Don't ignore it. It's serious.
It’s been almost six weeks since the birth of our daughter and I’m slowly beginning to come out of the fog .
The shock of birth and subsequent demands of caring for a newborn are starting to wear off, and I have a little more mental capacity to think beyond the next breastfeeding. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now, and I’m finally able to say it:
I have postpartum depression and have been struggling with it for a while.
While there are articles about postpartum depression where the mother is so depressed she is detached from the child or has suicidal thoughts, those are not the only symptoms of depression. I suffer from a form of PPD that doesn’t manifest itself in wanting to kill myself or harm my child. Nonetheless, it is depression and it is serious.
I thought I was just shellshocked from giving birth. I thought I was struggling to adjust from the sleep deprivation, the getting used to breastfeeding (holy moly, it hurts!), the routine of caring for the baby, etc. I thought it was the aftermath of all the events that had happened around the baby’s birth — from our dog being sick with cancer and having to put her down, to firing the first nanny, to finding a replacement nanny, who was amazing but kept me in a state of constant worry because she could leave at any moment due to her next engagement.
These may have been contributing factors to my current state, but I was already at high risk of PPD after suffering anxiety and depression during my pregnancy.
I’m supposed to be checking in with my health care providers, but I keep lying to them and telling them I’m fine. My psychiatrist’s answer is to keep pushing meds on me, and I’m determined to try to not go the medication route as much as possible while breastfeeding. My ob-gyn, while being well-intentioned, thinks the solution is to just lecture the heck out of me every time I see her about how I need to let things go and make my husband take on more responsibilities. I stopped seeing a therapist after a few sessions because she didn’t quite understand me. I don’t want to burden my husband with this because he’s got a lot to deal with at work. I can’t talk about this with friends because it will make them uncomfortable after a while. So, who do you talk to when you are struggling with PPD?
It’s such a taboo subject, especially in Asian culture; it almost seems shameful. Even as I write this, I am worried and scared of the reception I will receive — from the people who don’t understand why I would even have PPD (it’s not a choice), to people who say “Don’t worry you’ll get over it soon” or “It’s natural to feel a little down, you’re not depressed,” the folks who exclaim “You’re so strong I would never imagine you having anything like this,” and the well-meaning folks who will want to constantly ping me to ask if I’m OK.
Having PPD is not a choice. I didn’t ask to have these feelings or have my mind work this way. Every day I struggle between feeling helpless and hating myself for being in this state.
I’m severely behind on work and scared to even open up my email or check Slack. I turn down invitations from friends to meet up, and I haven’t stepped foot outside in weeks apart from doctor’s appointments. I forced myself to go to a social function soon after giving birth, then quickly went back home to my self-imposed solitude. Last weekend, I forced myself to get up and go to the farmer’s market for produce.
Slowly, I am fighting to gain a foothold on this downward spiral of apathy, depression, and helplessness. I crave human companionship and understanding, yet I shun it and push it away because it’s too overbearing and too much for me. I want help from others, yet I’m loathe to take it when offered. It’s not because I don’t appreciate it; it’s because I don’t know how to quite deal with it. In the past, I’ve been so burned from seeking help and not getting what I need that I’m scared to ask.
If you read this, and you see me, please don’t pity me or smother me with well-intentioned but overbearing advice or words of comfort. A simple, quick, silent hug will mean the world to me — to remind me I am not alone.
I will start my blog. I will plow through the backlog of work. I will go outside for walks with the baby. I will breathe. I will live again. I will win.