Warrior Mom Alexis Lesa describes how pregnancy depression made her oversensitive.
The first symptom I noticed when I experienced depression in pregnancy was fatigue. I knew to be wary of that type of crushing exhaustion, since it has accompanied every bout of depression I’ve ever experienced, so I was on high alert for any subsequent symptoms.
The next symptom of pregnancy depression came not too much later; it was November, so I was about four months pregnant. I went to a girls’ night out at my best friend’s house, and it turned out to be quite a large gathering. There were many women there who I’d never met before, and several who I knew only casually. I tend to not do well in these types of situations–I almost always get intimidated and end up overcompensating for my insecurity by being loud and maybe a little obnoxious. But that night, I tried to be especially mindful of my words, and felt that the activity went off well. I was proud of myself for being at least a little bit normal, and I went home happy.
A couple of days later, I got a phone call from my friend who had hosted the party. I don’t want to go into detail, but she basically said I had offended several people at the party and they had gone to her about it. I was horrified, not to mention humiliated. I talked to her for almost an hour, trying to figure out how best to resolve the situation. She was very nice about it, but I was still devastated.
That night, and every night for a week, I cried myself to sleep. My husband was so worried about me, trying to console me and reassure me that I was a good person, and it had all just been a misunderstanding, that those people just didn’t understand my sense of humor. After that week of disconsolate weeping, I knew I was depressed again.
First, let me say this: I probably would have been hurt whether I was depressed or not. It’s never fun to learn that people are talking behind your back. And yes, the whole incident was a little immature and has since been completely resolved. I am good friends with all these women to this day. But my response to the situation was completely unreasonable and dramatic, and I see now that my depression in pregnancy disabled me from viewing the situation realistically. At the time, it felt like the walls of my house were closing in on me, and I was dangerously close to suicidal thoughts. I was most definitely hopeless, telling myself that no one loved me, and that the world would be better off if I weren’t there.
I couldn’t stop thinking that I was a failure at life, that I was the only person who could turn an entire room of people against her and not even know it. I was humiliated to the point of not wanting to leave my house or see my friends, and it took almost a year before I agreed to go to a girls’ night out again.
Going back to my original point, oversensitivity to criticism is one of my first signals that I’m relapsing. It has characterized every round of depression I’ve ever experienced, and it has often rendered me emotionally incapacitated. It has nearly driven my marriage to its breaking point on more than one occasion, and I have come close to alienating friends I’ve had since high school after being offended by some well-meant and completely casual comment.
I am now 17 1/2 months postpartum, and still navigating my way through the maze of PPD recovery. I’ve come to the point where I am able to analyze past actions and see where I was influenced by the overwhelming emotions that accompany both pregnancy depression and PPD, and I see now that I have a pattern of self-destruction when I receive any type of negative feedback. My husband will say something as harmless as, “Did the kids nap today?” and I will immediately jump to the conclusion that he is accusing me of being a bad mother because the kids didn’t get to sleep that day. I instantly go on the defensive, which nearly always ends in an argument, which ends in me crying and yelling.
I realize to any healthy mind this sounds ridiculous, but I know many PPD moms will relate. Even though I am much better now than I was just a few months ago, I still occasionally experience this type of thing. However, I have come up with a weapon to help combat the self-doubt. It might sound a little silly, but it’s really worked for me.
When someone says something to me that I could potentially construe as offensive or critical, instead of responding immediately, I make up a mantra to repeat in my head three times before I say a word. For example, if my husband calls and tells me that our bank account is overdrawn because I forgot to transfer money for the third time in a month, I don’t get defensive. The mantra I would use in this case would go something like this: I failed to do something. I am not a failure. I’ll repeat this in my mind until I’ve convinced myself that my husband isn’t criticizing me, but is merely alerting me to a problem that needs to be resolved. I created a problem, but I am not the problem.
You can make up a mantra for any similar situation. The point is to redirect the negativity from you to your action. In this way, you may be able to step back from the hurtful words and see that they may not be so hurtful after all.
How about you? Have you had similar experiences?