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5 Important Things I Learned From Having Postpartum Depression

5 lessons learned from PPD. What to say and not to say to someone who is suffering, etc.

After I stopped breastfeeding my son I started to feel sad and down pretty much all the time. I started running quite a bit and was eating very healthy (trying to lose weight) yet, I still wasn’t feeling that great. I wasn’t having a monthly cycle so I went into my doctor. He diagnosed me with something not so pretty…he told me it would be very difficult to conceive again. He put me on birth control hoping that would help.  The birth control did help until I came off of it for my weekly cycle… then I hit rock bottom. A few days off of the pill I was so sad that even at a family party (surrounded by people I loved) I just curled up on the couch and felt miserable. I felt like God, my family, and the world hated me.

The next few months were dark dark days. I had never had depression before and I didn’t realize exactly what was happening until we got a first big snow. I looked out the window and was sad. That’s when the light bulb moment happened…

All my life I have LOVED snow! I look forward to it each year. I love it so much I even wanted to move to Alaska. So when I noticed that even the sight of snow still wasn’t making me happy I realized that I was depressed.

If you have seen ‘A Beautiful Mind’ with Russel Crowe I relate this moment of realization to the point in the movie when he realizes that the girl he has been seeing for years never gets older. Because of this realization, he was able to come to terms with his diagnosis and admit/accept that he was schizophrenic. Although I was only suffering from depression for just a few months, that moment (with the snow) is what made me realize I was depressed.

It’s a tough thing dealing with depression and my family (all who have never experienced it before) didn’t know what to do or say. My little sister, bless her heart, tried motivating me but the conversations usually ended up with me crying or feeling frustrated.  The only thing that made me happy was my son. Yet, when he would cry a lot (because of teething) or when he was sick, etc. I felt even more down.

Depression is like a big black hole of nothingness. It’s like a beast that lives inside your mind and you can’t tame or control it. It’s almost impossible to continue functioning. Many people have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning. I struggled with getting through each day. I was often just going through the motions of life, not really feeling a whole lot, except down.

After coming to terms with the fact that I had depression, I made an appointment to go to an endocrinologist. He told me that my hormones were normal and my other doctor had misdiagnosed me. Then he reassured me that I could have children in the future. When I heard this, I started bawling in his office. I was embarrassed but I realized that perhaps the misdiagnosis was what really put me into this tailspin depression. After leaving the endocrinologists office and realizing that the diagnosis was incorrect I started to feel much better. He also asked me to come off the birth control and wait and see if my hormones reset to help me get better.

About the same time, I had a Priesthood blessing. Shortly after, I started my monthly cycle and I began to feel like myself again. It was like I just ‘came out of it’. It was miraculous.

I believe that the reversal of my depression was due to multiple factors. I think it was due to hope of being able to have future children again, the blessing I had at church, my hormones regulating themselves, coming off of the birth control, and possibly because winter was ending.

Having come out of the Depression, I looked forward to life again. I felt like I had my body and my life back. I was no longer living in despair and feeling hopeless.

This experience taught me sooo much and I wanted to share what I learned with you.

Below are 5 things I learned from having depression.  I also added a few things I did to feel a ‘little’ better despite being depressed

1- Don’t ever judge another (especially if they have depression). Unless you have been there before, you can’t know what it feels like. You just don’t know.

2- Some of the worst things you can say to someone who is depressed are: Snap out of it; I’m worried about you; You are sick; You aren’t yourself anymore; You need more sunshine; You need to exercise more; You need to be grateful for what you have; You need to have more faith; You need to… Curing depression is just not something that a depressed person can do that easily (if at all).

3- Depression takes time to diagnose and to treat. When you go to the doctor with an ear infection they prescribe antibiotics, you take them, your ear infection goes away, and you are done with it.

With depression it is much different. First, they want to do tests which take time. Then they aren’t sure what kind of medication to start you with so you become an experiment of sorts. My Dr. started me on birth control hoping it would reset my hormones to what they were previous to my pregnancy. After I reacted negatively to it, my other doctor told me to go off of everything and see how I felt in the next few weeks. If I was still feeling down we would start on an anti-depressant.

Other doctors may want to start right off the bat with anti-depressants. But they aren’t sure which are going to work, which medications will make it worse and which will make it better, what combinations you will need, etc. And if you do find a good combination it can change in the future. Thus, it takes time to experiment.

My endocrinologist told me that subscribing medication for those suffering with depression is very difficult because some medications make the person much worse and it takes time in between medications. Ultimately, it’s not a perfect science but the one thing you can count on, is that finding something that works takes time (usually a whole lot of it).

4- What works for one, may not work for another. I talked to a few other women who struggled with PPD and they told me what seemed to work for them. I tried everything they all mentioned. Some helped and some made me worse. We all have different bodies, chemical make ups, and hormones so be careful when trying things that helped someone else. Know that what works for them may not work for you and visa versa.

