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…

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