Is It More Than The Baby Blues?

The baby blues are an expected dip in hormone levels responsible for tears, loneliness, and a general blah feeling after the birth of your new baby. But what if those feelings persist weeks and months longer? How do you know whether it's just baby blues or if you might be dealing with postpartum depression? Find out more now. Don't survive in silence any longer.


Every pregnant woman is told to expect the 'baby blues', the hormonal crash that can last the first 6-8 weeks of your brand new baby's life. The baby blues are like PMS on overdrive, waves of inexplicable weeping, soul-sucking loneliness, and irrational fear. But what happens when those first 8 weeks pass and you're still feeling all that yuck? How can you tell when it's more than just 'baby blues?' How do you know when, or if, it's time to ask for help?
Baby Blues or Postpartum Depression?
After the birth of my second baby (16 months after my first), I found myself in that exact place. I had enough good moments to feel like life was okay... or at least like I wasn't sinking quite yet. I rode big curling swells of laughter and moments of bliss and then crashed to the bottom of heart aching emptiness and unending pointless tears. I almost never had an answer to my husband's question of "What's wrong?" And I couldn't really talk about it with my mom or my friends because I didn't know what to say. I didn't feel depressed. I just felt yucky.

The longer it went on, the more I told myself to snap out of it, to enjoy what I had, to not let these precious baby days pass me by. I got dressed in the morning and pasted a smile on my face, believing if I could just pretend it long enough, it would feel real. But the days turned into months and the months into years and I still felt an aching emptiness where fulfillment and joy should have been. I spent 3 years slogging through that wasteland. I was even a doula, specially trained to recognize postpartum depression (or PPD) in new moms. But I couldn't see it in myself.


When It's Time To Get Help
I wish I'd said something sooner. I wish someone had said something to me sooner. I wish I hadn't wasted all that time. I wish... I can't go back and change my story. And now, on this side of my journey, I wouldn't want to. My journey has given me the voice to share and help other moms like me, moms like you. The answer to the question at the start of this post, "how do you know if you need help?", is this: If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help.

There's too much going on during those early months of motherhood (whether it's your first time or your fifth). If you feel at all 'off', ask for help. There is no harm in talking to a counselor or therapist. You might be fine. Your therapist will tell you if that's the case. But you might not be fine, through no fault of your own, and a therapist can help you become fine again so you really can enjoy motherhood.

"If you're wondering if you need help, you probably need help."

Need More Direction?
Sometimes you need more than feelings. Especially if your feelings are super confused or if you've shut them down in order to deal with less. In that case, this questionnaire is an incredible objective tool for assessing your mental health. Answer these questions honestly and take it with you to your OB or Midwife at your next appointment. I guarantee they've got some awesome resources for you. Know why? Because 1 in 5 women deals with PPD. You are not alone. And you have nothing to fear by asking for help.

Believe me, there is more to fear in living with PPD than in getting the help to fight it. You're worth it, Mama. Your baby is worth it. Reach out today.
Think Your Wife/Friend/Daughter Might Have PPD?
First things first, ask her how you can help. Or better yet, just show up and do what needs doing. Bring her a meal. Wash, fold, and put away her laundry. Do her dishes. She might ask you to hold the baby while she sleeps, but what she won't ask you is to do the dirty jobs she believes are her responsibility. Take that on for her and then offer her this post or the questionnaire. Let her know you love her first. And stay by her side, even if she snaps at you or pushes you away. She really needs you right now. She just doesn't know how to say so.
, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Why I See a Therapist (And You Should Too)

Therapy quite literally saved my life, but it's not a popular topic of conversation. I'm here to tell you I see a therapist every month. I pay cash to talk to her and I believe you, Tired Mama, should too. Here's why.
Why I See A Therapist
Once a month, I drive 30-minutes each way to meet with a trained professional who lets me talk for an hour and occasionally gives me advice or explains why I may be feeling the way I'm feeling. She hands me tissues when I cry. She listens as I pour my heart out, complain, and even brag occasionally. My insurance doesn't cover it. I pay cash to talk to someone. And it's worth every cent. By most standards, I might not even need therapy anymore, but I have no plans of ending our regular meetings in the near, or distant, future.

