Postpartum Depression with a Side of Clinical Depression

I've struggled with clinical depression since I was a child. Aside from the normal misconceptions and stigma surrounding depression, there is one major mistake people make when they think about mental health issues: They think that children are incapable of having "real" depression because they don’t go through the same struggles that adults do. Elaborating on that idea isn’t within the scope of this post. For now, let's just say that I’ve been depressed for a very, very long time.

This was made particularly difficult by the fact that I have a naturally sunny disposition. Since I was always so cheery, the reason I was depressed couldn’t be *me*, it had to be some external source making me unhappy. Thus began my journey of dating so many of the wrong men and making only a few of the right friends and blaming them and all of the other people around me for all of my negative feelings.

I was finally diagnosed with depression and anxiety in early 2010. My doctor and I tried a couple of different medications, but none of them really seemed to help. I realize now that it’s because I was on such a low dose of each to start with that I gave up on each medication before the dose was high enough to make a difference. But I wanted it to work so badly, and I didn’t want to disappoint anybody, so I pretended that it worked while I secretly stopped taking the pills. This pushed me further into a deeper depression each time I tried a new medication.

I eventually learned how to manage my depression, mostly. I talked myself out of suicidal thoughts and self harm except on the darkest of occasions.Though my therapist had warned my in 2010 that looking for somebody to "make" me happy without properly addressing my depression would put incredible strain on the relationship, I continued dating the wrong men. But I got more of the right friends--people who believed in me and accepted me on my good days and my bad days.

Fast forward a few years and I met the right man, who became my husband after a few short months. This wonderful man didn’t fix my depression (because there really is no way having a particular person in your life can fix clinical depression), but he has helped me manage it with love and patience and a tender approach.

This past April we had a beautiful baby together. Birth was a terrible experience because my epidural ran out without anybody noticing and then she almost died. Fortunately, she was soon stable and healthy, not even needing to spend a single night in the NICU. Immediately after the birth, though, things got really bad emotionally. I remember sitting up in the hospital one night and quietly crying alone in the dark, trying not to wake up my sleeping husband. After we got home, I not only cried for no reason and felt this never-ending deep despair, but I got irrationally angry. I was angry with myself, with my husband, and with my baby. I tried to talk myself through the despair for weeks, reminding myself that it was just hormones and the strain of having a newborn, which, as everybody knows from watching TV and from listening to new mothers, is a very difficult thing.*

But I knew that being angry at my baby was wholly irrational, and it was rather scary. Though I never acted on it and I like to think that I never would, no mother** should have to have the terrifying experience of thinking--however briefly--about causing harm to their child. That’s when I knew I had to be suffering from more than just postpartum blues or my regular depression. This was postpartum depression. So I called my doctor and--after making sure I wasn't about to cause harm to myself or my baby--they sent in a prescription for Zoloft to the pharmacy. I started taking it that afternoon and was feeling much better within two days. We adjusted the dosage over the next couple of weeks until we felt it was at a good level. After that, I could tell by the evening if I had forgotten to take it that morning, and it would take me a couple of days to recover. I have a weakness for forgetting to take pills, and I had to order one of those pill containers with a section for each day like old people use.

Now that the postpartum depression has abated, I’m on a much lower dosage which also helps to manage my regular depression. I'm also on a regular dose of my anti-anxiety medication, which I'd only used on an "as-needed" basis previously. As anybody will tell you, having a baby is stressful***, so I have a harder time managing my depression if I go off the medication completely.

So, there it is: Zoloft literally makes me happy.

If you find yourself wondering if you suffer from postpartum depression and that’s why you stumbled on my blog, GET HELP. Call your doctor and discuss your options, find a treatment option you’re comfortable with. I was completely unable to enjoy my beautiful, sweet baby for the first while because of the strain of the postpartum depression. I'll never be able to get that time back, but I'm at least able to enjoy her now.

*Yes, having a baby is difficult, but it should be manageable. If it doesn’t feel manageable (which doesn’t mean having your house clean; my house went to pieces for the first six months, even with the medication), you probably have postpartum depression.

**I speak about mothers in this post, but some men struggle with a form of postpartum depression as well. If you are a father with some of these symptoms or you know a father who appears to have some of these symptoms, please talk to somebody. It's every bit as real and tragic for fathers. I just don't have any first-hand experience with it, so I can't speak much about it.

***Again, yes, it is stressful. You’re now responsible for the care of a very needy and helpless person. But it should be manageable (see above)!


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