Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Postpartum Anxiety and Depression: It Happened to Me

By Sarah Coon

When I had my baby boy six months ago I had no idea I was about to experience the most terrifying time in my life. It was a mental health crisis.

When my baby was 4 months old I began to feel scared all the time. I kept my kids inside all the time because I was afraid of what could happen while we were out. The fear then began to escalate to terror very quickly! I took it out on my 3 year old by irrationally screaming at him all the time.

When I thought things couldn’t possibly get any worse, I had my first panic attack in the middle of a family dinner. My hands were shaking, my heart was racing, and I really thought I was about to die. This is when I knew I needed to get help.

It took me a miserable week full of panic attacks to get up the courage to call my doctor, but when I finally got in to see her she frightened me even more. She told me that I probably didn’t have postpartum anxiety or depression because my baby was already 4 months old.

That same night I really began to lose it, panicking to the point of rushing off to the emergency room (ER) fearing that something was really wrong with me. The ER doctor told me that I had postpartum anxiety for sure and that it was possible to get it up to a year after you have your baby. After being prescribed Zoloft and being sent home I felt relieved to finally know what was happening to me, but that relief didn’t last long.

I spent that weekend making numerous trips to the ER with thoughts of suicide and the concern that I might hurt my kids. It was terrifying because I had never in my life had thoughts like this before. I was analyzed over and over again by mental health professionals and, by the end of the weekend, was begging them to take me to a psychiatric unit. They refused, stating that I wasn’t “psychiatric material.” The ER doctor determined that the Zoloft was not working for me and told me to make an appointment with my doctor on Monday.

After explaining my ordeal to my doctor that Monday he elected to put me on Celexa and Ativan. Within hours I was feeling slightly better. From then on my condition has been steadily improving and I have been seeing a mental health counselor and a therapist regularly.

Now that I have come out of the darkness I am angry at how little help there is for women going through this. My sister and I created an online support group on Facebook called “Postpartum Anxiety Support Group.” If you are a woman and feel like you may be experiencing postpartum anxiety or depression, I urge you to please see your doctor. You can also join our support group or contact Postpartum Support International.

15 comments:

Justine said...

You are a beautiful, strong and courageous woman Sarah. You have a beautiful family with your handsome boys, I'm glad you got the help you needed to see the light at the end of the tunnel, it's unfortunate that it was a trial and error process to get there and you didn't get the right help initially that could've avoided a lot of unpleasantness. Im glad youre getting better, you and your family have a huge place in my heart that won't ever go away. Infinite xos to you!

Julie Schauer said...

Dear Sarah,
Since so many post-partum depressions are do to thyroid changes after pregnancy, let's hope you've had that checked out. In addition to TSH, the T4,T3, TPO and anti-TPO tests. Treating the thyroid is often more successful than use of anti-depressants. Even though the current pills are working, it would be a good idea to see an endocrinologist. Good luck

Anonymous said...

I had a similar experience. You needed the ativan to deal with your symptoms in the short term. The attitude of inpatient psych programs is nonsensical--"come back when you are much much worse." There needs to be an option for urgent voluntary admissions. Glad you found an antidepressant that works! I'm 5 years past my experience. I wish I could have avoided it, but ultimately it's made me a stronger and more empathetic person. I'm glad you are sharing your story--this will help people.

Sheri S. said...

Thank you for this article. I myself suffered from Postpartum depression in 2009 after the birth of my daughter. I was not very educated on it and did not know really to even expect it...what I knew about it was very little. I went through hell. Since then, I have educated myself about Postpartum Depression as well as my chronic diagnosis of Bipolar. Along with that education, I have worked on developing a personal mental health recovery plan that includes a crisis intervention plan. I developed these plans in coordination with my treatment providers and loved ones, so they will know what to look for if I don't recognize the symptoms of a mental health crisis in myself. I have also worked hard at developing a "toolbox," if you will, of skills and coping techniques to help me stay well.
I am now 38 1/2 weeks along with my son, and although at times, yes, I am terrified that I will experience that hell again, I also feel empowered and confident that I will move through this upcoming postpartum period a lot smoother than the last time. This time I know the signs to recognize and how to advocate for myself so I can get early intervention. I have learned that, although I cannot prevent or control whether or not I have or develop a mental health condition, I don't have to live as a victim of it. I CAN control what I choose to do with and about it. I have chosen to educate myself, advocate for myself, set a plan in place and work on developing skills, tools and techniques to help me maintain a sense of health, balance and mental health recovery. This creates a sense of empowerment and control in my life.
I want to thank the author of this article once again, and will say I will definitely check out the support group you started on Facebook!

gaga said...

