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Saturday, April 12, 2014

PPD - Nicole Burke

Post-Partum Depression (PPD) is oftentimes something people fear, worry about, or hide behind. Most moms don't like to talk about it. As is the case with everything on this blog, I encourage full honesty and opening up about mommy experiences. I featured several moms  a few years ago about this topic on the blog. I find it so powerful to read these stories. I hope that even one person struggling with these same feelings will read these posts from real moms like you and find they are not alone, that they can access support and help. 

Thank you to Nicole Burke for sharing her story. I greatly admire her strength and conviction to be the best mom she could be for her daughter. 

All images from Nicole Burke

1. How old was your child when you experienced postpartum depression (PPD)?
In the hospital the Drs and nurses give you a sort of standard shpeal about how you can expect to feel after baby. What stands out to me most is that they said "on day 3 you'll get the baby blues.." So, I waited and figured I'd feel a bit mopey or down. I was already scared of PPD because it runs in my family and I was so terrified of the thought that I might have thoughts of harming my baby. At that time, that's what Postpartum Depression meant to me - "that you think about killing your baby." Probably because we've all heard/seen/read the horror stories that make the media of a mother driving her car into a lake with her 3 children.. or drowning them in a tub and it always comes out that the mother had postpartum depression or something. So, I was nervous about it.

2. What feeling words would you use to describe what postpartum depression was like for you?
It's hard for me to put how I felt into words. Here's what I know.. about a year (maybe a little more, maybe a bit less) I found the mobile/light up-music-playing-piece of Cora's activity mat from when she was just a couple months old. I turned it on without a second thought and instantly I felt nauseous. I was sick to my stomach just hearing music from that time period. There are certain pictures from when Cora was a few months old that I can't look at without having a strange feeling come over me and me feeling queasy. So, I guess those are some of my words: nauseous, queasy, sick to my stomach. 

I could add {it felt} hard, sad, scared, nervous, terrified and uncertain.

3. Why do you think you experienced PPD?
Who really knows why anyone does? I know that I'm prone to it due to family history. Additionally, I already suffer with anxiety, etc and lastly, I was a first-time Mom.

4. What helped when you were experiencing PPD?
Well, at first I think I was in denial or something. I kept myself VERY busy - going everywhere and trying to do everything. Then, our days got shorter (daylight wise) as I had Cora in the Fall. I started to fear leaving the house. I would freeze up. I would also be scared to be somewhere and then have to go back home to an empty apartment. So - the point is I thought keeping busy was helpful, but then it clearly didn't matter.

What did help was going to a new mom's drop in meet up group in JP. What also helped was making a good friend with whom I could spend time with and walk with. The chats and fresh air with a fellow new mother helped tremendously. Finally reaching out for help to my OB department and speaking with a behavioral therapist and getting on Zoloft was the final piece to the puzzle. I am just someone who really needs medication to help make me feel "normal".

5. How would you describe PPD to somebody who has not experienced it?

Hard. Scary. Challenging. Lonely. Frightening. It's not something you can really ever understand unless you're in it - and I wouldn't wish it on anyone. 

I felt worthless.. I remember holding Cora, just days old, and looking up at the ceiling and crying. I couldn't pinpoint anything. I felt helpless. I couldn't eat from nausea. I could cry at any moment. I was constantly terrified for Cora's life. I had true "Mama Bear" syndrome. I literally would feel my heart race and pound if others came near Cora and held her. It was a physiological response that I could not control. 

I even struggled with my husband helping with simple things like changing diapers - I was so terrified something would go wrong that *I* had to be the one doing it. It was a devastating and helpless time.

6. What did NOT help when you were going through PPD?
It was very hard for me having a Fall baby (a huge reason why I'm now due to give birth in May this time!). I struggled with short days and the dark creeping in early. I lived in an apartment that didn't necessarily get a ton of natural light - and I love natural light and sort of crave it to help me feel better. Being alone didn't help. Due to my husband's schedule I was (and still am) alone every evening with him arriving home near 1:00am. That was (and is) hard.

7. What resources - books, people, counselors, Web sites, etc. - did you find particularly helpful while dealing with PPD?

I enjoyed my drop in mama group - sitting with other new moms and hearing their challenges made me feel normal. And, as time went on and I was suddenly the one who had been through what they were going through, it felt good to be able to give my thoughts and insight to help another mother. 

Walks with friends in fresh air helped. Texting family and friends helped. And, zoloft. Again, I really did need the medicine to help me.

8. What HELPED you get through or over PPD?
I guess I've said it before a few times. Zoloft, walks, chats with friends/new moms and time. Time had to pass in order for me to continue on in my path toward feeling better. Spring and longer, brighter days helped. But, the root of it all was the medicine. However, I will share that eventually I came off the Zoloft because I wasn't in love with how it made me feel. Prior to pregnancy, I'd always been on Celexa and that is the drug that works best for me. When I was done exclusively pumping for Cora (around 9 months) I went on Celexa - that was the final step in feeling my best. Back on the medicine that agrees with me most. I will add that now 35 weeks pregnant, and off celexa since last July (before I was pregnant), I can feel some PPD thoughts creeping back in. Nothing too consuming, but I definitely find myself doing things I haven't wanted to or needed to in awhile - ie checking on Cora when she's sleeping to make sure she's breathing. Cora is 2 1/2 years old.

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

Don't be ashamed. Be open to the possibility. I think I fought against it so long that I let it get ahead of me. Be open to whatever helps you feel best - speaking with friends, speaking with family, potentially meeting with a Behavior Therapist, potentially going on meds. A happy and healthy Mom is the Mom who can care for her baby best. This is something I need to continue to convince myself of as I always want to put myself second.

10. How long did it last for you?
I had it intensely for a few+ months, but it lingered for a while. And, as I mentioned, now being off my meds for so long and being very pregnant, a lot of concerns/thoughts are beneath the surface. I'm trying to watch myself closely - but not worry too much at this moment.

11. Anything else you want to share?
I want to say that PPD isn't always the stereotype we imagine it to be - ie "wanting to hurt your baby". PPD can be fear, concerns, feeling of worthlessness, etc. I was told recently in my current OB office that it sounds like I had PPOCD (postpartum obsessive compulsive disorder) because I was consumed with thoughts and fears of things happening to Cora. I was always terrified of terrible things happening to her. I pictured awful things and lived so many moments in fear. Again, some consuming thoughts are back with me now, but I'm trying to stay calm. 

I wish I could erase the stigma of PPD. I don't know if a lot of people believe it or that it can linger for a long time (again, Cora is 2 1/2 years old and it's creeping back in to no meds and being pregnant). I wish I could magically erase the thoughts of worthlessness, worry, fear and more from the Moms who sit at home with their newborns crying because they don't know what to do. I strongly encourage mothers to do whatever they need to do to get healthy for themselves - which will in turn help them care for their children. 

 I'm grateful for the opportunity to share just a glimpse into what I went through and I always welcome any questions or conversations. It's so crucial to have support after having a baby. It's a crazy, amazing and hard ride and there's no such thing as "too much" support.

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