being a mom

Baby Blues: I’m Never Going To Seek Treatment For My PPD

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postpartum depressionBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

I have to be honest. I’m probably never going to seek treatment for my depression. It’s not just because health insurance would cost more than our rent, or because I have no idea when I would squeeze therapy into my already jam-packed schedule. In truth, it’s because I don’t think I fit the bill for a severely depressed person anymore. Sure, my passive aggressive, semi-suicidal teen self was in serious need of therapy and meds. But my adult self? I don’t know.

I have the symptoms: mysterious body aches, alternating insomnia and fatigue, out-of-nowhere uncontrollable crying. I have the feeling, even as I look at my goofy, giggly toddler, that the world is coming to an end. I quit smoking again two weeks ago, hoping some of my symptoms would disappear, but they actually seem to have worsened. So there’s no denying my condition. Some might say I shouldn’t wait another minute to get help.

But I won’t. I might just be stubborn. I’ve learned through experience that psychiatrists and prescription drugs can only help so much. Resolving mental health issues, like recovering from alcoholism, starts on the inside. You have to want to change — nobody can make you get better. So I’ve started my “one day at a time” self-treatment by making little alterations in my life. The little things really do seem to have a ripple effect on everything else. That’s why I got a part-time job, to combat my SAHM loneliness and boredom (whether it’s really helping yet is debatable).

But there are other things, like making healthier meals, getting outside, limiting TV time, and impromptu family dance parties that combat depression. These things are much less expensive and much more accessible than medical help. And though it’s really tough to begin one of these activities when I’m down, it’s way more empowering than popping a pill. Forcing myself out of a slump, even if it doesn’t fix the slump, gives me a small sense of accomplishment and seems to grow my struggling soul garden, if even just a little bit.

I have sought help before and been gravely disappointed. In my youth I had one good psychologist, a soft-spoken older man who went to my childhood church. He let me talk, but also offered very sound and non-judgmental advice. His office was a mecca of inspiring things, too…books, old architecture, knickknacks. It felt like a safe haven.

Unfortunately, my other experiences were ineffective at best, damaging at worst. I mentioned in another article how a psychiatrist actually berated me for having scars on my wrists, yelling at me that I would never get a decent job or a boyfriend with that kind of baggage. She was the worst by far, but there were other psychiatrists who were terrible empathizers and actually made me feel crazier by their lack of understanding.

And then there’s the million dollar question — were my antidepressants actually helpful, or did they just have a placebo effect? I recognize that some people truly do need medication to stay stable, but looking back, none of the three different brands of antidepressants did anything notable for me. I feel horrible that my parents paid for those drugs under the assumption that they were helping. I’m sure if it was my money, I would’ve determined I didn’t need them. In fact, my weaning off Lexapro occurred right around the same time I started paying rent myself. Probably not a coincidence.

So my decision not to seek help comes from the feeling that maybe I’m not doing so bad, really, but also from the belief that I’m more equipped to cope with this as a grown woman. I’m not embarrassed that I have depression (I mean, my byline is right up there for the world to see), and I hope embarrassment doesn’t keep any other moms out there from seeking help. I certainly don’t mean to say that everybody with PPD should go it alone or avoid professional help. I’m just realizing that maybe that’s not the path for me.

(Photo: c.byatt-norman/Shutterstock)

15 Comments

  1. alice

    March 19, 2013 at 11:18 am

    I think you’re taking the right approach. As you said, in your adulthood, you have more clarity and confidence in “what works best” (to help grow your “soul garden”) – – so you may not need to sit down with a psychologist again. He or she can certainly give you more tools, but unless you’re looking for a medical prescription, you may have all the tools you need already.

    I don’t know if you’ve looked into any self-help books. Most of them dealing specifically with depression are obnoxious (imo) but I think some of the ones of positive thinking, mindfulness, and meditation are helpful for the anxious/depressed soul. I like reading Thich Nhat Hanh – if you can stomach some sappy Zen monk stuff, it’s a calming and uplifting perspective shift.

    • Amanda Low

      March 19, 2013 at 11:30 am

      I LOVE Thich Nhat Hanh! “You Are Here” was my gospel for a few months…it really resonated for me. I may have to see what else he’s written. Any other recommendations?

