The Six Stages of Postpartum Depression

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

When this whole postpartum depression thing started after Jackson was born, and I was thrust into medication and therapy, one thing I struggled with was how I was going to know when I was better. How do I know the difference between the postpartum anxiety, and just the 'typical' anxiety that comes along with having two young kids, 21 months apart. When I came back from my first therapy appointment, Wes's first question to me was, "So, are you going to go back again?"


And in Wes's defense, neither he or I really yet understood what we were up against. And it certianly is a "we". It takes two.

It was a struggle sometimes to get people to see that it's not something you get over in one day. It's not something that one therapy session is going to fix. It's not something where the doctor says "Take this medication for two weeks and you will be fine." You don't know when it is going to end. You can't tell anyone when it is going to end. Something that I am still learning today through therapy, is that you can't rush it. It can take months, and sometimes years to fully be able to say "I'm cured".

That completely sucks.

I saw on another blog about the link between PPD and the famous "5 Stages of Grief." I was pretty amazed as I was reading it, thinking back on the past four months and how I certainly hit every single one of those stages, head on.

You are probably thinking...umm...Laura...the post is called the SIX stages of PPD...not the FIVE stages of PPD...but keep your pants on...that parts coming. :)

Denial: I certainly was in denial my first three weeks with Jackson. I absolutely just thought this must be what life is like with two young kids. I'll be fine. I just need more sleep.
"Looking back, there were certainly signs of the PPD setting in already, but in the moment, it was far from my mind and I assumed that a lot of what I was feeling was natural for having two young kids."
"I just thought that it would get better. If I could just hold on through the first couple of weeks, it would get better. I thought that it was just because I was so tired. I thought, if I could only get my linen closet organized I would be all better."

Anger: This was the "why me" phase, and a lot of which I went through the weekend after I was diagnosed with PPD and couldn't face being at home. I don't want to have to take medication to cope with life. I don't want to go to therapy. I shouldn't have had to call the doctor. It isn't fair. I was so angry at Emma for the smallest things. I was yelling at her all the time, and to this day, I am still trying to make up for it.
"I was exhausted, completely exhausted, but it was physically impossible for me to sleep. Yet at the same time, I felt hopeless that I would never catch up to my own expectations. Which turned into guilt, feelings of being overwhelmed, an inability to make simple decisions, irritability, frustration, anger, feelings of inadequacy as a mother, and even more anxiety."

Bargaining: If I just do this, or just do this...I'll be fine. This is where a lot of recommendations from others were hard to handle. I did the same thing to myself, but deep down, I knew, it wasn't about eating right, it wasn't about exercising, it wasn't about having an organized house, or an organized linen closet. In my mind, it was all about Jackson. If I could just get to where he was sleeping through the night. If I could just keep breastfeeding him. If I could just do "this", it will go away.

"I thought, if I could only get my linen closet organized I would be all better."

Depression: This stage is fairly obvious I think...

"That weekend was probably the toughest weekend of my life. It was like I couldn't face being at home. I needed to get out. I needed to get out of my head. I needed to get out of my house."
"During the days I felt okay, but like I was just passing through life, but not really involved. I was going through the motions of changing diapers, feeding bottles, but mentally I was somewhere else, doing whatever I could to not think about things."
"Why in the world wouldn't I want to be around my Emma? What was wrong with me? Why couldn't I handle things like before? Why did I just want to be alone, when I felt so alone at the same time? Why didn't I want to be at home? When was I going to be able to go home? When would I feel normal again? Why couldn't I be the mom that I wanted to be? What kind of mom wants to be away from her kids so bad? Why was I failing at life?"
"I finally, after what seemed like an eternity, got him to sleep and I just broke in half. I handed Jackson off to my dad, and just cried in my mom's arms."
"I feel like I am a weak person. Like all of this came about because I can't handle being a mother of two young children. I feel like a failure."

Acceptance: This is the stage where you finally give in to having PPD. You don't use it as an excuse, but you give yourself permission to not be okay some days. You finally realize it's not your fault. Its okay to talk to a doctor. It's okay for me to ask for help. Its okay to take medication and be in therapy or do whatever is necessary for me and my family.
"And even though my bedside table has a book about anxiety along with anxiety medication, it also has a pacifier and baby monitor on it that reminds me how truly lucky I am that I am a mom to two amazing babies."
"I'm fighting postpartum depression and anxiety and in the end, I will win. But the battle won't be pretty. I'm not always going to handle it well. I'm not always going to be good at telling people what I need, or explaining what I am going through, or being patient with those who are trying to help me. I'm not going to feel like Warrior Mom every single day."
"You don't have to "win" every day. You don't have to be Warrior Mom, or Supermom. Whether you have PPD or not, whether we are working moms or not, we don't have to take each hit with a smile. It's okay to be a "Regular" mom, because frankly, that's hard enough."
The quotes above are directly from my previous posts about PPD.

So where am I now?

I'm in the stage that comes after acceptance, during treatment and during the time when you start feeling better but aren't quite 100%. Someone once called it the post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD stage. I'm here because even after four months of being treated and getting better, its going to take me who knows how much longer to really get over what I went through. To get over how angry I was at Emma. To get over the thoughts that I had about hurting Jackson. To get over the fact that I needed to leave my home in order to be "okay". To get over the anxiety that I am still very much struggling with today.

Like I said in the beginning, its hard to figure out when you know you are better. But its easier to know when you are not. Sometimes, its hard to tell if you are just having a "regular" bad day, or if its PPD. On most days, I feel like I have lost confidence in myself, mostly as a mother, and I don't know if I'll ever get it back. Some days, there are rays of sunshine though, where I feel like Supermom. But my own definition of Supermom.

I'm going to get there, it just make take a while. But I know I am going to get there because of those days that I feel like Supermom now. Those little glimpses of hope, that I will soon begin to fully feel the love that was always there, just stuck under the big rock called PPD.

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