6 Ways to Get Through Postpartum Depression

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before you read any further, please note that i am not a licensed doctor nor your mental health care provider. this article, the 6 ways to get through postpartum depression (PPD), is coming from my personal experience with postpartum depression, belonging to support groups and doing my own research. should you want/need further help with your own mental health issues, please consult a trained professional near you or call:

PPDMoms
1-800-PPDMOMS (1-800-773-6667)


in case you missed the previous post explaining facts about postpartum mood disorders, go read that first so you get a better understanding of what this all means!

one of the best decisions i made on this blog was sharing about my postpartum depression. that being said, it wasn’t easy. when i wrote about it 9 months ago, i was still very much in the midst of it. my world felt like a very unfamiliar, unhappy and scary place.

when becoming a mother isn't what you thought

despite that, i can still say it was one of the best decisions to share my story publicly because it allowed a taboo topic to be explored by many readers, both women and men. i had a startling amount of women reach out to me saying they’ve experienced it too or were in the midst of the storm like me. there is such solidarity in simply knowing we aren’t alone.

i now find it my duty to check in with new moms to simply say:

“if you’re having a hard time, i get it.”

“if you hate it right now, i get it.”

“if you want your old life back, i get it.”

“if you actually love everything about a newborn, i don’t get it but i am happy for you!”

i am happy to share that i truly feel like a different person compared to how i felt back then. thank goodness for that. i am also happy to share that i no longer think motherhood is shit. i actually like it, especially now that atlas isn’t a newborn (plus, snitch 1st birthday cakes are a pretty great bonus)!

how good is that quote? the facilitator of my PPD support group shared this quote and it relieved a ton of pressure that i was feeling about not ‘knowing’ how to innately be a mother.

i’ve received quite a few emails about what helped me get to the other side of the constant darkness that some women experience after birth. i wanted to share 6 ways to get through postpartum depression that worked for me in hopes that you might benefit or know someone else who could use some ideas or support.

1) take care of yourself first

this feels very hard. it’s the opposite of how motherhood is viewed in our culture. there are so many mother’s day cards that praise moms for being ‘so selfless, so giving, so caring, so put-everyone-before-yourself-ing.’

(i just wrote like 3 more paragraphs about this topic so decided to make a separate post about it to continue my rant).

it’s hard to put yourself first, especially when a newborn is constantly needing attending to particularly in the feeding department yet won’t freakin’ latch. you have no idea what you’re doing because you’ve never been a damn mom before!

figure out what you need to take care of yourself. no seriously. figure it out.

i knew that anytime i took a shower, i would feel more calm and refreshed. i needed to figure out how to shower every. single. day.

sometimes this meant sneaking one in while atlas napped or while someone else was over and could watch her. i do remember one particularly tough morning, my husband was traveling and no one was due to come over until later and everything felt hard. 

atlas was crying her head off for no apparent reason. no matter what i did, i couldn’t soothe her.

i simply laid her safely in her bassinet, closed the door, turned up my music and took a shower.

i could either hold a screaming child and feel like screaming myself or i could let her continue to cry while i gathered pieces of my sanity in a steamy, seven minute shower.

you can’t take care of anyone or anything particularly well when you are feeling in pieces yourself. this is an essential step and one that cannot be overlooked.

2) join a support group

i attended a support group that was a held at my birth center and it was extremely beneficial. at my first meeting, i literally cried the entire time because i had just screamed at my husband moments before getting in the car.

it was then i learned that one of the most common results of postpartum depression isn’t necessarily all crying and feeling depressed but also includes feeling extremely irritated, angry, prone to lashing out at loved ones, feelings of hopelessness and loss of interest in things that used to make you happy. check. check. cheeeeck.

it was helpful to speak to a professional (hi mary!) who had also experienced it, was a social worker (social workers unite!) and also studies postpartum specifically.

she gave us helpful resources (see the end of the post for links to them)!

i attended a few breastfeeding support groups as well. if you are experiencing anything remotely related to postpartum depression or another mood disorder, find a support group specializing in that (in addition to other ones if need be). it is encouraging to hear from other moms the thoughts and struggles they experience too.

postpartum depression

3) get together with other moms

because i posted my original article, a woman i went to high school with (hi janae!) read it and actually commented that she was in the midst of it too. how brave of her to openly share that, though i haven’t seen her in 10 years and we weren’t really friends in high school. her son is about 3 weeks younger than atlas so it was great because our kids are developing at about the same pace.

it was so helpful to sit face to face with someone who is going through something very similar to you.

of course i had a ton of anxiety the week before we got together but after our first playdate/let’s talk about PPD session, i felt ever so much.

though i know it’s hard, seek out and make firm plans to meet up (and then follow through on plans, even if you have all the hesitation in the world). it helps. it’s important.

