Friday, September 7, 2012

A struggle with sanity: My battle with Late-onset postpartum depression and anxiety

I've been waiting to post about my struggle with hormonal sanity.  Thinking that first I needed to get 'it' all figured out.  I didn't want to have a whole post dedicated to my complaining, with no 'happy ending'.

(...Or perhaps I thought I could just ignore the way I feel and eventually it would go away...)

But, I realized what if another mama out there is suffering from Late-onset of Postpartum depression? or anxiety? or with hormonal imbalances? And she finds this post.  Does she really need to hear my happy ending? Or perhaps, would it be more encouraging to know someone else is going through the same thing?
I obviously, decided on the latter.

I'm not sure when I should say it started, while pregnant? I had many bouts with angry, crazy mood-swings then.  Or perhaps the anxiety has been there my whole life?
But, for the sake of this post, let's say it started about a month ago.  When Redding started whining. All day. Every day.

Good god, not that I blame him.  Can you imagine what it's like being a 7 months old?  You're physically exhausted from trying to move.  You are emotionally exhausted from trying to communicate without words.  You have excruciating pain in your gums/mouth.  Not to mention the tummy adjustments from your mom trying to give you peas. When all you really wanted was some freakin' breast milk!   Wow! and that doesn't even get into the new feelings of separation anxiety a seven month old starts experiencing.

Now, why would it shock me, that with all this going on it is hard to sleep at night?  Well, it did. It was.  He would be awake all night, causing me to be stressed and frustrated all day, causing him to not sleep well at night, causing me ... (you get the picture).  (AND, just incase you have't read that, it is true, your baby will respond to your emotional well-being during the day by either sleeping well or not the following night).

Perhaps the lack of sleep can account the recent depression.
The feelings of hopelessness and wanting to disappear.
The continual crying.  (Yes. Yes, I did cry a couple weeks ago when the waiter brought out my lunch and it was eggs instead of tofu.  "I'm so sorry *sob*, I meant to say tofu *wail.*"  No, i'm not kidding. And No, It was not the glistening-tears-brimming-up-in-your-eyes kind of cry either.  It was the snot-dripping-down-your-face, unable-to-stop-hiccuping-for-fifteen-minutes kind of cry).
I told a friend recently that I just wanted to break-up with my boyfriend, abandon my child and go to the beach.  Probably just for a few days, then I'd be ready to come home.  She then laughed, saying "Andrea, I think that's called a vacation, not abandonment."  (oh, haha).  Seriously though, I think to us mommies, leaving your baby for 48 hours would feel like abandonment.

My fear with a vacation really, is breastfeeding.  I could pump enough for 48 hours, but how do I know he will still nurse again when I get back? I just don't know if that's a risk I'm willing to take.  (this is a serious question, if you have experience with this I'd love to know!)

Then there is the anxiety.  I've casually mentioned it on the blog before.  But, if you have any experience with Postpartum Anxiety, you know. There is nothing casual about it.
The thoughts I have are scary, obsessive and consuming.  And I feel alone.  There is the fear that if you even mention the thoughts to another person, they would wonder what was wrong with you, that you were unfit to be a mother and perhaps try to take your baby away.
Battling off these thoughts 80% of the waking hours is exhausting.  Exhausting.
Perhaps I should give an example, some of the less scary thoughts:
I get overcome with the fear I've forgotten my baby at home every time I drive down the street.
I have to pull over while driving and check on him because of the thoughts that he has somehow died in his carseat.
And then there is the visual of seeing his carseat flying down the freeway.  I know that's ridiculous, so every time I try to rationalize that thought away... will the whole car seat fall out of the car? Is my car falling apart? And surely if my car was falling apart piece by piece, after the bumper flew off the other cars behind me and myself would have time to come to a stop before it came to the carseat.
(think i'm crazy yet?)

