Profoundly Alone: The Disconnection of Postpartum Depression

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postpartum depressionWhen you suffer from a postpartum mood or anxiety disorder like postpartum depression, you walk around in a haze while trying to seem as normal as possible. You try to make yourself feel as connected as you can to your child and those around you. Perhaps your dearest friends and family can tell that you don’t seem like yourself, but then they just brush it off as normal baby blues. And you soldier on, trying to pretend — sometimes successfully, sometimes not so successfully — that everything is cool.

When my son was a little over two months old and I was in the throes of postpartum obsessive-compulsive disorder I tried to host a ladies’ luncheon at my house. It was mid-December, and I guess I thought it would make me feel better to have a half-dozen women over and make them a nice little Christmas lunch. I decorated the house. I made goat cheese salad and butternut squash soup and little lemon tarts with sugared blueberries for dessert.

When the women came over, I’ll never forget having one of the oddest feelings I’ve ever had. I felt like I was inside of a bubble. Or like I was hovering over the party watching it but that my guests couldn’t see or hear me. I was shocked out how disconnected I felt from the world, and it seemed like it didn’t really matter whether I was there or not. I tried to make small talk, but it seemed like the sentences just didn’t come out right and that I wasn’t making any sense — it was almost like all the air had been replaced by water that blurred my vision and muffled my sound. Everyone seemed to have a great time, and they were chatting and eating away. I kept trying to connect with them, to feel present, but no matter what I did it didn’t work.

To this day, I don’t think they had any idea what I was thinking or feeling. They definitely didn’t know I had postpartum depression. They seemed to have a lovely time. After everyone left and my son went down for a nap, I remember laying down on the couch in my family room and sobbing. I had tried to do something to make myself feel better, to be a part of the world, and it had only broken my heart. I tried to be close to others and it only made me feel further apart.

One of the truly awful feelings you experience during postpartum depression or anxiety is that sense of disconnection from the world, from your friends and family, from your baby, and most of all, from yourself. I felt so deeply, deeply alone.

Profoundly alone.

This is why it’s so hard for us to say anything. We’re ashamed, of course. But we’re also disconnected. I didn’t think anyone would hear me, or believe me, or perhaps even care. I didn’t even have myself to talk to anymore. Myself had up and left and this new person I had become was clearly NOT my friend. I had lost my ability to speak clearly and calmly and with reason. I felt like I couldn’t even communicate love to my own child. How could I have been expected to understandably explain THIS?

I hope the people we love can try to understand why it is so easy for moms with postpartum depression to turn away. It’s much easier to run and hide, or give up, than to try and speak through the cement wall that life just erected between us and the world. We try our best, but you may have to fill in the blanks for us until we find our words, and ourselves, again.

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  1. Great Article, Katherine!….Really taps well into that sense of isolation felt when going through PPD and the thinking that no one could really understand b/c you just don't know how to even begin to explain it yourself!
    Take Care,
    Sandra M. Wolf, MFT
    Focusing on treating Postpartum Depression & New Parent issues. http://www.SandyMWolf.com
    Sandy@SandyMWolf.com
    (714) 747-6959
    Anaheim, CA, 92807

  2. Somehow, reading that just made so many feelings rise up in me. I had a moment just like your tea party, and sometimes I feel like I am still buried behind that cement wall. My son is almost 3 and yet I still feel like I am not the person I once was. On medication, and even therapy (although I haven’t gone in a long time). I didn’t realize/admit that something was wrong with me until he was over a year old. And yet I still somehow feel trapped in this little world and so detached from everyone, even my husband. Can PPD last this long??

