My Postpartum Depression Story: How I Sought Treatment

In a way, being diagnosed with postpartum depression felt like a relief for me.

I should have known early on that I needed to see a doctor. This isn’t my first experience with depression and anxiety. I should have known this was more than being overwhelmed with new motherhood or being exhausted from getting so little sleep. Still, for the first several weeks of my depression, I kept telling myself I just needed to change my mindset, get a little more exercise or catch up on sleep. My son was already 6 months, after all. I had made it this far, if I just buckled down, I could power through it without medication.

But no matter how hard I worked at pulling myself out of my fog, I couldn’t do it by myself. So, when my son’s pediatrician called to tell me I had done poorly on my postpartum depression screening and I needed to see a doctor as soon as possible, I felt relieved to know it wasn’t just all in my head. Finally, someone else was telling me that what I was experience wasn’t normal, that things could be easier for me.

And, when I finally sat down in my doctor’s office and she told me she thought I was dealing with severe postpartum anxiety and depression, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. We talked about medication and settled on double the dose I had been on during my pregnancy of an SSRI that was safe while breastfeeding. When I filled my prescription and took my first dose, I knew everything was going to be OK. I knew that within a few weeks, I would start to feel like myself again.

Honestly, adjusting to medication isn’t enjoyable. Since my dose was fairly high, I started to have side effects within a few days. I was having trouble sleep and felt fatigued during the day. I was also having cold sweats, which I guess some people experience on anti-depressants. That first week and a half, my kids watched way too much TV while I napped on the couch. More than once, I found myself wondering if it was worth it. I found myself worrying my medication was doing more harm than good.

I don’t love taking antidepressants, but knowing I was on my way to feeling healthy again was enough. I was able to power through the side effects, which seemed to start going away around three weeks.

Within two weeks, I started to notice I was feeling better. I wasn’t waking up in a panic in the morning, worried about whether or not I would be able to manage my kids and work alone while my husband was at work. I felt more motivated to work on my to-do list, instead of spending my days stewing over how I was failing as a mom. I was less irritable, which was a relief since I had been so impatient with my children for weeks before my diagnosis.

Medication isn’t a fix all and it certainly isn’t the only approach to treating postpartum depression, but for me, a prescription was the beginning of pulling myself out my fog. With an antidepressant in my system, I could start making plans to care for myself better. Before, I didn’t have the motivation to start getting more exercise or to make an appointment with a therapist. I didn’t feel like I deserved to take the time to care for myself. Once I started to feel more like myself, I could see where I had neglected my own needs because my depression was ruling my life.

I know a lot of people have concerns about taking antidepressants or they feel like it is just an easy fix. For me, that hasn’t been the case. For me, it is the first step towards a comprehensive plan for caring for my mental health. For me, it was about getting on my feet again so I had the motivation and mental clarity to make the right choices each day.

And, perhaps most importantly, it was about doing what I needed to do in order to take care of my kids. I simply couldn’t be a good mom without aggressively treating my postpartum depression. My kids deserve a mom who is doing whatever it takes to be healthy, whether that be taking medication, seeing a therapist or simply making some time for more self-care.