Six Things You Should Avoid If You Have Postpartum Depression Or Anxiety

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postpartum depressionSIX THINGS YOU SHOULD AVOID IF YOU HAVE POSTPARTUM DEPRESSION

1. Scary Stuff

Women with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders like postpartum depression can be very suggestible. What does that mean? It means you can hear or see something disturbing and then suddenly be convinced it relates directly to you. You can get a scary idea in your head and then not be able to get rid of it — it can sometimes get stuck in there and endlessly terrorize you. It’s best to surround yourself as much as possible with positive images so that upsetting thoughts don’t get the chance to enter your mind.

Avoid horror movies and scary books. Don’t watch too much news, and don’t surf the internet carelessly. Be very choosy about which websites you go to and which discussion forums you join. Some “mommy websites” don’t have trained moderators running their postpartum depression forums, and you’ll run into well-meaning women telling you exactly what you need to do, and not do, to get better. They don’t know you and they don’t know exactly what you need. Each person responds differently to treatment. Some take meds and some don’t. Some have side effects and some don’t. Some have a great doctor and some don’t. Some get better quickly and some don’t. If you spend all day comparing yourself to what women on the internet have done you can drive yourself crazy. Try to go to safer sites, where trained peer support and/or research-based information are offered, like Postpartum Progress or your state’s local support organization.

2. An Overscheduled Life

Does it all need to get done right now? Really? Or is your health more important? A spotless house, empty laundry basket and dishwasher, three-course meal and five different mom and baby classes aren’t necessary. The more you give yourself to do, the more you’re likely to beat yourself up when you can’t do it all perfectly. And trust me, you can’t do it all.

3. Thought Monkeys

The fabulous blogger at Sophie in the Moonlight calls the negative thoughts that most of us with perinatal mood and anxiety disorders experience “thought monkeys”. Many of us unwittingly lend a hand to our illness by accepting these negative thoughts; by telling ourselves we are bad people and defective mothers. I love how Sophie has brought this to life:

“Thought Monkeys [are] my name for those incredibly destructive, deeply internalized, mischievous thoughts that jump and screech inside my mind, demanding attention, demanding action NOW. Look at us NOW … The Thought Monkeys even have names. In no particular order they introduce themselves as follows: “I’m Not Enough of, at or for Anything”, “I’m A Big Burden”; “I’m Unlovable”; “My name is “The World Would Be Better Off Without Me” and her close cousin “I’m Not Worthy to Breathe In This Air Shared By My Friends and Family”; and my least favorite says “I’m To Blame For Every Abusive Thing That Has Ever Been Done to Me My Entire Life”. Aren’t they sweet? Each one is uglier than the last and they each think they are the most important one. Hateful little creatures.”

Sophie challenges each thought monkey. She avoids believing they are true. She fights back with her own mind, argues with herself that these thoughts are wrong. We have to do the same. We can’t contribute to and even further our suffering by accepting that these thoughts are reality. They aren’t. They are part of the temporary disease of postpartum depression.

4. Unsupportive People

It may help to temporarily avoid or limit your time with people who blame you for your illness or don’t try to understand, as well as people who are judgmental or don’t support your treatment and recovery path. You need positive and supportive people on your side, so spend as much time with those people as possible. And even if you don’t find them among your friends and family, you will find them among the women who have been through these illnesses, so try and find a support group in your area.

5. Procrastination

Many recent studies show that both the physical and emotional health of untreated women and their children can be negatively impacted over the long term. Babies whose mothers have untreated depression during pregnancy, for instance, are twice as likely to be born prematurely. Prematurity can lead to health problems and developmental delays.

There is just no good reason to wait it out if you are ill, either during pregnancy or postpartum. Avoid procrastination. I know you’re scared, but it’s important to reach out to a doctor and let him or her know what’s going on. As Karen Kleiman, author of “This Isn’t What I Expected: Overcoming Postpartum Depression,” wrote in a comment on Postpartum Progress:

“Sometimes people feel that a risk is greater if they ‘do’ something or take action, as opposed to just letting things be. Life, ‘If I get on that airplane during the storm, the risk will be greater than if I don’t go.’ That seems pretty clear.

Conversely, there are times when the risk is in fact higher when no action is taken, such as the decision not to do anything in response to having chest pains.

This is the case with women who are pregnant or postpartum. Women who are deciding whether or not to take medication are understandable unsettled by having to make this decision. Often they feel if they ‘take’ the medication they are taking an action or engaging in behavior, or making a choice that increases the risk, or so they believe. Thus, they feel it would be better to do nothing.

But we know that in many of these cases, it is NOT better to do nothing and NOT TAKING ACTION can be detrimental; it can significantly increase the riskpotential, particularly for women who are severely ill. So it’s a perception thing. We perceive the riskto be greater if we take action. If I put this pill in my mouth I will be hurting myself or my baby. But it’s a faulty perception. Sometimes the risk is much greater when we do notact.”

This doesn’t just apply to the issue of medication, of course, because not every woman needs medication. It’s simply a great illustration of how procrastination can hurt you in the end. And, by the way, did you know that difficulty making decisions is a symptom of postpartum depression? You may have to push yourself a little bit harder to take that step of reaching out for help.

