27 July 2010

You don't always know.

Recently, I saw someone say online that women suffering from PPD know it. That's a myth. I speak from experience that sometimes you don't realize that's what's going on. One of the things that can come along with PPD is a feeling of emotional and mental numbness. I had that. I didn't care about anything and I didn't feel much. When I did feel anything it was usually sadness, anger, or some other negative emotion. If I had realized earlier on that I was dealing with PPD, I would have gone to a doctor sooner instead of waiting until it reached a crisis point requiring an ER visit and hospitalization. That's part of why it's so important for everyone to know the warning signs and be educated about PPD. If you know someone who has recently had a baby, keep a close eye on them. Know the warning signs of Post Partum Depression.

From http://helpguide.org/mental/postpartum_depression.htm

  • Lack of interest in your baby
  • Negative feelings towards your baby
  • Worrying about hurting your baby
  • Lack of concern for yourself
  • Loss of pleasure
  • Lack of energy and motivation
  • Feelings of worthlessness and guilt
  • Changes in appetite or weight
  • Sleeping more or less than usual
  • Recurrent thoughts of death or suicide

Postpartum depression usually sets in soon after childbirth and develops gradually over a period of several months. But postpartum depression can also come on suddenly, and in some women, the first signs don’t appear until months after they’ve given birth. Because of the possibility of delayed onset, if you have a depressive episode within six months of having a baby, postpartum depression should be considered.

If someone you know is not acting like their normal self and you think it could be PPD, talk to them. If you have to, talk to another family member of theirs. Do what you need to do to get them help before it gets too bad.

24 July 2010

The voice of a friend

A very dear friend read my blog and shared with me her point of view on my PPD, I thought it was very good and got her permission to post it here.

So I went to see my friend and her baby at the hospital. Both looked tired but happy, but birth is such a wonderful thing you focus on the positive.

Then a couple of days later, when my friend got home, I brought her food for a couple of days. Instead of being her over the top grateful self, she was a little more like, "yeah, fine, thanks." I felt like I was intruding.

So about a week after the birth I came by to see what I could do to help and to get my cooler and dishes. This is the first time I never saw my friend smile. Not even a tired one or a faked one. But I wrote it off to the fatigue of being a new mom. I don't have kids so I don't know how it is. I didn't want to be that childless friend who started telling a new mom "how it is".

After picking up my cooler, I went home and spoke to my husband. He looked at the situation very matter of factly. DH asked, "What would you do if someone said I am worried you have psych issues?" And honestly, as much as I hate to say it, I would be taken aback. I would like to think that I would know that the person was coming to me with my best interest at heart, but I don't know if I would.

Over the next couple of weeks, my phone calls were going unanswered. Even offers to come over and clean, do dishes, do laundry didn't get a reply. With my background in medicine, I knew about PPD, but reading it in a text book or seeing it in a patient with severe psych issues is different. My friend had no prior psych issues that I knew of, but I was too scared to ask. How do you ask someone "Hey, have you ever had a problem?"

So I started doubting myself. "Did I do something to step on her toes?", "Am I 'smothering' her?", "Maybe she and her husband really have everything under control and don't need help, but don't want to call me back because they feel like I am begging an invitation over."

By about the six week mark, I took it personally. My friend still wasn't returning calls, so I stopped really calling. Occassionally I would check in with her husband, but even those conversations were 'off'. He was short, terse with me. When I asked how things are, I got a lot of one word answers. Again, instead of seeing this as a sign I needed to step further into the situation, I saw this as my cue to exit.

A few months after the baby was born, I hear through the grapevine that my friend went to the ER and has been hospitalized. I have pretty extensive medical knowledge and this scared me. I felt shame. I should have seen this. I should have helped her stop things sooner. PPD shouldn't be that tough to "diagnose", I was failing her as a friend for not catching this. But once again, I figured if she was in the hospital the best I can do is support her amazing husband. He welcomed the support with open arms.

When she got out she was better, but things still weren't right. And I knew I wasn't seeing the worst of it. I knew she wasn't sleeping, but what could I do. I knew she was having anxiety issues, but again felt like my hands were tied. Then I began to wonder if there was more than I was being told about.

Unfortunately there was. She ended up being hospitalized a second time. This time I stepped up. I finally asked myself, "Would you rather be 'hated' for helping too much than for not being there when she needed you?" And my answer was clear.

Her husband and I went up to visit her. (And I had my first experience with a diaper change requiring a bath.) I had some worries about going to a psych hospital. What if someone I know sees me going in there? What if I say something to make her worse, are they going to kick me out and make a scene? What if something about me sets off a trigger and they think I need help?

After that I babysat (as much as I could). I would make it a point to talk to my friend at least once each week and actually talk. I would inquire how things are and if I felt she was giving me a "one word answer", I would push it. "No really, I want to know how you are." I would offer to come over and help clean. I would encourage her to come out with me.

This was a learning experience. This woman and mother is my closest friend where I live now. I fear I could have lost her because I was too scared to ask the questions. I was terrified to honestly tell her that I saw a problem.

To be blunt would you rather:
A) lose a friend who is wandering through a dark place, looking for help and not seeing it, and eventually comes to a choice that will alter her life forever
Or B) lose a friend for being too interested, too helpful, or too honest?

20 July 2010

You can be your own best advocate

Well, I got the results of the latest bloodwork testing my thyroid levels, everything is still within normal limits. Since this is 2 tests over 6 months I am now officially considered "Succesfully treated". I'll stay on the Synthroid at the dosage I've been taking and don't need to be tested more than once a year unless I start showing symptoms again. It's amazing to me that this one little issue that was so easily "fixed" is what was behind my Post Partum Depression. If only the doctors had diagnosed it sooner.

This brings me to another issue for anyone who thinks something is wrong: you can be your own best advocate. If you think something's wrong, talk to your doctor. If they forget to address the issue remind them about it. If they brush you off, revisit your concerns. Keep pushing until you get the answers you're looking for. Don't ignore your gut instincts, you have them for a reason. If I had followed all this advice, I could have been diagnosed with hypothyroidism and begun treatment a few months sooner and kicked the PPD earlier.