I remember it clearly. It was three weeks before my daughter was due. I was going to be a first-time mom.
I thought to myself this is great. I’m going to have 6 weeks off work. I’m going to organize the house, put all our photos together, cook every day, exercise, and be the best wife and mom out there. Ha! How wrong could I have been?
I’d love to say that the first year of my daughter’s life was one of the best times of my life. It wasn’t. It was terrible. Every day my head felt like it was stuck in a fog. Each day’s mission was survive. Showering became a luxury, sleep was nonexistent. Crying was a must. The house was the aftermath of World War III.
I was jealous of my husband who got to leave the house and go to work. I wanted so badly to go back to my old life, my old routine. At the same time I was scared, scared to leave my bad baby home with anyone else.
I chalked up the bad thoughts and extensive crying to being a new parent with crazy hormones. When I had my post-partum checkup they gave me the post-partum depression screening test. I know this sounds terrible, but I cheated. I don’t know why, I just did. I guess I was afraid of what I already knew. Everything was on a five-point scale. So if I thought I was a 5 I wrote 4. If I thought I was a 4 I put 3.
No matter how much I wished the bad thoughts and sadness to go away they wouldn’t. Eventually it was all I could take and I chose to get help. Here is how I managed my post-partum depression without meds. Keep in mind I did not experience a quick fix to my problem (I tried everything!), but it was a process that got much easier once I had the right tools.
1) I saw a therapist. Talking to someone and letting it all out was a big weight off my shoulders. Confirming I did in fact have post-partum depression was the first step.
2) I joined a Facebook group for moms suffering from post-partum depression and anxiety. Sometimes it is easier to open up to strangers about your feelings than to your friends and family. I was able to get great advice from other moms who had gone or were going through the same thing I was. I was able to vent about my triggers and how I had the biggest fight with my husband because he purchased the wrong kind of salt. (I wanted kosher salt, NOT sea salt. It’s funny now, but trust me, it was a big deal to me at the time.)
3) Essential oils (bergamot, lavender, and chamomile are said to help one relax/battle depression). The oils didn’t work every day, but they smelled nice which was a plus. Oils are great for other ailments, not just depression. Going for a massage would be great if you have time.
4) Have a supportive husband or SO to use as a verbal punching bag and deal with mood swings. It can be extremely difficult if your SO thinks you’re A) crazy, B) tells you to just get over it, or C) isn’t patient.
5) Get someone to help watch my daughter so I could shower and feel somewhat normal (e.g., don’t live in your pajamas, take a shower).
6) Getting sleep. I know this isn’t a possibility for some people, but when I got 4 hours of sleep I felt like a million bucks.
7) Exercise. I read that it helps with depression. Just going out for walks and back into the “real” world helped me.
8) Eat healthy. (ha!) I read this also helps with depression, however, I’m not going to lie. I ate healthy for two days. I had become a T-Rex. My husband was convinced I was pregnant again. I didn’t know how hungry a breast-feeding mom could get. I thought it best for the well-being of myself and my family to forgo this method.
9) Avoid obsessing over being the perfect mother or comparing yourself to other moms that seem to “have it together”. Those moms have either 1) been through the hard stuff already 2) have a lot of help 3) have super-human powers and are probably from another planet.
If you are reading this, know that you are not alone. You are not a bad mother. Find someone to talk to. Be open with your doctor. There are plenty of resources out there and I hope that some of these tips will help you. In the beginning you will have many more bad days than good, but the balance will slowly start to shift and the good days will eventually outweigh the bad.
Don’t give up and don’t beat yourself up. I know many women who have had a lot of success with and without taking medicine. Be patient and allow yourself time to find out what works best for you.
If you have any tips that helped you get through post-partum depression leave them in the comments section.