“Normal” is a Thing; It’s Just Not a Thing I Always Know

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People say there is no such thing as “normal,” that it’s a social construction, but let me firmly disagree. There are people who walk around with brains that function in a “normal capacity.” These people might use “crazy” as an adjective:  to describe a hectic day. They might say someone is acting “crazy” who writes a frustrated Facebook rant, or they use “crazy” to describe a thrilling event. For those who don’t know, let me help you understand.

When I was a teen, my sister called me a name, or was telling me I was doing something I wasn’t doing, or some similar sibling annoyance. I don’t remember what the trigger was, and the trigger doesn’t matter because the trigger isn’t the problem when my reactions turn from normal annoyance to “crazy” mania. I started screaming at her, my blood pulsing behind my ears. My arms rushed with adrenaline and a hulk-like power filled my body. How dare my sister talk to me that way?! I saw myself pick up a large rotating fan and throw it like a twig at my sister. I felt drunk, numb to the emotions that other people feel: guilt, remorse, worry. In a moment like that, I AM an explosion.

When people say: “You have a choice about how you react in any circumstance,” I generally agree with that. Until I am at that point, until I do something that my “normal” self would never do. Most of the time, however, I just see the terrible things my mind wants me to do, and I turn away, shaking and frightened of myself. I get a sitter for my kids and run, run, run, until the energy is drained and I’m too tired to be crazy.

Of course, immediately following a rage episode, fueled by an overwhelming agitation called “mania,” I hit rock bottom. That’s where I am now, so let me tell you a little bit about what an actual “crazy” thought looks like: “If you died today, your children would have a better life. They are innocent and your swings will ruin them, your family, everything. It would be better if you weren’t alive.”

And here’s the thing: I know that’s not a normal thought, but it feels right. Deep down, normal me fights back and says, “That’s not true. You mess up, but your children need you, they thrive when you’re at your best, and there is no one better at that point.” Crazy me says, “You’re getting worse. You’ll never be better. Maybe you should run away now, let the normal people raise your children, so they have a chance.” I know what normal is because months or weeks in between crazy, I feel wonderfully, blissfully normal. And it’s the most beautiful feeling ever.

If you’ve never had the thought that your death would be the best thing to happen to those you love, then you might be normal. If you’ve never had to pull over the car and put your head between your legs while your vision focuses and the air returns to your lungs, while the fear that’s sitting on your heart, crushing it like an anchor, is slowly lifted, you might be normal.

If you read this and think: this woman needs help and probably a strong dose of bi-polar medication of some sort, you might be normal. But I am not. And you are right. I do need that, and I will finally admit it. Don’t worry about me. Normal me has decided to take action, and get all the help she can. But let’s be clear here: my sickness is right here with me, just as real as cancer, pneumonia, diabetes…and it’s too much for me to handle on my own. I can’t keep fighting the thoughts, both the hulk-fueled rage episodes, the energy-crazed god-complex, the obsessive cleaning episodes, and the spiral of self-loathing. My day is not “crazy” because it’s off the hook; it’s crazy because I am not normal, though I very much long to be. I can’t just “change my point of view,” “buck up,” and “stop sulking.” But I can do something, and I will. There is help for me, as there is hope and help for others diagnosed with mental illness.

Thank you for trying to understand what normal is with me. “Normal” is a thing; it’s just not a thing I always know. If you do, treasure it.

“The Eighth Month”: Late Onset PPD & Tips on Wading Through The Blue

I would like to introduce readers to a wonderful guest blogger, Mary Helen Leonard. Her postpartum story highlights something very significant: postpartum depression is not always immediate. This momma, no stranger to depression, expected to have immediate issues after the birth of her baby, but was surprised when things seemed fairly normal. Until they weren’t…Mary Helen Leonard gives mommas some practical advice that helped her to “come out of the fog.” This is a must read post for any woman suffering from PPD.

        maryhelen     naturalbeauty

The Eight Month

Mary Helen Leonard

The first three months of my baby’s life wasn’t easy. For a while it felt like I was living out a single endless day. My body hurt. My emotions were raw, and sleep became something I dreamed about while I stared, rocking into the darkness. There were tears – lots and lots of tears. Everyone told me how hard it would be, but I couldn’t have been prepared for the reality of life with a newborn. Still, through it all, the sleepless nights and the sore aching breasts, I felt normal. Exhausted, raw, and drained – but normal.

