Dirty Little Secret
So I guess I could tell you that my dirty little secret is the fact that my car is so messy right now it looks like I’m living out of it; or maybe that I haven’t been to the gym since last September – both true statements. However, I’m going to get a bit more personal than that. The truth is I was diagnosed with postpartum depression about 6 months after my daughter was born. Huh, I guess it’s not a secret anymore is it?
This is my story…
I was on cloud nine when my daughter Caroline was born. I could not believe how blessed I was to have this beautiful, healthy baby in my arms. My life felt complete and I was so in love! However, as the weeks continued, I noticed I wasn’t really feeling quite like myself. The people closest to me began noticing changes in me as well. I didn’t seem as happy as I normally did. I began feeling as if I was riding in the front seat of an emotional rollercoaster and my lows were getting lower. I felt so irritable to the point where out of nowhere would come these outbursts of anger towards my husband and I felt distant from my daughter. I knew I was feeling depressed but did not understand why. I brushed the feelings off, telling myself I was just “hormonal” and I would return to my normal character soon. Weeks turned into months and it didn’t happen.
When I realized I needed help…
Everything came to a head when I began having thoughts that my family might be better off without me; that my daughter would be better off without a mom who felt this way. I am thankful to this day that I took that little voice inside of me seriously. I decided enough was enough… time to get the help I needed, whatever that may be. I wanted my life back. I did not simply want to try to make it through each day. I wanted to feel like I was living life.
Getting the help I needed…
The first step was reaching out and asking for help. In my case it was my sister-in-law and my husband. My sister-in-law drove me to the hospital where I was evaluated and admitted. I spent the next few days there and was then released into a day program where I had group therapy sessions and met some amazing people going through some very difficult times. I met another woman who was dealing with postpartum depression as well and we bonded right away. I found it extremely comforting to know there was someone else I could talk to about how I was feeling and she actually understood. In fact we still keep in touch and check in on each other every now and then. When I finished that therapy program I began seeing both a therapist and a psychiatrist on a regular basis. Looking back, I really feel like if I had reached out for help sooner I could have avoided the hospital and gone directly to making appointments with mental health professionals but I’m a believer that everything happens for a reason! Regardless of how I got there, the end result was positive.
What I learned…
I was NOT going to feel better over night (it takes a little time). I am NOT alone. I should NOT feel ashamed. I AM stronger than I thought.
When I returned back to work I was afraid people would find out my secret and think I was crazy, incapable of doing my job, or even weak. I did confide in a few close co-workers whom I consider friends and they were very supportive, even though they did not fully understand.
Now with the birth of my second daughter just around the corner I am finding myself a little nervous about going through postpartum depression again. My goal is to just be proactive about my mental health. I came off all of my medications before becoming pregnant but will get back in touch with my doctor as soon as my daughter is born to discuss a treatment plan. I am also planning on breastfeeding so I need to take that into consideration when deciding when/if I need medication.
I have to admit, writing this for you to read has been therapeutic for me, a kind of release. It feels empowering to share my experience in the hopes that maybe even one mother will feel less alone or ashamed after reading about my experience. The fact is that one in eight women suffer from postpartum depression. No mother should ever feel like this is her “dirty little secret.” The good news is that there is help available and you are NOT alone!
A great resource for those suffering or know someone who may be suffering from postpartum depression: Postpartum Support International
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