How I recovered from 10 months of Severe Postpartum Depression
Up to 1 in 5 mothers experience postpartum depression and many are not able to find the support that they need during such a difficult time. It is a mystery as to why some mothers experience it and others do not, yet it is always a good idea to have more resources, tools, and ideas in case this happens to you or someone you love.
When I was pregnant for the first time I remember expecting that I would have some form of postpartum depression (PPD).
After all, I’d struggled with anxiety and depression off and on for most of my life, so the idea of going through the rough newborn stage while recovering my body physically seemed the perfect environment for depression. I did all that I could think to prepare myself (and my marriage) for this huge undertaking, yet there really was no way to prepare myself or my family for what I was about to go through.
Now, 14 months since the PPD has eased, I am not surprised that it hit me right around 6 weeks postpartum- my husband was going back to work, I had run out of my encapsulated placenta pills, and my daughter wasn’t breastfeeding well due to a lip and tongue tie, despite our efforts and a revision surgery at 5 weeks old. What I am surprised about, still to this day, is the length and depth of this depression that lasted for 10 months and left me feeling numb and empty on the good days and suicidal on the bad days.
After all that I’ve been through to put the pieces together the past 14 months, I have now come to believe that the key issues for my specific situation were: 1) a severe hormone imbalance, 2) a lack of an emotional support system, and 3) a triggering of unresolved past trauma. In addition, due to the unique circumstances of my childbirth, (which were unremarkable from a medical standpoint, but traumatic for me) I felt sure that I was going to die while pushing my baby out. So, when I did not die and had to continue on despite my emotional trauma not being validated by others, I became caught in a grief cycle that took me 10 months to unravel.
If any of my story resonates with you, and/or you are in your own struggle with PPD, I share below the key methods that I used to find healing from the darkness.
How I recovered from 10 months of Severe Postpartum Depression
Group & Individual Talk Therapy
I started with calling a PPD hotline in my state and was directed toward a local therapist and support group. The support group met for 10 weeks and allowed me to connect with other new moms with depression. We followed a specific curriculum, but what helped the most was hearing other moms share their wins and their losses, thus normalizing my feelings and experiences. I also found it helpful to see a licensed professional therapist weekly to talk through my personal challenges.
Nutrition + Supplements
As an integrative nutrition health coach, I was already knowledgeable about how nutrition and supplements can help with mental health challenges and hormone imbalances, so I dove deep into researching diet changes and supplements that may help me with depression. I found great advice in the book A Mind Of Your Own, by Kelly Brogan, MD.
In regards to supplements, I specifically found improvement of my depression symptoms by taking a Maca supplement, progesterone hormone cream, and L-theanine. I also researched how reducing inflammatory foods like gluten and grains, dairy, beans, processed foods, and refined sugars can help with mood disorders, so I eliminated them from my diet and felt much better.
You’ll need all of your friends when going through a tough time- but having at least one friend who is in the same stage of parenthood as you is invaluable to help validate your feelings and normalize your experience. As a new mom, it’s difficult to meet up in person–so be open to new methods of connecting like facetime and marco polo.
Remember: finding a new mom friend is like dating. It’s a numbers game and not everyone will work out. You will be ghosted and you will get your feelings hurt (why didn’t she text me back? Why does she always cancel on me at the last minute?). Don’t give up and you will find at least one mom friend who will be there for you.
Although traditional talk therapy was helpful, it didn’t go as deep toward resolving my trauma as I needed. Often talking about my trauma just made it worse. I found Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy a better method to get at the root of my trauma and teach me techniques to help me handle triggering situations. EMDR is usually performed by a traditional therapist who specializes in EMDR and, in my experience, it takes many months to experience results.
Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS)
As a last resort, when antidepressants caused bad side effects and didn’t help, I was referred to Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) therapy by my psychiatrist. Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a noninvasive procedure that uses magnetic fields to stimulate nerve cells in the brain to improve symptoms of depression.(1). This therapy requires a time commitment and isn’t always covered by insurance. TMS helped me, but I didn’t have significant relief until well after 36 sessions.
In order to pull myself out of the depression cave, I had to do all of the above methods. No one single technique healed me, but the combination of all of the techniques in addition to time passing and my daughter getting older. Still to this day, I rely on talk therapy, friendships, nutrition, and supplements to help me stay in balance.
Interviews, stories, and guides on thetot.com contain information that is general in nature and should not replace professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. If you have a medical condition or concern or plan on trying a new diet, supplement or workout, it’s best to first consult with your physician or a qualified health professional.
- Learning to manage and express your emotions isn’t always easy, especially when you’re a toddler or child. Kids often feel anxious, angry or sad when they can’t process what’s going on around them, which is why many therapists are recommending play dough play-therapy.
- Postpartum depression gets a lot of attention: it has a catchy name and is written about extensively. A common misconception is that depression the only kind of “postpartum” you can get. Psychologist Dr. Hannah Cassedy details the often-overlooked condition, postpartum anxiety.