Today’s post is from Raisa Piatkoff, the owner of a very new blog, Homemaking and Stuff where she tells her readers all about her adventures in parenting. While many of her posts are humorous, today’s topic is a serious one: her experience with postpartum depression.
I Wasn’t Sad. I Was Just Exhausted.
Before I had my son, I did all the necessary research I thought I needed. I read all the pregnancy and baby books. I read about postpartum depression but experiencing it first hand was definitely not what I expected.
I thought that someone with postpartum depression would be stuck in bed crying all day, sad and depressed. It took me almost a year and a half before I realized something was wrong because I was smiling and laughing just like I was before I had the baby.
I wasn’t stuck in bed. In fact, I was up and about doing my usual things, figuring out my life, raising my son and I even had a little bit of a social life. I wasn’t sad, but I found myself angry a lot. My husband and I were fighting almost every day, about something silly he did or said. I was exhausted but I thought it was because I had been struggling to breastfeed my son and it lead to long nights.
Something Was Wrong
My first clue that something was wrong was when my husband and I were watching a really funny movie, and while my brain registered the fact that the humor in the movie was my kind of humor and I was laughing, I didn’t feel any joy. I wasn’t even sure when I was supposed to laugh, I just laughed when everyone else in the theater did.
The second clue that tipped me to postpartum depression was when I went to a doctor. You know, one of those that pokes you with needles and sets them on fire. The first time he held my hand to read my palm or feel my pulse, whatever weird stuff he was into, I remember he had closed his eyes and asked me what my labor was like.
“I was in labor for about 40 hours.”
His eyes widened and he leaned back in disbelief. I tried to break the intensity of his stare so I tried making a joke with a little forced laugh and said, “Yeah, it was a lot of fun.”
“No, it wasn’t.” He said very seriously. “It was scary and hard and you haven’t been the same since. Your friends don’t recognize you. You do not feel joy or happiness or love. You and your husband fight a lot more now. And you don’t know what is wrong with you, right?”
“What? No, I-I’m fine.” I stammered and tried faking a smile again.
“Then, why are you crying?” He asked quietly, his eyes softening as I wiped a tear away from my cheek. I didn’t even know I was crying. Then there was another tear and another. Soon I was sobbing in this doctor’s office and I didn’t know why. “You might not be fine right now,” With a soft and reassuring smile he patted my hands “But one day you will be.”
Bursting Into Tears
He gave me acupuncture once a week for a few months. It worked for a little while but before long I was back in another doctor’s office. This time I was talking to a nurse about the possible side effects of an antibiotic I was taking. She was rattling through the usual side effects; bloody stools, migraines and such before asking me about something that I wasn’t expecting.
“Another side effect of the antibiotic is depression or suicidal thoughts. Have you been feeling any of those?” She asked looking up from her clipboard.
“Uhh..” Depends on what you mean by suicidal thoughts, I scoffed in my head. “No, I don’t think so.”
“What about Depression? Have you been having any uncontrollable mood swings or unexplainably burst into tears?”
“Uh, no.” Then I inexplicably burst into tears.
My husband was sitting beside me and had no idea what was going on. The nurse smiled one of those all-knowing smiles only a mother could give to another mother. She put her clipboard down, picked up a box of tissues and sat on the other side of me, offering me the box.
She and my husband rubbed my back and held my hand as my body shook with my sobbing. “I.. I don’t know why I am crying. I am fine!” I tried taking a deep but shaky breath as my tears continued to come down.
“Don’t worry.” She said calmly as she wiped a tear off my chin. “I went through this too. You are going to be just fine.”
Seeing A Therapist For Postpartum Depression
That day Margie gave me the number to a clinic near where I lived. She said they were a clinic of very supportive doctors and would help me out. More importantly, they were cheap. We were in a lot of debt at the time and our finances were tight but the clinic worked with me.
There, I met Gerry, my therapist. He was an older gentleman with sandy white hair. I cried in his office every week for six months. We used Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to help guide me to being able to recognize my triggers, registering how they affected me and I worked daily on controlling how I reacted to them.
He recommended I read ‘The Lies We Believe’ by Dr. Chris Thurman”. It was a truly life altering book. To this day I still recommend it to everyone who finds themselves affected by their mental health. In fact, I loaned it out to someone and have never gotten it back.
Where Am I Now?
I had another baby, my son Isaac. His older brother Gregory is the sweetest big brother you can ever find. They play together really well and only fight over the toys a few times a day.
Isaac is going to turn 1 in a few months and I have way more mental clarity with him then I had with Gregory. I look at my four-year-old and have no idea where the time has gone. I have very few pictures from his first year and the memories I do have are in a fog of depression. I don’t remember his first words or where he was when he took his first step.
My only regret is that I waited so long to ask for help. If I had asked for help sooner, Gregory would have gotten his mama back and I would have better memories of him growing up into the handsome young boy he is today.
I was… too scared. I thought that me asking for help would mean that I was admitting that there was something wrong with me… That I was broken. I couldn’t let my husband know that he had a broken wife or that his kids deserved a better mother. But in the end, I found that the only way that I could become the best mother and wife that I could possibly be was by taking care of me first.
If You Have Postpartum Depression or Anxiety
So if you are going through postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety, I have three things I want you to know.
1) Tell Someone What You Are Going Through
It has been years since I have seen a Gerry but I still use the tools he gave me to battle my day to day anxiety. He was kind and he listened. He didn’t interrupt. He didn’t condemn or criticize, even when I probably deserved to hear it.
He was the best thing that could have ever happened to my family. My husband never met Gerry but he still says that Gerry saved out marriage by giving him his wife back.
When we admit to our loved ones that we need help it does not mean that we are losing the battle. It means that we have fought a long and hard war. Asking for help is just calling for reinforcements. You are not going to give up, you are just ready to win the fight.
This is a Christian faith based book but even if you do not read the Bible or believe in God this book, alongside its companion workbook, changed the way I see myself. It guided me to realizing the lies that my childhood, my society and my church pushed on me and how they shaped my view of the world.
When our anxiety or our depression tells us how we should view the world or ourselves, it is easy to believe it because hey, it’s our brain telling us these things and our brain would never lie to us… right Once we can recognize what the lies that we were taught are, it is easier to see the truth that the lies were hiding.
3) You Might Not Be Fine Right Now, But One Day You Will Be.
When I had postpartum Depression, everyone kept telling me, “Don’t worry. What you are feeling is temporary and you are going to be just fine.” But it didn’t feel temporary. I thought it was going to be in my life forever, and in a way it kinda is.
I was forever affected by postpartum depression but not in the way that you think. I am now more mentally conscious of how my anxiety perceives the world. If my brain goes, “SOMEONE IS CALLING THAT MUST MEAN SOMETHING IS WRONG!” I am able to take a few deep breaths and talk myself down. I still battle my triggers and my mental health every day. It doesn’t go away; I just became stronger by taking the steps I needed to become better.
So whatever you are going through I just want you to know that you might not be fine right now, but one day you will be. Don’t give up.
Raisa, thank you so much for sharing your story with us! I too suffered from PPD and I found myself in tears as you recounted your experience. Like you, I don’t have a lot of memories of the first year of either of my oldest children’s lives and that saddens me greatly. But while we can’t change the past, I am so glad I changed the future and did better with the second two!
Please take a brief moment to share Raisa’s story with others who may be suffering with postpartum depression, otherwise known as PPD.