Friday, 08 July 2011
I went to a Postpartum Emotional Adjustment Support Group this past week. Would you believe that it was standing room only? I echo the sentiments of the mom sitting next to me: "Are all of you here because of postpartum depression or anxiety?!" Everyone nodded in agreement. There had to be at least 30 women stuffed into that room, as well as a handful of husbands and babies.
We are not alone.
I looked around at these women. Some were first time moms and one had as many as six children. Some had anxiety and some had depression. Some were on medication and some weren't. Some had been hospitalized and some were admitting that they were struggling for the very first time. But you know what? They were all so normal. Just like me.
The group started by having the "veteran" moms introduce themselves and share with us newbies how postpartum depression has made them stronger. One woman said that her marriage was now bulletproof; another said that she learned to be her own advocate, since many doctors are ill-equipped to ask the questions they need to ask their struggling mommy patients. It's not hard, really. Like the RN facilitating the session said, all a doctor really needs to do is look us in the eye and ask, "How are YOU feeling?" That will be enough for most of us to crumble into tears.
One woman joked that the doctor could ask, "When's the last time you brushed your teeth?" Everyone laughed. Then she piped up again, "And I'm a dental hygienist!" Fits of laughter at that one.
Surprisingly, we did a lot of laughing. One woman made an off joke about smothering her baby with a pillow. All of the veteran moms laughed heartily while all of us newbies looked around nervously, wondering if she was allowed to say that out-loud. Another mom chimed in, "We can laugh at that because we've all been there. If we thought she was serious, we'd help her." More laughter. "No! I don't mean we'd help her suffocate her baby... C'mon, people! We'd get her the help she needs."
I stayed after to talk to one of the veteran moms. The good news is that I quickly found out that I am finally able to cry again. The numbing effects of the Prozac have worn off now that I've switched to Zoloft. The bad news is that crying is all I've been doing ever since. I feel even worse than before, and I didn't know that was possible.
But I am reassured that a couple of the women in the group successfully breastfed while taking Wellbutrin, which has been the only antidepressant in the past that has even touched my depression. As soon as the doctor's office opens on Tuesday morning, I'm asking to make the switch. I can't live like this any longer. This isn't living...
I've come across a couple of people who don't "believe" in depression, who believe that antidepressants are just placebos, that chemical/hormonal imbalances don't exist. If you are one of those people, I invite you to come to a postpartum support group. I can guarantee that you will be laughed out of that room.
Postpartum mood disorders are real. And they suck. But they aren't anything to be ashamed of. You are not alone. There are plenty of other moms out there, just like you, getting help everyday. If only you know where to look...