Happy Saturday, y’all!
It’s been grey here all day. Within the past hour, we have had torrential downpour, thunder, no lightning, and the sky is now a bright white instead of a dark lingering grey. I have been down for the count since Thursday night with Strep. I’m on the mend though, and managed to go for a drive this morning to escape the house. I ended up in a little town named Good Hope. Lately it seems to be where my car likes to take me when I need to get out and breathe. You can read more about my journey there at The 3six5 Project tonight at 8:00p.m.
There has also been an air of tension over my hometown for the past few days. The situation has resolved as of early this morning and we are all breathing much easier today. I’m not disclosing the reason because I would hate to trigger anyone inadvertently. All that matters is that it resolved without any further tragedy and all is well once again.
Today I am grateful for local law enforcement, tylenol, ibuprofen, and antibiotics. And I cannot wait until I can hug my children close again!
As always – the answer below is not meant to be complete or professional in any sense. Always seek a professional’s opinion in regard to your own situation. Everyone does not always have the same experience.
Today’s Question: Is Postpartum Depression only Tears?
No. It’s not.
Sure, tears may be involved somewhere. But they may not be involved at all. I have had so many mothers share with me that they didn’t think they had PPD because they were not crying lumps. Thing is, there are many different Mood Disorders on the Postpartum Spectrum. These include but are not limited to:
- Postpartum Depression
- Postpartum Anxiety
- Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
- Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
- Postpartum Psychosis
You’ll notice that I did not include the Baby Blues in the above list. It’s not there because it’s not considered a psychiatric disorder. The Baby Blues happen to many mothers – up to 80%. When the blues last longer than a few weeks and/or go beyond simply weepiness or moodiness, it is time to get checked out by your doctor.
Postpartum Psychosis is a medical emergency. Postpartum Psychosis has a fast onset. It may involve hallucinations (both auditory and visual), an incapability of making decisions for oneself, and delusional thinking. A mother with Postpartum Psychosis should NOT be left alone either by herself or with an infant. This means not even in the next room – someone needs to be with her at all times. She should also be admitted to the ER as soon as possible.
Postpartum Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, the disorder with which I struggled, involves what are called intrusive thoughts. These thoughts often include visualizations of harming our children or ourselves, but unlike Postpartum Psychosis, we are immediately repulsed by these thoughts as soon as they flit through our heads. We struggle to control them and often will create a blizzard of IT’s with no end in sight as we get lost in the ever expanding tunnel of negative “what-if” thoughts. I recently wrote a post about whether or not these thoughts go away. They fade and get easier to control but they never really go away, a difficult reality for many to face. I am a little over 5 years past my last PPOCD episode. I still have the occasional thought but I am able to stop them quicker and they do not happen nearly as often.
Postpartum Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome can be triggered by a negative birth experience or anything within the birth/newborn process which is perceived to be traumatic by the mother. The worst thing you can ever say to a mother with PP PTSD is that she’s silly for being so upset over such a small thing. Clearly, if it is causing her issues to the extent that it interferes with her daily living, it is not a small issue for her. Mothers with PP PTSD will avoid the place at which the triggering event took place – such as the hospital, doctor’s office, midwife’s office, etc. She may also struggle with graphic triggering dreams, intense anxiety, panic attacks, hyper-vigilance, and flashbacks. It is important to note that PP PTSD can occur in conjunction with any of the other mood disorders, and may even be the triggering point for the development of other disorders such as Anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. This is my own opinion because I believe I had PP PTSD with my first and second daughters which then led to my OCD. My first birth was very traumatic and my second birth led to a month long NICU stay for our daughter.
Postpartum Anxiety is marked by constant worry about things which don’t need to be worried about, hyper-vigilance, overwhelming sense of doom, inability to sit still, racing thoughts, and possible physical symptoms such as dizziness, hot flashes, and nausea. There is help available for Postpartum Anxiety and you are not alone in struggling with this.
Postpartum Depression, while involving symptoms of crying and sadness, also involves feelings of anger and irritability. Not many people think of depression being angry, but for many, this is how it manifests. You may also become overwhelmed with feelings of shame, sadness, and guilt. Motherhood is supposed to be a happy time for us mothers. For those of us who develop a Postpartum Mood Disorder, we become ashamed for not feeling how society expects us to feel. We struggle to ignore these feelings, leading only to a more serious and urgent situation down the road.
Bottom line, Postpartum Depression is not just tears. It might be anger, irritability, anxiety, intrusive thoughts, hallucinations, flashbacks, panic attacks, shame, guilt, and hyper-vigilance. Just because your wife isn’t weeping her way through her postpartum period does not mean she does not have a Postpartum Mood Disorder. There are so many varied ways in which this can manifest.
Please also remember that Postpartum Thyroiditis may masquerade as a Postpartum Mood Disorder. It is important to get your thyroid levels checked to rule this out as if it is Postpartum Thyroiditis, an entirely different type of medication will need to be used to treat the condition. In fact, anti-depressants may make things worse if a thyroid issue is the root cause.
Don’t tell her to snap out of it. Tell her these things. Tell her you love her no matter what. Be there for her. Let her cry on your shoulder if she needs to do so. Encourage her to see a doctor but know you can’t force her to do this UNLESS she is a clear threat to herself or to others (ie, threatened suicide or harm to others). Recruit help for housework. For childcare so she can rest. Having a baby is hard work. Raising one while struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder is hell. We need all the help we can get. She may not say thank you immediately but one day, in the future, she will be ever grateful for all you did for her when she needed you most. She will say thank you. One day.