Thursday, September 4, 2008

Postpartum Depression: Getting Help (part 2)


Once I realized that I was on a downward spiral (read more about that here), I knew deep-down that I had to go and talk to someone...

Did I have the courage to call the doctor and tell them I'd had a suicidal thought? Oh, no. Major wimp that I am, I made an appointment under the guise of thinking I must be sick since my sleep and appetite were off so badly.

I forced myself to keep that appointment at the Women's Center in the hospital where I had given birth, adjacent to the hospital where my daughter was staying. I tried to talk myself out of going at least a dozen times. Fortunately, common sense won out and I found myself sitting across from a Nurse Practitioner with kind but knowing eyes. She asked me some open-ended questions and I fell apart. I was exhausted and ashamed and felt so very weak. I mean, after all, other moms could do it, right? Why was I falling apart? Wasn't I strong? Wasn't I tough? Why couldn't I handle this challenge with grace and courage? I sat in a hard orange plastic chair and sobbed. The NP wanted me to speak with a "postpartum depression specialist" and take a depression screening. I kept shaking my head "no" and saying that I couldn't. I just couldn't. Not right then. It took me a full fifteen minutes to choke out that I needed to pump first. For some reason (and it was a blessing), my milk supply never faltered during all of this.

After pumping, I met with the specialist. She was soft-spoken and determined. I took the screening. Honestly, I'm pretty sure if you check "yes" to the question, "Have you had an thoughts of harming yourself?" that you automatically fail. But I can't guarantee that. Anyhow, a score over 14 indicates PPD. I scored a 22.

The nurse practitioner came back and recommended that I begin two prescription drugs- an anti-depressant and a sleeping pill. I asked dozens of questions, mostly concerning the safety of these drugs for my little girl since she was exclusively breastmilk-fed. She cited studies and gave me choices and, in the end, I agreed to start taking the "safest" of the anti-depressants. It became clear to me that I needed to do something. If that meant relying on a "crutch" then so be it. I never did take a single sleeping pill, though...

That evening, I told my husband all about the appointment. I gave him the literature they had provided. We talked about what I needed for support. He listened without judging and did everything he could to help with my "plan". I felt like a failure yet again as I poured my heart out to him. But I knew it needed to be done.

I actually started feeling better right away, mostly because I felt pro-active. And because I had finally talked to someone. I never did have any more suicical thoughts, though I certainly had some "down" days. I took my prescription faithfully and never looked back.

I've never hidden my PPD nor have I ever tried to conceal my past use of anti-depressants. I've learned that it wasn't weakness that brought on my depression. But it was a whole lot of strength that brought me healing.


Please join me tomorrow as I talk a little about having the courage to stop the prescription and what that was like...

3 comments:

Ryann said...

One thing I did deal with during Addy's time in the NICU is anxiety. I have always had some sort of anxiety issues while in enclosed spaces where there are lots of people and or lots of noise. I also have a severe phobia about two story buildings... always have. I guess I think they are going to cave in or something, totally irrational, I know! So, imagine having all of these issues to begin with and then having to leave or visit your daughter, sho is very sick, in an enclosed NICU module (no windows) with all of those nurses, doctors, and families around, all the monitors alarming, and on the 3rd floor of a very old hospital. I was glad to talk with the doctors and specialists about these issues and take the prescribed anti-anxiety medication. It did help, but there were still days I had to take a walk outside to clear my head.

ispeakbeanish said...

I agree that being proactive helps. I'm glad you were able to find help and support to make it through. It's such an important issue to talk about. Thanks!

Kelly said...

I got chills reading this part of your story---I dealt with postpartum depression after the birth of my daughter 7 years ago (born full-term and healthy)and have struggled with depression off and on since. While I used to be so ashamed of it that I never mentioned it to anyone, if I know of someone going through a similar experience, then I share my story and what has worked for me. I don't feel weak having to take an antidepressant, I'm just so thankful that I had a supportive husband who loved me enough to just want to see me feel better, and get on with my life. Thanks for such an open and wonderful post.