4) explore medication

as i’ve mentioned previously, i worked hard to get off of my anti-anxiety medication after being on them for a good chunk of my life. it was disheartening and scary to think about putting chemicals back into my body but i am so very glad i did. 

of course talk to your doctor/therapist/medical professional about what’s right for you. i know for a fact i would not be feeling 90% happiness during the days (and nights, oh those horrible nights in the beginning) if it weren’t for my medication.

be open to exploring medication, as it’s a very effective way to treat postpartum depression. also, most women don’t need to be on it long term. view as a necessary medication to take until you feel better. be open to talking to your midwife or doctor about it.

i often shudder to think how much more i (and in turn my husband) would have suffered if i wasn’t open to it.

5) cut back on sugar

i know. if you’re anything like me, when you feel shitty you want to gorge on cookies, snickers bars and a box of mac-n-cheese.

while it does feel temporarily glorious as sugar hits your tongue, it leads to making the irritation, anger and frustration associated with PPD way worse. that’s because when you ingest crappy food, it makes you feel crappy. it throws off your blood sugar and makes you feel more tired, more cranky and more foggy when your blood sugar dips again.

i distinctly remember enjoying a date night out with my husband. i decided to end on a piece of seriously decadent chocolate cake. i was being pleasant and we were having fun and then about 30 minutes, every time he even breathed slightly too loud, i wanted to kick him in the face. i hated feeling that way and hated speaking to him badly.

i found that when i focused on eating healthier, it directly affected my mood. when i get the bored-munchies, i reach for more nuts and seeds, try to eat a salad at least once a day and when consuming carbs – mostly whole grain.

sugar (annoyingly) does play a role.

6) exercise

at first, exercise started out as a short stroll down the sidewalk. then i started to be able to walk longer and farther. it was around 3-4 months postpartum when i finally felt able to get back to regularly exercising.

be prepared to be frustrated at first because you will have probably lost a good chunk of your strength, flexibility and the ability not to pee while doing jumping jacks. bear with yourself, it will get better and you will get stronger again.

exercising has now been added to my ‘take care of me first’ list (though showering is still on there too). i make it a point to get a 30-60 minute workout in at least 3-4 a week – by myself.

on days that i go for a run jog or do some serious lunges and arm work, it feels like my mood has been doused in a “oh wow, you are a nicer person” serum. thanks endorphins! working up a good sweat helps me be nicer to my husband, kinder to myself, more focused while working, feeling sexier about this postpartum body of mine and able to keep up with my kid.

i force myself to review the above list when i try to talk myself out of working out because ‘i’m just not in the mood.’ we need those endorphins, they do wonders.


while there is no one-size-fits-all for moving past (or at least living more happily) with postpartum depression, this is what has helped me. i am grateful to be able to say i’m on the other side of the dark hill. i still have days that are harder than others but i can now gratefully say i feel more happiness than i initially ever thought possible.

i also want to acknowledge my husband for being patient, uplifting and kind during the rough patches. it’s hard for loved ones who haven’t experienced these type of feelings/thoughts/emotions to relate.

we need your patience, your space, your closeness, your love and to hear that you still love us.

if you are in the thick of it mama, be kind to yourself. you are not alone. reach out, be open and know that there will be light again.

please feel free to share this article with your circle or to expecting or new moms if you found it helpful!


additional resources:

http://www.postpartum.net/

an international non-profit dedicated to raising awareness and education about perinatal mood and anxiety disorder. SO many helpful resources as well as a ‘warmline’ to call into and the ability to chat with someone too.

http://www.postpartumprogress.com/

peer-to-peer support and tons of stories from women that help us feel less alone.

PPDMoms
1-800-PPDMOMS (1-800-773-6667)

2 Comments

  1. Audrey

    September 28, 2017 at 1:12 pm

    Man oh man, Atlas is a cutie!
    I had no idea sugar played such a significant role! (And I don’t lie, when I first read that bold headline I was like, ‘What?? What did her dog do wrong?!’ Lol!)
    Such wonderful tips, Chelsea! Gotta take care of the mommas out there!

    • chelsea

      October 7, 2017 at 12:13 pm

      hahah that is SO funny about sugar as in the substance and the dog because when i first read your comment i was like “did i mention her in here?” haha

      sugar (the dog) should have her own post about how she came in and sat at the edge of my bed every time i pumped (8-10x a day). she’s seriously the best.

      thanks for your comment and words of encouragement audrey!

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