. My family has noticed too & have even said that they don't enjoy being around me a lot. Now with son #2 here (he's 2 wks old) the severe lack of sleep seems to be elevating things again. I've even got some self help books to try to change my personality, but it seems perhaps I just need to see a Dr. & be honest about what's going on. Thanks again.

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  20. I am so glad you shared this!!! I went through something similar. I had some very traumatic events happen just before my son was born. It took me months and months before I realized what was wrong with me and I still waited a few more months before I got help and went on medication for it. None of us wants to admit that this is happening to us, but unfortunately it isn't really something we can control. We just have to get to a point where we realize we need help and get it.

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  21. Thanks for sharing. I know this is from a few years ago..but my daughter is nearly 3 months old now. And I just posted my own take on PPD...and I swear what I wrote is verbatim what you say here. Now I know I am not alone.

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