So I left off last week after talking about being in the throes of depression and psychosis. Not pretty. It leaves it’s scars, one of mine is a tendency to get angry. I know you have all heard me talk about my lack of patience and how that is something I am working on. Well, it’s a lingering “side effect” of the PPD and PPP I dealt with. Today has been rough, Jadon will not listen to me and no matter what consequences I give him, it doesn’t seem to faze him. I am beyond frustrated and Lilly is picking up on Jadon’s behavior faster than you can imagine and imitating it, so now she is getting in trouble too. Matthew has done nothing but eat and cry all day it seems and I can feel my hormones going a bit nuts. (Okay, a lot nuts) I am not a “fun mommy” today. I feel like an angry, snappy, impatient mommy and I don’t like it. I feel awful about it, I really do. God has been “on tap” listening to my prayers of quiet desperation all day and I am so thankful and glad He never gets tired of hearing me ask for help. It is rather appropriate that I finish the PSA and focus on how to deal with Post Partum issues today…
Well, as I begin, I should tell you that some of you may not agree with or like what you are going to be hearing and that’s okay. I honestly don’t care. God is my life and He is involved in everything that happens in it, so if you can’t deal with that, see this as your invitation not to read any further. If you don’t believe as I do, I encourage you to hear me out anyway 🙂
Let’s begin by examining the differences between Post Partum Depression and Post Partum Psychosis. Both are caused by hormonal imbalances, but PPD is a more serious case of the Baby Blues: sadness, depression, loss of interest in things etc. Symptoms of psychosis are: severe depression, losing touch with reality, hallucinations, illogical thoughts, insomnia, refusal to eat or drink, anxiety attacks and the most scary- suicidal or homicidal thoughts. If you think you have PPP, it’s imperative that you speak with a trusted person immediately. I am saying this because I didn’t, and if not for the grace of God, I think the worst would have been inevitable. I believe all depression and psychosis is partly a spiritual issue as well. Of course there is a medical explanation for it, but I know for me personally it was definitely aggravated by something deeper going on. I’m not going to get into very deep theology right now, mostly because I, myself don’t have all the answers so I will speak on what I know. I believe there is good (God) and I believe there is evil (Satan). I believe in the Bible and what is says about the goal of Satan in John 10:10, that his (devil) goal is to steal, kill and destroy. But I also believe that as a child of God and a follower of Christ, that I have victory over the devil and his plans for my demise. Let me just say, I know this “spirit world” is not a whimsical fairyland of sorts where little cherubs and tiny minions of Satan duel with swords and superpowers. I know this is real stuff. Not only because I have faith, but because I have experienced and seen both sides. I am not naively following a religion, I have a relationship with Christ and I know good and evil exist in the spirit realm.
This being said, in order to fully deal with depression and psychosis, one must deal with it on all fronts. Physically, emotionally and most importantly- spiritually. Let’s start with the physical side.
Physically, there are ways and means to prevent and deal with Post Partum issues. Exercise (light for the first 6 weeks) can be very effective at battling this. Exercise releases endorphins (happy hormones) and can help lighten your mood. Also, staying active helps boost your sense of self and helps your body stay healthy and happy. Try simple exercises during the first 6 weeks like knee bends, lifting 2lb weights (never lift more than the weight of your baby during the first 6 wks), slow dancing with the one you love, walking and light (LIGHT) aerobics. ***If you notice you feel very worn out or your post partum bleeding getting worse after doing any of this, it means you’re doing too much*** Another thing to do for yourself physically is to eat healthy and drink plenty of water. I’m talking to myself here as much as anyone else. I have the worst habit of eating less than I should when I want to lose weight. I know this is neither healthful for me, nor for the baby, so I force myself to eat and drink drink drink that water! Also, you need to make sure you are getting plenty of sleep. Of course for awhile, you will not be getting much at a time, but the old saying rings so very true: “sleep while baby sleeps.” I thought that sounded silly, but you wouldn’t believe how much better the world looks after some sleep! If you are breastfeeding, enlist someone to get Baby up and change diapers for you and bring Baby to you to nurse. This will afford you a few more minutes of sleep and rest. If you are bottlefeeding, have someone take over a feeding or two so you can sleep or just have some alone time. Sleep and rest is crucial. Finally, this may sound a bit superficial, but try little things to make you feel pretty! Go get a pedicure first chance you can. They usually don’t take too long and you can probably squeeze one in between feedings. Put on a little make-up if you feel up to it. You usually have dark circles under your eyes from all the hard work giving birth and also from being tired, but on some concealer and a little blush and some eyeliner. I find even that little goes a long way because then every time I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror, I don’t think, “Holy cow, Mama, you look so tired!” Chances are, your pre-pregnancy clothes aren’t fitting yet, so put some cute maternity clothes when you’re feeling blue and some fabulous earrings or accessories. Make yourself feel pretty! Look in the mirror and think, “wow, I make motherhood look GOOD!” even if you don’t believe it. Those around you definitely do 🙂
There is also a lot you can do for your emotions. Stay away from sappy songs and movies. Watch something funny or listen to some stand-up comedy or positive happy music. You’d be amazed at the power music and movies have to influence your mood! I watched “White Christmas” on a loop for about 2 weeks while I was getting through the post partum stuff. It wasn’t particularly funny, but it was not super sappy and it was familiar and comfortable. Keep conversations around you lighthearted if you can. Try not to discuss at length finances, family problems or anything which causes anxiety or stress. If you find yourself getting tense or losing control of your emotions, try some of those light exercises, take Baby for a walk, have someone over (don’t worry, they won’t care that you’re house isn’t “Good Housekeeping” worthy.) or just turn on some music and sing.
