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Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Pulling out of Postpartum Depression: Some "healer" ideas (small h)

I've been making notes here and there on grocery receipts and such about little things that helped me move through my postpartum depression and anxiety which I wrote about here.   I also wrote about the Healer with the big H here.  As I said before, I do not have a medical degree and I do not pretend that I have the answer for anyone specifically. I can only share my story and hope that one might glean something useful or at least hopeful from it.  Obviously, everyone is different and the severity of this kind of problem for new mommies covers a wide range. 

Having suffered this kind of pain in my past makes me acutely aware that I might very well face it again someday. There might be another season of life when my heart will race, my blood pressure will drop and the world will seem to spin away from me. I don't worry about it happening again, but I will never, ever forget it.  So if it does creep up on me again, in addition to believing in the redemptive and restorative power of Jesus, I will try to remember a few other things that brought me back to me.

DOCTORS/MEDICINE: I went to my doctor as soon as I could.  He did not blow me off and act like I was a hysterical woman.   He didn't pat me on the head and send me on my way telling me to get some sleep.  He gave me compassion and sympathy and then he looked at me with calm and assurance that told me that he had a plan.  I needed desperately for someone to have a plan.  I'll say it right here:  I know that anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs can be controversial and I know that they are not for everyone. I know that they can cause various unpleasant side effects in many people.  Again, I can only relay my story and my experience. My doctor gave me a prescription for both and they helped immensely.  I took the anxiety medication for a short time.  It did make me sleepy, but I was already a walking zombie anyway.  Once we got the dosage right, it was very, very helpful for the panic attacks that crept up on me in the early days.   I took the anti-depressant on and off for many years.  I never experienced a single unpleasant side effect with that medication.  (Unless, you count that I didn't sob like a maniac at that commercial where that kid comes home from college for Christmas to make the coffee for his mom before she wakes up.)  I just thought that was awfully sweet and I got a little misty-eyed.  I didn't curl on the couch and cry for an hour over it.  There are legitimate reasons to skip these kinds of medications, I'm sure.  For me, medicine was very important and very, very helpful.  I'm also not sure I could have mustered up the energy to do any of the following without first going to my doctor.

ASK FOR HELP: I was blessed with help from family and I know that many are not so fortunate. My mom came to my rescue for a number of days. My wonderful mother-in-law helped me for a number of weeks. My husband was compassionate and strong and never once resentful.  Girls, I think God sends His people for His people. You might not have family close by or maybe they just aren't able to help. Reach out to someone - maybe through church, school, friends, or neighbors. You would be shocked by how many people are willing to help if you can just find the courage to ask. Lots of people love to hold little babies. I remember being at countless baseball games for my older boys during Drew's first spring. The grandmother of one of our players would scoop Drew out of my arms and rock him for the entire game every single time she was there. It got to the point that I just handed him over without a word. There are some good people out there and a lot of them love babies, especially those of us whose babies are too big to hold now. Just ask.

EXERCISE: Y'all. I know. You want to throw your computer out the window. Honestly, when I was in the first days and weeks of my depression, I could not get out of bed without spinning, but as soon as I could get outside I did.  For me, the outside part was crucial.  At first, I am talking about walking around the block or even to the mailbox.  When Drew was about 5- 6 months old, I started running.  My husband came home with a training plan for us and announced that we were going to run the Army 10-Miler.  I looked at him like he had three heads.  I started with just two miles, but you can start with 1/4 of a mile.  There is no need to run ten miles, but it sure does make a gal feel like a champ.  There is nothing that I do personally that makes me feel stronger, happier, or more clear-minded than running.  Maybe because the praying and the running go together.  There is no faster way for me to find peace and connection to God than when I run.  If someone would have said that to me 8 years ago, I would have rolled my eyes and told them to stop yapping and pass the Tostitos.  Running is cheap and you can do it pretty much anywhere.  Yes, you need someone to hold the baby for 30 minutes.  Trade with someone?  ASK someone! I did have a friend that jogged circles around her cul-du-sac with the baby monitor on the porch while the baby slept.  Of course, if running isn't your thing, then walk or do yoga or get a dvd while baby naps.  I know I'm being so incredibly annoying.  I'll stop now.

