I have been thinking about/wanting to write this post for a long time, but I never knew exactly what I wanted to say. As we are getting closer and closer to Ryan's first birthday, I finally decided that I just need to write it before it becomes a distant memory. My very best friends, and some family already know that I was one of the many mom's that was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. This is a very personal thing I went through... something I didn't want to admit to my husband, my friends, or even myself. The only reason I wanted to write this all out is because I want to be able to refer back to this when I have another baby. Who knows if I will go through it again with future children, but in case I do, I want to be able to recognize the signs and get help sooner. So here is the break down of my experience.
Right after Ryan was born I had what I would call the "Baby Blues". Totally sleep deprived, stressed, agitated, overwhelmed... normal for new moms, right?! The problem came along when it didn't get better, it just kept getting worse. There were many days when all I could think about was that I made a mistake. Looking back this breaks my heart! I hate to even admit it out loud, but I promised I would be 100% honest to myself. I felt like it was a huge mistake to have gotten pregnant and now have a baby. My life was over, it will never be the same (in a bad way), things were so good before and I ruined it by having a baby. These feelings had nothing to do with Ryan specifically, just being a mom in general. Unfortunately, this was just the start of the PPD. As you know, Ryan was a very difficult baby for the first 4-5 months. Many days he would cry, and I would just walk around crying with him. We just cried and cried and cried. I would call my mom and just say "I can't do this anymore" and she would drop what she was doing and show up just so that I could step away. Mike and I would fight all the time... he would try to help, but in my eyes he couldn't do anything right. I didn't know how to talk to him or express how I was feeling.
Panic attacks were a regular thing, crying happened many times a day, and I felt completely OVERWHELMED with even the simplest daily tasks. I think things hit rock bottom in the middle of July, so Ryan was 4 1/2 months old. He was slowly starting to get better, cry a little bit less, sleep a little bit more... but I was not feeling any better. All I wanted to do was sleep, all day every day. I felt utterly exhausted and miserable most of the time. I would try to put a smile on my face when we went out with our friends or family, but all I wanted to do was stay home in bed. Actually, I wanted to go to the beach by myself, or read a book by myself. I just wanted to be alone. No friends, no babies, no husband. With going back to work in the near future... I finally went over the edge. I had complete break downs multiple times a week. Most days Mike would leave for work as I yelled and cried about how life sucked. Any suggesting he came up with to help me feel better, I shot down. I was feeling completely hopeless. I would day dream about just leaving. Taking a bag of personal items and just getting in the car and going somewhere. But then I would snap out of it and be devastated with myself for even thinking those thoughts. I didn't want to go back to work, but I couldn't stay home by myself all day...there was nothing that was going to make me happy. Looking back, it is so obvious that I needed help.
A couple of things finally happened the beginning of August that eventually lead to my "recovery" (I don't know what else to call it). First of all, I finally called a psychologist. My first appointment, I literally cried hysterically the whole time, getting a few mumbled thoughts out between the tears. She asked if I was anxious, sad, hopeless, overwhelmed, desperate for change...yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. We decided at that time that I would come and see her at least once a week for as long as necessary. She also recommended I see a doctor and get on medication. She really believed that PPD was a combination of many different things, and a combination of meds and therapy would be the best way to feel better. Those who know me, know that I hate meds! I was not at all happy about taking medications, but again, I was desperate to feel better. So that was my treatment plan... every Monday I went to see the psychologist and I started on a low dose anti-depressant. I will admit it, the combination worked well. Within about a month I was starting to feel better.
In September (Ryan 6 months) I was feeling better, but not myself. One day the psychologist asked me to describe myself and I told her I was normally outgoing, talkative, happy, social, and I was a great multitasker. She then told me that she had not seen any of those characteristics from me since being in therapy and she wanted to help me get them back. This was a big kick in the gut...it proved to me that I wasn't myself. I continued the meds, and continued therapy, and continued my search for a new career option. I had good days, great days, and very bad days.
Things got better. By November I had weened off of the meds and I had "graduated" from the psychologist and I felt like Shannon again. Life was good, Ryan was great, and I woke up feeling happy on most days. Mike and I were doing much better and I was actually excited about time with my friends. On a side note, that was also a huge help. Mike and I would plan date nights, I made the extra effort to go out with the girls, we got babysitters (sometimes even overnight) so that we could do some of the things we loved to do without worrying about getting home. I finally felt like I could combined my old life with my new life. Other mothers may thing I am crazy, but I need that me time... I have to be Shannon the person so that I can be Shannon the mom. I think I have found a great balance of being a mom, a wife, and a friend.
So the bottom line... Ryan is the love of my life (along with Mike) and I am sooo lucky to have such a wonderful, beautiful baby boy. I do feel guilty that we had such a rocky start, but I can't change the past. I am thankful that I did get help and didn't try to fix it myself. I was obviously doing a terrible job getting better on my own. And I would recommend anyone who is going through similar emotions to also go for help. Yes I am not proud of it, but PPD is the real deal. I am a better person now because I got the help I needed. Sometimes its more than just the baby blues.