I've finally decided to be proactive about these struggles.  And let's face it, we live in a society that no longer knows how to be proactive, so it's difficult (many doctors will just opt to give you a pill, instead of trying to change your diet and encourage you to exercise).
(edit: I should mention, I am in no way, shape or form against medication.  For myself or anyone else, I do however think every other route should be tried first.  Like that saying "when diet is wrong medicine is of no use, when diet is right medicine is of no need." obviously that doesn't work for everyone. but you get what i'm saying)

So, I started therapy for the anxious (and very morbid) thoughts a couple months ago and am shocked at how much they have already decreased (Using something called 'EFT' or Emotional Freedom Techniques).
I saw my physician two days ago and a Acupuncturist yesterday.  The acupuncturists strongest recommendation was actually to lay off the sugar, saying that will help the intense mood-swings (oh, did I forget to mention those?  Moments of intense anger where I want to crawl out of my skin and just like the hulk, break everything I see).

I definitely think things are looking up though, with tweaking my diet, getting acupuncture once a week and starting some, well ... let's just say 'supplements' ... (for fear of losing readers, I won't tell you that it will be pills of dehydrated pig placenta). (oh, oops) :)

So there is no happy ending.  Other than the fact that I might actually go through with publishing this post.  Here's the deal, I just don't want other mamas out there to google 'late onset of postpartum depression' or 'postpartum anxiety' and have the first thing that pop up be images of Andrea Yates. (yes, that happened to me).  And holy bejesus, that is scary and discouraging.

I've also decided to include a self portrait.  Feeling that I've been hiding behind other people's photographs too much lately. So, here I am.  With out brushing my hair, teeth or getting the sleep out of my eyes.

p.s. I labeled what I am going through a few time in this post. However, my acupuncturist was explaining to me that we should really keep from labeling our 'disorder' because our bodies and minds are constantly changing and it doesn't help anything to slap a label on it and think you are going to stay that way. Just FYI :)


  1. i greatly appreciate your post as I've suffered from depression since childhood and panic attacks for the past few years. I stopped taking antidepressents (best thing I ever did!) and became pregnant within a few weeks. My first trimester was very difficult. I was scared of my body, of losing the control I so desperately have tried to exert over it for so many years. My daughter's birth was the most wonderful thing and having here with me 24 hours a day, breastfeeding, everything about being a mother over these past 6 months fills my life with so much joy. But I still battle with my old demons. Over the past 3 weeks or so they've come back. Not as bad as before, but they are there. Getting out of the funk is hard, but I persist. Although no one wants to see that someone else is going through a rough time, it's nice to know you're not alone.

    Take care!

    1. I really want to say 'I'm proud of you', but that seems like a weird thing to say to someone you don't know. BUT, I am. or maybe 'I'm impressed by you' works better. It must have been so hard to get off the antidepressants. I can't imagine. BUt what a fabulous gift to then get your daughter!
      And I should've been more clear. I am not anti-medication, but I think we (I) should try everything else first.

      Hang in there girl, that's right around the time things got tough over here. I look forward to hearing from you again and hearing how it's going!

  2. Andrea, the "happy ending" is you're addressing your struggle and getting the help you need and that is a huge first step. The alternative is so much worse. You are also sending your son the message that sometimes people need help and it's okay to ask for it. Blessings to you as you battle your way out of postpartum depression and start feeling like yourself again. *hugs*

  3. Such a brave and raw post from you lovely lady. Thank you for sharing some of these thoughts and feelings you have been experiencing. I'm sure many woman will seek comfort in your words seeing they are not alone.

    Sending you much love and light, Bec xx

  4. Andrea, I have been reading your blog for some time since our sons are very close in age. I have struggled with anxiety since I was in high school and it definitely resurfaced when my son was 5-7 months old. I posted on my blog about a very similar situation to yours

    You seem from your post to not want to take any anti-anxiety meds or anti-depression meds. I respect that, but I encourage you to keep your mind open. Changing your mind is better than feeling like you are losing it. There is so much judgment in our culture of "help." We're American dang it, and we pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and fix it all by ourselves. It is okay to admit you need help. It is okay to accept help. But you know this, since you are taking steps to find your way out of the labrynth.