  3. Hi, Andrea,
    You asked if PPD can last this long, and the answer is that for some women, yes, the disorder can indeed last this long if help is not sought. I know from experience myself how very difficult it can be to ask for help. And when you do ask for help, sometimes, unfortunately, you're not taken very seriously by some.
    You wrote that you haven't been to therapy in a long time. My suggestion is to contact your therapist again, if there wasn't a major negative reason you stopped seeing that particular therapist, to get back into treatment.
    PSI (Postpartum Support International) also has a wonderful resource list of therapists in your area who specialize in treating PPD. Also, this website has a fantastic list of support groups in your area.
    Sometimes it just helps tremendously to be around other women who "get" what you're going through so you can realize you are NOT alone and that you CAN get through this!
    Sincerely,
    Sandra Wolf

  4. I have three children (4, 2 and 9 months). Lately I feel that it is very hard to be happy. I feel like I should be happy, but I am not. I find that I lock myself in the bathroom and cry. And sometimes I laugh and I smile, but then other times I cry…and I honestly don't know what is wrong with me. I wonder what happened to the person that I use to be before I had kids; I can't find that person anymore…how do I get her back.

  5. I was feeling very lonely after I gave birth to my first baby as my husband was abroad and he couldn't get home in time.Then I started my own therapy with magnetic painting and I painted our bedroom and this way I wasn't thinking about my depression so much.

  6. I am sitting here in my kitchen sobbing…. finally something that is my reality right now.
    I feel that disconection and I am doing everything I can to come out of this haze but I feel I'll never be the same again. I want to believe differently. Thank you. I actually feel better just knowing there is someone out there who "gets" me.

  7. Reading about all your experiences has made me feel connected for the first time in almost two years. After a diagnosis of PCOS and months spent trouble shooting various doses of medications I found out that I was pregnant. My pregnancy was happy and uneventful until I went into labor 4 weeks early. My daughter was born healthy and happy. The size of her head resulted in severe tearing and lots of stitches. After several days my doc diagnosed a UTI as the reason for the mild pains in my back. The pain during urination that you usually feel was disguised by the pain I was experiencing from my generally sore bum. Four weeks after that I began vomiting and had general tummy troubles. Then, I developed a fever. Doc said it was stomach flu and not to worry. Saturday I went to the ER because i was having trouble breathing and couldn't walk figuring this was all a result of dehydration. In fact, I was diagnosed with severe sepsis and my organs, including my heart and liver, were failing. Long story short, this resulted in four days in ICU, another week in the coronary care unit and 12 months worth of consultations with a heart specialist.
    I was not able to see my daughter during any of this time and when I was released was no longer able to breastfeed. It had been nearly two weeks since I nursed and my milk dried up. Back at home I was not able to lift my daughter or rise from a sitting position without assistance as some muscle atrophy had occurred while I was bedridden. The impact this had on me was profound. Two years later I have seen multiple psychologists and psychiatrists as well as heart specialists. Since none of the drug free options helped I began taking antidepressants and stimulants and, frankly, that is as depressing as the depression itself.
    I work in a professional office where several other moms delivered around the time that I did which just makes me feel more lonely and depressed. The shame that comes along with this disorder just steals your soul, your self worth and your sense of community with others. It doesn't help that there is a stigma with working moms before you stir in complications from depression.
    Knowing you guys are here gives me hope that things will get better.

  8. For what it's worth, I spent a lot of time trying to find that person that I was before my daughter was born and came to the conclusion that it was a waste of energy. Having her changed me to my core and once I started trying to figure out the me that consisted of both of us I began to be happy again. In some ways a new you is born with every baby.

  9. Oh my goodness. This is exactly how I felt after my son was born. I still struggle with this hopelessness and feeling of isolation. Thank you so much for putting this feeling into words. I really appreciate your honesty about what it's like to feel this way.

  10. I have two little girls, both wonderful surprises lol. With my first things were great, I grew up around kids and helped raise my little brothers so I wasn't totally new to this. When my oldest was about 6 months I just knew I was pregnant and sure enough I was right. When my youngest daughter Layla came I was wiped out, all I wanted was to go home and see my other daughter. I still went through the motions, I loved her absolutely but the shock of being pregnant again was now the shock of the baby being here. I never felt that we connected like I did with my first and she was also more difficult in demeanor lol. I know I had a 1 1/2 year old rubbing around who wanted my attention and so did my newborn. I was torn. My point is this, they are now 4 & 3, I know this sounds crazy but I feel like I have ppd NOW. OR maybe I've had it for 3 years and never diagnosed it. I struggle with most things, I myself am unhappy, I'm short tempered, tired, and they do not listen to me at all, I'm also no fun :( I should've mentioned that I'm a single mother who also helps take care of my 3 sisters, 13, 10 & 8…I love to read, I read self help books constantly, Nanny 911, Parents books, etc…my girls deserve better, what can I do????? I am terribly lonely, i have no support system, im the one people turn to, they want to listen, never Physically help…. Please help

