Guest Post: Erika Pearson Krull – Ripples of Postpartum Depression


I met Erika online through Katherine Stone over at Postpartum Progress. We were asked to participate in a Mother’s Day Rally together. From there, we kind of clicked as we both have had a similar experience with one of our children and occasionally lean on each other for support in that department. And then there’s our passionate love of college football. I’m humbled to have Erika writing here today about Postpartum Depression. She addresses the after-effects of PPD with power and eloquence. I hope you enjoy her piece and have a wonderful weekend!

 

Health problems sometimes have lingering effects long after treatments are given. For example, I know personally that once you get bronchitis you have a much better chance of having asthmatic symptoms every time you get an upper respiratory illness or the humidity changes a lot. I never had a problem with this until my daughter shared her bronchitis with me a few years ago. I haven’t gotten bronchitis again, but I can’t get too far away from its affect on my life ever since.

The same seems to be true of postpartum depression for me. Between 2000 and 2003, I had postpartum depression and premenstrual dysphoric disorder (like PMS with depression symptoms) following two of my three pregnancies. I eventually got treatment before my third pregnancy, but I still feel the lingering effects of those two problems at times.

During my periods of depression, I had the typical symptoms – crying, low self-worth, negative self talk, withdrawal, etc. Now I find that my anger can burst forth more easily than it used to. When I might have turned inward during my depression, I now turn outward. That’s not an entirely bad thing because my emotions aren’t bottled up. But it can go too far more quickly than I want to admit. I get mad at the dog, my kids, my husband, myself, and so on.

The bigger problem is that this gets noticeably worse during my premenstrual time. Still. After nearly ten years. And I’m using a birth control pill that has helped control the symptoms. I haven’t been honestly depressed in almost a decade and I yet I can’t escape its long term effect entirely.

My point is that in order to get your best quality of life after dealing with depression, you need to really understand how it can affect you after you’ve handled the major symptoms. The stigma surrounding mental illness can be disheartening and confusing. Get it treated, but maybe don’t talk about it so much after that. Or better yet, just get it fixed and don’t pull anyone into an awkward conversation about it. You don’t want to look too selfish or get too much sympathy. Or be seen as incompetent or untrustworthy. And geez, it’s been years, why aren’t you over that?

Here’s the reality – the sooner you treat it the better. And it’s never too late to get treatment because late is still better than never. I firmly believe I would have fewer problems with my long-term effects if I had gotten treatment within a few months instead of waiting nearly three years. The depression would have had less time to make a deep impression on my mind and body. But still, treatment made a critical difference in my life. I don’t truly know how I’d be living if I had to try digging out on my own.

Here’s the good news! These lingering effects don’t necessarily have to make you miserable all the time. I don’t have many conversations about these issues now. I do speak to my doctor at times when my symptoms needed better management, and I find it very helpful to write articles like this or do some public speaking about postpartum depression. I’m also able to handle those tough emotional moments in the moment and recognize what I need to do from there. I don’t allow myself to make my depression history an excuse, but I do recognize the roots of my emotional issues.

Many many women get through postpartum depression and recover well. But it’s realistic for some recovered women to feel ongoing ripples at times. It doesn’t mean you didn’t do a good job of getting through it or that you are broken as a person. That’s just depression for you. It’s a serious condition and requires treatment like many other health problems.

You probably wouldn’t beat yourself up because you had to use a nebulizer years after getting a bad case of bronchitis. You need to give yourself the same break after dealing with postpartum depression. Find what works for you to handle those emotional moments, the negative self-talk, the excess anger, the regrets, or whatever makes you feel stuck again. Develop good self-care habits like regular meals, frequent exercise, lots of social support, and other emotional outlets. When something comes up, you’ll be well-equipped to handle it.

Take care of your mind and body, learn how to recognize your needs, and keep moving forward each day. By the way, it’s mid-October and that means cold season. I’ll be going all out to keep germs away from my lungs, and to be kind to myself when they sneak in anyway.

Erika Krull is a freelance writer and part-time therapist in central Nebraska. She has been married to her college sweetheart for 17 years, stays busy raising three energetic girls and a bouncy puppy, and is still learns so much every day. She writes for the Family Mental Health on psychcentral.com and does local public speaking events about postpartum depression upon request.

Guest Post: @momgosomething – “You Never Know What Lies Behind a Perfect Smile”


