Motherhood: Overcoming Postpartum Depression and Anxiety

**TRIGGER WARNING** this post contains in depth discussion of postpartum anxiety and depression.

*** DISCLAIMER*** I am not a licensed healthcare professional. This post discusses my personal journey with postpartum depression and anxiety. If you are struggling with any form of mental health crisis, please seek help from a licensed medical professional

E10C49FC-15F6-4C1A-BA09-5D633D385E80I think the top two questions I have been asked since becoming a mom are 1) how did you know you were ready for kids, and 2) why is the biggest thing you’ve learned since having Evelyn. They can both be answered the same way: There is absolutely nothing that can prepare you for motherhood. You can save all the money, read all the books, go to all the classes and seek all the advice in the world, but you will never be prepared. Even once you have the baby, you are constantly learning. Every baby is different and there are so many nuances to their behaviors and preferences. Just when you think you’ve learned them, they change. And you change. It’s inevitable. In fact, that change usually happens almost instantaneously the moment the nurses plop that slimy, screaming, precious baby on your chest. You suddenly becoming the embodiment of “mama bear”. You are completely high off of adrenaline and oxytocin and a dozen other hormones that flood your body. You feel like you can take on the world and also take the best nap of your life all at once. You somehow feel incredibly strong and unbelievably broken at the same time. This is the first thing you aren’t prepared for- the ocean of emotions that you are battered with. In an instant, you feel more emotion than you ever thought possible.

Most people are aware of the phenomenon women experience after birth called “baby blues”. Your hormones have gone completely haywire and the result is a lack of control of your emotions. It’s totally normal to be pretty weepy the first couple of days- crying because you’re happy, or because you’re just so in love with your new baby, or something ridiculous like FINALLY getting to eat or get up and walk once that epidural wears off.

After Ev was born, I expected to be a bit emotional. My midwife had prepared me for it, and I was ready. I was also terrified of experiencing postpartum depression. It was something I talked with my midwife about because I had experienced pretty heavy depression before pregnancy, as well as during my pregnancy. On day two of my hospital stay, I filled out the generic postpartum depression questionnaire. In my opinion, this is the dumbest thing ever. You are running on zero sleep, and you’ve only had this child for all of 48 hours. The questions, like “have you thought about harming your baby”, or “have you had trouble sleeping” are ridiculous and make zero sense for that particular moment. Regardless, after answering the questions as honestly as I felt comfortable, I was given a moderate risk factor for developing ppd/a. We left the hospital the next day, and over the next week or so, things got progressively worse. I had absolutely no control over my emotions. I was crying all the time, so anxious, and having complete meltdowns over the most ridiculous things. I lost it over not being able to find my crock pot. Ridiculous, I know! All the while, my mom and husband kept asking if I was okay. I think they knew, but they wanted me to acknowledge that something wasn’t right. A week after having EV, my mom, dad, and husband sat me down and told me it was time to call my doctor. This was more than just baby blues, and deep down, I knew it. My mom in particular recognized it very quickly because of her own experience with it. I’m so grateful I have people in my life who were so willing to be honest with me.

After talking to my doctor, she diagnosed me with postpartum depression and anxiety and put me on Zoloft. The Zoloft took about 4 weeks to fully kick in, but once it did, I began to feel somewhat normal. After about three months of being on the medication, I began to notice that it wasn’t working as well, so my doctor upped my dosage. My emotions felt under control, but I definitely didn’t feel “normal”. Nevertheless, I knew that I needed to stay on it to be the best mom and wife possible. I really struggled with that idea because I didn’t want to have to rely on medication to function. It’s easy to make the comparison that “if you have allergies, you take Zyrtec and that’s no different”, a statement I’ve made to many before, but it’s a totally different thing to experience it for yourself. I felt weak and inadequate. I was angry with God for seemingly not helping me. I felt angry with myself and guilty a lot of the time for many reasons. One of the biggest being- how could I possibly be depressed when I have the biggest blessing in the world in my daughter?

My breaking point came back in September. I vividly remember sitting on the couch feeding Ev before putting her down for the night and just being bombarded with the worst feeling. I having it out with God for the umpteenth time and i said, “If this is the way I’m going to feel for the rest of my life, I don’t want it.” And for a split second I thought “there’s a whole bottle of Zoloft upstairs that could fix that”. And I broke. I called out for Jon-Paul to come get Ev and I sat on the couch and sobbed. I was terrified by that thought. I had no idea where it came from. It was something I would never in a million years consider doing and it made me scared to death that I was even capable of having such a thought.

