Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Let's talk about hard things - Post Partum Depression

(I am thinking (if I write, which is an open ended question) of starting a series of talking about hard things - hard topics.  This is the first.  If this is a series and not just a one off- just trying to keep you one your toes).

This may not be common knowledge, because I do not advertise it much, and not everyone is a mind reader, but I get post partum depression, and have after my last three children.  It may not technically be depression - I have had post partum thyroiditis after the last three births, from about month 2 1/2 to month seven or nine or so.  This means I am hyperthyroid at first - my thyroid works over time and everything about my metabolism speeds up, which can cause anxiety.  Then after a few months, the thyroid is overworked, and it slumps into hypothyroid, which at least until now has then self resolved after a few more months.  Hypothyroidism can also be a cause of depression - as everything in my body is working slowly and sluggish.  Regardless, the two together, combined with a new baby, feel like post partum depression to me.

On the positive side, I know what is causing it.  I know that in a while it will go away - that I will feel better.  But I cannot lie - when I have been pregnant with the last two I have had moments of dread, when thinking about the period after birth.  Well, anyway, I would like to talk about that more sometime. After all, I think that the uncertainty that comes when you are depressed has contributed a lot to me having a difficult time writing.  I feel self conscious - not because I think I have done something wrong, but because I don't like feeling weak publicly.

But, I have been wanting to talk about it more publicly for a while, because I know that one of the worst parts of post partum depression is feeling alone, broken in the dark, and for myself at least, hearing about others' experiences is very helpful to myself.

Talking to my sister recently, I laid out what has helped me the most with ppd.

They are:

Don't get on the computer until two (ie, stay away from escapism, from distractions, force me to live my life, etc.) Get off before getting the girls from school - more broadly - accomplish things first, and spend a limited time on the computer. This helps me because it is not a big to do list, which between five children, a house to run, food to fix, diapers to change, I cannot guarantee I can even begin, let alone accomplish. But I can guarantee that if I spend the bulk of my day unconnected electronically (I don't have a cell phone, so I have no access to social media, internet, etc, except through a computer), then I will inevitably clean more, spend more time with my children, feel better about what I can get done, and not focus and what I am not, don't have, etc.

Walking them to school and back, every day.  Two miles of walking total in the fresh air.  Gives exercise, fresh air, perspective. Makes me like my house better. I think it's not just the exercise, but being outdoors, even in the cold or rain, that helps.  I love being outdoors, but I find I don't just go outside - I have to have a reason to be there, whether it's exercise, gardening, yardwork, etc.

Reading from the conference issue of the Ensign every day - at breakfast, or in the morning after taking the girls to school. Ideally, I want to work in regular scripture study as well, but I have been struggling with accomplishing that, and so reading words from modern prophets and church leaders helps me to spiritually focus, gives perspective, and "fills the well."  I have something to say about filling wells.  For me, what I mean is doing activities that help me to be more patient, not yell, gives me more reserves to draw on when things are difficult - when the girls are home from school and it's homework time, and I am stressed.  I think doing fun, personal activities are important for everyone, but reading decor blogs, reading novels, and going out with friends, as important and necessary as these are, do not give me a greater measure of patience.  They do not reaffirm me in my vocation.  Now, when I have the time, these things are fun, they are good. And if I never did anything like this, then I would need to prioritize them as well - but I already do these things.  I have no problems prioritizing fun for myself. I am not a martyr. What I do tend to deprioritize are activities which are hard, which take work, which take effort and self discipline, but that I need to do anyway because I need the benefits, like the spiritual help,  or exercise - luckily I now have an outside reason that helps me prioritize that.

Pray.  But not just general prayers.  Not even just desperate pleas to help me just get through the day, and to not give up.  But specific - help me to not yell at the girls when they are taking forever in the morning - this morning.  Help me to find a way to help them get ready patiently. Gratitude for what I have. Actual conversations.  Praying while walking by myself - when I can pray out loud, and no one can hear me, works especially well.

Now, none of these things are going to fix my thyroid, they are not going to make me not struggle, or get rid of my post partum depression.  What they do accomplish, however, is helping survive through this time.  They help me do what I can, and I can guarantee that when I do all of these every day - I am happier.  I do better.  Now, perhaps just because I am human, perhaps because I have ppd, perhaps because of life, I do not always stick to even this small list.  And I seem to have a cycle, where if one week goes pretty well, the next week is harder, and I fall down and do nothing one day, which then makes the rest of the week go yet harder.  And some days, although I know that if I followed this list, I would feel better, but I perversely don't, and then I don't.

Unlike some people who have lifelong depression, I can honestly say that I have only had it these three times post partum.  I am not an expert in depression, post partum depression, or anything else related.  But I do know what has helped me, when I have struggled.  Along with all of the above, I try and remember that this is transient - that I will feel better soon.  That although my life feels more than I can bear, and overwhelming every morning when I wake up, that this time will pass.  So, overall - I try and keep a sense of perspective, and remind myself that I honestly don't feel all right, and that is okay - it's okay to struggle, to have to work hard at things that come more naturally for others.  It's okay that life is hard, that it is not supposed to be easy.  I have not yet succeeded in gaining so much perspective that I wouldn't just wish away the ppd I have had, the compassion I have learned for those who have depression, in favor of a life of positive naivety.  But...maybe I will get there yet.


  1. Beautifully well written and definitely sound advice for anyone, dealing with postpartum depression or not. Thank you!!!

  2. I just typed and tried to post a comment, but it looks like it was swallowed by the ether. To sum up, it basically said "I am you and you are me and move here now."

  3. Ha! I found it by pushing the back button! Here's the original comment:

    I think we are personality twins. Aside from the thyroiditis and PPD, from which I am very thankful I do not suffer, you pretty much just wrote about me and my problems. Even some of the solutions you came up with are exactly where I am at right now, too. I have also recently been reading the Ensign (starting with conference issues, but I finished it and moved on to the regular ones) because it was more motivating than scriptures, which I have struggled to make time for every day. It would be better for me if I stuck to a more restricted comupter/smart phone use schedule, and I find myself in a downward spiral of not leaving the house when I don't leave the house. (That makes sense.) But I went to the YMCA today and exercised, even if it was only for 20 minutes. That's 20 minutes more than not doing it at all! And the kids got to play with other kids. In short, I miss you and if there is anything decent in this world, Avram will get a tenured position in Western Washington. The end.

  4. And it's still yesterday where I am, so Happy Guy Fawkes day!