    Please know that you are not crazy, or even out of the ordinary. I have met so many moms who have been through what we have gone through, we just don't talk about it enough.

    I would also recommend reading Anne Lamott's book "Operating Instructions." She has a healthy dark side and reading about her dark thoughts made me feel less guilty about mine.

    I am really proud of you for sharing this. Contact me if you would like to talk more. We have your back, girl.

    1. Thanks SO much! I am opening up your blog post now and looking forward to reading it. (AS well as the book, I am always looking for good/relatable reads)

    2. oh and you're right. I might need to amend my post. Because I am not anti medication, just a fan of figuring everything else out first.

  5. Oh my gosh! I used to get those visuals of car seat on freeway, too! Also, the house burning down while we slept, kidnappers, etc. I've always been on the anxious end of the spectrum so I just figured it was the added stress (lots of awful things happened to happen in the first year after my daughter was born) and the sleep deprivation. Personally, I found the Litany Against Fear from the Dune chronicles very helpful, and also the Lord's Prayer, which is weird because I'm not Christian in any way and I'm not even sure how I know it(willing to bet it was Catholic grandma that used to babysit, though). I am impressed by the range of options you are exploring to take care of yourself, and appreciate your willingness to share the less-than-picturesque side of your experience as a mother.

    1. Is it strange that I wanted to respond to this with a 'YAY! I'm not alone!' ... but 'yay' would be such an odd response to you also having creepy visuals . You know, something my therapist and I actually figured out was that I am not actually scared of all those things happening. BUT, scared of seeing it happen (because I am so visual and play the scenario through all the way). Anyways, that was a huge break through for me.
      I will look into your suggestions. Maybe not 'the lords prayer' but some other kind of peaceful mantra would be good!

  6. Andrea - thank you so much for this. You are brave, beautiful and you are important. I don't necessarily believe in sharing EVERYTHING on blogs, but when it comes to being pregnant, giving birth and the experience of becoming a mum, I believe there is NO such thing as over-sharing. We all need to know that there are others out there, experiencing the same thing. It is just too easy to think that we're the only ones not coping with it.

    I too have the morbid illusions, I feel that I'm not doing it right, and I think that it would probably be better if I just went off somewhere else. Whilst at the same time knowing that nothing has ever been so right. Wow. They don't teach you this in school, do they... xxx

  7. Hello. Thanks for your honesty. Wonderful post. Good for you for seeking help.
    I found I had a lot of mood swings my first year with my daughter. That first year is sooooo much harder than you expect!!! Just wanted to give you a heads up about weaning - I wasn't expecting it and when I started cutting out nursing sessions when she turned one I literally woke up one day and could not stop crying. I was back to normal in a few days but I had never read/heard about anything in breastfeeding lit about that kind of thing, and really wish I had been aware that losing just one session a day can cause such a hormone shift. Not saying that's what's going on with you - just thought I'd share. PSA, file away for preventative mental health care...

  8. Thank you for this. You are not even remotely alone. These thoughts are exactly mine, and I could go into some scary detail about that little 'hulk smash/rage' thing you mentioned. I've been practicing a few different anger management and meditation techniques- but I'm going to cut out sugar, too! I hadn't heard that one. It will be good to do that anyway :D


  9. I try not to link my blog in comments very often, but I see some are sharing their posts about anxiety struggles, and I wrote one recently also! so, here :) Hope it helps to feel the solidarity (i know it does me!)

    Stay Awesome!


  10. Thank you for this post. Parenthood can be such a trigger for anxiety, and there are just so many little things that add up to huge amounts of pressure. Almost all of my parenthood breakdowns have been triggered by sleep deprivation. I just can't keep it together when I'm not getting any sleep.

    I do want to say to the breastfeeding/vacation thing that I breastfed and left for two-day trips a couple of times, the first one when my daughter was about 5 months old. Pumping while I was gone to keep up supply was somewhat stressful (storing the milk while traveling, making sure there's a place to keep it, etc.), but I had no problem with her not wanting to nurse when I came back and she had no problem eating while I was gone. If you think a vacation would do you some good and your little one is taking bottles of pumped milk okay now, you might want to give it a try.