6. Acting Like You Have A Medical Degree

Unless you graduated from medical school and have completed your residency, you shouldn’t be diagnosing yourself. If you think you might have a perinatal mood or anxiety disorder, seek a trained professional to tell you whether you simply have the baby blues or something more. And for goodness sake, if you’re taking medication, you don’t get to decide to stop it cold turkey or reduce the dose without discussing it with your doctor first. Doing that to yourself could do more harm than good.

Photo credit: © Tim Mager – Fotolia

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About Katherine Stone

is the founder & editor of Postpartum Progress. She was named one of the ten most influential mom bloggers of 2011, a WebMD Health Hero and one of the top 25 parent bloggers using social media for social good. She also writes the Fierce Blog, and a parenting column for Disney's Babble.com.

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Comments

  1. Wow!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you.
    That explains why I stopped reading PPD books that gave all the details. They actually made me feel worse. I would start feeling their symptoms. I was just talking to my husbad last night how I can't watch scary movies anymore. I have also not gone to see my therapist in a couple of weeks thinking I have an handle on this. I don't.
    Thank you.

  2. So true. Thank you!

  3. Christy the Mommy-Mu says:

    This is excellent advice, perfect for a wide range of depression and anxiety disorders. Thanks for posting it!

  4. Nicole O'Rourke says:

    This is so true. I can't watch medical shows or scary movies anymore without thinking something bad is going to happen to me. Thank you so much for posting. I just found this site and I like reading what others are saying because then I know I'm not alone with my feelings.

  5. Joanmudd@comcast.net says:

    Susan,
    This advice is invaluable and so is your dedication to creating a safe and informed "home" for new mothers everywhere.
    Joan Mudd

  6. Survivor says:

    Number one is soooo true! I don't know why this is the first time I've stopped to read this one.

  7. I told my husband the other day that I want to get a t-shirt that reads, "don't tell me your deepest, darkest secrets. Tell a therapist." I'm serious, too, because people find out I'm a survivor and they treat me like I'm some kind of therapist. I need a way to say I'm not able to handle your issues and j value you as a friend ( but I don't want to be rude about it,)

  8. superb!!!

  9. all this is so true thank you

  10. Good Day..
    I am experiencing POst Partum depression now, it started when my son turned 3 months, by 17 he’ll turn 7 months. i am really tired of these strange feelings. i am really suffering this long. I can’t sleep at night, and still have to work at day time.I always cry for no reason, i started to hate my husband, when i loved him even before. I need help.. Thank you and GOD BLESS..

  11. I love this website! It is helping me right now.
    I’m seeking treatment 8 weeks postpartum
    and thank God because I can not take the
    thought monkeys anymore. Thank you for
    creating this site.

    • Those thought monkeys are pure hell, aren’t they? I’m really glad you found us and even more glad you are reaching out for help. You will get better. You’re doing all the right things by seeking information and reaching out to a healthcare provider. Good for you for taking care of yourself!
      ~ K

  12. As an OCD sufferer who had things under control till PPD after baby #2 abruptly weaned at 6 months, I’ve always found its best to not “fight” the thought monkeys. In cognitive behavioral therapy I have learned to allow the thoughts just to “be.” Tell myself, “oh thats just an OCD thought again, you can go ahead and be there, I’m not going to fight with you.” I did this therapy when I was 19 and first dealt with OCD. It has only occasionally bothered me since and has been easily managed myself, until now at 30 with two babies and I’m having to deal with it again. On days I’m tired, its a lot harder just let it go but it truly makes the world of difference.

  13. Oh my gosh I believe I found my Postpartum twin!! I have experienced the exact same things! I have a 7.5 month old. How are you feeling now? What things did you do that worked for you to cope?

    • It has been almost three years since I was finally diagnosed with and treated for PPD and anxiety (I went through 6 medical professionals to finally get help). Remembering where I was – I would never have believed that I would feel better again. Scary intrusive thoughts ruled my mind- and I thought I could manage it all on my own. I avoided the news and followed the other ‘5 things’ listed above- including detaching from my parents (who weren’t capable or didn’t try to understand) and eventually my husband (we are divorcing). I am so elated to say that I am well on the road to becoming a more developed ‘me’ for me and my wonderful daughter. And boy does that feel good. Keep at it- it may take years and more heartache than you ever thought possible- but there is a light- and that light is you.

  14. RE: #4 Unsupportive people.
    What if your husband is one of these?

  15. Excellent Blog post, very informative and encouraging to women who need help but are finding it difficult to take a step towards getting it. Teresa

Trackbacks

  1. […] read on one PPD blog to stay away from depressing movies, books, and literature, http://www.postpartumprogress.com/six-things-you-should-avoid-if-you-have-postpartum-depression This was wise advice. Obviously, you can’t always avoid being exposed to suffering. Suffering and […]

  2. […] read on one PPD blog to stay away from depressing movies, books, and literature, http://www.postpartumprogress.com/six-things-you-should-avoid-if-you-have-postpartum-depression This was wise advice. Obviously, you can’t always avoid being exposed to suffering. Suffering and […]

  3. […] is used by many, many people who suffer from mental illness. It’s the first thing on the list of things to avoid when you’re suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety by Katherine Stone of Postpartum Progress, the world’s most widely-read blog on mental […]