As a mom with bipolar disorder who blogs openly about my experiences surviving a postpartum mood disorder, people often ask my opinion on ways to deal with and manage their diagnosis. I am not a medical professional, so I hesitate to even answer these emails. But my heart tells me I need to address their questions.
Having been in the same shoes not long ago, I remember the desperate desire to connect with others who had gone through something similar. Back then, people weren’t talking as openly about mental illness, the stigma was thick and heavy, and I felt as though I was harboring a shameful secret. It wasn’t until I found Postpartum Progress that I truly felt I had found a group of women who understood.
So I get it when other moms, and sometimes dads, write to me about their story, asking for advice on what to do after receiving a diagnosis. They’re looking for the same connection I found. The same searching that led me to join this community.
Here are my suggestions:
Get second opinion(s). Don’t just rely on what the first doctor you see says. It can take a doctor several visits or more to be able to point to a diagnosis. You may need to see more than one doctor before you feel comfortable accepting the diagnosis – this is okay.
Do your own research. While your doctor is trying to diagnose you, spend the time reading trusted books and websites to try to confirm your doctor’s thoughts on a diagnosis. Compare your symptoms with that of the various illnesses and educate yourself on the different types of medications available to treat your condition. You may choose to continue nursing your baby and would want to research the best choices of medication while breastfeeding.
Be your own advocate. Sometimes this is hard when you yourself are in the midst of an episode, which is why it’s important for your family and support system to be involved in your care and the communication with your doctor. The more accurate information the doctor can collect from you and your family members, the better he’ll be able to treat your condition. Have your support system read about your diagnosis and the various treatment methods so they can help you decide with your doctor which course of treatment will be best for you.
Lean on your support network. Postpartum Progress is an incredible resource of women and families coming together online (and sometimes in person as in the case of the annual Climb Out of the Darkness fundraisers and the upcoming Warrior Mom Conference next year), and the website has a list of in-person perinatal mood and anxiety disorder support groups in the US and Canada. Build your support network to not only include your family and close friends, but also moms you meet at these peer support groups who will have first-hand knowledge of what you’ve lived through. With various methods of support (family, online and in-person peer support groups), you can be assured to always have someone to reach out to during a rough patch.
These are just a few tips for how to navigate a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder which I hope you find helpful. And from one Warrior Mom to another, the biggest things to remember are this: you CAN get well with treatment and support and it’s NOT your fault.
You’ve made it here which is a great place to start.