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Saturday, April 19, 2014

PPD - Julie Vigue

I greatly admire Julie for sharing such an honest account of her scary, confusing time through Post-Partum Depression (PPD). What a strong mother she is, having four babies, and having come out on the other side of PPD. Thank you so much for sharing your truths, Julie. You're right, not enough is spoken about this topic and it could happen to anyone. Thank you again.

All photos from Julie Vigue

1. How old was your child when you experienced postpartum depression (PPD)?
My son was 6 months old when I first experienced PPD. It came on a little earlier with my next two babies.

2. What feeling words would you use to describe what postpartum depression was like for you?
I felt scared, alone, weak, overwhelmed, and completely apathetic about all areas of my life. 

3. Why do you think you experienced PPD?
For me, it came on when my son quit nursing at 6 months. I wasn't ready to stop, but didn't want to pump for six months either. The sudden hormone shift combined with the dark days of winter, sent me into a tailspin. I never saw it coming.

4. What helped when you were experiencing PPD?
Antidepressants helped me so much. Within days of getting on them, I felt myself coming out of the fog.

5. How would you describe PPD to somebody who has not experienced it?
I had different degrees of PPD with three of my four children. 
The first was by far the worst. 

I never thought I would struggle with PPD. I half-listened as a nurse warned us about the signs before we left the hospital with our newborn. None of my family members had experienced it and I felt like I was a strong, even-keeled, emotionally stable girl that could handle the "baby blues" they described. I had instantly bonded with my baby and loved this new stage in my life. I had no idea PPD could be so much more than feeling sad or overwhelmed, but that it could be a serious illness that was out of my control. 

When it first hit, I was able to go through the motions, hoping that staying busy with the baby and the house would make it just go away. 

In the early stages, I hid it from my husband in the evenings. I would lay on the couch all day, gearing myself up for giving the appearance to him that I had it all together. I was unwilling to admit that something was wrong, even to myself. At this point, I was still able to care for my son's physical needs and enjoyed it. However, within about a week, I was unable to function, completely useless, not eating or sleeping and scared out of my mind. I didn't want to take care of my son and would pray that he would sleep another hour at each nap, so I wouldn't have to deal with him. He had become a chore. I never once thought about hurting him, but I was terrified that I would take my own life and leave him motherless. 

I would watch him sleep and think about what his life would be like without me. I know it sounds completely crazy, but one day I started having images of guns, that would haunt me throughout the day. I felt like that was going to be my way out, even though that's not what I wanted. Physically, it was almost like I had blinders on. 

In an attempt to get me out of the house, we took a family shopping trip. I will never forget walking through the store and thinking, "why are all the lights so dim?" My world was literally dark. That's when I came clean to my husband. I didn't want to be left alone and needed anything that could be a weapon hidden from me. I just didn't know what I was capable of. I was completely out of control. 

6. What did NOT help when you were going through PPD?
Just before the depression got severe, I made an appointment with my midwife. I had loved having her through my pregnancy and delivery.  I knew she would help me. I told her that something was wrong, that I didn't feel like myself and that I just didn't care about anything. She asked me to take an evaluation quiz. I thought she was kidding. She handed me a two-sided paper with a bunch of yes or no questions. "Do you have thoughts of harming your child?" No. "Are you able to take care of your child's needs?" Yes. "Are you eating and sleeping?" Not really. "Do you have suicidal thoughts?" No. 

She reviewed the evaluation and determined that I had a case of the "baby blues". She gave me a card for a psychiatrist, told me I should seek counseling ASAP and to start taking Vitamin B. That was her advice. I was stunned, angry, defeated, and overwhelmingly sad. I knew I needed more than that, but I didn't push her. I just said okay and left with my son. 

Days later, when the depression was at its worst, I made an appointment with my PCP. I told him everything.  Contrary to my fears, he didn't tell me I was nuts or threaten to take away my child. He reassured me that I was doing the right thing by coming to him, made sure I had someone to stay with me at home, and told me he was going to get me feeling better within days. I didn't quite believe him, but I was hopeful and felt a lot of relief leaving that appointment. 

7. What resources - books, people, counselors, Web sites, etc. - did you find particularly helpful while dealing with PPD?
I really didn't seek help from anything or anyone, except my doctors. In the midst of it, I didn't care to look up information or talk to anybody about what was happening to me. 

8. What HELPED you get through or over PPD?
I was put on a heavy duty, fast-acting antidepressant for 30 days. The plan was to come off that and see how I felt and maybe start on Zoloft afterwards. I didn't end up needing anything else. The 30 days was enough to get me through the hormone change and I went right back to feeling like myself after coming off the meds. 

I did go on Zoloft after delivering my next two babies as soon as I felt the early signs of PPD. I was so scared of going through it again that I didn't even give myself a chance to see it through. I went right to my doctor. My fourth baby was the most challenging infant of them all and I never felt any PPD with her. Go figure. 

9. What is your advice to other moms going through PPD or thinking they may go through it? 

Don't think you're exempt from experiencing some form of PPD. It can happen to anyone. Be aware that it might not strike in the first few days or weeks after delivery. It could be months later, when you're not expecting it. 

Ask someone close to you to keep an eye out for it. Your husband, friend, mom, coworker...someone that knows you well and sees you often. You may not realize what's happening until you're too deep in to be able to ask for help. 

Be honest! Don't hide what's happening from those closest to you. They can't help if they don't know. 

10. How long did it last for you?

The first time around it was a couple of months. The second and third times I was on meds for a few months. I tried to come off them after a month or two because of my hatred of the side effects, but it was too soon and I needed to go back on them. 

11. Anything else you want to share?
I hate that I had to go through PPD, for the crap it put my family through, and for missing out on good times with my babies, but at least I have been able to share my experience with a few new moms since. Moms that wondered if what they were feeling was "normal". 

I don't think the topic is put out there enough. It IS real, it IS serious, but it can be addressed and fixed. There is no need to suffer through it alone. It is an irrational illness and has NOTHING to do with how strong you are or how much you love your child, so there should be no shame in admitting you might need help. I wish someone had told me that. 

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