Is Postpartum Depression a series of mini-episodes or thoughts vs. something major?

Tonight, before I broke Twitter and received a 503 error message, I received the above question in my Direct Message inbox.

It caught me off guard.

140 characters did not provide nearly enough space in which to respond.

Why she felt she had to DM the question also caught me off guard. Why not just ask in public? It’s not an intensely private question and certainly not one (obviously) I mind answering in public.

A series of mini-episodes or thoughts – hrm.

Let’s see.

My first brush with Postpartum involved OCD, which yes, involves thoughts. Rushing thoughts that liked to run through my head like crazy streakers intent on tackling me to the pavement. I had to either duck or face plant the cement. (FYI, Cement? Tastes like rubber glue. Also makes really dangerous shoes, I hear.)

That OCD fed into depression during pregnancy. THAT was fun. But it didn’t involve those fun face-planting thoughts. Just day after day of darkness with the weight of a blue whale latched to my ankle that I couldn’t shake. Darkness that kept me from eating, playing with my toddler, interacting with my husband, participating in life. Darkness which overtook my life faster than I could outrun it. Darkness that swallowed me whole with a vengeance.

Then my daughter was born with a birth defect. The face-planters returned with a vengeance and brought their friends, P,T, S, and D. Together, they hooked up with Party City and threw one helluva party in my head. I got lost in the fog. Very, very, very lost.

If I could have escaped the darkness, the fog, the insanity, by just changing my next “series” of thoughts, I would have done so in a heartbeat. If that’s the way it really is, then someone should have clued me in a long time ago. Someone should clue in all those suffering moms out there right now. Or give the moms to come a heads up. Hey – if you just DECIDE to be happy with your next thought, guess what? YOU WILL BE!

There’s power in positive thinking. While there may be, it certainly isn’t a quick fix. It takes time to heal from Postpartum Mood Disorders or any mental illness for that matter. Some may never heal as the root of their illness may be biological or something they have to live with for the rest of their lives. There is recovering and there is coping. I coped while I journeyed toward recovery. But I most certainly did not jump from mini-episode to mini-episode or from thought to thought (okay, so maybe the thought thing but underneath the thoughts there was a deeper issue at hand causing those thoughts to emerge from the depths of hell and torment me.)

I believe for some Postpartum Mood Disorders are a major event in life, one which forever alters the course of any life left to live. My own brushes with PMD’s have been a very important part of who I am today. As I journeyed on the road to recovery, (by the way, someone should really repave that road. The bumps? Atrocious!) I held on to life with every fiber of my being. It took everything I had most days NOT to drive my car into on-coming traffic. I did not – (obviously) because I had kids to care for  – kids who love me, trust me, and look forward to spending time with me each and every day.  But to be honest, there were days way back when where my kids? Weren’t really a reason to stick around. To be that far gone is scary. To not care if you see your kids grow up – to not have them as a reason to stick around – wow. (These days I am madly in love with my kids and wouldn’t dare think about leaving them in forever terms on purpose!)

Ultimately though, life IS a series of thoughts. Sometimes these thoughts get stuck in the lows. Some days, they get stuck in the clouds. And sometimes? There’s a traffic jam. And that’s an event. Sure, sometimes a traffic jam clears up on it’s own. But other times? Other times we need professional help to get it all cleared up. We don’t hesitate to accept the help of professionals to clear up the traffic, right? So why would we hesitate to accept the help of professionals when our brain has a traffic jam? Doesn’t make sense, does it?

Bottom line though – it’s your Postpartum Mood Disorder to define as it fits you, your lifestyle, your perception. You may feel that your PMD is a series of mini-episodes or thoughts. It ultimately doesn’t matter how anyone else defines Postpartum Mood Disorders as we all bring our own stories and baggage to the plate.

What are your thoughts? ARE Postpartum Mood Disorders just a series of events or thoughts? Or are they something major? What was it for you?

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3 thoughts on “Is Postpartum Depression a series of mini-episodes or thoughts vs. something major?

  1. I so much appreciate your honesty here, Lauren. And, of course, am always so glad to know that you are out there sharing your important journey with other moms who are struggling or who have struggled.

    I am going to make a point that, please know, comes with a huge amount of respect. It is more of an observation and a request to look at this question with another perspective than anything else.

    The title to this post is “Is PPD a series of mini-episodes or thoughts vs. something major?”- I imagine that the woman who wrote this might be wondering if she could possibly have PPD- because for her, this is characterized by a series of on again off again thoughts or feelings that come and go and come back again, You know the situation I am sure: mom feels awful and confused by her thoughts and then for a day or two feels better. So she doesn’t reach out And then, again, WHAM, she feels awful again.. for a few days, and so she thinks she will seek out help. But then, ahhh.. a few days of feeling much better so, again, she holds back. And on and on. This mom thinks she must not have PPD because hers is not a knock-down -lights out situation. And so it takes her months and months to get the help that she actually needs.
    I see this over and over in my psychotherapy practice when moms come in, finally and exhausted, at about 8 months postpartum when they have been feeling this way for a longer time than they needed to.

    I appreciate your last few paragraphs about how everyone’s experience is unique, and so I think this is what I am trying to highlight in my comments. PPMDs come in all shapes and sizes and on a spectrum from mild to severe.
    Your last paragraph is a set of questions to moms out there and it reads “is your PPMD JUST a series of thoughts?”I would ask that we all make sure that we acknowledge that no PPMD is a “just” anything… No matter what someone’s challenge is, it can be pretty darn ugly for them.

    with respect and admiration,
    Kate Kripke, LCSW

  2. I think that it’s a major event characterized by a series of mini events…with highs, lows, thoughts, no thoughts, good days, bad days…it all falls under the same shit that is PPD which I think is super major.

    I’m kind of at a loss at what kind of answer this question seeks. Maybe I just need more coffee ;)

  3. Hey Lauren,
    Thank you for saying that sometimes it’s biological and you may have to learn to cope (or something to that effect). My OCD was diagnosed because it was exacerbated by being postpartum so it was finally recognized for what it was. So in a way mine will always be with me. I will forever be taking my OCD meds…but I can handle the obsessive thoughts and know what they are so I can work on dismissing them rather than compulsing. My PPOCD was such a blessing in that sense because everything I’d been doing since I was a child started to make sense.

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