Dana: My name is Dana. I am 34 years old and I found out about Speak Up When Youíre Down by getting pamphlets at the gynecologist and at the hospital and thatís how I found out the phone number to call.
Speaker: When did you first hear the term PPD?
Dana: I knew about PPD just being someone who reads and observes and things like that. The most I knew was women who wanted to harm themselves or the baby, things that happened in the news, things that Dateline had, the most severe cases only. That was kind of my idea of what it was.
Speaker: In your own words, what is PPD?
Dana: Well, now that I know what it really is, PPD is a point when you are not functioning like you used to and youíre feeling so horrible that you canít not function normally during the day or night and you don't feel adequate enough to take care of your baby. I feel that, yeah, itís symptoms of depression in there but itís this intense anxiety toward everything, the baby, not the baby. Normal, simple things are hard to do. That to me is PPD. Itís not always all the other things you hear in the media. Those are the things no one talks about, the simple things that are hard to get through. That to me is a big sign of PPD.
Speaker: Was your pregnancy normal?
Dana: My pregnancy was completely normal. We planned that we would have a baby, got pregnant. Besides a little bit of morning sickness it was easy. I worked, I only took off the last two weeks and my daughter was induced so I knew when I was going in. She was after 40 weeks so everything was normal. Even checking into the hospital and getting induced was OK, I wasnít overly worried. I had an epidural that went very smoothly. I had a great doctor, so nothing leading up to the birth was troubling for me.
Speaker: When did you first notice that you were experiencing something that wasnít normal? When did you know it was PPD?
Dana: Itís hard to pinpoint, but the first time I knew that something was wrong was when I was in the hospital, the second night, and I was nursing so I would send the baby back with the nurses but they would bring her whenever she would need to nurse. They woke me up at 1 or 2 oíclock and I nursed her and couldnít fall back asleep the rest of the night. I knew this wasnít normal but I said, Well, Iím a new mom and Iím in the hospital so maybe Iím just nervous. And I brushed it off.
Looking back, I know that it was one of the first times that something wasnít right because I was extremely exhausted and I couldnít sleep, which is a big symptom of anxiety. But that was the first time and I guess after that when I would come home, another symptom was I didnít want anyone in my house aside from my family and my husband. I didnít want neighbors or my husbandís family visiting. It wasnít a rational response to the situation. I just could not have people in the house. It made me so anxiety-ridden that it almost made me feel like a prisoner in the house. I didnít want anyone visiting me and you know thatís impossible. So people would come and it would be torture to have them walk in. I just felt like I was on display. That really bothered me at the very beginning.
I said, OK, they say the first two weeks you have the baby blues, everyone calls them, but for me that stuff never went away. So after she was about 8 weeks old, we planned this big baptism for her, like a big party, which was a mistake, given the fact I had 50 people in my house and I wasnít feeling well with everyday situations.
That was like the breakdown point for me. I see the pictures and it was a lovely day for her but it was a horrible day for me. I will never forget how bad I felt. There were a lot of people in the house, I was planning everything, I felt like everything depended on how the baby acted and if she cried it was my fault or I looked bad. What would I do in the church? Ö All these things are running through my head all day and thatís when I decided to call the hotline.
It was not normal what I was feeling, it just wasnít normal. How can I go on? This was already two months. I canít go any further and be like this and be happy. I was just miserable all the time and it was hard for people around me to pick it up because I kept doing things. I would go out and take care of her but I knew something was wrong and Iím sure my husband did because I was snappy and irrational but other people around me wouldnít notice.
Speaker: Did you notice any anxiety or depression while you were pregnant?
Dana: I didnít have any, during my pregnancy. I was obsessed with Googling things, which is a symptom of anxiety. I would look up everything. When I had to get the 16-week blood work, I looked up all the things that were included in the blood work. I looked up what could the possible ramifications be if the baby was diagnosed with something at that point. I obsessed about things like that. I read a lot of books on babies and breastfeeding and how to care for a baby. I am a reader anyway so no one saw that as strange. I read all the time, I was reading too much. I was looking up things too much. However, it didnít affect my performance at work or my sleep so it wasnít for me like a real sign. I feel like I am naturally anxious and I am a researcher and a reader. That didnít seem abnormal to me at the time. Looking back on it, I do see it as a possible symptom of that kind of obsessive behavior is an anxiety problem you know and I did think that is where the behavior intensified after she was born.
Speaker: Did your family or close friends notice a change in your behavior when you had PPD?