You see, I know what depression feels like. We’re old acquaintances and I can tell her apart from stress, sadness, and even sleep deprivation. Even as I battled inexplicable insomnia during the few hours that my baby managed to sleep I didn’t get depressed. It felt like a miracle. Having had a history of depression I was sure that post-partum depression would hit me like a brick. I was sad at times, to be sure, emotional too, but that tell-tale feeling of numbness, like being a stranger in one’s own body – it didn’t come.

Or so I thought. Shortly after my son turned eight months old my left eye began to twitch. Suddenly getting up in the middle of the night felt impossibly hard to do. He would wake up in the morning and I would just lay there listening to him fuss for a while before I could bring myself to roll over and get out of bed. I told myself that I’d hit the wall – that eight months of sleeplessness had finally caught up with me and once I got some rest I would feel alright again.

But then one afternoon I was laying down on the couch (exhausted) watching him play on the floor, and when he fell over and started to cry I found that I almost couldn’t bring myself to go pick him up. I’m not a hovering mom by nature – or at least I don’t think I am – but I love my baby. I love him like I’ve never loved anyone or anything before. When he needs me I NEED to nurture him. Normally I could spend hours just being with him – looking at his beautiful face, holding his warm little body in my arms – but that day I just couldn’t.

In the days that followed I felt like a zombie. I woke. I fed him. I watched him. I bathed him. But I wasn’t there with him. I had gone away somewhere inside myself. I started having ludicrous thoughts – like he would be better off being raised by someone else or that I wasn’t cut out to be a mother. The thing is that even as I had these thoughts I felt like they weren’t mine. I knew that I didn’t believe that. If anything I struggled with the opposite – worrying that I would die in a random accident or from a sudden illness and that no one on Earth could raise him as I would have.

That’s how I knew something was up. The first person I told was my therapist. I remember saying to her that if I didn’t know better I would think I had postpartum depression. But wasn’t it way too late for that? It turns out that no, it wasn’t. She told me that postpartum depression can spring up as late as eighteen months past a baby’s birth! In fact, depression during the six to nine month point is often referred to as “the weaning blues”.

Late onset postpartum depression isn’t merely a case of the blues though. Just like early onset PPD, it can spin out of control without help. I immediately reached out to my closest friends and family and let them know, individually, what I was going through. I asked them to check in on me, and watch for signs of things getting worse. I did this because I felt safer knowing that someone was there to back me up – that I wasn’t alone. It was terrifying to think that I might sink further – to a place where I couldn’t find the will to care for my child. Alerting my loved ones felt like having a life preserver handy – just in case.

Still, as anyone who has experienced depression can probably tell you, help from the outside can only do so much. At the end of the day I had to choose to get better. Thankfully, a mother’s love can be highly motivating. To help myself I did the things that have worked for me during previous depressions. Even though I didn’t always want to, I did my best to meet the following goals:

  • Get the most and best quality sleep possible. This is easier said than done when you have a baby that still doesn’t sleep through the night. I had to enlist my husband to start taking some night shifts in order to increase my sleep so that I could get well. This meant supplementing him with formula and compromising on my breastfeeding goals – which were really important to me. That part hurt, but I felt that my baby was better off with a well mama that uses formula than a depressed mama who breastfeeds exclusively.
  • Again, this was extra challenging with an infant, but even a simple walk to the mailbox every day was better than nothing. When I was feeling especially ambitious I made it out to a yoga class – usually with baby in tow.
  • Cut Sugar, Junk Food, and Alcohol. I don’t know whether or not there is any medical evidence to back this up, but I feel like my emotions become more unstable when I eat foods that spike my blood sugar. Staying on a low glycemic index diet tends to help me even out. Of course the catch here is that when I’m depressed all I want to do is eat crappy food. Cooking feels impossible and ice cream just looks like it will help – even though I know it won’t.
  • Stay Social. When I’m depressed I tend to hide. To help fight it off I try to force myself to spend time with a small circle of people I feel very safe with: my sisters, my mom, and my best friend. The key for me is not waiting for them to reach out – but reaching out myself and asking for company. Even if it’s just a short visit or a long phone call it can help keep me from sinking.
  • Do Things That Make Me Happy. While my depressed brain might crave things like junk food and solitude, these things don’t actually make me happy. Sewing makes me happy. Swimming or going to yoga class makes me happy. Snuggling my baby makes me happy. Forcing myself to do these things when I definitely don’t want to is a big help. Fake it till you make it, right?
  • Professional Help. I was already in talk therapy with a psychologist that I knew and trusted. I count myself as lucky for that. Finding a new doctor can be really daunting, but I firmly believe that therapy was essential to my quick recovery.