Dear Sarah,
Thank you for sharing your story! I am a Birth and Postpartum Doula (DONA), with a passion for those who suffer with perinatal mood disorders. As your post points out, our culture still views pp depression, anxiety, et'al, through a distorted microscope! Either, mom is to blame for her emotional state or she should be able to "just snap out of it" or "no one else goes through such a difficult time after they have a baby" - and of course, ALL of these judgements are far from the truth! The most prevalent complications of childbirth (approximately 20%) are mood disorders and they can surface during pregnancy as well as many months after giving birth. Unfortunately, stigma/taboo rears its ugly head and Mom feels MORE isolated and alone with no one or where to turn to for help! I am glad that you found and made mention of PSI (Postpartum Support International). I am one of the many PSI Volunteer Coordinators (I happen to live in CA) who understand the trauma and pain moms and their families go through. Our message is vital: "You are not alone. You are not to blame. With help, you will feel better." I would love to connect with you and know more about the support group you and your sis have created. Meanwhile, with hope, perseverance and education, moms will not have to suffer in perpetual silence and shame

Jason Faughnan said...

I think most people dont realise that almost 50% of women suffer from post partum after a baby is born. I have had two cousins who have gone through it and thankfully they got good help along the way to overcome it..it is only through talking and raising peoples awareness of such conditions that we can hope to help those who have to go through it..thanks for sharing

Anonymous said...

Thank you Julie for mentioning thyroid testing. After the birth of my daughter, i had the EXACT same symptoms. My first TSH test came back ok, but the next few were really high. They took me off the antidepressants and put me on Synthroid and within a few weeks I was symptom free and my hair started to grow back too.

Sarah said...

Hi everyone. THanks for writing to me, and for all the support. I hope that everyone is doing well. I just wanted to let you all know that I have had my thyroid checked and nothing is wrong with it. I was actually hoping that it was my thyroid because I have heard that that is an easier fix than ppd. Gaga I would love to get in contact with you, as I still am struggling a little, and also know some people on our online group that are as well. I try to help them with encouraging words, but I am no expert as I am still in the process of recovering my self. My email is scoon159159@hotmail.com I hope to hear from you.

anger and depression said...

Thank you for speaking up. I've thanked you already on Twitter, but I am just so glad you stood up for us. People so readily forget that we are PEOPLE with FEELINGS.

Naomi Gordon said...

You go girl! You are one brave woman. I admire your courage and the way you handled it. I think it's great that you started a support group that would help those people in the same situation. I've been there before, although not as bad as what you've experienced, but I know how much it can be tough. During that stage of my life, I was glad my spiritual teacher was there by my side to help me get through my ordeal.

Poppy Clifton said...

I think people should realize how serious depression is and how tough it is fighting it. I've had a mild depression before but with the help of counselling and support of my family and friends, I was able to overcome it. But it was certainly one of the darkest moment of my life and I don't wish to come back to it ever again. Kudos to you Sarah for being so strong and serving as an inspiration to everyone.

Khalilur Rahman said...

Many friends like Julie Schauer, gaga has expressed their deep concern about Sarah, I also not just opposite them. post-partum depressions is a depression condition what can influence affected person towards suicide. So many things here to learn.
mental health humor

Anxiety Stress Fighter said...

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Anonymous said...

Thank you Sarah for sharing your experience. Your post is very helpful because it gives us women a heads up as this may happen to us too. It's quite impressive how you handle your situation, you did put up a good fight and you never stop looking for help. Im quite annoyed to some medical providers you talked to, sometimes they can make our situation worse than be our help. I will definitely tell about your support group, “Postpartum Anxiety Support Group," to anyone i know who needs help too. Again, thank you, you gave women a BIG BIG Favor. You deserve to be happy.

juvanna guzman said...

thank for posting this postpartum depression stories they help a lot ,am to suffering of postpartum depression and just reading this gives me hope .