    Good luck and thank you for sharing your stories!

  11. First of all, Andrea, u look great, even if you may not see yourself like that right now! I'm a mother of 2 (2 and half years-my girl and 1 year3 moths old- my boy) and this year I went to a psychologist trying to figure out what was wrong with me. It was not such a big discovery to find out that I'm a perfectionist and trying too hard to make everything right. I am still trying to learn how to relax as we speak...but I feel better just knowing that I don't have to make everything perfect, if I choose not to.
    When my son was a few months old I left him (both, actually) with the grandparents for 24 hrs and it was fine. He hasn't stopped breastfeeding yet :)
    Please try to look at yourself through more indulging eyes. You might discover that you can relax for a while and still be a good mother o your child.


    p.s. I've graduated from Psychology and from a 2yrs course of Clothes Design :)

  12. I salute you for keeping it real on your blog there. You look gorgeous by the way.

    Man parenting is SO hard.

    Such a lifestyle change. More than anyone who's never done it could imagine.

    Kia Kaha ( have strength) as we say in nz.

    I had a hosp stay once for which it was impractical to have my 12m old. He picked up where he left off! And I had a wee break and left breastmilk for one of my kids.. they rejected it from a bottle. It was more the comfort. But solid stuff and daddy cuddles/sling sufficed until I got back the following evening. I boob fed all mine till at least 2years.

    I would recommend a break at some stage. Even leaving early morning and getting back after he's asleep that night might be enough.

  13. Good post lady, way to be brave and hit that publish button!

  14. This is an amazing post, and the pics are so beautiful and real they make me cry. I identify with so much here, it's not even funny. I've battled what I guess was PPD, and I know it's real and I think a lot of the time medication is actually the only answer, but I also think that some of the time, especially later on, all that anxiety and anger and panic and loneliness aren't actually a disorder at all, but are reasonable responses to a kind of unnatural (despite the natural aspect of it) and in some ways damaging situation we find ourselves in as new mamas in this culture. It sounds like the stuff you're doing is exactly what you need to be doing to get through this. I'm so glad you're taking care of yourself. Keep it up. It's so, so important. I'm sending CRAZY AMOUNTS OF LOVE your way.

  15. Thanks for posting this, Andrea. This is the second anxiety/depression blog post by a mom that I have read this week ... just goes to show you really are not alone and many moms struggle.

    So glad you had the courage to post this and that you are doing something about all these things you are dealing with. I agree with Balancing Jane's comment - sleep can be huge! Lack of sleep for me also sets me off. The things you learn about yourself as you become a mom to another, huh?

    On the breastfeeding/pumping/bottle discussion, my 8 mos old was left w/ my husband when I went to a bach party in Vegas (haha) but it was FINE. Well -- she wouldn't take the bottle for almost a whole day but once she realized that was the only option, she figured it out pretty quick. A day, night, weekend away might be so nice for you. I remember the feeling of Freedom as I drove to the airport by myself ... honestly even that felt like luxury!

    Treat yourself well whenever your can!

    p.s. Okay to share your story? I hate to think of other moms out there having similar feelings but thinking they are alone.

    1. of course you can share it! thanks for asking.
      I definitely there is a strong strong correlation between lack of sleep and 'crazy' ... which, just noticing that makes me feel a lot better!

  16. I would have these awful reactions to morbid thoughts in the first months after my son was born. It was like my mind took off without my consent and would think about things that I would never want to ponder in a 1000 years. I can specifically remember crying until my eyes were raw because I could not stop thinking about people that hurt children, THAT there are people out there that could and would want to hurt these defenseless little perfect babies. I would think about the awful things I heard in the news or even things that I just imagined people could do and I would just cry and not want to put my son down. That is just one aspect of it, my son will be 2 in Dec and while things have gotten better with time and perspective, I feel everything that you are describing. I know what it feels like. You are not alone, even though I know that it can often feel like you are completely isolated. I want to just hug you and let you know that if you're crazy than so am I (but we're not <3)

    1. thank you so much danielle. yay for NOT being crazy!

