Postpartum Depression + Medication: An Update
I am almost through my entire first bottle of antidepressants. This is a big deal for me. It’s like getting down to the final pills in the first bottle is some type of symbolism that the depression I felt beforehand is just a speckle of dust lying at the bottom the floor, almost entirely obsolete.
I knew that my depression was running deep, but it's definitely been one of those situations where I didn’t really know how deep until the fog started lifting and I started feeling better. I wanted to take some time to share what’s improved since starting the medication.
For starters, when I wake up, I am no longer in a fog. I used to have to count to 60 several times in my head before I could convince myself to get up. I would lay there and think, “In 60 seconds you will get up.” I would do this until my emergency alarm on my phone went off, which meant that I had exactly 10 minutes to get out of the door for work. It was an awful way to start the day. Now, I’ve noticed that I no longer count. I wake up and the first thing I do is stare at the ceiling and think about my intention. I ask myself what I hope the day will bring. A new friend? A deeper connection with my husband? A random act of kindness? I love waking up now. It’s no longer something I have to do, I get to do it.
Secondly, that lingering agitation that was boiling under my skin is almost gone. I used to be simmering with anger and it took one small thing to make me blow. During work, all I do is teach others how to identify feelings, avoid their triggers and teach them how to cope with stress and big emotions. I found it extremely frustrating that I would teach these skills to others, yet no matter many strategies I used, I still felt angry. I was so pissed off that the depression was in fact in bigger than me and there was nothing else that was helping. Now I notice that I am still more irritable than I would like to be, but it’s not allllllll dayyyy long. I think I am just able to pay attention to more of the joyful things in my life as opposed to the stuff that goes all wrong.
Third, I no longer attach an emotional response to my dark, scary and intrusive thoughts. I am going to go more into how mindfulness has helped me with this in a few blog posts, but I have noticed that since I have been on medication that the thoughts are less frequent and when they occur, they go away as quickly as they came. When I would get them before, my heart would pound and I would feel sick to my stomach. I was scared and I felt so ashamed of myself. I no longer feel shame. I feel proud; I feel thankful that today I am alive and I get the joy and honor of raising my daughter and being a wife, a friend, a sister and a daughter.
The other day (you can see my Instagram post about, here), I was so scared because a few of my depressive symptoms came back for a few days. I couldn’t stop wondering if I was falling back into depression, if the all the things I was doing to combat it were beginning to fail. I received the most lovely advice from someone who still has no idea how much their email helped me. She told me to keep a journal. On one page, I was to write all the signs that I experienced while depressed. She gave me the tip to really think about it and to talk to others that I was close to about how I looked or acted and describe it in detail. Then on the other side of the journal, write all the things that have helped me feel better, such as going for a walk, making an appointment with my counselor, talking to a good friend (and list them out), taking a bath or doing a mindfulness session. She explained that she too would panic if she had an off day and think that the depression was out to get her. She would reference her list and if she was only feeling a few of the symptoms she knew it was a just a bad day. If for some reason a lot of them were checked off, she knew that she had to be proactive and would immediately start going down the list of the things that made her feel better. I have made this list as well now and I feel so much better knowing that it's there. The hardest part of the depression is that it blinds you. You can’t see exactly what is wrong or how you are feeling and you have no clue where to start to feel better. This list acts like your mentor, your frontal lobe (the part of your brain responsible for helping you make good decisions), your guide.
So here I am, one bottle in, and I must say that each day gets better than the next. I definitely have my off days but I keep fighting hard to keep my depression at bay and so far, I am kicking it’s ass.
Please note that this blog post isn’t meant to be to say that medication is the ONLY thing that will help depression. I know that just simply isn’t the case and many have had success using alternative methods such as acupuncture, herbs, mindfulness and more. This, however, isn’t what I experienced. I waited almost a year and a half of having depression before I tried meds and I really wish I would have gotten on them sooner. It was nonsense that I felt so bad for so long. Remember to consult your doctor when it comes to any medical advice.