Saturday, September 17, 2011

Blog Challenge Day 17: Regret

Today on the blog challenge, we're talking regret. I posted about regret a few months back, but I want to elaborate on an experience that was very personal and painful for me: postpartum depression.

I've shared a little about my postpartum depression before, but I've never really talked about my experience candidly. When I first revealed on this blog that I was struggling, I was shocked by the number of women that reached out to me to tell me I wasn't alone. Their stories and experiences were so comforting to me. I think it's important to put my experience out there as a way to pay that kindness forward.

This may be hard to read, but I don't think enough women talk candidly enough about postpartum depression. So I want to put my story out there. The good, the bad, and the ugly.

It's hard to even explain how dark my life was after Will was born. I loved my baby. I was ecstatic he was here and healthy. But a profound and pervasive sadness consumed me. I had intense anxiety, so much so that I was unable to sleep at night. I felt compelled to do everything myself. Not because I didn't trust Ben or others to do it right, but because I felt it would mean I was a bad mother if I asked for help (of course, I understand this is ridiculous now).

I was constantly terrified that something was going to happen to Will. I saw potential danger everywhere. What if I left him alone in the bath tub and he drowned? (Well, duh. I'd never do that.) What if someone takes him out of my shopping cart at Target? (Again, never going to happen.)  What if the stroller gets hit by a car while we're crossing the street? (Ridiculous.)

I think all new mothers see the first few months as a blur, but I was a shell of a person going through the motions. Going out in social situations was torture. I was so afraid that someone I knew would be able to tell what a mess I was. I would obsess over safe topics to talk about before heading out with friends. People told me months later that I would always say the same things over and over. But that was because I was afraid that my worst secrets would come tumbling out of my mouth if I went off topic even for a second.

Here's the hard, honest truth about my postpartum depression: I was suicidal. Awful thoughts would cross my mind. What if I just took that entire bottle of Tylenol? Would I be able to hang myself from the rafters in our basement? Thankfully, I never once thought about harming my child. He was the bright part of my days. I didn't want to abandon him, but I was convinced that he deserved so much better than me. As if my just being in his life was somehow holding him back. Of course, that seems ridiculous now, but at the time thoughts like that consumed me.

My doctor pointed out that there's a difference between having suicidal thoughts and making a suicide plan. It never got that far for me, but it was terrifying. I felt so alone. I was so ashamed. I couldn't bring myself to tell anyone what I was thinking and feeling. I had this beautiful, healthy baby boy. What was wrong with me?

When Will was four months old, I finally agreed to see a counselor. She helped me get past my suicidal thoughts and gave me strategies to better cope with my intense sadness and anxiety. At this point, I was very resistant to taking medication. I was still breastfeeding, and I couldn't bear the thought of Will getting any of the drug through my breast milk (even though it's well documented as being safe for nursing mothers).

After a few months with my counselor, I was finally able to see a psychiatrist who specializes in postpartum depression (there was a three month wait to see her). At that point, it was apparent that environmental changes (diet, sleep, exercise) and therapy were not going to help my depression. Although my suicidal thoughts had subsided, I was still profoundly sad, anxious and unable to concentrate. After a lengthy conversation with the postpartum psychiatrist, we decided that I would be a good candidate for medication.

I now take a daily anti-depressent (Zoloft), which has helped me immensely. My concentration is back. I'm able to sleep at night. I'm not anxious. And I'm happy again.

As I tell Ben, anti-depressents don't make me a Stepford Wife (he wishes!). I still get angry or sad as the situation warrants. But I'm able to moderate my moods better. I don't feel like I'm about to fly off the deep end anymore. If I've forgotten to take my pills for a few days, I can totally tell. I feel more like myself on anti-depressants than off. For someone who initially fought medication hardcore, that's a really powerful statement.

Postpartum depression was a difficult journey for me, one that I'm reminded of every day when I take my medication. Not seeking help sooner is one of my biggest regrets. I wasted months of my life (and Will's) feeling sad, anxious and out of control. If you're struggling with postpartum depression or any mental health issue, please go talk to a professional about it. Even if you're not ready to take pills or start therapy, just tell someone. For me, small steps turned into big strides. And before I knew it, I was feeling better. Life is too short not to cherish every moment.


  1. I am so glad that you shared this story because I know that it affects so many people! You are such a strong woman and I know that it took a lot to be at the stage where you are now with this. Hugs!

  2. thank you so much for sharing! it's a breath of fresh air to read something so honest and courageous about the not-so-pleasant aspects of becoming a mother that so many women experience. i'm so glad you made it through and it sounds like you have an amazing support system!!

  3. I'm grateful that you're so honest about this and willing to share. It's hard to hear when anyone you love says that they have had suicidal thoughts, but being able to say that is such an enormous step. I'm also grateful for your Zoloft :) Love you so much!

  4. Amen sister friend. I'm so proud of you for getting what you needed to feel like you again. We love you!

  5. You brave girl, you. I'm forever proud of and inspired by you, sammy. I know I will remember your wise words some day when I have my own babies! Your honesty is gold. xo


Thanks for reading!