Let me back up a year or so. Before I started seeing my therapist, I was in a really, really dark place. And I mean dark. I would often stand in the shower crying because I just knew my husband and daughters would be better off with someone else as their mother. I felt as inadequate as it is possible to feel. Hopeless, misunderstood, spiteful, and irrationally angry were a few of the dominant emotions from that time period. I hated myself. But I didn't understand why.
At First, I Was Too Afraid To Admit That I Needed Therapy
I tried calling a helpline to find a therapist. He started to make me an appointment with some counselor in my area, but I got really freaked out and hung up. I don't hang up on people, but I did that day. I hung up and I cried.

Why did I cry? Because I was so worried about what people would think. I couldn't swallow the idea that someone would know that I had to see a therapist. The label, Mental Illness, terrified me. I was sure that I would show up and sit on some dingy chaise with a condescending, pen-in-hand psychologist who would give me a load of drugs to make me numb.
So What Changed?
One day last August, I lost my $#!&. I don't mean that in the cutesy way that moms Instagram say it. I mean, I totally lost it. Basically, what happened (and this is pretty embarrassing to even talk about) was I wanted, no, needed to get out of the house but felt like we were broke. We weren't. I asked my hubby if we could go to Costco. Long (and irrational) story short, the conversation devolved until I screamed at one of my kids and stomped up the stairs like a fourteen-year-old girl, huffing and puffing worse than the big, bad wolf. As soon as I closed the door behind me, my violent anger turned to wracking sobs and I hit the floor of my closet on my knees. That's where my husband found me. It was the first time I realized how much my emotions controlled me.


Therapy Wasn't What I Expected It To Be
The very next day, I called the therapist my best friend sees. Six days after that I found myself on a comfortable couch in a relaxed, even cozy, room in a historic building a few towns over. She didn't write a single thing the whole time I was there. She smiled, she listened, she assured me that I didn't have to continue to see her if I didn't feel like we clicked. She sent me in for blood work to see if there might be something chemical going on. (I secretly hoped there was because that meant the solution was a pill a day and I would be 'fixed'.) She asked me questions when I ran out of things to say or didn't know how else to continue. And she never once made me feel like my problems were smaller than they appeared to me. She also never diagnosed me. My blood work came back normal, but she didn't make me feel like it was all in my head (like I told myself upon getting my results). In short, she was nothing at all like what I expected. And I couldn't have been more happy to be mistaken.
Therapy Isn't Just For 'Crazy' People
In my darkest days, when I wanted to wander out in a blizzard and never come back, I told myself I was just tired, that life was too busy, and I just needed a small break. I was lonely, I felt like I didn't fit in my body anymore, like the life I'd built around me was somehow too narrow and too roomy at the same time. So, on this side of my healing journey, I'm here to tell you that therapists and counselors are NOT only for crazy people. They are not only for those who have a diagnosable mental illness. A therapist may not be for everyone, but I am convinced that a therapist can help EVERY mom. I mean it. We are a lonely, exhausted bunch. Parenting advice is slung in our faces at every single turn and mom guilt served up each time we open our eyes. We give our entire beings to the tiny humans we co-created and then sacrifice our time, energy, attention, emotions, and mental space to the care and development of these little people.
Therapy Is For Every Mom
Add to that the fact that our children are nearly incapable of self-regulation and we are, essentially, training them to not need us anymore, and you have a recipe for burn out. So how do we combat all that wear and tear? We need to deal with it.

The way you deal with your burnout and the way I deal with mine are going to be completely different, even if they look the same from the outside. We might both need 'alone time' but how you spend your time and what helps you cope in the midst of anxiety or depression is going to be unique to you, to your personality, to your history. I can't blog about how to help you help yourself. I'm not a trained professional. I'm just a mom who's spent the last year healing with the help of a trained professional.
Therapy Is The Most Undervalued Tool In The Self-Care Arsenal
My journey has shown me that therapy is an incredibly undervalued tool in the self-care aresenal. I don't shy away from telling people I see a therapist because a year ago, it's what I needed to hear. I needed to know that therapy didn't make me a bad mom, that talking about my feelings wouldn't risk losing my kids to the state, that having a mental illness didn't mean I was broken. My depression and anxiety are just as much a part of my journey as my poor eyesight or my weak hip. I don't feel ashamed to see a chiropractor every month, so why should I feel ashamed of seeing my therapist? She helps equip me to fight the battle going on in my mind. She handpicks the most applicable weapon for the job and teaches me how to use it properly so that when those blue days overcome me, I can keep swimming, I can keep fighting, I can keep living.

Blessings,
Jessi
For help finding a therapist in your area, click here.
For help choosing a therapist to work with, click here.
For the national suicide prevention hotline, dial 1-800-273-8255
 

, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,