It’s much more difficult to get the proper help and support for postpartum depression than most people recognize, even if you’re someone who works in the healthcare field. Today, Warrior Mom Rebecca S. shares her eight-month struggle to find the right help. Her story is a great example of the obstacles many women face.
Admitting you need help is only the first step in recovering from PPD. Then you need to find appropriate care. I worked amongst medical healthcare providers and professionals, and none of them knew anything about how to support me in finding help. I didn’t know where to turn or have any contacts with mental health providers.
First, I went to my obstetrician and primary care physician to seek help, but neither had the knowledge or initiative to truly assist me. I explained my symptoms and was given a prescription for Zoloft and told it was a “safe” medication to take while breastfeeding, and then sent on my way. No referral to a psychologist or psychiatrist, no resources or follow-up or anything.
I held on to that script for about two months, obsessing about the real “safeness” of the PPD medication for me and my baby. I didn’t want to take medications myself, much less breastfeed my baby with those medications. I felt guilty for even thinking of switching my baby to formula, so I kept breastfeeding and kept suffering.
My postpartum depression and anxiety only got worse as time passed, so I finally filled the script, stopped breastfeeding and fell into an even deeper depression. The medication made me dizzy; I couldn’t concentrate and had trouble reading. My panic attacks became worse and more frequent. My daughter did fine with formula, but I was filled with guilt for “failing” as a mother.
After another visit to my obstetrician’s office to tell them about the ineffectiveness of my medication, I was told to find a psychologist and handed a doctor’s note. After giving the note to my manager at work, she jokingly made fun of me and told me to exercise more and take vitamins. Needless to say, I felt betrayed. I went through the chain of command to notify the company that I had been harassed, but I was pushed aside and nothing was done.
I finally got an appointment with a psychologist after searching for what felt like an eternity. The psychologist was nice, but it was just a “get to know you” of sorts and then I found out she could not prescribe medication for PPD. I felt so stupid. How could I not know this?! I was working in a hospital business office assisting other people with their medical problems daily, but I didn’t know how to help myself when it came to my own mental health.
My search for a psychiatrist who did prescribe medication left me with another list of problems: wrong phone numbers, three-month waiting periods, docs who were not accepting new patients, docs who were no longer accepting my insurance, people out on vacation, or new appointments only available at certain times and across town. This meant I had to ask for additional time off work, and be harassed by my boss even more.
I chose to suffer in silence because I didn’t want any more judgment from my boss, co-workers or friends. They just didn’t understand. I stopped returning calls and texts and fell off of the social media circuit. I was isolating myself as a coping mechanism. On what turned out to be my last day at work, I had the worst panic attack of my life – shortness of breath, chest pain, facial and arm numbness, etc. Two co-workers found me in the hall. Our employee health nurse was out, so instead of taking me to the ER they took me to Human Resources and I was sent home.
When I arrived home where my mom was taking care of my daughter, she knew immediately that something was terribly wrong. I started screaming, “I can’t do this anymore! I go out of my way to help people every single day, but no one wants to help me! Just kill me already!”
I guess those were the magic words. I was checked into a women’s specialty psychiatric facility immediately. I stayed there for about a week, and did some intense therapy, which I believe saved my life. I missed my baby’s first steps and Easter, but I was able to see her every day during visitation. I left with follow-up appointments, resources, and a schedule for an intensive outpatient program, where I was closely monitored for the next several months by many providers.
I never knew seeking help for postpartum depression would be so hard especially when I was working for a “great” healthcare company, but it was. It took me eight months to get the care I needed. It was a struggle for me, but I hope reading my story will help prevent other moms from wandering lost in the dark. If you or someone you love is suffering, ask for help. If no one listens, SCREAM for help. It’s out there.
Editor’s Note: If you’re looking for a postpartum depression treatment specialist, click the link for our list of resources.
Photo credit: © Rafael Ben-Ari – Fotolia.com