It took a few months, but little by little the fog lifted and I started to feel normal again. My baby boy is about to turn one year old, and I’m pleased to report that my spirits are high and I’m feeling good. I keep a sharp eye out for any signs of the depression returning though. It’s a crafty devil.

So how did I know I was depressed and not just stressed out or sad? Well, I was both of those things as well, but lucky (or unlucky?) for me I have experienced depression before and was able to recognize its symptoms.

Let’s say you’ve cut your finger. It hurts. It bleeds. That’s all to be expected, but you get it stitched up, you take a couple of advil, and in a few days you should be well on your way to recovery. But what if the pain gets worse instead of better? What if you start to see red streaks running out from the wound or you begin running a fever? That’s when you know that something isn’t right.

The difference between feeling down and actually being depressed is kind of the same thing. When you experience something sad, like heartbreak, or something extremely stressful, like losing a job, it’s normal to feel down. It’s not unusual to cry or become angry, but like a stitched wound, the pain should pass with time.

What’s troubling is when that sadness doesn’t lift and instead turns into feelings of hopelessness or despondency. When you stop caring about the things that you know matter to you the most – or when you find yourself having thoughts or behaviors that don’t match your personality. For me, it’s like being detached from myself. Not even the breath in my chest or the child on my lap feels real.

It can sometimes feel permanent – like there was never and will never be another way of living, but that’s a lie. Depression can hide the truth by numbing you against even the smallest hint of optimism. For me, the only way to beat such deviant emotion is with cold, hard logic. I know I can get better because I’ve gotten better before. I know what I need to do get better. I have it on a list so I won’t forget.

If you need some logic to help you through your own postpartum depression please feel free to use mine. I had postpartum depression and I got better. Getting better is a thing that can be done. It’s a thing that can be done by women just like me and you.

Mary Helen Leonard is a natural lifestyle writer, author, and instructor living in Austin, Texas. She blogs at www.MaryMakesGood.com and has her first book, The Natural Beauty Solution, coming out in June 2015. Follow Mary: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest

Moms Speak: Shedding Light on the Darkness of PPD (Part 2 of 2)

Last week, the blog highlighted stories from mothers who had mild to severe forms of postpartum depression after their babies were born. Having suffered from severe OCD PPD with my first child and mild PPD with my second, stories like these comforted me in my depression. They made me understand that I was not alone, just a little imbalanced. My crazy had a name and it was postpartum depression. That gave me power. It made me feel like I could handle the terrible thoughts, with help.

But there are other times when PPD is brought on by less common factors. While millions of mothers make it through labor and delivery with “only” the many aches, pains, stresses and discomforts that are associated with pushing a baby out of ones vagina or being cut open (having ones organs removed, the baby taken out of the womb and having ones organs placed back into the body…really, don’t Google C-section), some women experience even more severe trauma during labor or in the days, months, years following labor.

I am featuring the harrowing stories of two mothers today, both of whom experienced postpartum depression either brought on or heightened by trauma. I thank both of my guests for sharing their experience in detail. It is my hope that others who suffer from PTSD related PPD will find solace in the stories of other mothers who are working through their trauma one day at a time.

Vanessa’s Story: PTSD Postpartum Depression

My labour went smoothly, but when my water finally broke, we discovered there was meconium present. This should have meant an emergency C-section straight away, but thanks to one of the most arrogant registrars on the planet, who decided he was going to work through his repertoire before finally giving up HOURS later to go to a C-section, my beautiful baby was born severely oxygen deprived.

We were only given a quick look at our baby before she was whisked away to ‘Special Care’. No one followed up with us or told us how dire things were. My first inkling came via a trainee doctor and a Polaroid. The poor baby in the picture was hooked to machines, with pipes and tubes out of every orifice. “Here’s a photo of your baby, thought you might want it in case she didn’t make it.” I did what any sleep-deprived person who had just had major abdominal surgery would do: I screamed, shouted, and demanded a real doctor! (…)From 9 months of ‘So-Right’ suddenly everything was ‘So-NOT-Right’. We just didn’t know what to think, feel or even do. I didn’t know what my daughter really looked like!