Finally, spiritually. It’s important to understand a few things here: 1.) You can overcome this! 2.) You cannot and should not try to do this by yourself, you need God. and 3.) go back and read 2 again.
When I had that conversation with my mom at her house where she confronted me about what was going on, she also prayed for me and asked God to deliver me from the spiritual chaos I was experiencing. Again, we can see very clearly the devil’s agenda at work here: To steal, kill and destroy. I had allowed him to take my joy in having a new baby and being a mother, my sense of who I was, my confidence in my relationships, and eventually my desire to live. He wanted me gone. dead. Why? Because he knows my life is important and that I had more to accomplish for God in this life and he wanted to pull the plug. He wanted to destroy my life and the lives of those I effect by giving me suicidal and homicidal thoughts and hoping I would act on them. I try not to imagine the consequences if I had followed through and given in. I listened to a lot of Christian/positive music. I read my Bible. Didn’t read anything in particular, just opened it and started reading. Even if it made no sense to me, or if it had nothing to do with what I was going thru. You know how when you really miss someone, even listening to old phone messages or the cliché “answering machine” helps? Why? Because even if what they are saying has nothing to do with what you are going thru, it’s the sound of their voice. The Bible was like that for me then. I sang a lot of old hymns. Jadon liked this because it was soothing to him to hear me singing instead of crying. And lastly, I did a lot of praying (and so did my mom). Not the grand fancy prayers we hear sometimes in church. No, I prayed desperately. I prayed urgently and I prayed brokenly. I was brutally honest with God and I confided my darkest thoughts to Him and asked Him to take those thoughts and replace them with thoughts of joy, happiness and life. I prayed for my life. I felt like I was fighting for my life and at times the life of my son. No one can ever tell me this is not a spiritual battle because I have the battle scars to prove them otherwise.
So, okay, this was a lot of information. So what to do if you feel like you are losing control or getting too angry or if you are having thoughts of suicide etc?
1.) First thing to do is remove yourself from the situation. Go put the baby down safe in his crib or cradle and leave the room. If Baby cries, it’s okay. Crying never hurt a baby.
2.) Drink some water and turn on some happy music and start some light exercise. If you feel better, go get baby (unless baby is asleep 🙂 ) and keep on keepin’ on! If you don’t feel any better yet…
3.) Go check on baby and make sure he’s okay. If he is still crying, it’s okay. try to comfort him for a minute.
4.) Try putting Baby in the carseat and taking him out for a drive. Turn on some music in the car and try to relax. Most babies will stop crying and go to sleep after awhile in the car and then you will have some quiet.
5.) Try to remember that your baby isn’t crying to get on your nerves or to exasperate you. Babies cry, it’s just how it goes.
6.) If you feel you are going to harm the baby or yourself, call someone you trust to come to you. Leave Baby in the crib until the person gets there.
7.) Pray! Praying helped me so much. It’s pretty easy, just start talking 🙂
8.) Lastly, get some help. Talk to someone about what’s going on, ask them to pray for you. Talk to your mom, your doctor, your pastor, a close friend, someone! If you’re too embarrassed to talk in person, there are tons of online support groups with other moms going through exactly what you are going through. But honestly, if you’re embarrassed to talk about it, suck it up and do it anyway. This is your baby’s well-being we’re talking about here, not to mention yours. Letting people know what’s going on is very helpful and it helps you feel less isolated.
And this mommyhood thing? You can do this! You can.
Well, this has been my Personal PSA. Whether you agreed with what I said or not, I hope you got something out of it 🙂