So, PPD is absolutely real, absolutely terrible, and we should absolutely talk about it.
As I said in the previous PPD post, it took me about three years to be completely rid of PPD symptoms (part of this may be that I was also in a doctoral program at the time, so additional stress made the healing/adjustment process take longer). As a survivor, I wanted to share with you some strategies that helped me most when waging war against the beast.
1. Write Down Everything You Do
Motherhood is a different kind of “work.”
It is not the same as taking a meeting, writing an article, or teaching a lesson; however, it is WORK. Being a mom, especially a new mom, is uniquely difficult and taxing. For someone like me who needs to feels like I’m accomplishing something (another blog for another time), motherhood presented a problem as there is no “finished” product to claim; rather, we feed, burp, clean, change, hold, rock, and clothe our child/children in an endless loop. What I want to emphasize is that all of those acts that I just listed are vital to your child’s well-being–you are accomplishing a great deal, no matter if you and your baby haven’t left the couch in four days. Parenting is incomparable to anything else, and trying to compare it to anything else will only end in frustration. My tip is to write down everything you do, from feeding through clothing, so that you can truly see how much you are accomplishing and feel better.
You can also show this list to anyone who foolishly assumes that maternity leave is some kind of vacation.
I am not suggesting exercise because I believe that losing baby weight is somehow imperative to your overall well-being, even though for some this is part of a picture of health that they strive to achieve after having a child. Exercise does much more than give us a Blake Lively shape. It also releases those feel-good endorphins and relieves stress. Whether you choose to do mommy and me yoga, walk, run, or zumba, schedule your time to exercise and stick to it; you will feel better.
3. Eat Well
Food is fuel, and new mothers need all the energy they can get.
I love chips, chocolate, ice cream, etc. as much as the next gal, but these foods can make an already exhausted mother feel even worse. I know that when I feel tired/stressed/wiped out I have zero self-control over what I eat; in fact, sometimes I will talk myself into eating that sugary snack because I argue that it will give me a burst of energy. It might do just that, but after the burst I tend to feel worse than I did before I indulged. High protein & fiber rich foods will also make you feel better, and I recommend stocking up on easy to snack veggies and fruits to avoid dietary land mines.
4. Accept Help
Our church offered to bring us food in the first few weeks after baby girl was born, and for some crazy reason I chose to decline. Even when a fellow member emphasized that the food will only be dropped off and there was no need to host the donor as a guest, I still didn’t accept the offer. This is MADNESS. If anyone close to you offers to help you during this time, immediately accept it. Don’t think, don’t question, don’t waffle; Just. Say. Yes. People love you and they love your child. It takes a village.
5. Seek Out Additional Help if Necessary
In an effort to stamp out PPD I have also seen a therapist briefly and taken Lexapro to curb my postpartum anxiety and depression. I think that both can be very helpful when you’re in the trenches, just trying to survive to fight another day. However, in an effort toward full disclosure, I did gain weight on Lexapro (which my doctor warned me about before starting) and it is a nightmare to go off of–something akin to be beaten out of a gang. Still, it was the right choice for me at the time and allowed me to see things more clearly, including what was and was not realistic as a new mother. If you’re feeling hopeless, please contact a medical professional immediately. My experience is that it takes time for PPD to truly go away, and a therapist/medicine can help you work through some of the cruelest symptoms.
If you have any strategies that worked for you or for someone you know, please comment. I truly believe that the most important strategy for fighting PPD is an open dialogue about it, from our experiences through attempting strategies and onto recovery.