I remember it like it was yesterday.
Sitting in my very last birth class, excited for the tour of the labor & delivery ward, when they passed out a handout that covered Post Partum Depression. It was a letter, written from a husband’s perspective of Post Partum Depression, and I quickly dismissed it. I thought to myself, “I am a strong person, have never struggled with anything remotely close to depression, I’m not one of “those” women.”
Good thing my husband read it.
I had a lovely pregnancy, easy delivery, and a beautiful girl to show for it.
As any mother can relate, the first few weeks were nothing short of completely overwhelming and exhausting. But we were blessed with help from both sides of the family and my husband and I were able to nap here and there as help arrived. Sure I was emotional – with crying spells, but I was able to snap out of those moments pretty easily.
Until that one memorable day when it was my turn to nap. I went upstairs around 6 pm and layed there, eyes wide open, until 9 pm. The room was dark, my husband had the baby, but I was incredibly anxious and couldn’t fall asleep. Why couldn’t I sleep? My mind was spinning. What was wrong with me? I went downstairs frustrated. Fast forward a few days – and things began to go downhill quickly. Not being able to nap turned into not being able to sleep.
I had horrible insomnia, refused to eat, and developed the worst case of anxiety I had ever experienced in my life. Days become longer and life became extremely overwhelming.
I remember one day when my husband had gone back to work. I had a screaming baby and no idea what to do. I was in my pajamas, my hair was matted, bags under my eyes, and I was slowly wasting away. I put Maggie in a carrier and headed outside in my slippers. I wandered aimlessly around the streets of my neighborhood in a daze, crying, frustrated, and staring at people in their cars – jealous at how rested they looked.
One night while family was cooking dinner I just sat in a ball by the fireplace and cried. The only way I can describe how I felt was that I was inside of a black hole getting sucked in deeper and deeper. No one could grab me. I couldn’t get out. How was I going to get out?
One afternoon we sat at the kitchen counter and my husband said “I think you have Post Partum Depression.” I snapped back “That’s impossible.” He got on his iPhone and googled it. As he read the symptoms I looked at him and said “Well. I think you’re right”.
I immediately called my OB/GYN and made an appointment to come in. She had me complete a survey (similar to this one) to assess my mental state. While I never had any thoughts of suicide or harming my child – the survey told a very clear story of where I was mentally. My score was extremely high and it was determined that yes, I had Post Partum Depression. She gave me a prescription for Zoloft and sent me on my way.
I had my own perceptions about antidepressants in general, but at that point of darkness I felt like I had no other choice but to take them. There are a lot of misconceptions out there about PPD, some might come from the Brooke Shields/Tom Cruise debate about whether antidepressants are necessary or the right fix. Others may come from sensationalized media stories of women drowning their children. Whatever the case may be, I can’t be more adamant in my own belief that PPD is completely chemical. It is not a state of mind. It is not an inability to cope. It is a chemical imbalance of the brain. It was not my fault. The only way I could create that balance was through the help of an antidepressant.
I picked up my prescription & the pharmacist told me to take the Zoloft at night. That was a mistake. I should have been taking it in the morning because it can make you really wired. It made my insomnia increasingly worse. As soon as the sky started to darken my anxiety would pick up and I began to fear bedtime. Bedtime meant that while everyone else was asleep, I was all alone with my irrational thoughts and anxiety. At this point I was such a mess that my husband started doing all the night shifts. He slept in a separate room with our daughter so that I could close the bedroom doors and try to sleep.
I couldn’t sleep.
I went back to my Dr. begging her for something to knock me out. She wrote me a prescription for Trazodone. I went home so excited. I was actually going to get to sleep a full night! It didn’t work. I woke up my husband up in the morning sobbing.
I went back to my Dr. again in tears. She looked at me and said very directly, “Erin. You are going to come out of this. It is going to get better, and when it does – you are going to help someone else by telling your story.” My sleep cycle (or lack thereof) was so messed up and I was begging her to give me something to sleep. She ended up giving me a prescription for Klonopin – a last resort, highly addictive drug. But it worked. Relief!
Over the next few weeks the Zoloft began to take effect. I got out of the house, I showered, I ate food, and even managed to find my smile again.
An acceptance or diagnosis of PPD doesn’t mean you’re instantly cured. With the help of Zoloft, I still had to claw my way out of the black hole by taking life one day, one hour, one minute at a time. I stayed on Zoloft for an entire year as any Dr. will advise that Post Partum Depression can creep up on you at anytime within the first year of having a baby. There were a few women in my little photographer community that knew I was suffering from PPD and reached out to me to let me know that they had also been there and that I was going to get better. I can’t begin to express how important it was for me to know that I was not alone, I was not at fault, that other women I knew had been through it, and there was hope that I would return to my old self.
When my daughter celebrated her first birthday, I began the slow and monitored process of weaning off the drug. It’s been 6 months since I’ve been off it and am happy to report I feel great, happy, and in control.
Although I feel completely back to normal and am having the time of my life now, I still harbor a strong resentment towards Post Partum Depression. I’m disappointed that I can’t look back on those first few months of life with joy. It stole that joy from me. .
But now that I have been able to share my story, I think I’ll close that messy chapter in my life, accept it, move on, and maybe help some new Moms along the way.
Thank you Erin Vey for sharing your story with us.
A dog lover first, photographer second. With a lot of hard work and a little luck thrown in, I was able to combine the two loves into the coolest job ever: A Dog Photographer.
Born and raised in the Pacific Northwest, Erin is a self-professed crazy dog lady. She has built her career around photographing dogs exclusively, preferring to crawl on the floor, run outside, and shower her four-legged clients with loves and kisses. She is not afraid of dog hair or slobber.
She lives in Seattle with her husband Jim, daughter Maggie, and their beautiful 8 year old Great Dane – Miss Gracie.