FIND/FORM A BABY-SITTING CO-OP: When my second son was about 18 months old, a friend and neighbor of mine stumbled on this book which explains how to form a Baby-Sitting Co-Op.  The book explains everything in great detail, but basically the co-op is a group of women that takes turns baby-sitting for each other.  Points are given or taken from each gal if she sits for children or has someone sit for her.  We were very organized and stuck to specific rules.  There were meetings, leadership positions and safety checks.  Most importantly, for me, there was friendship and support.  There was peace and assurance that I actually could go to the dentist and my kids would be okay.  I honestly believe that this group of women was one of the most important groups I could have been privileged to be a part of during that season of my life. These were mommies, just like me. They were my friends or at the very least, a friend of a friend.  If it was a daytime sit, the children did not feel like they were going to a baby-sitter.  Instead they were just going to a play date with some neighbor kids.  If it was a night-time sit, your baby-sitter was not talking on the phone to her boyfriend and eating all of your food.  Grab a few moms and read the book. It is complete with rules, instructions, charts and again, RULES. It is imperative to follow the rules. You can start this with four women. When I left our co-op, I think we had twelve moms, my kids had a load of friends and adults that they trusted and I had saved an enormous amount of money.  Mommies helping mommies and money in the bank.  Nothing better.

FOOD and WATER:  Seriously, it's important.  Vitamins, protein, fiber and all that.  Girl's gotta eat, right? And she can't eat junk all the time.  Notice, I said not all the time, but certainly, some of the time.  And don't give me grief about the diet Coke.  At least I didn't make it an item on the list.  Ok?

FIND A MOM'S GROUP:  You  might find a Bible Study at a local church WITH childcare - it's only an hour or so, okay?   You can do it and so can your baby.  You  might find a MOPS group.  You might form your own play group with neighbor kids and you can switch houses every week or so.  A friend of mine referred me to this program through which she and other experienced moms (notice I did not say old, Kristen!) minister to young moms.  This is right on the money, ladies.  Maybe some of us who have older kids should start this in our churches?  I'm noodling on it.  This is what I'm trying to say here:  YOU NEED PEOPLE!  Not Facebook people.  REAL PEOPLE.  They are out there.  Go find them.

TIME: It's easy to say, but it doesn't make it any less true. One of my wise mom's favorite things to tell me to make me feel better about a situation is "This too shall pass". (along with "Just sit down and count to ten" and "Just put on some blush and lipstick.") The time will pass. It will. Your babies will sleep someday and so will you. They will be able to pour themselves a glass of water and you'll be able to go to the bathroom with the door closed. It just happens and it's a beautiful thing.

Ladies, now I know that if a gal is in the deepest parts of a severe postpartum depression, her mind can be so riddled with pain, guilt, fear and sadness that all of the above things cannot even be comprehended.  If you aren't able to fathom these ideas now, just know that they can come in steps during the journey to getting well.  If you can start with some of these things, that's great, but if you can't, just ask for help from someone you trust.  Don't hide and feel ashamed.  That won't help you or your family.  I said it before:  God gave YOU these children.  He believed in YOU.  Believe in yourself, too.  There is help.  YOU can find it.  Please do.

I'll likely think of some other things in the next few days that I forgot to list. I understand that there seem to be some problems with commenting on my blog.  I'll work on that.   If you're a momma, young or older, one who is suffering or one who has suffered, and you have an idea, please try to comment.  If you don't want to or can't comment, look around, ladies, and reach out to each other.  He's called us to it.  Let's be His people for His people.    


Jill Davenport said...

Great post Jenn! I know this will really help some Mommies out there!

Anonymous said...

That coffee commercial gets me and H every time! You rock Mrs. S
Best, Mrs. C