Understanding Post Pregnancy Depression
Of all things I've experienced in life, from being stranded in the Australian desert in the middle of the night, to being the horse trainer nominated to train the "psycho stallion" - of all things, Postpartum Depression or post pregnancy depression was absolutely the most terrifying.
For me, it was the intense estrangement from myself that I found the scariest. My thoughts and feelings were so dark and foreign. And since I didn't know who I was, I didn't know what I was capable of. The darkness was so psychologically painful, that I can't even begin to find words to describe it. It hurt so much to be alive ...And this was when I was supposed to be celebrating the miraculous new chapter of being a mom? I was supposed to be enjoying these precious days with my two young boys? ...But how "I was supposed to be feeling" was so far from my truth. Instead I was just praying that we'd all survive every day... Shit scared of myself and my capabilities.
I knew I wasn't right. But I kept it to myself because I felt that if I started talking about it, I'd lose the one thing holding the last of me together - which was pride. I wanted to get through this by myself. I wanted to be able to push my way into some form of normal again. I found myself coping with postpartum depression.
Looking back and reflecting on the past year now, I have so much compassion for myself. I got through the hardest thing I've ever gone through. I survived. We all survived. And now I can put my pride aside and talk openly about it. My compassion for myself spills over to all the other women that have gone through postpartum depression and that are going through it right now as I type this. My heart is so open to you all. And this is what I'd like to share with you.
For my readers, you will be familiar with many of these since they are points are based on my Destruction Cycle book (read more about it: https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/what-is-a-destruction-cycle-and-why-i-wrote-the-book)
Here are the 13 things I wish I would have read back in my post pregnancy depression days..
1. GET AS MUCH HELP & SUPPORT AS YOU CAN
First of all, accept all of the help you can get. I feel I suffered far more than I needed to because of the shame I had with it. Isn't that heartbreaking, that we are shameful of something that we have absolutely no control over and would do anything to change?
Interestingly, since I've started admitting my depression and talking openly about it, so many moms have shared their stories of coping with postpartum depression with me. It's been jaw-dropping actually, just how many moms also went through it.
Why don't we talk about this more? Here we are, feeling all alone, ashamed and defected when meanwhile we are so not alone in all of this. And the more we can unite and comfort each other with our shared experiences, the better handle we will all have in postpartum recovery...
Anyways, back to accepting help, I feel that by telling someone the truth about how I felt, I would have protected my children better. By keeping my agony and unpredictability to myself, I wasn't monitored and therefore anything could have happened. I wish I would have been more honest about my feelings and then accepted more emotional support. Hindsight, right. So please, seek out as much help and support as you can.
2. KNOW YOU WILL GET THROUGH THIS
Accept help, and at the same time, know that it will lift. Postpartum depression is a shifting process. Everything in you is fluid and shifting. Including your emotional state. As I write in the Destruction Cycle book, it is the universal Law of Impermanence. Change is guaranteed.
You will "be normal" again. You will get out of this hellish survival mode and return back into life. These dark energies will pass and your hormones will rebalance and you will be able to enjoy yourself and parenthood, like you deserve to. Your inspiration and motivation will come back. You will laugh and play and have effortless fun again. Trust in your ability to heal. Trust that you are already transforming.
3. GET BLOOD WORK
A contributing factor to my feelings of psychosis turned out to be a ferritin deficiency (similar to an iron deficiency). Who knew that nutritional imbalances can cause such mental and emotional havoc. If you are struggling with post pregnancy depression, please get your blood tested. A very simple supplement could make a big difference. Getting blood work is always an easy, proactive step for good health anyways, right?
4. PIG OUT ON SUPERFOOD
Either way, deficiency or not, diet directly influences our energy and how we feel. Superfood up. It's worth the investment. When we feel the worst, we need to be ingesting the best. Even though I was on an unpaid maternity leave, I bit the bullet and started spending the extra cash on healthy burritos, soups, salads, hearty veggie lasagnas, smoothies and hemp seeds. There were incredible consistencies between my symptoms and what I had eaten that day and the day before. Superfoods can alter our entire biochemistry.
5. PROTECT YOUR ENERGY
And just like how diet ups our physical immunity, it's important to pay attention to our energetic immunity. When our energy levels are low we become vulnerable to negative vibes around us. This is when we need to take self-care seriously and do whatever we can to nurture/protect ourselves and conserve our energy. Which as you know, is so much easier said than done with kids demanding all our attention!
All day long we're taking care of these little loved ones that by the time we get a quiet sec, there's nothing left. But if you're coping with postpartum depression, self-care becomes first aid. Taking care of yourself HAS to happen. All of your lives' depend on it.
Do what you need to do to contribute to your healing. Go out with a good friend, get your energy rebalanced by a trusted Reiki practitioner, meditate, go to a wellness workshop, get a massage, buy some protection crystals, hide out in a coffee shop with a good book... As you begin to nurture your energy, your psyche will get stronger and protect you more from low, invasive frequencies.
6. KEEP DOING LIFE AS BEST YOU CAN
Don't quit life. As impossibly hard as it can be, don't quit doing life. Maintain the house, maintain your career, maintain your vehicle, pluck your chin hairs, maintain friendships, maintain everything as much as possible. Even if you're barely skimming by, do the laundry, do the dishes, do the kitty litter.
