I 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