My husband arrived at the hospital, shortly after and I was wheeled in, to say goodbye to my baby. I remember thinking her elbow was really soft; it was the only part I could touch. She had a tension pneumothorax shortly after, and they had to cut her chest and insert a tube to rectify this. It took the team 4 hours to stabilise her before the 60-minute blue-light express to London.

Experts say parents of NICU infants experience multiple traumas, usually beginning with the delivery, which is often unexpected (I felt completely violated after my cesarean experience). The second trauma is seeing their own infant having traumatic medical procedures.

(Once in London) we couldn’t touch our baby. She wasn’t awake. When she finally woke up, I held her for an hour solid, just in case it was the only time I would hold her. She had major nerve damage and didn’t like being touched much, so I had to wait till she was falling asleep, in later weeks. My husband did the majority of the caring, feeding & bathing at the hospital. I expressed milk and took photos.

We did laundry, cooked meals and went shopping, with a carseat in the back seat but no baby. I hated everyone that got to walk around with their nice, normal babies. Just getting out and about was a triumph of mind over matter. We lived in a small town and everyone knew I was pregnant, so where was the baby? My life shrank to our house and the hospital. And then, without much ado, she was sent home.

We still had no clear idea how the next few months or years were going to play out, given the dire predictions: “She won’t hit milestones. She probably won’t walk. She probably won’t talk”. She had physiotherapy every day, either with me or a PT. She still hated being touched much. So we sort of co-existed in an uneasy truce. She had horrendous colic, and every new formula milk exacerbated her pain. We spent hours walking, driving, rocking…anything to stop the crying. My husband and I didn’t talk about our thoughts or feelings, because we just couldn’t face that can of worms. We just forged onward relentlessly, united in our mission to give our child as normal a life as possible, for as long as we had her.

I fell apart fairly quickly with no network & no support. Think postpartum depression on steroids (I know now this was PTSD). So I duly swallowed the pills prescribed and continued to function. Everything was timetabled, down to her crashes, which usually meant a Friday or Saturday night spent in the emergency room.

Terror and joy walked hand in hand for us: hit a milestone, get some new illness. Caring for myself came second to everything else. Guilt dogged every step. I could never shake the feeling that I had ‘broken’ my baby. That I had failed her. My body was supposed to nurture and protect her, and I failed. My husband would do his best to get this idea out of my head, but logic is no match for guilt.

My post-traumatic stress takes the form of flashbacks. I panic every time a beeper goes off anywhere. I jump at loud noises. I couldn’t pass an ambulance for about two years after she was born without bursting into tears (I’m an ugly crier!). I emotionally distanced myself from her because I didn’t trust that the final good-bye wasn’t hovering around the corner. Over time, this has mutated into depression & anxiety, and occasional insomnia. Bouts of therapy have helped.

(9 years later) Some nights, I find myself sitting in the dark by my daughter’s bed, inhaling her special sunshine & honey smell, muffling my tears into one of her shirts she’s carelessly discarded on the floor. Some nights, she wakes up and makes me climb into bed with her. She’ll cuddle me and pat my hair and say, “There, there, it’s OK. I’m here.”

It’s like a tiny light in the night… I dare to dream of a future for her. With her. For now, that’s enough.

If you want to read Vanessa’s story in full, please visit her original blog post. Thank you for sharing your story with us, Vanessa! Well wishes for you and your family. It sounds like, despite all the trauma, you have a very happy little girl. 

Julissa’s Story: PPD Brought on by Pregnancy Induced Carpel Tunnel Syndrome

I am 30 years old and mother to a handsome 9 month old baby boy.  I was a medical receptionist for over 10 years, and I am now a work-at-home mom.  Carpal Tunnel was something that I figured would happen to me, one day, because of my job, but I thought one day would be another 20 years from now.

But late in my pregnancy, I began waking up with numb fingers and hands.  Shortly after that, pain came with the numbness.  I told my doctor and he prescribed wrist splints to use at work, and, most importantly, to sleep with (when we sleep, we tend to have our wrists bent). So I did that, but the Carpal Tunnel just kept getting worse. I began having problems with everyday things: washing my hair, brushing my hair, brushing my teeth, reaching behind my back to snap on my bra, wiping after going to the bathroom. Everything hurt. The Doctor told me not to worry because it was brought on by the swelling from being pregnant, and that it could go away once I had my baby, so I was very hopeful.

