How To Handle Going Back to Work With Postpartum Depression

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The Wall Street Journal blog "the Juggle" recently posted a piece on going back to work after suffering from postpartum depression. It was written, bravely, by a Journal editor named Michelle Gerdes.

"I also struggled with what and how much to tell my co-workers and managers about my PPD. I worried that if I said too much I’d seem unprofessional, like I was blubbering about my personal problems, and it might open the door to questions about how I would be able to handle my job. PPD is widely misunderstood and I didn’t want my cube neighbors to be worried that I was going to break down on the job, throwing myself out of the window shouting “Pacifier! Where‘s the pacifier! Aaaaaaaaack!” Also, I didn’t want my managers to go light on me because they were worried that I’d crack.

So far, well up until this is published anyway, I’ve only told a few people at work about my PPD. Most of my co-workers were very sympathetic and supportive, although some seemed uncomfortable and quickly changed the subject. I’ve been back at work for a couple of months now and am really enjoying the business of journalism again and engaging in professional life. After this life-changing event I feel like I’m even better than I was before I had the PPD, both at work and at home."

What would you do?Tell your colleagues, or not? How about your boss? Howwill you get things done while still recovering from postpartum depression?

These are great questions, ones that I struggled with myself when going back to work 4 months postpartum while I was still in the throes of PPOCD. I only told a few colleagues — people I also considered to be true friends. I didn't tell my bosses because I didn't feel it was any of their business and because I worried about the stima, of course. I must admit I had a pretty hard time being at work while I hadn't truly recovered yet. In some ways it helped that I had something else to focus on, rather thanwhat I believed were myinadequacies at motherhood. In other ways it was tough because I had such a hard time focusing and really being present in my work. It's hard to write a marketing plan when you are so tired and confused and miserable.

For those of you that have been in this situation, what did you do? Did you hide your postpartum depression? Did you share it? Did you take more time off?

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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  1. I've told most of my co-workers and my immediate supervisor. I work in a unique setting–our office of 17 or so are more like a family than just a work team and we all support eachother in our work AND personal lives… I also work for the legislature so I am trying to bring awareness so that people know the realities of PPD and other perinatal mood disorders and to see if we can convince our boss to get involved…

  2. When I shared my experience with a colleague, she reacted negatively to the fact that I was ever medicated, let alone on 3 types of medications simultaneously at one point. She implied I should be able to not only snap out of my depression but also quit my meds cold turkey. She shook her head when I referenced Brooke and Tom as if to say “So what.” This is exactly why I found it so hard to share with anyone in the beginning.
    Knowing what I know now, I let these types of reactions slide because I know they were said out of ignorance. I mean, did she ever experience PPD firstand? No. She had the blues, but did she suffer from insomnia and panic attacks? No. Obviously, we were on two completely different wavelengths and she could not be convinced otherwise. She said “If I could do it without support (meaning husband and medications), you can too.” I wasn’t going to pursue the point because it was obviously not going anywhere.
    Since then, I have been talking openly to friends, relatives, co-workers and neighbors about my experience without fear of judgment or criticism. I am not afraid to admit I had PPD. Nor do I feel any shame that I had PPD. I am not proud of the fact that I had PPD, but I won’t pretend it didn’t happen to me. My motto has always been to take all negatives and all experiences and make use of them in a positive way. I believe that things happen for a reason and you learn from your experiences—both good and bad.

  3. Katherine says:

    I didn't tell any coworkers, or any of my family, except for my husband, and my sister in law (more distance so somehow I could tell her). Given that I couldn't even handle telling my family – I felt so ashamed to have fallen apart so completely – there is no way I could ever have told my coworkers, though some of them might have guessed something was up.

  4. Oh, forgot to mention that I did tell my boss. I had to, even before I returned from my maternity leave, because there was a chance I couldn't return on time and possibly had to look into extending my leave of absence or working part-time–neither options of which I was keen about. Fortunately, I did gather up the strength and courage to drag myself to work at the end of my maternity leave, exactly one month after I started taking my Paxil (I was already off the Ambien & Xanax at that point). It was tough, but thankfully, I made it through that first day. After that, it got easier and easier each day. It was particularly helpful that my boss allowed me to change my hours (7AM-4PM) to enable me to pick up my daughter after work each day. He realized this scheduling would mean less stress for me.

  5. I work in a very large company. I told close friends, who most were aware of it anyway when I was out on leave, but I didn't dare tell my boss. I thought that was too personal and I was pretty sure he wouldn't know how to react. Going back to work for me was one of the best things I could do when I was healing. I was still medicated, but I felt like it was a good step in getting my "old self" back. For me, being a working mom is being the best mom for my child.

  6. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Great sharing ladies!

  7. I work for a small company. I have about 10 men in my office and only one other woman. I broke down crying all the time, it was so hard, I tried to do it privately! My baby was home with my husband (who attends night school) and I thought I was just having jealousy issues. I waited far too long but eventually got on medication. I shared my diagnosis with a select few in my office. It's one of those illnesses, in my eyes, that you really just don't go around with a sign on your forehead about.