If you’ve been around my blog for awhile, you probably know that I struggle with depression. Today I want to really open up and talk about it, in hopes that it will raise awareness and help somebody. Depression and motherhood are common acquaintances, and not enough people are talking about it openly.
At the end of my first pregnancy, I began to feel “off”. I was sad, uninterested in the things that I normally loved, and I couldn’t figure out what exactly it was or why I felt that way. After Bella was born, I fell into severe post-partum depression (PPD), which lasted for about 18 months. My case was a bad one. I physically could not get myself out of bed. I am not a person who enjoys relying on others; I’m a go-getter, an I-got-this kind of person, and I normally enjoy waking up and getting out and being productive. I felt my depression physically, it was so bad. It felt like I had black clouds stuck in my head and pressing down on my chest, causing severe fatigue and a feeling of hopelessness. I had no natural motherly insincts. It was like they wouldn’t stick to me because I was so immersed in depression. When Bella would cry, I felt nothing. Not anger or irritation, not sadness or sympathy… just nothing. My baby’s cry had no affect on me, and neither did her cooing, her laughter, her growth. I was lifeless. When I watch videos of myself at that time, I can’t help but cry. I wish I could reach out to that girl and take away her pain. I was so confused by what was happening to me.
We lived with my parents at the time, and my mom and husband both saw there was something very wrong, but didn’t know what or why or what to do. When they tried to talk to me about it or help me, that’s when the only emotion I sometimes felt would come out- anger. I got a prescription for an anti-depressant from a doctor but I didn’t want to accept that kind of help. I was scared of what the drug might do to me, and I didn’t want to become a robot. I didn’t take the meds and the depression held on until about fifteen months after Bella was born. The clouds lifted a little, and I became pregnant again. I believe the hormonal changes in my body caused my serotonin (the happy hormone your brain produces) levels to boost, and I felt the depression had passed completely around eighteen months after it began.
The hardest part of this part of my life is that my depression was so deep and debilitating, that as I look back, there are blank spaces in my brain, and I have no memories of my baby girl during her first year of life. When I look at photos or watch her baby videos that I am in, it freaks me out because I do not remember being there at all. PPD took over my body, my mind, and my life, and it robbed me of the most precious memories that should have been mine to remember the rest of my life.
When my second child, Leland was born, PPD hit me again. I panicked at the thought of losing my bond with my son and my memories. I went right away and got medicine, which helped get my serotonin level where it needed to be in six months’ time, at which point I weaned off the medicine. The important thing to note here is the type of depression. For me, this was not the “baby blues”. It was an extreme, life-altering, deep depression that was ruining my life and my family. It was not a situational depression (brought on by difficult circumstances). It was a chemical imbalance that needed to be treated just the same as if I had diabetes.
I did not have PPD at all after my third baby, Hudson was born. It’s funny because there was so much bad going on in my life that I think I should have struggled with depression, but I had absolutely none. This confirms even more that what I experienced before was an imbalance that I could do nothing about without medical help.
Although I didn’t struggle with PPD after my last birth, since I became a mom, I have battled on and off with depression (situational depression and depressive “lulls”, not the same thing as PPD). Having gone through so much and experienced both, I can tell when what I’m struggling with is a lull, and when I have a chemical imbalance that requires medical help. I hadn’t really had more than a bad week for three years until a couple months ago. I woke up one morning and could feel the difference. I didn’t want to get out of bed, hopelessness seemed to have settled over me overnight, and I felt fear get me. I was depressed. Again. For those who haven’t struggled in the past and are unclear about depression, it is very real, it isn’t an excuse to be lazy, it isn’t a thing of the imagination, it can become physically painful, and it does not mean you are being punished for something wrong you did. I have heard all these things said to me, and I will not tolerate any such comments, let me be clear on that.
For me, depression looks like this:
Lack of interest in things I normally love, like reading, Zumba class, being outside, writing, going out to dinner, etc.
It’s usually accompanied by anxiety.
Daily tasks feel as daunting as climbing a mountain. Seriously. Getting off the couch to switch the laundry feels completely overwhelming. Showering, doing my makeup, and getting dressed for the day doesn’t happen.
Avoiding family and friends.
Binging on junk food.
Just not caring in general, about anything.
Snapping at my kids a lot more than just the usual end-of-the-day burn out.
Feeling really unhappy and irritated with my life or my day.
In contrast, for me, a lull is just a bad day or maybe a bad week, where some of the things I listed above come into play and I am not myself. A lull comes from getting overwhelmed, giving in to my tendency of laziness for more than one day, not spending time with the Lord, not getting out of the house much, a difficult time in my marriage, or not taking care of myself (health, and emotions). A lull goes away quickly and pretty easily. Depression lingers and is very heavy, but can still be overcome.
It is so easy to brush off the signs of depression and ignore it, but it’s a serious thing that will be helped by accepting the problem and prayerfully seeking treatment- whether that means you need medicine to balance yourself, or you just need to make yourself better through personal changes. Today I really just wanted to clarify what depression usually looks like and also clearly explain the differences between a lull in the daily grind and serious depression. If you feel you may be depressed, please feel free to email me with any further questions you might have!