August 8, 2014 we welcomed a happy, healthy, plump baby boy, weighing in at 9lbs 12oz.  It was one of the happiest days of my life!

But once I had him and held that perfect little creature in my arms, I could tell that this Carpal Tunnel thing was going to continue to be a problem.  When we hold babies, we hold our wrists awkwardly and it just added to the problem. During the day my wrists would hurt, but it was worse after waking or during sleep.

When my sweet boy cried for me, I couldn’t pick him up.  That was so devastating.  These words that I am typing can’t even explain how heartbreaking it was for me. Thank goodness I have a loving, supporting husband who was there for us, and was able to bring him to me every time my baby needed me.  He wasn’t even far away. He was right next to me in a Napper and I could not physically pick him up. I have always been a very active, healthy person and this just killed me.  I’m young; I thought I was strong and I could not pick up my baby.  Not only that, just holding him in the position to nurse him killed my wrists.

I was heartbroken and embarrassed.  I didn’t want people to think I was weak.  The only ones that truly knew how much pain I was in were my husband, my son, my cat and my dog. I didn’t want people to think I couldn’t physically care for my baby. I felt ashamed.

I continued on through the struggle. I did things I knew would hurt, but I always told myself, “what doesn’t hurt us only makes us stronger.”  I couldn’t wear the splints to bed after awhile because they were hard and I couldn’t hold my baby without risking scratching him, so I wore soft sweat bands.  They helped a little.  I looked up some exercises online, specifically for carpal tunnel to strengthen my wrists.  That helped a little, too.  I was willing to do just about anything to get my hands and wrists right.

At the end of March 2015, I had a wonderful old high school friend contact me about an opportunity to be a Beachbody Coach.  I wasn’t sure at first, but then I looked into it. I decided to take the plunge!  I got back into shape, am healthy and bring in an income while staying at home with my baby. How perfect is that?! I do the PiYO Challenge Pack.  PiYO is a combination of Pilates and Yoga, hence the name.  It was really difficult at first on my wrists, but I just kept at it and kept trying.

I can now do push-ups, hold myself up in plank and downward dog, but, most importantly, I can hold my big baby boy with ease.  The pain is still there, but it is nothing compared to what it was.  I have better strength and flexibility and I have only just begun.  I know that it will only get better and I will continue on this path to become stronger.  I have to. Not only for myself, my son, my family, my future baby, but for those people that are going through what I was going through.

I felt so alone at the time and I am so happy and proud that I spoke up. It’s okay to ask for help and to talk about it.  It doesn’t mean you are weak.  This pain may last forever, but the physical weakness is only temporary. You can get better, it will get better. You just need to find what’s right for you.

Julissa did a video blog about her experience on her facebook and is still working on her fitness goals: Julissa’s profile. Thank-you, Julissa, for discussing your physical struggles and the emotional aftermath. Good luck in your future goals and health!

I want to thank both of my guests for sharing their postpartum stories. The pain, embarrassment, shame, trauma and guilt expressed by these mothers are forms of postpartum depression that are less commonly expressed, but their experiences are certainly shared ones. Many mothers have to struggle past health issues for themselves and their new babies. I can only imagine the added emotional stress such a situation would have on a mother, and I am very thankful to have had these detailed stories submitted. It is not easy to talk about our trauma, but I hope it has been healing for those of you who shared and for those of you who have experienced the stories with us.

Thanks to all of my guests from last week and this week, who are doing their part in shedding light on the darkness of postpartum depression.

Moms Speak: Shedding Light on the Darkness of PPD (Part 1)

Last week I opened the Monochrome blog with an explanation of why I wrote a book that opens with a disturbing PPD episode. I shared a little about my OCD Postpartum experience in that blog, and was astounded by the feedback from other mothers who have suffered PPD, and who shared their stories with me. I have been given permission by the following mommas to share these stories, in a two-part blog.