    • alice

      March 19, 2013 at 11:38 am

      I have “Peace Is Every Step” & “The Miracle of Mindfulness” – both are pretty similar. You can view excerpts on Amazon. I don’t have “You Are Here” but i’m going to get it now! Thanks! Similar to what you were saying in your post above, I like how his stuff can really tune you out of the negative noise and tune you in to what you need.

    • Imalia

      March 19, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Mine isn’t PPD, just plain old clinical depression, but I found Change your reality, change your life. by Robin McKnight really helpful.

  2. Tea

    March 19, 2013 at 11:29 am

    It sounds like you may benefit from a depression and anxiety support board. I used them a lot (Need to again, actually), because I tend to react very severely to medications and take a while to adjust. I find many books on dealing with depression are anywhere from annoying to downright condescending, “Just think happy thoughts and count your blessings!” I’ve had to use mostly lifestyle change techniques, but I’ve gone from a suicidal college student who was crippled by anxiety and depression, to a slightly skittish but functional human being in three years.

    It’s amazing what little things like keeping to a schedule with set wake-up and bed times (Baby permitting), getting 15 minutes of physical activity and sunshine a day, healthy meals, and cutting back on TV can do. Herbal teas, 2-5 minute yoga sessions, and some therapeutic scribbling (Beat that paper silly with a pen, or just draw loop-de-loops and zone out) also helped a lot too. I’m not saying that any one of these things will save you from your depression, but that a lot of little changes can help a lot, especially when it involves making your life more stable, and remembering to do things for your body that humans have done for thousands of years (exercise, sunlight, consistent sleep schedules, ect.)

    Something that helped me a lot, even if it makes me sound like an insensitive jerk, was limiting my exposure to negative stimuli while feeling vulnerable. I wouldn’t open my chat programs, and would avoid people who I love dearly but are nothing but downers. It sounds insensitive, and it’s hard to do the first time or two, but it can really help when you just need a few days to recover, especially if life is getting to you.

    And if your spouse doesn’t know, level with him (I seem to recall you having a husband, but I hesitate to be hetero-normative.) A partner who’s in on it and knows the signs of when you’re not doing well, and trying to hide it, can be a life saver. Even if it just means minding the kids while you do ten minutes of yoga, or get a good, hot shower. It can do miracles to have someone else who can just handle things for a while and let you take care of yourself. Again, it sounds selfish, but sometimes it’s something that needs to happen.

    I don’t know where you are, I can’t know what PPD is like, but I sincerely wish you the best. I know it must be hard to be in a place where you need to take care of yourself, but life is demanding everything else out of you. So please, take care, and be well, you have at least one person on the internet rooting for you, and I’m sure there are a lot more who hope that one day, this column will wrap itself up.

    • alice

      March 19, 2013 at 11:47 am

      “Something that helped me a lot, even if it makes me sound like an insensitive jerk, was limiting my exposure to negative stimuli while feeling vulnerable. I wouldn’t open my chat programs, and would avoid people who I love dearly but are nothing but downers. It sounds insensitive..”

      Doesn’t sound insensitive at all! You need to cut out toxic people, especially if you’re feeling unbalanced. Regarding message boards/chat groups, I’ve found sometimes they help, and sometimes (maybe this is what you were referring to) they made me miserable/anxious/obsessive. Sometimes even Mommyish makes me feel obsessive.

    • Paul White

      March 19, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      Cutting out toxic people is a good idea anyway. So much happier since I’ve done that.

  3. chickadee

    March 19, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    I don’t feel like I have the right to offer advice, since I have never suffered from depression, but you sound like you know yourself well enough to know what works for you and what won’t. Good luck!

  4. Lily

    March 19, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    You sound like my PPD twin. I am also so hesitant to get help because of my mental health treatment past. You do what’s best for you!

  5. CrazyFor Kate

    March 19, 2013 at 2:41 pm

    Different things work for different people. It’s a cliche, but well, it’s true. Obviously keep your mind open, but if conventional medical treatment is not the path you want, it may not help anyway – and there’s definitely other ways to get through it. Whatever happens, I wish you the best of luck. I haven’t had PPD but major depression yes, so I can sympathize.