There aren’t enough words in the universe powerful enough to explain how I feel about Kim from All Work and No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something. We met on Twitter, through #ppdchat. She’s become one of my friends, even though we’ve never met in person. (God, I love the Internet for that!) She is real, she is honest, and the girl can write. She’s hilarious. Also, obsessed with Chuck Norris, which is just awesome. I’m honoured to have her writing here for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Without further ado, here are Kim’s words.
It was 9 in the morning when she had called and asked if she could come see him. I looked down at my pajama bottoms and the state of my kitchen. Bottles stacked one up against the other waiting to be sterilized, breakfast dishes left on the table, and his swing covered haphazardly with a blanket speckled with spit up.
“Of course you can come over,” I said with an exaggerated chipper tone.
She said in 2 hours.
In those 2 hours I cleaned the kitchen.
I dressed myself, including doing my hair and make-up.
I dressed my son in the finest clothing that was hung neatly in his colour coordinated closet.
I made the beds.
I swept the floors.
I got on my hands and knees and plucked out any noticeable lint and dog hair from the carpet.
I had just finished wiping down the bathroom with antibacterial wipes when the dog started barking at the door.
There she was.
My Aunt held a bouquet of daisies, my favourite, and an outfit for my son.
She immediately swooped him up in her arms and looked me over.
“You look so beautiful. I mean that. When I was 2 weeks postpartum, I was still in the same pajamas I had worn home from the hospital.”
She roamed my house with my newborn son, holding him tightly on her chest.
I watched her anxiously, looking for any indication that she had figured out that there was something seriously wrong with me.
“Your beds, they’re made. Kimbers, your house is absolutely spotless. Did you hire someone to do this?”
I bowed my head, “No. I do it.”
“Kimbers, you should be resting when the baby rests.”
I nodded in agreement.
When she finally left, she told me she was proud of me; that I was “rocking” motherhood with ease.
And as her car pulled out of my driveway, I took a breath of relief.
I fooled another person into believing that everything was ok.
In the days following, I went to great lengths to conceal my internal struggle.
If I looked perfect, if my son looked perfect, if my home looked perfect, no one would know.
It was so easy to hide my internal battle behind the cheerful facades that I had created.
And why did I do this?
Because I was scared that I would be labeled as a terrible mother.
Weak.
Failure.
Monster.
Crazy.
Not to be trusted with her child.
For weeks, and even after my diagnosis, I still kept a perfectly pretty barrier between me and my personal hell.
When I finally admitted to friends and family that I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety, they all had the same reaction:
“I had no idea. You looked like you had everything under control.”
Postpartum depression and anxiety does not have a face.
People cannot see it.
What they do see is what is portrayed on television, in the newspapers, tabloids, internet, etc.
They see monsters, psychos, nuts, disheveled, with twitches in our eyes and all the other horrible words and images that are associated with mental illness.
This sort of exaggerated misinformation breeds stigma like a wild fire. This is why so many men and women suffer in silence when they don’t have to.
Just like I did.
That’s why we have to stand up. We have to use our collective voice to teach others about our illnesses.
They need to understand that the way we experience depression looks completely different from everyone else’s.
This was me at 4 weeks postpartum.
 
Can you tell that I was crumbling inside?
More importantly, we need to keep talking to Moms. We need to ask those difficult questions like, “Are you ok?”
Even if they get offended, just ask them.
You never know what lies behind a perfect smile.
You could save a life.
 
Kimberly is a Registered Nurse, Mom and wife to a beautiful 4 year old son. She is a 4 year postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety disorder.

She writes on her personal blog, All Work And No Play Makes Mommy Go Something Something.

Guest Post for Mental Illness Awareness Week – @MotherUnadorned – You are NOT a Bad Mom


I cannot simply tell you how much I adore and admire Cristi’s drive to speak up about mental illness. The woman is fearless and is always speaking up or doing something to bring awareness to mental health, suicide awareness in particular. I’m honoured to have her posting here at the blog for Mental Illness Awareness Week. Without further ado, I present Cristi’s amazing post. Read. Take to heart. Share. You are not alone.

 

You are NOT a Bad Mom.

The other day I posted on Twitter:
“Sometimes I wonder what others think of me because of my #mentalillness and then I remember I really don’t care. #stigma is stupid.”

Truth is, most of the time I honestly don’t care if others have an unfair opinion of me because of my mental illness. But that is a truth for me born from living with and learning to accept that my mental illness is just that, a REAL illness like any other medical condition. Others’ opinions and stigma are born from ignorance.

It’s not my fault.
It’s not a weakness.
And it needs real medical treatment.

But I know that for many who are blindsided with postpartum depression, OCD, anxiety or psychosis, it’s not that easy to brush off the stigma. Especially when you’ve never experienced mental health issues.

You probably don’t understand what’s happening.
Maybe right now, today, you’re feeling like a bad mother.
Maybe you even feel like a bad person because you’re having “intrusive thoughts” of running away from your family or hurting yourself or your child*.

I want to tell you.
You are NOT a bad mother.
Your thoughts and feelings DON’T make you a bad person.
And, you are NOT alone.
You just need a doctor to treat your medical condition.

I’ve been there myself after the birth of my 2nd child. I felt hopeless and wanted to run away as my 2 year old’s relentless jealousy surfaced. I felt like I couldn’t handle my life, my kids, my home or myself.

It was all falling apart.
I was falling apart.

But I asked for help because I knew I needed professional treatment.

And so do you, right now, if you’re struggling.

You need REAL medical treatment for this often temporary, but very real illness that affects so many women (and even men on occasion.)

I am going to say it again.
You are NOT a bad mother.
You are NOT a bad person.
You are NOT alone.

So many moms have been where you are right now and WE are here with open hearts and open arms to help you find your way. There’s no stigma with us. Just love and support and help.

If you’re here reading Lauren’s blog you probably already know about the beautiful gift of #PPDChat on Twitter and #PPDChat Support on Facebook. If you don’t, I encourage you to check them out. Social media can offer such an amazing support when we feel alone, at home, and haven’t yet been able ask for help in person.

I also encourage you to visit Postpartum Progress for loads of information and resources for perinatal and postpartum mood disorders.

If you’re struggling or in crisis, the Lifeline hotline number 800-273-TALK is always available to you. And Befrienders.org offers a list of hotline numbers worldwide.

There are so many women who have been where you are today and have made it through.

There IS a happy ending with the right help. I promise you.

This is your health, your child, your family, your life. You all deserve the happy ending. And stigma really truly is stupid. Please don’t let it hold you back from finding yourself again.

You are NOT a bad mom.
You are NOT a bad person.

You are LOVED.
You are BEAUTIFUL.
And, you are NOT alone.

Cristi Comes
Wife. Mom. Me. Advocate for mental health & suicide prevention. Attachment parent. Survivor of mental illness & PPD. Jewelry designer. Motherhood Unadorned Blog is motherhood naked, plain & uncensored. On Twitter @MotherUnadorned, on Facebook at Motherhood Unadorned

*If you are having such intrusive thoughts, please contact your doctor immediately.