When you Can't Think Logically-What They Don't Tell you About Postpartum Depression
It's been 16 months since Hannah was born.
I finally feel like the Cassandra that I have known my whole life. For almost a year, I didn't feel like the Cassandra I have always known. I felt like someone had taken my brain and my emotions and my heart and put someone else's in their place.
I was very open during my struggle with postpartum anxiety and depression and raging hormones. It's something that is rarely talked about, yet when I bring it up, it seems like almost every woman knows EXACTLY what I am referring to. I haven't written about it yet, though. I was waiting until I knew I was healed and back to being the Cassandra that I am comfortable with. I am finally there.
"Why didn't anyone TELL me?"
"I hate feeling this way!"
"When will this get better?"
"I feel like I am falling into a deep, dark pit, and I can't crawl out."
"I don't even know who I am anymore."
"Nothing seems the same anymore."
Those were all thoughts that were going through my head, especially during the first nine months, and those are all things other women have told me, too.
I had a one year old and another pregnancy right around the time Covid hit. I don't know if this compounded my anxiety and depression- it most likely did, but in any case, I hit lows I had never hit after having Hannah.
We had a rough breastfeeding journey, and I know that compounded it as well, but even after getting into the routine and finding our groove with that, I still struggled. I had anxiety attacks. Most often right before it was time to nurse again, but I hated them. My ears would start to ring. My heart would race. My body would turn hot from my head down to my feet and then I would break out into a cold sweat. My hands would tremble. I didn't even know whose body I was living in. I can only describe it as being claustrophobic of my own body, and wanting to crawl out of my skin.
Why do I write about this now? I write for awareness. I write so other women know they aren't crazy. I write so you can surround yourselves with a support system. If my husband hadn't of known what was going on, (because I told him) he would have wondered what in the world was wrong with his once sane wife. I didn't make him guess. When I first had Hannah, I realized that I needed someone at home with me. I did terrible the first time the family went to church and left me home alone. So, I told him I needed one of the girls to stay with me, keep me company, help me out. I told him when I was having a particularly bad day. I asked him to hold me when I felt like I was sinking into a dark hole. Just hold me. No words needed. I would text him and ask him to come home early. He always did, no questions asked. I appreciate that so much now, looking back. He never questioned where his sane wife went, or told me to snap out of it. He was just there. He knew I would eventually be back to normal.
And I was. I had had touches of postpartum with all of my babies after Allie. So, for the last 11 years, after each pregnancy, I have had some degree of anxiety and depression. Nothing like I had after Hannah, though. Her experience made the other postpartum times look like a walk in the park. A gloomy park, but a park none the less.
I write so you know that you WILL be ok. You will make it through, you will feel like yourself again. And hopefully I can give you some tips to help you along the way, although honestly, not much helped when I was at my worst.
Something happens postpartum. Our emotions and hormones take over, and even though we know HOW we are supposed to think, and WHY we are supposed to think that way, we can't. Our body betrays us- cue the panic and anxiety attacks. All logic and reason leaves us, and all we can think about are the dark thoughts flooding our entire being. So what do we do when we get this way?
Prepare. Know if you are susceptible, and if you are, be ready for it. Let your husband, kids, family, and friends know that you might need extra support for a few months.
Have a good local church. If I would not have had my church, I don't know what I would have done. I had the sixth baby of the church in a year, so there were many postpartum moms at our church at the time. It helped, so much! They all understood and cared, and sympathized with what I was going through. Although I never got to the point where I needed them to come and clean or cook me meals, I knew that was an option if I got to the point where I couldn't function. I can't stress this enough. FIND A GOOD LOCAL CHURCH!!! Internet church does not count. You can not fellowship or interact like you need to with internet members.
Look into natural supplements to help, and get medical help if you are having suicidal thoughts. While I did not go the medical route, I did research natural supplements and introduced them into my diet. I took Shatavari, Ashwagandha, and Moringa. I also took something from Pink Stork for the first few months when it was really bad. I will link to them at the bottom of this post. While it did take some time to kick in, I do believe it helped, and I could tell a difference when I ran out for a few days. Always remember that different women react differently to herbs. I had a friend give me an anxiety tincture, and it actually caused MORE panic attacks. I took it twice and didn't try again after that. It turned out it had an herb in it that can affect your thyroid, and I have a super sensitive thyroid as it is. So I am glad I discontinued use of it. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or your baby, get medical help and advice. There are low dose anti-anxiety medications that you can take for a few months if needed to get you through the lowest points.
Take it one day at a time. I found that if I started thinking long term, I would have an anxiety attack. Stop asking yourself- "Am I going to feel this way FOREVER?" "Am I ever going to sleep again?" "Why is this so hard? Is this what the next few years of my life are going to look like?" Just stop. You can't think logically right now, so you don't need to be asking yourselves those things. It WON'T last forever. You WILL feel normal again. When that is, you don't know. So don't sit around obsessing when that will come. Reach out for help on the bad days, and embrace the good days when they come.
Talk to other women about it. If I wouldn't of had a couple good friends checking in on me during that time, I don't know what would have happened. I am sure they were sick to death of hearing about my anxiety. I am the type of person that has to talk it out. I don't do well internalizing things, so those closest to me heard every gory detail. They knew of my panic attacks and my deep, dark days where I could barely breathe, and every bad and good thing that happened. They knew and they loved me through it. You know who you are. I will be eternally grateful for the time, love, care, and concern that you invested in me. Join a facebook group where you can post anonymously. You can even do it in the Gently Led Sisters Facebook group. There will be no judgment. Most of us have been there. Sometimes it feels better just to be able to write it all out.
When you have no words, just pray. Pray in the shower. Pray in bed. Pray while nursing. Some days, all I could do was cry out to the Lord. I knew he saw, and he gently carried me through those dark days. He knew it was tough, and that's why he put Isaiah 40:11 into the Bible.
Now that I am completely normal again, I can think logically. I can tell myself, Sheesh, Cassandra, it didn't last forever, what was your problem??? Even though I COULD tell myself that, I don't. Because I realized that even though I have been saved for 37 years, and IFB my entire life, and I know what to say and what to think and WHY I think and say those things, sometimes logic and reason go out the window, and all you can do is hang on for the ride. And that's what I did. I know I was a mess, but I kept living and making it through one day at a time.
Is sharing this humiliating?
No. Because every woman goes through some sort of postpartum junk at one time or another in their life. And if someone has a problem with that, then THEY have a problem, or they have never experienced it themselves. I try to look at every trial I go through as a teaching and learning opportunity. Maybe God wanted me to experience anxiety and depression for the first time in my life. I have always been in control of my emotions. I have always used logic over emotions. So maybe he wanted me to be able to help others, and to have compassion when women struggle in this area.
Life is joyful again. The panic attacks are gone. The anxiety is gone. The depression is gone. My laugh is back. My smile is back. My joy is back. I am so glad, because I sure missed it.
If you get anything out of this, please know that I see you. I understand. You aren't alone. You will get through this, and you will one day like yourself again. Be kind to yourself right now, you need it.
And if you have never experienced this yourself, well, hopefully I showed you a little glimpse of what some of us go through. It's worth it in the end, but it doesn't make it any easier when we are in the middle of it. If anything, be kind to those going through it. They desperately need it.