Depression and anxiety, of the postpartum variety or not

I apologize for the hiatus from writing for a few days, but life got crazy.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand.

Postpartum depression or anxiety, or clinical depression and anxiety, are sometimes overlooked or dismissed as the “baby blues”, or the consequences of bad luck.  Both can be devastating and render a mother non-functional.

Postpartum hormones and circumstances can be difficult to cope with.  A mother has a huge flood of hormones when the baby is born that can be a little shocking or unexpected.  Even that alone can cause postpartum depression.  And of course there is now a new little being that needs Mom’s constant care and attention, which may be overwhelming.  It certainly was for me.  I researched extensively what it would be like and what it takes to care for a baby, but despite that, I felt entirely unprepared once my son was born.  Sure, I had every “thing” necessary to take care of him, but the emotional and physical energy, the sleep deprivation, and doubting my knowledge and myself (am I breastfeeding right?  Am I changing his diaper correctly?  Is this how I am supposed to bathe him?  What do I do about his umbilical stump?  Is he sleeping too much?  Too little?  Is he supposed to spit up that much?  Is that normal colored poop?) was hard to cope with and overwhelming, to say the least.

I was also very anxious. Every time my son cried, I began fidgeting, pulling at my hair, and crying myself.  I was nervous about everything related to him.  Is the house clean enough?  Is he eating enough?  Everything made me panic.

When a mother or her surrounding friends and family determine that the mother has postpartum depression or anxiety, or even if a non-mother person has depression or anxiety, most people assume that medication is where treatment should start.  I cannot stress enough that psychiatric medications, especially for a breastfeeding mother, should be a last resort.

Most cases of depression and anxiety should begin being treated by either a licensed therapist or a clinical psychologist.  The most effective way to relieve symptoms of depression and anxiety is by changing the behavior and thoughts of the person affected by the mental illness.  There was a time during my depression that even the thought of having to stand up, walk across the room, and turn off the light, was overwhelming.  The first step in correcting that was to tell myself that it is possible, even probable, that turning off the light is not overwhelming, and in fact easy.  The next step was to force myself to stand up.  It does not matter if the light is turned off, but rather that something productive towards the goal of turning the light off was done.  Turn every obstacle into tiny baby steps, then nothing seems overwhelming.  This all may seem very silly, and it is.  But what is necessary is sometimes silly.

Most people affected with depression or anxiety are not capable of coming up with ways to become functional once more.  Even if a person started medication, they may be stuck with habits and thought patterns that still reflect the mental illness they are trying to combat with medication.  It is important to seek therapy for this reason.  An unbiased and objective trained professional has the ability to give solutions to problems that close friends and family may never think about.

Also, medication without therapy is a mostly unsuccessful treatment plan. And it cannot hurt, even if there is no mental illness present, to give situational information and express inner thoughts and feelings to someone who may give you a different perspective about the situation.  I feel that looking at my own life through a different set of eyes has always helped me better understand and resolve or react to problems that may arise or have already surfaced.  Most people would benefit from that, mental illness or not.

Also, most psychiatric medications do manage to come through in breast milk, so it would be ideal if medication can be avoided for a breastfeeding mother. Go to kellymom.com to find out whether or not a medication may be compatible with breastfeeding.

If you or some one you know are suffering from depression or anxiety, of the postpartum variety or not, suggest seeking therapy first, since the least invasive course of action that resolves the problem is preferred.  Medication is not always the answer, and can sometimes cause more problems than it solves.

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One thought on “Depression and anxiety, of the postpartum variety or not

  1. Pingback: Week 1: Overwhelmed By a Messy Environment After a Bout of Depression? | Journey Through Recovery

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