  17. I had what you call "late onset depression" too! I was on such a high with the love of my new baby that when reality set in when he was about 11 months I could not move from my bed without a struggle (and 11 month old babies do not like to lay in bed all day). I think a huge part of my depression was lack of sleep. I also work part time at night and end up basically being up for 24+ hours twice a week. I still don't sleep but I started exercising again and that always helps to level me out! Basically, all I wanted to say is I feel you girl and dammit you are pretty.

  18. thanks for such an honest post. your not alone, and its not meant to be easy.
    We feel so shy and almost embarrassed about being weak but life is hard and especially a 7 month old baby!
    if your surviving at all your doing a great job. x

    barnicles x

  19. I know Im late to the game, but I was stalking ;) through your posts and this one elicted such a strong emotional response I had to comment.It is so refreshing (who am I kidding it's frickin awesome) to have a mama be totally honest about this subject.I too struggle with this, and heres the kicker.....My "baby" is now 5! My oldest is 16!! Yet, the irrational fears have not totally gone away. Choking, omg it's like a phobia seriously. If the youngest so much as coughs funny I am over come with this paralizing fear she will suffocate to death as I stand there hopelessly unable to help. And I find myself still at times checking in on my 16 yr old at night to make sure he's still breathing.I to do not agree with today's societies "slap a pill on it" mentality.I just work through it and accept myself as I am. My children are THE most important thing in my life, the most important things I have ever created and quite honestly it's natural to be consumed by their well being.That's part of what makes us great mamas! I am extreme, but I am extreme about EVERYTHING so it's okay. Ahhh the mood swings & intense anger...still working on that. I fortuatly am blessed with a very level headed hubby that helps me when I get to hulk mode. We just have to walk through it, and posts like this help. It's relieving to hear there are other mamas who are struggleing too and Im not some freak psycho that will snap at any moment and kill people I love.Thank you, truly.

    xo the Rebel

  20. I'm adding to this post/thread, even though I'm way late because I too have experienced and still do experience anxiety. My son is 2 years old and I still check on him at night worried that something terrible has or will happen to him. It was much worse when he was brand new but the irrational fears and thoughts still creep in and cause me a lot of stress! My doctor has been SO quick to give me tons of pills that do nothing but numb me so they're no good, and my insurance (which is actually okay) doesn't pay for therapy so I would have to pay out of pocket for that. Super, super discouraging considering the fact that therapy is expensive. Like really expensive and I can hardly afford to get a freakin haircut.

    It's a sad state in this country that we don't consider mental health to be a serious priority. What are the people who slip through the cracks supposed to do?

    My only advice for any moms reading this who have anxiety and depression is to know that you are not alone and that even though on the surface it seems like everyone has everything put together perfectly that it's just not so. Exercise has also been super helpful for me in balancing out the hormones. I don't always feel like running (actually I rarely do) but I just blast some good music in my ears and go for it. I never regret it. Not to mention the boost in my self esteem, it's win-win.

    Anyways, thank you for this post. I think these subjects are SO important to talk about. It really helps to share stories and experiences and being truly authentic is what more women need. We need to see that we're not alone.

  21. Thank you so much for writing this!!! It was immensely helpful and made me feel like I was chatting with a hilarious friend. And your pics are beautiful! Hugs!!

  22. Seeing your face made all the difference. Im actually crying as I type this. It was just an article I was reading but once I scrolled to the pictures, your words became real and I could feel a connection to my situation. Thank u

  23. I really needed this. Thank you!

  24. Thank you for this post. My daughter is 18 months old and over the last few months, I've had severe PPD. You really helped me understand what I'm going through and that I'm not alone in this. What do you think is the best way to get rid of these "I'm not worthy of motherhood" feelings? Any advice is greatly appreciated.. Thank you!!