5- The best things you can do and say when someone has depression are: I’m so sorry, I’m not sure what you are going through but I am sorry you have to go through it; You are a very strong person, I admire you being able to get out of bed,  hold down a job, or smile (really just tell them its amazing that they are doing things that are difficult for someone with depression to accomplish); I have time on Tuesdays, would you like for me to come over and help you clean, cook, or just hangout? (if they say no, ask again another time, be genuine and offer again if you think they are declining because they don’t want to inconvenience you); I’m happy to take your kids during such and such time each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday; You are amazing; I’m sorry you are feeling this way; I hate that you have to go through this; I’m here for you, really, if you ever need to talk; etc.

What helped me while I was depressed may not help you or someone you know, perhaps it will though so I’ll mention the few things that did help me.

Having a break from mothering. I love my son (and he actually was the only thing bringing me joy during this time) but having a weekend off was a major help.

Getting out into the sunshine or if its rainy, dark, or winter, you can try this Vitamin D spray that I used which also helped. You spray it into your mouth and get a really good amount of vitamin D in a few seconds. A nurse who talked to me about depression told me that you actually have to take Vitamin D in orally or through your eyes to absorb it well. She said if I did go outside not to use sunglasses so that I could absorb the Vitamin D. It was hard some days to even get out of the house which is why I just used the spray. You can order the Vitamin D spray here.

DoTerra Essential Oil ClaryCalm. This helped a lot with just calming me down. I would rub it on my stomach all the time. It may have also helped my cycles to come back.

Talking to friends about it.

Crying it out.

A good nights sleep. Sometimes I couldn’t sleep at which time I’d take melatonin and it helped.

Working on my blog. I started my blog before I got depressed and working on it shifted my focus and really helped me get through this tough time.

Prayer helped me immensely because God understands what we are going through and can comfort us. If you aren’t religious, try meditation that may help as well.

Finally, my mom did a lot of research on this while I was struggling and told me to bathe in Epsom salts to get more magnesium in my body. I only did this twice before I started coming out of it. It did seem to make me feel better, but because I was coming out of the depression I’m not sure if it helped significantly or not.

Had I not gotten over it when I did, the next step was to take a saliva sample and have it diagnosed. Saliva (through research that I did) shows imbalances better than the blood does, therefore it is easier for doctors to correct the imbalances.

Even though I was truly depressed, I noticed that doing/using the aforementioned things did help me feel a little better. Although I’m not sure why I got better I just want to tell those who are struggling with depression or know someone who is, that finding a solution is often a delicate matter. Suggesting that someone with depression do X, Y, or Z to feel better will often make them feel worse. It needs to be suggested when they are in a good place and it needs to come out of love. Often research and other sound findings convinced me to give certain things a try. And luckily, I wasn’t so deep that I gave up on getting better. Sometimes people do get that deep though and as hard as it is, loved ones just need to be patient.

My hope in writing this is that there are a few things that I learned or that helped me which will be useful to others who are suffering from depression.

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12 Responses to 5 Important Things I Learned From Having Postpartum Depression

  1. Amanda. says:

    What a wonderful blog post! I had PPOCD and Anxiety after my daughter was born and I could totally real ate to your post! Thank you! A great support system and wonderful doctor was what helped me. 🙂

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Amanda- Thank you so much for commenting. I’m sorry you went through that! I did talk to quite a few women who experienced PP anxiety. It sounds very unpleasant. Thanks for mentioning something about it!

  2. Nick says:

    Thank you for sharing your very personal story. I’ve made a mental note about all the things ‘not to say’ and will keep them filed for future reference. I think instead of saying anything I’ll just give that person a hug.

  3. Gina says:

    Thank you for the great post and suggestions. I’m currently battling this horrible illness after my daughter was born 4 months ago. How long until you started feeling somewhat better? I’m currently trying different meds and am on hormone therapy.
    It’s very inspirational to hear from people who are on the mend.

    • Anita Fowler says:

      Gina- I’m so sorry you are experiencing this! I hope that you start feeling better. It took me about 5 months. Months 1 and 2 I still hadn’t figured anything out. Months 3 and 4 was trying to find solutions and miraculously month 5 which was about 1 year postpartum I came out of it. Everyone is different. Be patient with yourself. let me know if you need help or have any other questions. I wish you the best!

  4. Sarah Tapia says:

    I just want to say thank you for posting this. Before I was ever married or ever had children, I used to wonder how a woman who had just brought a baby into the world could ever be depressed. Finally after only being married for a few months I got pregnant with our first son, and had the best pregnancy ever, and an easy delivery. The moment I came home my world was gloomy. It got so much worse when I had to go to back to work. Things didn’t really improve until my son was about nine months. Then just as my son turned one I got pregnant again! I had another great pregnancy and birth, and praise God; I felt that my hormones had reset and now my baby is 6 months old and I just feel like the Lord has made me whole again, plus some! Thank you for sharing. It’s nice to know that someone, other than myself has been through a similar pain and has come out strong. I just wish I had reached out to someone like you when I was going through what felt like the darkest time of my life. Thank you again for sharing. ♥

    • Anita Fowler says:

      You’re welcome, thanks so much for sharing your story. It is important to reach out but sometimes that doesn’t help a lot either if no one can figure anything out. So getting pregnant for you probably like you said, was a blessing to reset your hormones. I’m so glad you don’t have it with this last baby of yours. Congratulations and thanks again!

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