Post Partum Depression blows.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression when I was 15, but I recall it's symptoms many years before. It's been a bitch most of my life, but I was pretty good at keeping it under control with medication, meditation, and keeping my health in check. It's a constant battle with a real asshole of a disease, but at 37 years old I had found a way to keep it pretty much under my hat. Then I had my daughter and my whole world flipped upside down. Three little letters have crapped all over my brain. PPD.
I had mild PPD after I had my son. At the time I was not yet on medication for my depression and my doctor quickly prescribed Zoloft to get things under control. I hated the meds because they made me feel sleepy and kind of absent from reality, but it curbed a lot of the other symptoms until my body was able to regulate hormones and get back to normal. I stopped taking the medication a few months later and things were fine, I guess. It was nothing like it is now. Nothing is like this has been. This is a monster.
PPD is not the baby blues, which is really very common for new moms. It's more. It's fear that you will hurt yourself or the baby. It's mind numbing anxiety. It's not sleeping or sleeping way too much. It's a complete loss of appetite or an appetite so fierce you feel you might eat your refrigerator. It's loneliness and dread for no reason. It's insanely intense guilt. Feelings of complete isolation, lack of concentration and focus, and no desire to take care of yourself. It's gross, but while I was on maternity leave I would go days without so much as brushing my teeth. I could not put my baby down and when she slept, I curled right up and slept with her. It was my only real relief. Sleep. It still is.
I feel like I am lost in a blizzard most days. My brain feeling like a television screen of nothing but snowy fuzzy static and white noise. I am racked with anxiety that wakes me from a sound sleep in the middle of the night. Concentration on one task is impossible. My focus is simply gone and getting simple things done seems to require immense effort and often leads to frustration because I simply can't get my head around things. I often feel empty. Just a void of nothing. Even after spending most of my life battling depression I can honestly say I have never felt like this before, and it's both terrifying and incredibly frustrating.
I am most at peace with my kids. Being with my daughter and my son has been a salve for this condition, but that is hardly practical as a working mother and it has made my journey back to work all the more difficult. I can't stand to leave them. I can't stand to do anything without them. My house is a disaster and I can't find the strength to get it together. My doctor increased my present medication up to the maximum allowable dosage and it didn't even make a dent. Since I have already been on several anti-depressant medications in my life, he was hesitant to just prescribe yet another one that might not work in my severely declining condition. He suggested I see a professional to prescribe and modify the medication as needed to get this under control. He told me I need to see a psychiatrist.
Ok, easy enough. I have decent insurance. I will log onto the website, go to the handy-dandy "Find a Physician" page and start my search. Many popped up in my area and I started right away making calls. One after another. Five. Ten. Twenty calls. These doctors were either no longer with the practice listed, no longer taking new patients, or simply not practicing any more at all. This can't be happening. I called my hospital's behavioral health line for assistance thinking that they must be able to get me in with a doctor if not at my hospital, than one of the other four they partner with. No such luck. They informed me that the only facility doing any outpatient psychiatric help was my hospital, but that the staff was so stretched, they had a backlog of appointments into February. It's only November right now. I placed another call to another doctor I found and was told that most of their doctors were taking no new patients and the one that was had a backlog into January.
This can't be happening. I need help and I can't get it. All I could think was as bad as I feel, I know there are people worse off than myself in the same situation. What do we do? Sit in the dark and wait three months with a bottle of bourbon and Patsy Cline records and hope we can keep our shit together? This is not right. The funny thing was, a few weeks prior to all this I had read an article that there was a shortage of mental health professionals right now. I didn't think it could possibly have been THIS bad - but here I was, trying to find a doctor to help me and unable to find one who would even see me. I was struck by all the terrible things I read in the media and how they are always asking WHY WHY WHY? Well, here is a possible reason. People need help and can't get it.
I am still on my search today. Making another batch of phone calls. Thinking I may need to drive a lot further than I had though, but I need to find the way to get through this. I have to get a handle on things for my kids, for my husband, for my job, and for myself. This is no way to live.
No one seems to talk about this until a celebrity has it. Recently several have come out to the media to say they are or they have been battling with PPD after recent births. Most can say they overcame it though and have pictures of them smiling with happy, chubby babies. They also have a butt load of money to seek treatment and probably are not put on waiting lists until February just to get someone to properly diagnose them and prescribe needed medication. The rest of us, well this is where we are. And then we wonder why people fall apart.
In my state of New Jersey, it is now a law that doctor's assess new moms for signs of PPD. This is great and all, but once you find that we do have it...some of us get kicked into the behavioral health bracket of medicine and are left here to pretty much rot. In a nation so overcome with stress and worries, to have people put on a backlog to get help is simply unacceptable. I will update further as I navigate this mess, but I wanted to write about this as soon as possible. I want other moms out there to know you are not crazy, and you are not alone. Get help. If getting help is hard, get LOUD. I plan to be as annoying as humanly possible until someone stands up. We are better than this. We can get through this. We got this.
You are not alone.