If you are having a baby, just had a baby or are a father dealing with a partner experiencing postpartum depression, I urge you to read on. The feelings/stories shared about the PPD experience are not easy or fun to read, but they are valuable learning experiences. It is time that PPD became a topic of discussion at our pregnancy check-ups. When I had my first and second child, nothing was said about the possibility of PPD. I didn’t know what I was in for or how to fix it. My children are two and four, so it’s not like PPD was a thing that people didn’t know about “back then.” I just had babies! How did I not know what I was going through?

Feeling helpless, terrible and cruel made me wary to speak of my experience with anyone, even a doctor, and especially my husband, who was such a natural father and was clearly head-over-heals in love with our child. How do you tell someone that you have visions of throwing their baby? Shaking her? That you know you won’t but that the terrible thoughts won’t stop coming, and that you feel like a monster? Why is this not a subject that is broached in prenatal care intensively? Why didn’t I, at least, get a brochure? It’s my belief that the subject is too taboo. When it comes to the safety of a newborn, though, should that matter? Shouldn’t mothers feel like they can be heard, treated fairly and helped in their PPD? I think they should. So, moms, dads, and, yes, prenatal care specialists, please experience these stories with us.

Beth Springer: Two Bouts of OCD Postpartum Depression, Never Diagnosed, Prayed for Healing

With my first pregnancy, at the last Trimester, I started having horrible dreams. After my baby was born the dreams stopped but I would have terrible thoughts of harming my baby, like dropping her off the balcony or drowning her, that lasted two months. They would just pop into my head; I couldn’t get them to stop. I was afraid to be left alone with her, and would find excuses to be in public or to go to my mom’s.

It was terrifying. A few months after that subsided, I found out I was pregnant with my second baby. The whole pregnancy I stressed because I feared I would have it again. Sure enough, I did. I finally talked to my husband about it.  His response was, “Oh, you won’t hurt the baby. You’re being silly.”

This was not something that was talked about, so I didn’t know what to do. I did not know about PPD. So, every time I had a scary thought I started praying and thanking  God for making the thoughts go away and for protecting my children. I do not know why, but it worked. Well, I shouldn’t say I did not know why, prayer worked for me.  Every time a thought would start to pop in my head I prayed,”Thank you God for removing these thoughts and for protecting my babies.” With in a week, I was doing better, once in a while the thoughts would come, but were always managed with my prayer. I had two other babies after that, but started praying before I gave birth and I did not have it with the last two babies.

I know it is different with everyone. It should be addressed as part of your regular checkups at the Dr.’s. I think more women have it than care to admit. I am not sure what even causes it, but it is the worst experience I have ever had or will ever have. I do not understand why it is not a huge part of your health care during that time. They talk about hemorrhoids but not PPD. I tried to warn my girls, but it is such an awful experience that I think fear of being thought of as a bad parent or mom keeps women quiet. 

Laura Jones: First Baby, Cried Non-stop, Saw Herself Hurting Baby, Sought Help After 10 Weeks

Well, with Tori it was really bad. I sat and cried all the time. She was so sick, and cried all the time with me. Andy or my mother in law could get her to stop crying. I felt like she hated me, which I know was stupid, but at the time I was so lost. Sometimes I saw myself hurting her. I never did it, but it scares the hell out of you. One time, I saw myself pick her up and throw her at the wall. I think a lot of mine was I felt inadequate as a mother because I was unable to breast-feed. I was mad at her; she wouldn’t latch on to my breast.

After I went back to work, it had been about two weeks,  so Tori was about ten weeks old. Andy said, “I can’t take it anymore! I don’t know what the f#@! is wrong with you but you need to call the doctor and you need some drugs or something. I can’t help you. I can’t live like this, and I will leave with Tori.” Was that the best way to do it? NO. But he had tried talking to me about before, and  I just pushed him away, so he felt he had to say and do something that would make me realize there was something wrong.

Sarah Dunn: First Baby, Baby Blues and Postpartum Depression

I think a lot of what I dealt with had to do with being a first time mom. I never felt these feelings with my second child, Trenton, but I was lost with Emma, my first. I felt all alone, like the first person who had ever had a baby, and I was failing at it. I loved her so much, but she was a fussy baby. There were days where I didn’t shower or eat, for that matter. It put a huge strain on my marriage, as well, so I think I resented her for ruining the “easy life.”