  6. KellyB

    March 19, 2013 at 4:25 pm

    Please get your thyroid levels checked. (Simple blood test) The symptoms are almost identical. I was treated for 6mths for PND & everytime I went back to Drs they just kept increasing my medications. (Your note about antidepressants ‘not working’ I can relate to!) A simple blood test that a Dr forgot to order robbed me of many precious moments in the first 6mths of my sons life. I am thankful it wasn’t a test that missed something seriously life threatening but if you have hypothyroidism then you do have a shortened life expectancy should it remain untreated & it also increases the risk of birth defects in any future pregnancies. I would hate others to go through what I did. .

    • Jussame

      March 21, 2013 at 9:05 am

      I thought (and went through) the exact same thing, especially with the comment on unexplained aches and pains.

  7. Jenn

    March 19, 2013 at 7:06 pm

    I was the exact same as you, I convinced myself up and down that I didn’t need it. No I didn’t. Only people with severe ppd need meds and all that jazz. Then I realized that I wasn’t getting better, that my daughter was 3 and I was still crying and that I wasn’t emerging from that dark hole I called home. I fought the idea tooth and nail that I should talk to my dr. I wasn’t going to be that person who gives up. In the end, my husband took me in a moment of weakness to my dr, and I told her I was depressed, and she listened, and asked me questions and we made the decision together that I should be on my current med. And I have definitely got my head and shoulders out of the hole and sometimes even most of me. I still have bad days, but my crying is gone and I am not as fast to snap and I can feel the difference. I would suggest you talk to your dr, even if you don’t end up going on anything, just having them write down a baseline for you is a huge help. Then they can ask you the next time you go in how you are feeling compared to before. If your dr doesn’t take depression seriously then you can find another. I am not pill pushing, and I completely understand and respect your decision, but consider the alternate. It can be a huge help for you and your entire family.

  8. Jen

    March 20, 2013 at 11:38 am

    I would suggest considering a LPCC or PCC whatever they call it in your state. Professional Counselors: they are significantly cheaper than psychologists/psychiatrists, some provide a sliding scale fee, can’t prescribe medication (but might suggest it). And not to give up. There are a lot of terrible counselors out there…but a lot of really good ones too. Normally I’d say do what you do and work it out, but I kind of feel like all bets are off with kids. You may not realize it but having depression impacts your child. Plus it’s very empowering to say I knew something wasn’t right so I sought help. There is some research to suggest depression is genetic. Which means it’s not only possible but likely your daughter will suffer the way you did. Certainly you’d take her for what was necessary, but it’s hard to get a child on board if mommy didn’t “need” it. Find PC who does brief therapy and if you aren’t clicking, find another if you don’t want medication. But please seek help. No one should feel depressed all the time.

  9. Psych Student

    March 21, 2013 at 3:50 am

    On behalf of all people in the psych profession I apologize for your *horrible* psychiatrists. I’m a student (I have a very creative screen name, hehe) and have suffered from major depression and anxiety and have met my fair share of really marginal professionals. I know that when someone is struggling, even a little bit, getting the nerve/strength/energy up to see someone can be a struggle. And then if the first person you see sucks, it can feel defeating and be even more difficult to try to find someone else. But please, remember, if you do want to seek help (and I would recommend a psychologist who can’t write scripts and may be less inclined to advise them), remember that you are entitled to a clinician who listens to you, cares about you, and you feel respects you. Find someone you feel comfortable with and you can tell respects your desires. Find someone who will help give you treatment that you want (there are lots of different theories so find a practitioner you feel comfortable with). I know it’s hard and frustrating (I, too, struggle with finding someone I like/can afford) but should you (anyone reading this) be looking for psychological help, keep trying until you find someone you click with. Also, remember that there is no wrong reason to go see a psychologist. You don’t have to reach a certain level of depression, anxiety, stress, etc. to want help and to seek it out. A good clinician will do what they can to help you and then send you on your way when you both feel you’ve achieved what you went in to do.

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