When The Professor and I chose the names for our babies, we kept those names top secret until the babes were born. We had many reasons for doing this but the impetus for out secrecy was the fact that everyone had an opinion and we didn’t want to hear those opinions. As a mother, I learned that opinions do not stop with baby names. Strangers continually give me advice on how to care for my little ones. It’s the same with PPD. There are many opinions. I don’t want to force mine on anyone, but I will share not only what I did, but what thought process I used for getting the help I needed.
As a Christian, the most common response I heard from others is “You just need to pray through this Angela. God will help you. You don’t need medicine, you just need the Word. Pray through it.”
At first I felt like a failure as a Christian, like I didn’t have the faith I needed to get better. And then, a new perspective came to me and I honestly believe that it came through prayer. I decided that I was going to deal with my PPD in the same manner I would deal with learning I had cancer. And that is what I would encourage anyone to do. After all, PPD is a form of cancer that strikes motherhood. Beliefs vary. There are people who do believe that medical intervention is not necessary and that prayer and natural remedies are all that is needed to rid a body of an illness. I believe that there are advantages of medicine and that it is God’s gift to those of us who He placed in this period of time.
How would I react if I learned I had cancer? I would fight it by researching medications, changing my diet if recommended, soliciting the advice from trained medical professionals, seeking support from others, and most importantly, I would pray and listen to my Father’s voice. And that is what I did during my last battle with PPD. Friends, I don’t feel comfortable sharing my every action during that painful period last Fall, but when you are told by a psychiatrist to choose one of two options or he is going to send people to your door to take you to a mental hospital, you know that it’s serious. And in a moment like that there is no guide more suitable than the Good Shepherd.
It can be said that I did “pray through” my PPD. I prayed for clarity, for wisdom, and for the right solutions. God, as always was faithful. In addition to prayer, the following is what helped me escape the jaws of Post Partum Mood Disorders.
Medication – At first I was resistant, but the more I learned about the chemical causes and effects of PPD, I realized that I needed the medication to help me during this period. There are side effects to taking some medications. I worked with a psychiatrist to help me find the proper type and dosage for me. At one point, my dosage was actually too high. Once the medication was regulated, I began to feel better. Not cured. Just well enough to cope and take the next steps.
Christian Counseling – If you read my earlier segments, you know that medication alone did little to help me. Christian counseling had a tremendous impact on my life. Led by Biblical principles, my counselor never doubted my PPD. She understood how the hormones wreaked havoc on my system. She also knew how to find some of the core issues that troubled me and we dealt with those issues. For me, guilt, feelings of inadequacy, my false perception of my value to Christ, perfectionism, and fear reigned supreme.
Diet/Lifestyle Changes – If you love your Starbucks like I do, I’m about to deal you a punch to the kisser. Or should I write pallet? Eliminating caffeine from my diet was crucial. Not all women have to do this, but as I kept my mood chart (see below), I noticed a direct correlation between agitation and caffeine. My demeanor changed for the better once I weaned myself from java. A few weeks ago, I had a fully loaded mocha. I thought I could handle it. While I didn’t unravel, my mood changed, I felt hyper, and easily annoyed. Increasing my intake of Omega 3 fatty acids, and adding an additional vitamin supplement designed to help my body better absorb my antidepressant also added balance and relief. More sunshine and exercising helped me as well. Honestly, I’m not much for structured work outs. But the days I dance with my kids, go swimming, or take extra long walks are usually “good” days.
Support Groups – Talking to other women who were also experiencing PPD was medicine for my weary heart. A support group provided me a safe place to open up about my issues without anyone looking at me as if I grew an extra head out of my armpit.
Praying Scripture – There were so many days when I felt as though I just did not have enough of me to benefit anyone. I began the habit of praying scripture over my life and loved ones. A friend of mine sent me a few scripture cards from a Beth Moore Bible study. For example I prayed that the Lord would love my family through me (I Cor. 13). It not only deepened my relationship with God, but it helped sink in the point that I was not in control of my life. I was not responsible for the happiness of everyone else. I was to strive for excellence, but not perfection and lean on the understanding that God is more than enough for me and my family.
Keeping a Mood Chart –I chose to see a psychiatrist to manage my medicinal treatment because I felt it important to trust a biochemistry expert with my chemical imbalance. I wanted to get better and was willing to listen to his advice. However, I was not resigned to being a guinea pig. I knew that there could be side effects with medication and also knew that finding the right medications can be more of an art than a science. When my psychiatrist hypothesized that I could be bi-polar and suggested a few medications to try, I put on the breaks. I was not in denial. If I was bi-polar, I wanted to know about it and treat it. However, I wasn’t ready to try medications for a maybe diagnosis. My doctor suggested that I take a mood chart. My mood chart indicated that my mood swings at that period of time were situational. Once I kept track of what was causing me the most stress, I was able to work through those issues in therapy sessions. My honest assessments also gave my doctor the confidence to say “you are not bipolar.”
Support Plan –PPD can overwhelm a life. I needed to get to a place where I could accept help not only from the medical community, but from my own family and friends. My doctor required me to make a plan to ease back into my life. My plan included my husband helping out with some additional chores, cleaning only one room a day, and having sometime to my self to read, pray, and write.
Again, what worked for me, may not work for you. And fighting PPD takes time. As Katherine Stone said, there is no “magic pill” for PPD. However, it is a battle that can be won. And one in which there is more than a solo solider. I have been “PPD Symptom Free” since December 2007.
Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God. He is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. Selah. Psalm 62:5-8 (NIV)