Dana: My husband noticed a change but it was our first child so we werenít sleeping. She wasnít a good sleeper, she was always up. We were always miserable, sleeping in two-hour stretches for months so that was affecting the way I behave and the way I reacted toward normal things. But he noticed that it wasnít right. He would do whatever I asked. I would say donít bring anyone home so no one came. I would not go anywhere outside of the vicinity of the house with her and he just let me be. But these are all symptoms of depression and anxiety. Thinking about visiting his family would make me upset. Leaving with her was a problem, I couldnít do it. He noticed it, but I donít think he knew what PPD was so he didnít think anything of it because I was still cooking and functioning and doing things with her and going out in the stroller. I was out there but the other things were crippling me even though I was getting out.
My parents, they were there helping me so I donít know if they knew that I needed them. I wasnít crying, I didnít have the depression where I was crying I really wasnít. I was worried about everything all the time. I lost my weight so quickly. It wasnít because I was exercising, it was due to anxiety but everyone was always saying I looked great. No one looks at it like this woman must be suffering if she loses 30 pounds in five weeks. I didnít even care. I lost weight, I forgot to eat. My mother would make me food and make sure I ate but it wasnít something we talked about until one day where I started crying and I couldnít stop.
It was around the baptism. I said, Mom what I am feeling is not normal. And she felt really bad for me and said you know you can call a doctor but I knew I had to call the hotline and I did it on my own like I came to the realization I had PPD. So I called and they will be able to set me up with a therapist. I had never been to therapy or a psychiatrist. These things are hard to do and confront when you are someone who never had any kind of problems with mental illness or anything so for me to call was a big deal for me to get help because I didnít not want to get help that was for something that was in my head and not physical.
It was the best decision I made though. After I made it, everyone was very supportive. I had great family support, my friends, I would tell them I am not sleeping well this and that but new mothers tend to complain about things and brush it off but no one looks at it like a big deal. Itís like being a new mom, thatís what happened. I would tell them the symptoms and what was happening but I never communicated how it was affecting my everyday life so a lot of my old, good friends who were good friends, they were not knowing what I went though. And those who really knew what I went through were those people in the support groups who are now all good friends. Weíve known each other for two years now and I can call them and say Iím having a bad night and they tell me it will be OK. And those are the friends who end up understanding. Unless you are friends with someone who has experienced it themselves, it is almost like a taboo. You donít really want to tell people you have it. They assume it means youíre suicidal and until the information is out there, that it is everything in between, it is a hard subject to bring up with other mothers.
Speaker: Talk about your treatment.
Dana: I called the hotline and right away I was set up with a therapist that actually got back to me that night and I was able to go that night, which was great because I felt like I was at the end of the rope. I didnít know how I was going to get through the rest of that night. I felt trapped. I really felt horrible, I didnít sleep. So I went to the therapist and started going every week to private therapy and that helped. She gave me ways to manage the day, taking baby steps, the little things. She told me, for me it was a tunnel because the night was a tunnel. I woke up and thought if I would sleep. I never lived in the present. In therapy, she taught me how to break up the day, like to let a morning be good and say, OK Iím going to have a better afternoon. At 12 oíclock, I will be OK. Coach yourself through the anxiety. She also encouraged me to do certain activities with the baby, to have them planned before time, to get out of the house and that helped. Also to take time for myself without her which meant my husband would do a lot with her. It was great to have those two hours when I went out and did something on my own. These things helped me recover and the therapist, it was long I went.
I still go occasionally. I used to go every week for a year that was a big help. And when my insomnia would not get better I saw a psychiatrist and was treated for that and it made a world of difference. I was against medication because I was breastfeeding. The first psychiatrist was not open to treating me while I was breastfeeding and that was big. It made me upset. I didnít want to go to a psychiatrist and the fact they wouldnít treat me made me not want to seek further help. The insomnia was so bad I knew it was affecting my health and itís better to get treatment for something that can make your life better then to not get it at all and there are many meds you can take when you are breastfeeding, which I didnít know. My current doctor looked this all up for me. I was trying to stay off Google it was at the request of my psychiatrist, donít read books she said too. It was nice to have a professional say, OK, Iíll take care of this. Here is what you can take. That really improved my quality of life when I started sleeping six hours in a row that really made a difference. I started to recover quicker after I was sleeping. With the therapy and the medication it made a big difference really. To say the doctors always made me feel comfortable doing what I was doing. They said, this is just for now. You wonít always be on meds, this is to help you now and you will feel better. The therapist would say, youíre going to get better but when you are in it you think it is forever and you wonít get better. But the professionals, you see them and they do encourage you and they do make you realize you will get through it and get better.
