Postpartum Depression & Anxiety: The Waiting Is the Hardest Part

postpartum depressionI can’t tell you how many women I’ve spoken to who are worried and upset by the setbacks they experience while recovering from postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. They have a string of good days and think they’re finally getting better, and then they have a terrible day and feel that all is lost. It’s heartbreaking.

I know exactly how they feel. I can remember starting to feel better after beginning my treatment. I’d have a few good days and begin to glimpse peace. I’d feel like I was turning the corner. I’d have a sliver of hope, for goodness sake. And then — SLAM! — the sadness, anxiety, misery and guilt would flood back over me. I’d think to myself, “Of course. How could I have been so foolish? I knew I’d never get better. I’ll never be me again.” I’d be crushed with disappointment, and angry for even thinking I could ever get back to my old self.

I did get better, though. In fact, I’d venture to say that the me who came out of my experience with postpartum depression is even better than the me who went in. It took a while, but that’s the deal unfortunately. Recovery from these illnesses is a process. I wish it was like bronchitis or strep throat: Call doctor. Go to appointment. Get prescription. Take one pill twice a day with food. Ten days later, all better. It isn’t. It can be scary to hear that, but it’s better to know what to expect so that you can be patient with yourself.

We all start out with more bad days than good, or perhaps even all bad days. Then you have a few good ones here and there. Then you start having more good days than bad. Then one day you realize you’ve had only good days, for a long time, and you have this slow and cautious realization that maybe the sun has come out for good.

In the meantime, don’t let bad days define you or defeat you. It’s okay to have them, and to feel the bad feelings. Just don’t let them convince you that the progress you’ve made up ’til now is gone. You’re still moving forward, even on the rough days. Just continue to do the things you need to do to take care of yourself.

There is one thing you can do to help your recovery process along: Don’t take it over as though you are a healthcare provider. The first time you feel better, don’t decide to quit your meds (if you’re taking them) cold turkey, or quit seeing your therapist (if you’re seeing one) cold turkey, or quit asking for help or taking care of yourself or following whatever method of treatment you and your doctor have decided to follow. This could impede your progress. I know lots of people who decide they know better than their healthcare providers, and so they start making decisions as to what they should and shouldn’t be doing without the counsel of trained professionals. That’s not a good idea.

If you feel like the professional you’re working with isn’t helping you or hearing you, that’s different. It’s okay to go out and find another one. But if you like the one you’re with, don’t ignore your physician’s advice just because you’ve started feeling better, or because you’ve bought into the false belief that you should be over this by now, or because you’ve bought into the false belief that you should be able to get over this all on your own. There is no set timetable for recovering from postpartum depression. And there is no law of nature that states that you’re a better person if you can get over it all by yourself. No one can get through life on their own without help, regardless of whether they’re ill or not. We all need support at some point. It just happens to be your turn.

In the meantime, try and accept that you’re moving in the right direction, even if you have a bad day. Try and find inspiration and patience in your faith, or in music and literature, or in nature, or in speaking with women who have long since recovered, who know how you’re feeling and who know you can get better.

We know how hard it is to wait for the clouds to lift. We know that there are ups and downs, and that it can take a while. We’ll wait with you. You’re worth it.

Photo credit: © Ovidiu Iordachi – Fotolia

About Katherine Stone

is the founder of Postpartum Progress. She has been named a WebMD Health Hero, one of the fiercest women in America by More magazine, and one of the top 20 Social Media Moms by Working Mother magazine. She is a survivor of postpartum OCD.

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  1. Melissa N. says:

    Bravo! Well said…couldn't agree more! While I was reading this, it felt like I had written it myself as this is the exact experience I had…relief was s-l-o-w to come and I'm not exactly a patient person to begin with, so playing the waiting game against PPMD was BRUTAL! All you warrior moms out there…rock on! For those of you who are in the thick of PPMD, hang in there…you will emerge victorious! xoxo

  2. This will help so many women!! Thank you for writing it – it was exactly my experience too. I remember when I was "all better", every month around my menstrual cycle I would completely regress and become a mess. My husband and I would get into huge fights and I remember one day sitting on the ground in my side yard balling my eyes out hating my life (and I LOVE my life!) Because I had stayed in touch with my psychotherapist, she encouraged me to calendar these episodes and we noticed they were all within 9 days of my cycle. She helped me to be prepared for them and they never took me by surprise again. Within a few months they were completely gone…
    Hang in there ladies! It has ups and downs till the end – but there IS an end!!

    • That’s exactly how I am, I fall apart emotionally when it’s time for my period and I’m on nuvaring. Any special advice for getting through these brutal agonizing hormonal days?

  3. You are a goddess, thank you so much for this piece. I am a social worker that says this exact thing to my patients 100 times per day. I cant thank you enough for all you have said on this topic.

  4. WOW AND Double WOW! Way to go Postpartum Progress!

  5. Yvonne Kelly says:

    I think that as humans we take so very much for granted, and fail to realize just how fortunate we really are. We call the birth of a child a miracle, and truly it is, but are we willing to undergo the needed sacrifices. Your article brings to mind something I learned a long time ago. “For every adversity there is a seed, or equivalent of equal, or greater benefit.” I hope I quoted that correctly, but do you get the point. I’m sure the experience of postpartum depression (and the other ills that go along with it), are no pick nick. Take time to sit back and focus fully on what this is all about. You have just experienced the miracle of birth, and brought about the life of a distinct separate individual, that should make your life worthwhile. The down side is that the birth process for some does not have good side effects. I appreciate the realization expressed in the article of the need to be patient. Give you mind and body time to recoup and readjust. Is it not worth the while to fight for what would be a good outcome, and not give up? Your article also provided good tips that should be kept in mind.