Each of these little to-dos, not only gives you something to focus on, but each one becomes a micro-accomplishment that gives you an ounce of energy. Plus, by taking these little steps you are saving your future self from excessive overwhelm.
7. STATE CHANGES - STATE CHANGES - STATE CHANGES
Get out of the house. The worst thing we can do for depressing energies is to sit in them and allow them to fester in us. Expose yourself to fresh air, new environments, different people, and powerful sunshine. Go for a walk or a bike ride. Load your kid(s) up in the stroller and just start running.... This activity will help your body flush itself and trigger your brain to release endorphins.
The more you exercise and mingle with new energies, the more state-changes you'll initiate for yourself as you transcend depressing states. For more tips to help you change your energy click here https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/tips-to-change-your-energy-today
8. MANUALLY ALTER YOUR MIND
Now for the hardest one. But the one that really created lasting changes for me and for the clients I've worked with, start the MIND MARATHON. This is when you start policing your thoughts like crazy. Ignore every negative, subjective thought possible and switch your mind to a neutral, objective thought. "Today I'm feeling worse than ever" switched to "what will I make for dinner?" or "what will I plant in the garden this spring?".
So much of our pain is caused by judging our experience (aka: the ego-mind). So as we stop exercising our subjective judging muscle, it atrophies and looses it power over us. This is how we begin to clear the stage in our mind for a new story to percolate and allow new energies to come into our being.
Doing this, was the most difficult part of my recovery - but I'm soooo so glad I started it when I did, and stuck with it (despite my endless little fails while doing it). The sooner you start your mind marathon, the sooner you'll reap the rewards. You won't notice any change for a while, it takes time before it starts paying off, but once it does... Oh my god. This blissful feeling of winning the wildest marathon in the world flows in and changes everything. I can't even explain how thankful I am to my old self for doing all of that nearly-impossible work for me.
I recently wrote a blog on "piercing through negative thoughts" you may find helpful: https://www.destructioncycles.com/post/piercing-through-negative-thoughts
9. RID YOURSELF OF THE WORD DEPRESSION
Completely ban the word "depression" from your life. In both your internal and external vocabulary (of course other than talking to your therapist or counselor). Every word leaves a trace in us. Every word creates an emotional response in us. So let this word die, at least until you are all healed up and can talk about it without it affecting you. Find a new, neutral word to replace it for now.
10. BE PREPARED FOR RELAPSES
Know that as you ascend through PPD, there will be relapses. Just as you think your getting better, you will have a day or a series of days where you feel back to square-one again. In the book I call these ego-tantrums. These little relapses can feel terrifying and incredibly discouraging. But try not to identify with them. They are part of the natural rhythm of healing. three steps forward, two steps back. Don't let the two steps back send you spiraling back any further than needed. Keep looking forward, stay committed to your healing and you will continue to move forward and heal.
11. USE YOUR FEELINGS TO CREATE SOMETHING
Get control over your feelings and emotions by using them for creative expression. Turn your pain into a masterpiece of some sort. Paint, write a song or a poem, create a wood project, or write about it. That's what I did. I wrote the Destruction Cycle book. Writing the book was a huge part of my therapy. It helped me process my experience and release it out of my sphere, in a method decided by me. This can give us a sense of power over something that we feel powerless over. And by transferring feelings into something external, we can also better let those feelings go.
12. FIND THE WISDOM IN THIS EXPERIENCE
Know that this is happening for a reason. Personally, I believe that people who struggle with emotional/mental issues are here to do emotional/mental work on this planet. Everything we are experiencing is in line with our Purpose. And I truly believe that my first-hand, real-life "practicum" in postpartum depression was the life schooling that I needed to be able to reach and effectively help the people that I'm helping now. If you are going through postpartum depression, study your own story and pay attention to the lessons you are learning so that you can use your wisdom to help change lives - and possibly (after the fact) change, alter, or evolve your career from this all.
13. BE YOUR OWN BEST FRIEND
Finally, be the kindest person you know to yourself. Respect that you are in the trenches and there won't be much to show for this time in your life, at least not on paper - because all this time, you've been climbing these massive inner mountains. All of your progress is internal. You are in resiliency boot-camp. You are going to come out of this stronger than ever. You are a beautiful, ragingly powerful woman and mother. And you will soon be leveraging this time in your life to step into your authentic greatness and become the best role model your kids could ever have:)
If you found this blog helpful, please share it with anyone and everyone you think needs to hear it. To dive in deeper, you can buy your copy of the Destruction Cycle book from McNally Robinson or on Amazon.
I truly hope that these points can offer you a bit of hope and promise of light to come your way. Coming from someone who lived through it, conquered it and is now celebrating it, I tell you from my heart and soul - you will be whole and well again. You will feel like yourself again.
I wish you rapid healing and a swift recovery. To stay in in touch please subscribe below!
Karen Litinsky MpsyD RMT
Author of Destruction Cycle
Co-Creator of Ego-Less meditation app (www.ego-less.me)
Owner of Paradise of Reality (www.paradiseofreality.com)