Author: Allison Pollock
The First Signs of Postpartum Depression
My story began at 12:51AM on April 8, 2016 when my beautiful baby boy was placed on my chest following a long labor. I felt nothing. No joy, happiness, pain; I was numb. I struggled at the hospital feeling comfortable caring for my new baby and I barely slept. A few short days after bringing home my son, I knew something was wrong. I was sad, really sad, and was having crippling anxiety attacks. I told myself that this was normal, as everyone gets the ‘baby blues’, right? It would certainly pass.
Being at Home
As the weeks passed and my husband returned to work, I was getting worse. I was crying uncontrollably and was resenting the presence of my son. He would cry and I would have thoughts of hurting him, or myself. Where was this joyous, precious time I was supposed to be experiencing?
At my 6-week check up with my doctor, she knew something was wrong. She referred me to Emergency at the Douglas Hospital for a psychiatric evaluation and medication. I went the following morning. Unfortunately, I was seen by a psychiatrist that did not feel I was ‘depressed’ enough to be taking medication while still nursing my son (some antidepressants can pass through breast milk). He recommended talk therapy instead. I called the same day and found a Psychologist that specialized in postpartum depression. I saw her for several months and experienced small improvements in my anxiety level. We practiced Cognitive Behavior Therapy, but I found it exhausting and was having little success. She too would not diagnose me with postpartum depression because I did not score high enough on standard questionnaires; however I was crying through every session with her. I was frustrated but continued on.
6 months following my son’s birth, I could no longer handle the symptoms associated with my postpartum depression, and asked my doctor for help. I returned to the Douglas Hospital Emergency and was finally prescribed an antidepressant. Hallelujah!
This story cannot continue without mentioning the shame I felt suffering from postpartum depression, and the resentment I felt towards the child I truly wanted. Unable to talk openly about how I was feeling with family and friends, even my own parents, I became very introverted and avoided seeing friends and family. I would put on a poker face anytime I was out in public for fear that someone would catch me in a moment of weakness. I am happy to report, 3.5 years later, I have become comfortable talking about my struggles in hopes of helping other mothers going through a similar experience.
Returning to Work
As my maternity leave came to an end, I prepared to return to work. I was anxious, scared and nervous about how I would be able to balance a demanding sales career and family life. My husband also had a very demanding job and I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to succeed in every area of my life. 8 months into my return, I was performing and meeting my sales objectives, but was struggling in every other part of my life. I was sad and still crying all the time. It was difficult controlling my emotions in front of customers and focusing while on the road. I decided to go on short term disability and get some more help.
Finding the Right Therapist
My GP was willing to increase my medication and I began seeing an amazing therapist, which I still see today, 2.5 later. Finding the right therapist was the key to my success. In hindsight, the first therapist I worked with was not the right fit for me.
I felt like my new therapist understood me, and didn’t pressure me to do things I was not yet ready to do. She helped me realize that I needed to just ‘be’, and really experience the depression, rather than suppressing it. This was hard, so hard in fact that I struggled every day getting out of bed and caring for my son. I wondered when the heavy feeling was going to lift, and I would finally get some relief? Days were long, and I slept a lot, but she promised me that I was going through a transformation and would come out on the other side. It was hard to have faith in her, but here I am, on the other side!
It was not an easy journey, and I am still on it, 3.5 years later. I continue to see my therapist regularly, and I always come out of our sessions motivated and with eyes wide open.
My advice for someone experiencing the same symptoms as I did is to GET HELP. So many people suffer in silence, and it is time to lift the stigma surrounding mental illness. It is scary to admit that you are suffering from a mental illness, but talk to someone you trust and get help. I never realized how much my ‘village’ cared until I was able to get over the shame, and tell my story. Offers for help with my son, errands and mundane chores poured in and I was able to take time out for me. Self-care played a significant role in my healing journey.
Looking back, a combination of medication and talk therapy has helped me get through my journey with postpartum depression, and I am happy to report that I am finally enjoying time with my son! This makes me so happy, and I no longer regret my decision to have a baby. Therapy has helped me get to this place, and I am so grateful for the experience.