  11. I am going through this right now and it I AWFUL. When I had my first baby, I bonded with her right away. In fact, she became my life, my everything. I even posted once on Facebook that having a child was like watching your heart walk around outside your body. But having my second baby tore that all from me. A few days after having her, I suddenly felt like I had made a huge mistake. I felt like I had hurt my older daughter by bringing a new baby to the family. I couldn’t bond with my baby. I now know that what I was really grieving was a lack of feeling for ANYONE, even my family. I feel disconnected from both of my children now and it absolutely breaks my heart. I always said that the only thing that could bring me to suicide would be the death of my daughter. Now, it feels like that death occurred because I am not me and I am not feeling the same feelings for her. This is terrifying to me. I have always been a super grounded, sane person, filled with love for my family and friends. I have always been spiritual and in awe of life and all the beauty it holds. I feel like someone stole me from me. I became suicidal and was committed to a mental health facility for three days. My depression and numbness is debilitating. I have tried paxil, Zoloft, and am now on Effexor and praying it works. How did you overcome your depression? Do you feel bonded with your children now? Please help me.

    • Oh hon, I’m so sorry you’re struggling with all of this. Are you seeing a psychiatrist, or were those prescriptions given to you by your regular doctor or OB? I would suggest seeing a psychiatrist who understands these kind of medications much better. I would also consider doing therapy either in addition to or instead of the medication if you can’t find anything that works for you. My illness was overcome with medication and weekly therapy and time. I don’t know how many months old your 2nd baby is, but I will tell you that it takes time to recover from PPD and anxiety and it’s important that you are patient with yourself. You WILL get back to the old you.

    • I am going through the same thing. I feel alone and disconnected from my daughter. It’s like someone has turned the love switch off and I can’t seem to turn it back on. I am going through life in a haze and would rather not be here than feel this awful numb feeling. Will I ever get better and get my feelings back? Xx

      • I get what you’re going through. I feel so hazy and lonely and I’m
        Not sure if I’ll ever get back to how I used to be. But I know that things pass and you find a new normal and a new way to deal with things. I have just looked into seeing a counsellor and you should too. Family and friends just don’t seem to understand. I don’t know you but lots of love and look after yourself.

  12. This is me right now. Good to know I’m not alone but I’m so lonely and I don’t know where to start. I don’t want to be seen as weak.

    • None of us want to be seen as weak Jennifer. Your illness isn’t a sign of weakness though. It is not a reflection of your character. It’s just an illness. It’s not a weakness to get help for an illness, right?

    • Counselling works wonders. Nobody needs to even know you are going. I told my mum I was seeing a specialist as I had to tell her something so she could babysit. Talking it out is the key and finding people/groups going through the same thing is important too as sometimes friends don’t really know what you mean or what to say. There are a lot of groups on Facebook and online too if that’s easier for you.

  13. Reading this puts the words into place I couldn’t quite describe. I recently had a date with my husband after 5 months of all baby all the time. At the restaurant table I remember trying really hard to hold back tears, rage, and blame. It was the disconnect that was overwhelmingly taking over. And though I had/have all kinds of blame and resentment as my husband looked at his phone for the latest scores, it was also me that has a wall up. I recognized that feeling, it follows me. It was just more prevalent in that moment and often sneeks its ugly little self into our sex life. You’re there going through the motions (probably barely and half heartedly) and all you want to do is cry. And sometimes a tear or two escapes..

    • The feeling of disconnect is odd. Its like u recognize everyone and function but u feel lije u are ovserving and arent present. Can any of u described this better