During my pregnancy, my doctors kept telling me that I was at high risk for postpartum depression since I had been battling depression for the past two years. I was at my lowest point during pregnancy and it was a scary thing. My OB referred me to a psychiatrist and I continued to work with my counsellor, though not much real work could be done. Each session was basically to sustain me as I had no resiliency to do any deeper work. As frustrating as it was, those sessions were much needed.
Less than twenty-four hours after delivery, nurses asked about my mood and educated me about postpartum depression. I was thankful that they actually read my chart because I was still quite out of it from delivery. My discharge from the hospital was conditional on meeting with a social worker, who wanted to make sure that I had supports in place for PPD. I advised the nurses that I felt fine and that I already had follow-up appointments scheduled with my psychiatrist and counsellor. Thankfully that was enough to let me go home without a visit with the social worker. There’s nothing more depressing than being told you can’t go home until you talk about depression. After all, I felt fine, at least I thought I was fine.
Depression slowly crept in and I didn’t really hit a low until three or four weeks postpartum. It was like venom that slowly took over my mind and my body. The first three months postpartum were the worst. I definitely didn’t feel like myself. I was crying. I was irritated. Sound, light, and movement made me feel physically ill. Back to the psychiatrist I went. She wrote a lot of notes that day and suggested a prescription at the end of the appointment. The drug is designed to help depression and chronic pain. She felt this drug would be helpful so I wouldn’t have to go on a separate medication for chronic pain.
I discussed the prescription with my GP who understands my sensitivities to medication. At the end of that appointment her words were, “It might have come to that.” Really? Are we done problem solving? Is it just time to pop pills? I’m not against drugs. Drugs saved my life! Drugs are my last resort if there isn’t a better way for me. I highly respect my doctor, which made my choice so difficult.
My choice is to battle on drug free (under close watch). The battle is real. It’s hard! It’s a conscious decision to armour up every morning and fight. It is so easy to lay wounded. Here are my weapons so far:
Finding Health Professionals I Trust
This is a journey that I’ve been on for the past 12 years, and it’s ongoing because my body and my needs are continuously changing. It has been 12 years of chronic pain and I’ve found a physiotherapist and chiropractor that understand the patterns of my flare-ups. My GP and my counsellor have been my lifeline these past two years, treating me inside and out. My naturopathic doctor has played a big part in educating me about my body right down to the cellular level and has helped find alternative healing methods for me. Specialists come and go and help to add pieces to the puzzle. I have “fired” a few professionals along the way, too. I think we put a lot of weight on what health professionals say, which is why it has been so important for me to find a team that understands my needs, my personality and what treatments I can tolerate.
My doctor prescribed clinical counselling shortly after the most recent car accident. She noticed my low mood associated with the slow recovery from my injuries. I worked with a different counsellor for the two previous car accidents, who focused on boundary and trauma work. This time, it has been a lot of internal work about the losses I feel associated with my body. Sometimes I feel like a prisoner in my own body, bound by the pain. Add in two pregnancy losses on top of chronic pain and it has been a lot of work around grief and trusting my body. My counsellor recognized that I needed a postpartum care plan and scheduled postpartum sessions well in advance.
Setting boundaries is something that I’m still learning. It has been hard to voice where and when I need help, especially since I know I never used to be like this. I never used to struggle in social environments. I never had trouble being spontaneous. I never struggled with noise or a room full of people. Now these things are my triggers. Sometimes I decline a carpool to allow myself the flexibility to excuse myself if I’m overwhelmed. Other times I decline events all together, or schedule a recovery day. I’m getting better at asking for practical support, but continue to learn how to ask for emotional support.
Support groups are powerful. You are surrounded with people who share a similar story and they get it! They really get it! Currently I’m in a group facilitated by Pacific Post Partum Support Society. These weekly meetings let me know I’m not alone on this journey. Pacific Post Partum also offers one-to-one telephone support during pregnancy and the postpartum period. I wish I had known about this organization earlier. I could’ve definitely used the support during pregnancy.
I’m learning more about the importance of self care. It’s impossible to be a mom and wife when I don’t take care of myself. Basic human needs like eating, sleeping, and going to the bathroom are difficult to accomplish with a baby to care for. I need to remind myself to chew my food and eat slowly. Getting outside for fresh air has been helpful as well, and of course, writing. Making time to write has been a challenge, but it really contributes to my overall wellbeing.
IV therapy has been the best alternative to prescription medication for me. My naturopath originally had me on a supplement that was supposed to help with serotonin release, but of course I ended up being his only patient to experience side effects from it. IV treatment was the more aggressive approach with vitamin C, magnesium, calcium and all the B vitamins going right into my system. We started with a lower dosage due to my sensitivities and have worked up to the full dose. I have had no major lows since starting treatment and hope is returning.
There is no one fits all, yet we are assessed the same. We are measured, scored, and assigned a healing timeline according to our afflictions. Each professional and treatment adds to the puzzle. There are many aspects that piece me together to help me feel better. I have huge respect for the health team that keeps me running, in addition to support from friends and family.
Postpartum depression and anxiety have been scary, tiring, confusing, and draining. Am I done problem solving? Far from it. I’ll continue to amour up, gain tools, and battle on.
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