And I think I started to see that probably after the six-month mark. I said, oh wow I am getting better. It will be OK. There are resources for me. I got help and I do feel like a lot better than I did half a year ago. So I have to say that it is important to consult a doctor and go to a therapist. You canít do this on your own, you canít get better just by talking to people in your house. Family loves you but the medical professionals out there are there for a reason. PPD is a medical problem, it is something that can be treated like any other problem you would see a doctor for. It can be cured, it is something that you donít Ö like that you are ashamed that you need help but there should be no shame in it. Itís how you feel in the beginning there is a cure and thatís the thing that, even though people say you donít believe it, so itís important to hear it from someone who has been through it that you will get better.
Speaker: How did you hear about your support group and when did you start going to that?
Dana: Well, with the counseling center I go to they run a support group at a local place for kids, which is great because you can bring your kids there and the coaches of the place watch the kids and play with them. And we would have the support group in a different part of the room so it was really low stress, the kids would play. If you had a baby you would keep them with you. We would all go and it was someone running it and after that we would have pizza so you didnít have to worry about dinner. The kids would have snacks, totally low pressure, twice a month the group runs and those of us that go still go. I love going. I see my friends and other new moms and you offer them support. I remember when I first went I was very quiet and all my friends that I know now were going for a few months and they were all talking and sharing stories and you laugh and itís like Ö really Ö you start laughing, maybe I am making a bigger deal then it really is. We are all here to get better. They would talk about things happening at home and you would share how you were feeling and it would make you feel better. That support group really made a difference and I really made good friends there and the people that you connect to because you all had the same experience. On the outside everyone looks 100 percent. Well you would never know I was thinking, wow that must be how people look at me too. You donít know until you meet people and then youíre like, oh this is funny all these professionals and great moms they are all suffering like I am and I would have never known unless I went to the support group. It was a big help.
And the other group before I went back to work was at Virtua Hospital. They do a group called TLC and the counselor is great. That was one of the first things I did when I first realized I had PPD I made myself go with my daughter every Wednesday. And that was a big help. It really got me through the early months. It was more like the newest moms go there a lot of people. Itís very emotional, a lot of crying, a lot of people have just reached out. It was their only outlet. You get to talk to other moms and you talk to just like the other group but were really important as you move through you donít need a group once you get treatment. Itís nice to still go to something so you interact with others and your kids interact so thatís been great. Itís a thing I will never give up. I feel like I might feel 100 percent better but I like going because even when youíre better, things come up that make you feel bad. You always remember things will get better, turn around your thinking, which is what you learn to do when you go to these things, you turn around your thinking.
Speaker: Do you have a first memory with your daughter when you were like wow I am better and I am doing this?
Dana: The first memory I have when I can say I enjoyed her for a whole day was her first birthday party. I remember think I have come through this in a year and now I am enjoying having her. Today, it doesnít feel like I am worried about her. I donít feel trapped, I feel happy. I am able to put together a party and I am relaxed about it. I canít believe I came that far. I remember that first birthday my husband and I were high-fiving each other, saying, can you believe we made it? As hard as it was for me, your spouse goes through a lot as well because they have to pick up everything you canít do and we felt like we made it through the hardest year of our lives. Every day since that I was feeling better and better each day.
Speaker: What would your advice be to someone experiencing PPD now?
Dana: The first thing I would say would be call the hotline. They are therapists that answer the phone and they could just give you minimal information. I just wanted to get a therapist and they gave that to me but they will talk to you and help you figure out how you are feeling and give you resources in your area. Itís not that you have to have insurance to get these. There are many that are free or discounted and they will help you find them. So itís the first step is call the hotline. They are understanding and 24/7. Also follow through with what they recommend. If they say go to therapy, call a therapist and they will even call for you. Follow through, go to therapy and once you are there you can decide if you want to get medication.
Itís very personal, they will never push it, they will recommend things that you can do. They may say, you know you have insomnia, you can get treatment, itís an option. A therapist will never push medication and I would say thatís the best route. Do that and then if you are feeling very bad and distraught go to your gynecologist, mine actually was the first person I called to get medication and Ö they were very understanding. They said we will give you enough but you need to go pursue more help. This is what you need to look into. They do know itís out there, they donít talk about it a lot when you go but they are there to help. So I found them to be another resource for me in between getting set up with therapy that was helpful. Also I say talk to someone in your home about it, say that you think somethingís wrong. You donít have to say PPD, but say something isnít right. I need help, I need you to call for me. One of the hardest things to do is call when youíre in depression. You donít want to move, you want to do nothing and not admit something is wrong.
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