What Makes Moms With Postpartum Depression Reach Out for Help?

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The mom at The Vaca Loca blog has written about what made her finally reach out for help for postpartum depression. Prior to getting that help, nursing was the reason she gave herself to wait:

In a previous post I mentioned that I resisted getting treatment for the postpartum depression for several months, primarily due to breastfeeding. So what tipped the scales and sent me running to the doc?

At some point I started thinking, “Things would be so much better if I could just disappear for a while to regroup. But not until I wean.”

Then it went to, “Things would be so much better if I could just disappear forever. But not until I wean.”

Then, “Things would be so much better for everyone if I just didn’t exist. But not until I wean.”

Then, “If the train by my house derailed and hit me, that would be ok. But not until I wean.”

Then, “What if I just accidently drove my car into the train? But not until I wean.”

Then one day without warning (um, that I could put together at that time, at least), “I’m ready to just be gone now. And I don’t have it in me to hold out until after I wean.”

She says it was friends and family who convinced her to finally reach out.

I love how honest she is about how she kept putting it off and putting it off until it was almost too late. It’s an interesting topic. Whether it’s stigma, shame, embarrassment or denial, so many of us avoid reaching out for professional help forpostpartum depression. We set artificial deadlines. We convince ourselves we can (should) get better on our own. We decide we aren’t worth getting help, or it won’t work anyway. But then, thankfully, for most of us, at some point we turn the corner and make the call.

I honestly can’t remember what specific thing drove me to make that call to the Coca-Cola Company’s Employee Assistance Plan. I just knew I couldn’t take it anymore, and felt that since they were probably going to haul me off to jail or the padded room anyway I might as well give up the goods sooner rather than later.

For those of you who have already asked for help, what drove you to finally do it? What tipped the scales?

For more on getting help for postpartum depression:

Putting Off Getting Help for Postpartum Depression

5 Reasons Why Asking for Help Sucks

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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. Christina says:

    "We set articifial deadlines."
    Wow. I just wrote about this the other day, and it never occurred to me that other women were doing the same thing. I did that over and over again, thinking once my babies did *this* then I'd be better. And it kept changing, because obviously them doing *this* or *that* wasn't going to magically fix things.
    I finally called my doctor after taking two self-tests online, one for depression and one for PTSD. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I could keep going without getting help, because it couldn't really be that bad. Imagine my surprise when I tested as "severely depressed" and hit 19 of the 21 markers for PTSD. And it's been almost a year since my twins were born! If I'm this bad off now, and I know things are actually not as bad as they used to be…well, it's a little scary to think about.

  2. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Thanks for sharing that Christina. Don't feel bad. Lots of us do this. The good thing is that you took the step and you are on your way to feeling better.

  3. As a mental health professional I was really hoping to see more responses to find out what it is that makes women reach out for help. Is there any way to get more responses?

  4. Shortly after my insomnia began, PPD descended on me full swing with panic attacks and feeling completely and utterly debilitated. I went from bad to worse within a very short amount of time. I felt my only option was to seek help—medical, that is—immediately. To give you a better perspective of how big a deal it really was for me to go see a doctor at that point, I will tell you that I’ve hated and distrusted doctors my entire life. All my life, it’s been very hard for me to find a good doctor. Being analytical and critical by nature (and a Bio major to boot), I sometimes feel like I know more than the average physician. My distrust of them, plus the fact that most only give me 2 minutes’ time when I spend 30 times longer in their waiting room, make me second guess their diagnoses and I stop seeing them entirely after 1 or 2 visits.
    I was way too miserable and debilitated and wanted desperately to be able to function again. Something was telling me that something was seriously wrong with me and I had to get to the bottom of it, and my gut was telling me that I had no time to waste. Plus, I wanted to be sure I was capable of taking care of my baby. Without sleep and the ability to function normally, that would not have been possible.
    Had I not taken the Paxil when I did, I have no doubt that my panic attacks would’ve kept going and may have escalated out of control, and –with the Ambien no longer working for me—sleep deprivation and continued weight loss could have sent me back to the hospital I felt like I had only left yesterday. I could very well have suffered a lot longer, and negatively impacting my baby’s development, had I not started to take the Paxil when I did. Who knows if I could’ve gone suicidal. I shudder at the thought.
    My advice to other moms is to trust their instincts. If your instincts are telling you that something is wrong, that you don’t feel like your usual self and your ability to function on a day-to-day basis is impaired, and/or if there is an uncontrollable change in behavior, personality and outlook, go see a doctor immediately.

  5. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    I will ask everyone again next week!

  6. Deborah Rimmler says:

    I had post partum OCD after the birth of my son a year ago. I had those horrible thoughts that involve images of hurting your baby (in my case with knives…the food channel became my worst show to watch as they are everywhere!). I got help within a week of starting in with these thoughts. Part of what helped me reach out is that I had seen a therapist before in my life so that idea of reaching out to a professional wasn't such a big leap. I also had a doula who was with us at the birth and she was checking in with me everyday. I remember one thing she said reached me through my haze of panic….she told me that she knew many other women who had felt the way I did and they all got better. I then saw some light because a trusted person seemed to understand the crazy rabbit hole I had fallen into and knew from experience with other women that recovery was possible. Hope this helps.

  7. Thanks Katherine!! The topic is very helpful!

  8. I FINALLY sought help when I started obsessing so much about the scary intrusive thoughts I was having and really was starting to think I was "losing it". I was worried that a switch would go off in me somehow and leave me without any self control and possibly succumb to these intrusive thoughts. I loved my little one so much and how could I ever hurt him?????!!! I needed to be well in my head. I am 3 weeks into therapy and feelling MUCH better. I only wish I had went for treatment sooner.

