My hopes for sharing my story and experience with anxiety and depression is not to provide guidelines or replace medical and professional advisement, guidelines, and knowledge. My hopes for sharing my story is to bring about understanding and to bring assurance out there to anyone who has felt the way that I have. My hope is that my story is enlightening and insightful. If this story helps any one person in some way, then the purpose of sharing this story is fulfilled,
I have suffered from post-partum and pre-partum depression. And if I was honest with myself, I may have had other times in my life where I experienced anxiety and depression but did not seek medical or professional treatment for whatever reasons. And if I am being honest, I know that I could easily be subject to anxiety and depression in the future.
The anxiety and depression I suffered is not one where I wanted to cause harm to myself or to others. I never considered suicide. And as my depression seemed to get worse, I was actually trying to maintain or achieve what I thought was a normal life – taking my children on playdates, going to church, working my direct sales business, etc. I was desperately trying to be around other people, hoping that it would take the edge off.
In both the pre-partum and post-partum depression I did take anti-depressants for a short time as part of my overall care and treatment. During the pre-partum depression, I sought counseling for a brief period. In both cases, I felt extremely overwhelmed by several different stress factors, ultimately making myself feel like I failed as a mom.
One of the common stress factors in both cases was my physical health. After my first child was born, I had a series of infections that delayed my overall recovery from labor and delivery and pregnancy. Nor was I prepared for the constant care required of a newborn on about two hours effective sleep. Sleep deprivation has a big impact on my overall mental health I have observed. With the pre-partum depression, I fought nausea and dehydration issues which greatly limited my capability to care for others when I felt so physically ill myself.
Health issues in and of themselves probably were not enough to send me into a depressive state. Other big stress factors were at work, and collectively, all the stress factors overwhelmed me to where I had serious trouble coping even with what could be classified as minor changes in my day-to-day life. Had any one of those major stress factors been eliminated or non-existent, who knows how I would have been able to deal with things going on at that time of my life. However, there was no easy way to eliminate some of the stress factors, at least at the time of my pre-partum depression. I was not going to end the pregnancy. Our house was on the market at the same time – and we weren’t going to yank our house off the market anytime soon. I had to find ways to deal with and cope with these stress factors.
ELIMINATING STRESS AND GETTING BACK TO “NORMAL”
When you think of someone who has depression, you may think being alone is the last thing this person needs. And that may be true for different kinds of depression. For me, I crave alone time. I crave time to be by myself to think, read, do crafts, blog, and process things that are going on in my life. For whatever reasons, when I got that overwhelmed, my alone time went away. So, my coping mechanism to deal with changes and stresses in my life vanished.
In order to get me back on the right path where I could truly enjoy the company of my children and be silly with them or enjoy a meal out with my friends or simply appreciate being with my husband, I needed time to myself where I didn’t feel rushed or overwhelmed. With the pre-partum depression, my husband and I decided to find some regular child care for our children at least one day a week where I could get some rest and some much needed me-time. It was not an easy decision for me to put my children in a child-care situation, even though it was temporary.
In the midst of the dealing with the depression, it was hard for me to maintain communication with a lot of people and it was certainly a challenge to maintain my direct sales business. Ultimately, I had to learn to let some things go and be OK with it. I had to learn to say “no” to some things and say “yes” to others, regardless of whether it made sense to anyone else.
The good news is that I did regain my ability to live my life. Everyday tasks no longer overwhelmed me. Intense and frequent mood swings lessened or decreased in intensity. I could tolerate little things that might have otherwise annoyed me to no end. How much of my improvement was due to counseling, anti-depressant medication, improved health, or an abundance of me-time, who knows. Any one of these factors may not have been enough to completely help me conquer and overcome my depressive symptoms. Together, they made a difference. Another factor that helped was the amazing support I had from my husband and family and close friends as well as my doctor(s). The other factor that helped was that I had open communication and I was able to recognize and act upon getting medical and professional help when I needed it.
BEING PROACTIVE FOR THE FUTURE
Through these experiences, we are now more aware of what triggers the symptoms that could lead me to my depressive states. We are aware that stress and certain situations collectively can overwhelm me and we try to take steps to mitigate those stress factors before they have a negative impact on my state of mind and my overall health. We know when I am thinking through situations and reacting to them in a way that is normal for me, and we know when we need to suspect that something else is going on. We do not pretend to be superhuman or know better than doctors and professionals. Through open discussion we can establish guidelines as to when I need to make a call to my doctor or to a counselor. And I trust my husband to make the call on my behalf, if necessary.
Dealing with these experiences, at the time, is hard. But I do believe we have learned some valuable lessons. And my hope and prayer is that the lessons we’ve learned will help me enjoy the rest of my life.