I’m welcoming a fellow Warrior Mom friend of mine today to share her story with the Postpartum Progress community. Jenna and I met online through #ppdchat, and we became fast friends. Since I only experienced postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety with the birth of my youngest, I really wanted the perspective of a mama who had suffered multiple episodes of postpartum depression. I wanted to showcase the idea that all women should be screened for perinatal mood disorders throughout their pregnancy and all through the first year postpartum. Thank you so much Jenna for sharing your story. It is a pleasure to welcome my dear friend.
My longest lasting episode of depression began during my pregnancy with my second oldest child. It was marked by anxiety and irritation, and a loose cannon rage that would come out of nowhere over both big and little things. I was ashamed of my lack of ability to control my anger, and that I’d become a parent who yelled often. I attributed it to being pregnant and hormonal and having a high need 2 year old, but I didn’t connect it with depression at all. I didn’t make that connection because I wasn’t sad, tearful, lethargic, or unmotivated. How could it be depression if there were no tears?
After my baby was born, things only got worse. She had colic for 3 months, screaming from 11 pm to 2 am most nights, while I walked a groove into the living room floor. Once the colic abated, she was a terrible sleeper. She woke as many as half a dozen times a night for the first two years of her life, and I was the primary caregiver. Due to the chronic sleep deprivation, I was detached, full of rage, and anxious. I also began having intrusive thoughts and paranoia, most often involving fear of home invasion or replaying the worst parenting moments of my day. Some were worse and more vivid than that.
I mentioned my anger and detachment to my ex (who I was still married to at the time) when she was about 10 months old, and he told me, “If you had a closer relationship with God, you would not be in despair.” Medication and therapy would be a waste of money, he said, because the problem was in my head and was rooted in sin. I was devastated and felt even more shame as I internalized this possibility.
When you’re already feeling worthless and ashamed, it’s easy to believe unkind words about why you feel the way you do. Because of his reaction and invalidation, I never told anyone about how I was feeling. I didn’t have the courage to admit to the intrusive thoughts and paranoia once he told me that I was the problem. But I knew my feelings were real, and I knew they weren’t normal. I didn’t know I could look for support or help because I didn’t really know what to call my emotional state other than angry, detached, and overwhelmed. It didn’t seem like any depression I had ever heard of.
… tune in tomorrow for part 2 of Jenna’s story …