  9. Thanks for sharing this Ivy!

  10. It seems like a trend here. Those of us
    with intrusive thoughts were particularly
    moved to reach out for professional help.

  11. Heather,
    I felt the same way. Like I couldn't trust
    myself anymore, and thus couldn't be trusted
    to care for my baby without seeing a doctor
    to do something about whatever was wrong with
    me.

  12. For me, I wanted to see a doctor because I just kept crying all the time and felt overwhelmed…I guess I just thought, "Maybe a doctor or therapist will just show me how to deal with my baby and feel like I have a handle on things." I honestly thought that maybe I was just being new and tentative, and that if someone 'showed' me how to handle it, I'd be fine. Well, I'm now on some anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medicine, and while no one has showed me the magical secret for taking care of babies, I'm in a MUCH better place.

  13. I'm a two-time survivor. The first time around, I was crying and sad, and felt worthless. Perhaps, in my troubled mind, not worth whatever help might be there, or beyond help.
    The topic of PPD came up at a regular mom's group and I remember there was almost a ripple through the group as just one mom opened up a bit about her experience, and then another, and another. And a quiet buzz after the group as several more confided in the one or two moms they trusted. I think for some of us that was kind of an awakening, both in terms of recognizing the depression and of realizing that we weren't so alone in it.
    Unfortunately, I didn't stick with it. I found a reason not to trust the psychologist providing postpartum services, and only went once. Things did improve greatly as my daughter got older and I made a few steps to take care of myself, but I think it left me much more vulnerable when my second pregnancy surprised us.
    After my son was born, I was hit with anxiety, which kindof snuck on me because I was watching so carefully for the familiar depression signs. My intrusive thoughts were (and I'm strangely thankful) more self-directed. The urge to hurt myself to escape the frustration (as little sense as that makes) was overwhelming. I began to follow through on those thoughts, physically banging my head against walls and beams. I knew something was so wrong and I was losing control, but still I tried to be 'tough.' I had to be able to take care of them. It was when I gave in to the thoughts in front of the kids, scaring my then two and a half month old son, that I finally called my doctor. Even then I was guarded in how much I shared, fearing that my kids would be taken from me or me from them. In my case, I never feared directly harming the kids, but it took too long to admit that by not taking steps urgently needed to take care of myself, I was useless, and possibly dangerous, to them.
    My son is now 20 months old, my daughter nearly three and a half years. Just writing this brings tears to my eyes, especially remembering how far I let things go before I reached out. But I thank God I did.

  14. my name is kerryn an i have had postpartrem depresion with ocd an i have the thoughts of sufficating my baby girl since she was 3 weeks she is 14 months now as its been a long journey for me as i had acted with a plastic bag to get the intrusive thoughts out of my head she didnt came to danger but dhs took her away i still have the thoughts an i was wandering even if i acted would i actualy bring my little girl to danger

  15. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Carol,
    Thank you so much for sharing that. I know it's hard. But you are helping other women
    who are having the same experience you did.
    Your words help them see that there is help and there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
    - K

  16. Katherine Stone/Post says:

    Kerryn,
    Have you seen a doctor or received professional help for your illness?

  17. One day I was crying and shaking so hard, because I was afraid to be alone with the baby. All I could think of to do was get in the car and drive to someone that would keep him safe. I showed up at my parents' house (an hour away) unexpectedly, with no warning. My mom took one look at me and insisted we call my OB. She made all the calls, all the arrangements, and took me to my first appointments. I guess that's what I needed–someone else to take the reigns and get me help.

  18. Brittany says:

    I recently went to my annual ob/gyn and filled her in on my PPOCD issues over the last year (I went to a psychologist-not my ob). She said that in 13 yrs of private practice she’s never had one person tell her when something is going on. She’s had so many moms tell her post-fact, but even when she senses that somethings up, and asks questions point blank “do you have thoughts of hurting the kids/yourself”, everyone woman says “no, no, no”. It’s not until it’s a thing of the past that they’re comfortable admitting what was going on. She seemed really sad and flustered because she said she just has no idea how to address the fact that she just can’t get women to admit to their symptoms and there’s not a lot of help she can offer if no one is willing to be honest about what’s happening. Even having gone through it myself, I’m unsure what would have helped me be honest and seek help when things first started up and I had no idea what was going on.

  19. Shannon says:

    I had ante-partum depression and OCD… which had probably been brewing for most of my life but the pregnancy hormones made it unbearable. What finally drove me to the doctor was not even being able to look at kids on the subway or at grocery stores, for fear that I would suddenly want to hurt/abuse them (I’ve spent my entire life working with kids with no issues, so this was WAY weird), and then feeling like maybe I SHOULD look at them and think about hurting them just so I could prove to myself that I didn’t like it and would never do such a thing. Being a librarian, I turned to google in an obsessive attempt to find out “what was wrong with me”…. I’ll never forget the feeling of relief when I found a case report of a woman with the exact same fears I had, and then a list of symptoms for “pure-obessesional” OCD… it was like reading about myself. I still had to drag my husband to my docotr with me because I was so scared that as soon as I told anyone they would get ready to snatch my baby as soon as it was born, but that was the catalyst: realizing I WASN’T CRAZY!

  20. anonymous says:

    After speaking with a co-worker who assured me the best way to get better was to seek help. I am forever grateful to her.