The Intensity of Postpartum Depression

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From Postpartum Progress contributor Robin Farr, author of Farewell Stranger and postpartum depression survivor …

I’m going to ask you a question that might make you wonder whether I’ve gone nuts. Or maybe not. Maybe you’ll know exactly what I mean. But first, a story.

One day, around the time I was finally starting to feel better, I went for a walk with a friend. He, too, has suffered from depression and was an excellent sounding board during my really rough months of postpartum depression.

I remember that day so clearly – we took advantage of the sunshine and walked the loop around the bog near my house. We had passed the ducks and had trekked up to the top of the hill that curved away from the main part of the bog. We walked down the other side, making our way back towards the marshy section that led to the cool, tree-covered path.

As we came down the bottom of that slope I asked my friend how he was doing, knowing he had recently been in a better place but wanting to be sure.

“Doing well,” he confirmed. “But I sort of miss the intensity of the emotion, you know?”

I knew exactly what he meant. There was something about struggling daily – hourly, minute by minute – with something like depression that made me feel alive. Even in those moments when I felt I couldn’t bear it and just wanted to die, I was feeling something. I was totally focused on myself (as tends to be the case) and, somewhat paradoxically, I lived in the moment while always looking forward to what I was going to do to beat it.

To me, beating postpartum depression was a challenge. It had haunted me for too long before finally sucking me under, and when it did I owned it. Taking a leave from work, while necessary, was my way of saying, “It’s on.” I needed to focus on my mental health in order to get my life back under control.

I’m not saying it was good, just that it was intense.

Maybe I’m a drama queen, but when I started to feel better I sort of missed that intensity. It was as though everything during that time was brighter, louder, more uncomfortable. My senses were assaulted, but when the light came back into my life everything seemed muted somehow.

Does that make any sense? Maybe you know just what I mean. Maybe you do think I’m nuts. I certainly don’t mean to be provocative or to cause offense, but for me that feeling was part of recovery. And to be fair, once I got past that point the normal excitement of day-to-day life came back, and now I don’t miss those old feelings one bit.

So tell me, those of you who have come out of the black hole of postpartum depression or anxiety (either once or for good), do you know what I mean? Do you ever miss the intensity of those feelings?

Robin Farr

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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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  1. I can relate! My PPD was right after my first child was born. I resigned from my job to stay home with her (this was always the plan, not a result of the PPD). At the time I felt isolated and lonely. I look back on that time and wish I had it back. I miss those feelings, the ones, like you mentioned, of struggling and being strong for her sake. Even though I was suffering, I did bond with her over that rough year because she was all I had, and I was determined to be the best mom for her, even though I wasn't a great mom at the time. I miss the quiet days of not running errands and dropping kids here and there. It was just the two of us with nothing more than weekly grocery shopping to accomplish. Now that she's 5 and her brother is 3, life is very hectic and stressful.

    • Robin | Farewell, St says:

      I can totally imagine what that must feel like. And I'm glad I'm not the only one who looks back on that and remembers what it was like to feel so much!

  2. Although, I embarrassed to admit it, I certainly miss a certain type of attention that comes along with PPD.

    I had a therapist, midwife, and volunteer mother calling me weekly, and I could call them whenever I wanted or needed them. I took advantage of these services because I didn't have anyone else. I certainly could contact any of those people now, but I don't need the help. They gave me tools to continue on with and I use them daily.

    However, I miss all the in between stuff…the advice on my son, having someone to tell a story to, the understanding, and the laughter (what i miss the most). They were professionals doing their jobs, but they were my only friends.

    So, yes, I offen feel a sense of loss when it comes to the attention from PPD, but I try and be ok with that feeling of loss and focus on my gratitude for their help, but thats asking a lot out of me sometimes.

    • Robin | Farewell, St says:

      Yes! You're so right. There is something about dealing with PPD that provides a certain attention that's kind of nice. For good reasons, like being aware of all the love and support you have around you, but just for the attention itself too.

      Don't be embarrassed to admit that. I totally know what you mean.

  3. Anytime we get use to a new normal, we inevitably miss it. I miss struggling when I lived in NYC and scraping together dollars for ramen.

    On the upside to your story, knowing what depression feels like is a mixed blessing. I was depressed in college and because of that, I knew what was happening pretty quickly with PPD. No, it wasn't the same, but I knew it was worse. That previous experience enabled me to get help for PPD immediately instead of thinking it would fade on its own. I doubt I would have been so 'lucky' had I not intimately known those feelings.

    • Robin | Farewell, St says:

      So true as well. Because my PPD experience was different than other bouts of depression (more anger than sadness or anything else) I didn't recognize it. But that really is a good thing about knowing what it feels like.

  4. Jessica Carter says:

    I was just talking about this with my counselor, I'm pregnant with my second child and told her that although I was embarrassed to admit it, I had had fleeting thoughts of "I hope I have PPD/PPA again" but I couldn't understand why and I knew in my heart of hearts I did NOT want to go through that hell again. She explained to me that she had heard that before from other woman and how she explained it was perfect. When going through it you are on such a deeper more open level with people than ever before, it's not the typical conversation that you have with neighbors or co-workers of "how was your weekend" but you build such intense relationships with family, friends, counselors, and doctors, that it becomes easy to miss once you are feeling better. So I'm glad you discussed this because I do understand.

    • Robin | Farewell, St says:

      Oh, you nailed it, Jessica. That is a huge part of it, for sure. I'm so glad you brought that up with her and that she had such a good way of looking at it. And thanks for sharing that story – it helps me to think of my feelings around this in a different way too.

  5. I suppose it is different for me since I have bipolar…but when I came out of the thick of it, I was at ease. The world did seem so much more brighter…perhaps it's because I was so locked in my head?? Not sure.

    But I'm sure that a lot of women can relate to this.

  6. Im glad you wrote about this and that several women can identify with these feelings. I know it took a lot of bravery to talk about this feature of depression. It's not a feeling I have had, but because I deal with depression in general, there may come a day when I do feel this.. and it will help me feel less alone and less odd to remember that you talked about this. Thank you :)

  7. At many of the lowest points of my life (which were probably undiagnosed major depressive episodes. I'm accepting that now), I have been of the belief that my intense feelings, my darkness were the source of my talent. That you had to hurt to be an artist. That if I let it go, I wouldn't be me, I'd be some shallow sorority girl.

    You don't have to hurt. It doesn't have to be hard. Who you are now matters. You are deep and beautiful and wonderful.

  8. Yep! I totally know what you mean. I have never been a very emotional person so to be able to just sob and sob and sob and have things affect me emotionally was kind of nice for a change. Well… for about a second. But I noticed that too!

  9. I don't remember miss it with PPD but with what I'm battling now I do have the fear that I will lose my creativity and intensity that I have when I'm well.

    I'm afraid my passion will be lost and I will become dull.

    I'm scared that my personality will be gone.

    • Robin | Farewell, St says:

      Oh, Leighann. It won't. You were you before this and you are you now. I can't imagine you ever losing that. Big hugs.