I do remember a few times, though, when she would cry and I would cry and I would think about putting a pillow over her face, or even just getting in the car and leaving so I didn’t have to deal with it anymore. I never hurt her, but there were days I just put her in her bed and let her scream because I was afraid that I would if I held her anymore. My problems didn’t last too long. Eventually, all the scary thoughts went away and things were fine. I’m not sure I realized at the time that I had a bout of baby blues. Doctors don’t ever tell you about that, but I am glad that you are shining some light on the subject.

Twitter Response: Postpartum Depression Article Tweet

My eyes well up when I think about those days because they were so dark! I am glad to have survived them.

A few more moms have bravely offered to step up and tell their stories next week, in the second part of “Shedding Light on Darkness.” Their stories are full, harrowing and potent. Please visit the blog next Monday to read these detailed accounts. It is my hope that all these stories will help mothers suffering from PPD to feel at ease. Talk to your doctors, mammas. You’re not alone. If you’re experiencing PPD symptoms, you should also visit the site: Postpartum.Net, which is a wonderful support system for many mothers. I hope that seeking help after the fact becomes a thing of the past.

Beth Springer made the astute remark that doctors are comfortable discussing hemorrhoids with patients, but that a PPD discussion was not addressed in her prenatal care. I’d like to challenge healthcare professionals to take a bolder, more hands-on approach to PPD. Beth had babies in the 80’s, but my experience was similar in 2010. I know many new mothers who were shocked and ashamed of their PPD symptoms; they didn’t realize what they were dealing with when it happened.

After my first child was born, I was made to watch a traumatic video on Shaken Baby Syndrome before being released from the hospital. The information provided by the video was important, but I didn’t know that at the time. I just stared, confused, at the screen. I protectively cradled my tiny newborn, her tiny arms pumping erratically. Her fragility was so frightening that I held her as if she were a crystal vase rather than a flesh and blood being. “Why would anyone need to be told not to harm their baby,” I thought, as I smoothed sparse hair over her squishy head. That video never mentioned PPD, and two weeks later I saw myself (in my mind’s eye, not in reality) shake my new baby. I lay her down on in her cradle, stepped away, my hands trembling, and thought of killing myself.

I’m still here, thankfully. As a bipolar woman, PPD should have been a major concern for my doctors. I have an imbalance already, so it’s hard to know why no one noticed it outside of my private circle, except that I could not bring myself to speak about it. The words were too terrible. Well, here they are. Years too late. But, hopefully, early enough to help other mothers understand that they are not alone. Stay tuned for the final installment of “Moms Speak” next week. Thank you, mommas, for sharing your painful experience. It is my hope that it will help someone who needs the comfort of company and understanding.

Postpartum Depression isn’t Just the Baby Blues

There are many forms of postpartum depression, some of them very severe. With my first child, I had terrifying thoughts that disgusted and disturbed me. I didn’t find out until after struggling for six months with these thoughts and getting no relief, that I was suffering from OCD Postpartum depression. This type of PPD is accompanied by anxiety, rage, and terrible thoughts that the mother doesn’t act on, but cannot control. I was surrounded by a fog of unhappiness. I could not feel normal daily emotions. I could not feel that connection that mothers are “supposed to have” with their newborn children.

As an avid writer and reader, I often think of my life in terms of stories. But if my life as a new mother was any indication, my story was void, blue and ugly. I started to imagine a world, a representation of my mind…a way to connect with the people in my life who I knew were worried about me, but could not possibly understand what I was feeling or not feeling. I wrote my first novel as a fictional representation of that state of mind, and while it did not heal me completely, it certainly paved the road for me. It made me aware of my feelings. It allowed me to admit to taboo and terrible realities, and it led me to seeking help.

New, second, third-time mommas, please hear this advice. If you feel at all emotionally distant, angry, anxious or are having terrible thoughts about your new babies, tell others. The worst thing I did when I started feeling these things was wait several months before admitting my feelings and thoughts, and I was a mess by that time: a drinking (breast feeding didn’t work out the way I wanted, so I self medicated), sobbing, depressed mess. You are not alone. Your feelings are horrible, but they are not YOU. There is a medical imbalance in your body, and you can get help.

Please visit this Baby Center link to read more about the types of depression mothers suffer from. Just because you’ve never had it before, doesn’t mean you can’t get it the second, third or, you brave woman, fourth time you’ve had a child. Don’t listen to the voices that tell you what a mother is and isn’t. Being a mother is tough on your body, on your mind and on your life. You can do it, but you might need help. No taboos should keep you from getting the help you need.