COMMUNICATION, THE FIRST STEP TOWARD HEALING

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“Depression is not a sign of weakness. It means you have been strong for far too long.” ~Lifehack

Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Twitter, Bing, Youtube, Snapchat, etc. So may ways to get and share information.

Thus it is that just today I saw a really heartbreaking snippet from a new mom who appears to be at her breaking point.

She was complaining that her husband is not helping her, and she stated he makes matters worse by continuing to do his own thing (such as going for a work out,) and by undoing the cleaning and picking up she had just done. It made me want to reach through the screen and give her a hug and a shoulder to cry on.

Also I wanted to tell her “Don’t just talk about it here, go tell your husband how you feel, and what you need!” In truth, I believe in addition to venting, she is (subconsciously) punishing him by publicly shaming him for failing to see her, to see that she drowning in a sea of misery, anxiety, exhaustion, fear, anger and resentment. She speculated about postpartum depression, but didn’t come right out and say she is depressed. I too can only speculate about her emotional state.

Postpartum depression and anxiety. A problem, a state of being, that has probably been around for as long as their have been postpartum women. It can be debilitating, and at worst it can lead to postpartum psychosis.

Unfortunately I experienced postpartum depression and anxiety with all three of my children. Although in retrospect I have found one positive aspect of my awful experience. It has allowed me to understand and try to help moms who are living it.

If I could share one piece of wisdom about dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety it would be that COMMUNICATION IS ABSOLUTELY CRUCIAL.

I didn’t tell my husband, or anyone else, about my feelings. First of all because I honestly believed that surely my husband would be able to see that something was wrong! Well, he didn’t. Not because he’s insensitive or uncaring. It was because he was in the “male role” mode. Going to work, and working to ensure his family’s financial security.

I was the homemaker, his helpmeet, in strong, independent woman mode, taking care of our baby, and later, babies. I was also miserable but by damn, I was going to be the best helpmeet he ever saw. Just as good as my mom and his mom, if not better!

In reality I was miserable, but because I didn’t say anything, he thought I was tired or had another migraine or was experiencing a worse than usual degree of PMS (which had always been an issue for me.) He did help with the kids in the evening and at night, or I never would have survived.

Regardless, as illogical as it was, I was angry with him. I kept silent, waiting and waiting for him to see me, to really see me, and not the facade I was all too successfully hiding behind.

Our youngest child contracted pneumonia at 5 months of age. At first we thought it was a run of the mill cold, but when she started having difficulty breastfeeding I took her to the doctor, then went back two days in a row. It wasn’t until the third day that I found out she had pneumonia (long story, bad physician.) I called him from the doctor’s office in tears, and he immediately left work to come be with us.

The following week I came down with a severe case of bronchitis. I took all three of our kids and went to see my doctor. To their astonishment I had a fever, 103* F. They couldn’t believe I had driven myself and that I was coherent enough to drive and take care of my kids.

The doctor prescribed antibiotics, and we went home. I started taking the medicine immediately. When my husband came home that evening I told him I had gone to the doctor, leaving out the details of how serious the situation really was. I had endangered the lives of our children and myself by driving to the doctor’s office with a dangerously high fever and hacking cough, and I wasn’t about to admit to it!

Looking back I realize that my state of depression and refusal to acknowledge it precipitated a downward spiral of my physical health as well.

I should have told him how I felt, physically, mentally, emotionally. At the least I should have told my family, or a friend, but so many things got in the way. Feeling ashamed for being weak, for not being grateful for all the good things in my life, for feeling resentful about the situation I was in. As a result the cauldron of my mixed emotions threatened to boil over countless times throughout the day. I had to try to control myself and put everyone else first, but then I felt vengeful and angry.

When one is depressed and anxious emotions and thoughts run wild, perception is skewed, in other words, one becomes unbalanced.

Those feelings, that state of imbalance, led me to hold my negative feelings close to my heart, so that my misery spilled over onto my husband. It was a way of punishing and hurting him for something that wasn’t even his fault. Much to my everlasting regret, our children got caught in the crossfire.

Eventually, after much suffering I realized I needed to get help. So I did. And we got through those rough times. Sadly we all, my husband, my kids, myself, bear the scars of my battle with anxiety and depression.

So please, please, if anyone who is reading this is in the same situation, please reach out for help. As hard as it may be, speak up, because you can’t assume that your partner, your family, your friends will recognize what you’re going through.

For anyone who may suspect that a mom is suffering from depression and anxiety, as intimidating as it may feel, try to approach the person about whom you’re concerned. It’s a delicate subject, and you don’t need to say much. Just “I’m concerned about you, is there anything you want to talk about, or is there something I can do to help?” would be sufficient.

If you’re not comfortable talking directly to that someone, consider approaching someone who is close to that person, because you may help to open their eyes.

If you are suffering with postpartum depression and/or anxiety, talk about. Get help, in whatever form that help might be, from talking to someone who cares about you and will you listen to you, to professional counseling, to medication. Get help so you can take back your joy.

~Liz

Please be advised that while I am an RN, I do not have extensive formal training or experience in recognizing or treating postpartum depression and/or anxiety. I am speaking from personal experience, and I want to reiterate that it’s crucial to communicate one’s feelings in order to get the help one needs.