After calming down and talking with Jon-Paul, we agreed I needed to get some counseling. I scheduled to talk with my counselor a couple days later. After speaking with her, I began to make some changes in my life. I started spending more time in the word, more time praying, and taking some time throughout the week to focus on myself. All of this really helped the depression aspect of what I was dealing with!

At the end of September, I decided to take a break from social media. While the depression was under control and basically non existent at this point, anxiety had ramped up significantly. In one week alone, I had seen 5 posts on social media about infant/toddler loss. I decided to take an indefinite break because I had enough anxious thoughts in my head without seeing that kind of stuff. It was truly the best thing I could have done and I HIGHLY encourage everyone to take a break from time to time.

So where am I now? My goal was to be off of the Zoloft by New Years. After a lot of work, prayer, and focus, I have been off of my meds for a month now. I feel truly amazing! I even went through all of the stress of the holiday season without the medication lol. It was definitely all about timing, as I had tried to wean off of them once before and quickly realized I was not ready. But this time around, I felt great. Of course I have my moments, but I finally feel back to normal- or my new normal I guess.

If you are experiencing ppd/a, my biggest piece of advice for you is to just hang in there. It gets better! Talk with your doctor, surround yourself with positive people, and communicate how you are feeling. Do not allow yourself to feel less than for having to take medication. Spend lots of time with God. Worship, prayer, just talking or having it out lol. Dig into the Word. Cover yourself in scripture daily. Be intentional about weekly “me” time- even if that means just a quick drive by yourself to the bank or to get gas- alone time is so important. Make yourself feel good and human- do your makeup and hair a few times a week, make your bed, get dressed in something other than spit up bathed bathrobe lol! Ultimately, make self care a priority.

I hope to dig into this topic more. I could seriously write volumes and volumes on my experience haha. Before I go, I want to leave you with some resources I found helpful. Below are some scriptures, songs, and people to check out!

Faith:

Prayer. This is obvious and has to be done in your own way.  For me, there were lots of rant sessions to God lol.

The Word. Covering myself in scripture was so important. Here are some of my faves: Psalm 16:9, Psalm 25:20, Isaiah 41:10, Psalm 118:29, 2 Corinthians 12:9 &19,  Isaiah 46:6, Psalm 46:10, Proverbs 19:22, 2 Timothy 1:7, 2 Timothy 4:17, Proverbs 4:23, Isaiah 43:2

Faith-based Social Media Accounts: @my_darling_diary, @legitsadierob, @stylecusp, @bethel, @whoathatsgoodpodcast, @liveoriginal, @jenessawait

Family and Friends:

I’m not going to go into specifics here because I will undoubtedly forget someone, but surrounding yourself with a solid group of people is so vital. I have the most amazing and supportive family and friends and I’m so grateful for them.

Music:

Worship was such a big thing for me as well. Worshipping despite your circumstances produces something so beautiful and amazing in your life. Declaring God is good even when you don’t feel good yourself can be difficult, but it’s so necessary. Here are some of the songs that helped me.

Hillsong Worship: So Will I, Awake My Soul, I Will Praise You, Upper Room

Hillsong United: the People album, the Of Dirt and Grace album

Covenant Worship: Here Waiting

David and Nicole Binion: the Dwell album

Hillsong Y&F: PEACE, Days Gone By

HouseFires: Give Thanks To God, Build My Life, This Love

John and Joslyn Brockman: I’ll remain, You Are My Reward

Lauren Daigle: Rescue

Sean Feucht: There is a Name, Victorious One album

Brian and Jenn Johnson: After All These Years album

Bryan and Katie Torwalt: Praise Before My Breakthrough album

Bethel: Goodness is God, Stand in Your Love, Every Crown, Christ is Risen, Alabaster Heart

Amanda Lindsey Cook: Awakening

Leeland: Way Maker

If you’ve made it this far, I truly commend you. I know this was quite the post, but it was so important for me to be open about all of this. I know that so many women go through this and suffer in silence. My message to you is that you do not need to. Talk to someone. Get counseling. Open up to trusted loved ones. And lastly, give it to

God. He wants to take it from you, comfort you, and heal you.

See you next week!

XOXO

ELK