My first thought after my doctor telling me I had post-partum depression was, “Wow, I didn’t realize I could get depression on top of depression.” I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was in college over ten years ago and never knew I could suffer more sadness on top of sadness. I knew the signs to look out for because I was well versed in depression. What I did not know to look for were signs that I was sinking deeper into what I like to call, “wanting to hide under a rock depression”.
My firstborn was colicky, rarely slept and cluster fed. This new parent thing was hard in all the wrong ways. My son didn’t even look happy let alone radiate those new baby sounds that every mom pines for on delivery day. I had a difficult baby and that difficult baby resulted in me spiraling into a deeper depression that I could not see my way out of. On top of that, he had silent GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) aka acid reflux so he never spit up – just cried, a lot. It wasn’t until we had an Upper GI study done that we realized he had been experiencing this pain for the first six months of his life. Well no wonder he was unhappy. This sent my new parent heart into a tizzy. I experienced extreme guilt which, hello, what mother doesn’t. The difference with experiencing guilt when you have depression is that it can be debilitating. It can cause you to second guess every choice you make for the rest of the day. Should I go out? Should I take a nap? What if that makes me lazy? What if the baby needs me? What if I’m screwing him up?
Moms, thoughts like these have no place in the
head of a brand new mother whose deepest desire
is to be the best mom she can be. It’s the depression talking.
My husband was well aware of my battle with depression but even he didn’t know how to help me. I worked with my doctor on adjusting my meds to accommodate for the influx of hormones my body was experiencing. At one point, I just had to look at myself in the mirror and say, “You can do this. Take it one day at a time. You can do this.”
I played the game no mother is supposed to play; the comparison game. I knew this. I knew comparing myself to other moms would only add to my guilt and sadness and feelings of hopelessness but I did it because I yearned to have what they had…a happy baby. I desperately wanted to know what they were doing right so I could fix what I was doing wrong. I thought maybe if I acted a little happier, tried just a little bit harder or even did just a little bit more as a new mother I might attain to their levels of happiness. Can I tell you something? It was exhausting. As you know, if you’ve ever suffered from depression, moods can come and go. Good intentions can slip through our fingers even when we’re fighting like mad with clenched fists to win the battle within our own minds. Nothing stays the same when you have depression because thoughts are coming and going a million miles a minute. I couldn’t keep up with these other moms even if I’d wanted to.
Looking back at this time in my life, I wish I had asked for help. There were people at church who offered to watch my baby so I could rest or take a shower but I politely said no every time. My advice to you if you’re in the middle of a deep depression right now, is to ask for help if you haven’t already. It’s the hardest best thing you’ll do for yourself. It may just be the one thing you need to make it through today.