Post partum depression is complicated, painful, and – most importantly – an experience unique to its suffering host. For some, it is an incapacitating weight. For me it was a swirling of self-criticism, negativity, anger, doubt, fear, discomfort, and anxiety. I felt like I had “lost the plot” in my own life. I didn’t recognize what was unfolding before me. More than that, I hated the main character of this story (yeah, that’s me).
I needed some serious help.
Hormones and brain chemistry - tricky wee buggars - often need help from the experts. Help from experts is important. Essential. However, the medical side of my story isn’t the interesting narrative.
Self-care is difficult. For most moms, it’s nearly impossible. I was at the point where I knew that I needed to take care of myself in order to care for my brood. Just like flying: I needed to put my own air mask on before I could do the same for others. So, I did…
Here’s how I fought back in Post Partum Depression:
Put your brain on a reasonably sized diet of happy thoughts in this world of constant incoming stimuli.
Delete unnecessary apps on your phone. Turn off all the push notifications. Unsubscribe, unsubscribe, and unsubscribe. Hell, delete as many distractions as you can. I went so far as to give myself email “office hours,” and initialed an out of office message letting senders know I only responded to emails after 8pm. This helped my weary brain avoid stressful multitasking. I needed to look inward before I could handle what was “out there…”
Habits are comfort. Healthy, positive, habits are doubly so.
Take time to create and nurture daily rituals that make you feel good. When you have kids, “me time” is tough to find – so get up 15 minutes early to start your day right. Rising with a cup of hot lemon water, taking the time to put on a favourite body lotion, or even reading a few pages of an inspiring book will bush away the cloud of negativity you may wake with, and start your day with the subtext: “I am important to me.”
The magic is in the simplicity.
Take some time to notice your moments of tension, sadness, or anxiety – are you breathing? I mean, you’re probably breathing to live, but are you filling yourself with fresh oxygen as well as breathing out evenly and fully? Probably not. My short, shallow, breaths weren’t helping me feel my best.
Take in three breaths through the nose: a count of four in and four out. Its incredible to see the difference that fresh oxygen to the brain can make. Kick it up a notch by going outside – even if just for that “me moment.”
Pick your poison – running, yoga, boxing, rage cleaning… Get your endorphins flowing, and find that sweetest high only achieved when you activate your body.
Getting my sweat on with an intense yoga practice, or even power walking the double stroller with the girls gave me a time-out from the negative, cyclical, thoughts that come with post partum depression. Sweating feels good; its good for your body and gifting your kids with some activity or fresh air provides the bonus thought “I’m a great mom!” Go ahead and say that a few more times because its true, and you need to say it more.
Never meditated? Try it. Seriously. You can start small with a neat App like calm.com. Easing into the practice of meditation and mindfulness has been a major game-changer in my life. It can be tough at first, but worth every bit of these moments you take for yourself.
If you want to read a more in-depth book, check out the pioneer of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and his best seller Full Catastrophe Living: Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness. Here’s a taste:
“It is not that mindfulness is the “answer” to all life’s problems. Rather, it is that all life’s problems can be seen more clearly through the lens of a clear mind.”
― Jon Kabat-Zinn, Full Catastrophe Living (Revised Edition): Using the Wisdom of Your Body and Mind to Face Stress, Pain, and Illness
A bad moment isn’t a bad life. One tough parenting day doesn’t make you a bad parent. This dark and tough time will not be your new normal…
Post partum depression was like a magnifying glass for my negative thoughts and emotions: my little errors were catastrophes, my sad minutes meant a sad lifetime, and my life-bumps were Everest. Learning to STOP those snowballing thoughts was a big turning point for me, because moving past those tough moments made space for happy moments to follow.
Take those BIG thoughts (“I’m a bad parent,” “PPD is ruining my life,” “I will never be happy”), and shrink them down to their reality (“I forgot a bib today – oops!,” or “I’m not feeling happy right now. Maybe a walk could help…”). Fight back against the paintbrush of negativity that PPD loves to colour your life with.
We have all played the role of Martyr Mom at some point. Give it up. Just stop. For many families, Mom is the heart/nerve/brain center of everything. If you go down, the ship is coming with you.
Taking time for you is healthy, pleasurable, and vital to your fighting back against Post Partum Depression.
Drop the guilt about needing a break.
Drop the guilt around wanting to see a friend for coffee.
Drop the guilt around your past mistakes, and the ones that are to come…
You don’t have time or energy for that sh#t, so just move on and give quite a few less f#cks then you are currently giving. Take that energy, and fight back against PPD with every resource – medical, social, financial, spiritual – that you have.
You are worth fighting for.