    • My baby is 8 month now and I still have them, but not a bad days, bad weeks:-)). Every time I have them I am reading this article, because need support. Thanks a lot.

  6. Wow! Although this has been posted a while ago, it did so much good to my soul today! Just hearing that it’s ok to feel like I’m back at square one, but that I’m really not, and that it’s normal and still progress was very encouraging! Thanks!

    Also, thank you for this site, not many websites talk about depression as in depth as you do, all they do is list symptoms and refer you to ‘specialists’. Which is all good, but sometimes we just need the support or extra info you provide. So, thank you, again!

  7. THANK YOU FOR THIS ARTICLE AND SITE. It’s so hopeful hearing how many other women have survived this awful illness and that there is light at the end of the tunnel. I will continue taking it moment by moment and remember to read this again when I am having difficulties. Thank you so much for your shares. You have truly impacted my life and helped me through a dark time.

  8. I wanted to let you know that I linked to your post on my website’s blog. It’s refreshing to see a blog post that captures the struggle so many experience working toward healing from anxiety or depression. I will be keeping your blog in mind as a resource for clients who may benefit from your articles. Thanks!

  9. Vinizzio says:

    DO you know how is the probability that my wife would get Psychosis again? doctor already removed Clopixol she is just on antidepressives. Small amounts for proper sleeping as doctor said. I notices she was obviously depressed after psychosis, but start getting better in some days ( 2-3) now she is at her parents city and I look she is very active, happy and also thinking a lot!!! obviously that scares me because I dont want to see her again on that nightmare.
    Hope it won’t come back,, 10 months already has gone since she was at hospital..

    • Heather King says:


      We cannot tell you what the probability is that your wife would experience psychosis again. Every person is different. But it sounds like you are a loving and supportive spouse. If you notice changes or symptoms, it is best to contact the doctor who has helped in the past. (It sounds like she has a doctor helping her through this. That is a good thing!) Thank you for leaving a note and for being a support to your wife. All the best to you and yours…

      • Vinizzio says:

        Hi Heather King:

        Thanks a lot for ur words! has been hard for all of us.. for sure she still on consultation with psychologist and psychiatrist.. In one hand Im happy a lot that she feels good, but just to remember she was in the same “excess of happiness, socialism, energy” and all those things makes me afraid.. she doesnt deserve it. and for sure our baby.. ( which I care all that time by mw own).

        However it is, I have live this with her very close, in a country which is not my environment ( russia) and with a language I dont speak correctly. I think we all as men should understand what’s going on with our wives and be patient. Basic roll of a husband be supportive all the time.

        Regards and all the best for all of u Strong ladies!

  10. Thank you for these amazing words. I am on the journey of postpartum depression/anxiety & you have explained exactly how Im feeling, 7 months in & I am seeing more & more sunny days. I am so thankful for this lovely community I stumbled across in desperation for support a few months back. I truly believe your articles have aided me in the acceptance of having PPD & with acceptance follows peace. Thank you again.

  11. I’m currently having a bad day. I just cant do it today…..last night was awful and I had to deal with her by myself as the husband was away. I’m ashamed of myself for not coping. I hate that I’m not enough for her and that I cant give her what she deserves. Right now, I feel like the worst person in the world. I know people struggle with so much more than I do but I just cant cope and have no idea how others do. I wish I could just run away and leave everyone to be happy because I’m the one dragging them down.
    I know this is a bad day, I can rationalise that much and I have certainly had many good days since starting my antidepressants. I guess this level of bad a day I’m having was really unexpected. LIke you mention here, it feels like its all lost and I’m currently heartbroken. I want to be better…. I want so desperately to be the mum my girl deserves……I feel like I’m depriving her of early years because I cant do it. Like she has to wait for me……Its not fair on her. Its not fair!
    Thank you for posting this blog so I can see that these bad days are normal, its little comfort right now but once I’m out of this sad mood I’m currently in, i will bare it in mind that its possible to happen again and maybe it wont hit me like a freight truck next time.
    sorry for the rant!

    • Heather King says:

      Thank you for your honesty, mama. You helped others by expressing all of this. Please remember that you are NOT at fault and that your family needs you. Your guilt is not serving you or your baby, mama. It’s okay to be struggling. This is an illness and you are working on getting better. You have not stolen anything from your daughter. You will all be okay, in time, if you keep taking care of yourself and healing. Being gentle with yourself and talking with your doctor about how you are doing is the best gift you can give your baby. You are giving her YOU when you are free from shame. If you need to talk to someone in therapy, there is no shame in that either. I’m so glad you found some comfort in this post. I’m sending you peace.

      • So, I have stumbled across this post again and I appreciate its been a while but wanted to quickly update you.
        I am pleased and proud to say, I barely recognise the person who wrote this post but shame reminds me that it was me. Pride lets me admit that it WAS me. Although it is very hard at times (harder when I see others coping so well) the sunshine has broken the darkness and I am finally able to be a mum. I am still learning to be all she deserves but its a journey I’m enjoying and embracing.
        To anyone reading this and going through PPD, please find comfort in this post…… it gets better. Today has been a challenging day of in-and-out of “the naughty corner” countless times and I don’t know how many times I have said “no” today but, even with those challenges, I feel love. Love for her, love for my family and most importantly, love for me.
        Take time, its ok. Exactly as Heather told me, heal! I promise, it works and you are exactly what your family needs.
        Thank you for being there for a stranger, you will never know the impact you had on my mentality. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
        Sending love and peace to you all. X

  12. I have been fully recovered for years now but this post still gives me goosebumps. It just gets right to the heart of the matter when it comes to the ups and downs, and how discouraging they can be. This article is an absolute classic and I share it on my PPD/PPA support board regularly. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


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