Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Measuring Motherhood with a Broken Ruler – My Journey Through PPD – Part 5

Straight talk. That’s my theme for this final segment in my personal series about PPD. I’m devoting this time to sharing with you how I got the help I needed. Before I do so, please understand that PPD manifests itself differently in different women. You or someone you know may be experiencing all or none of the same symptoms that I experienced. However, if you have even the smallest inkling that you need help, please confide in someone you trust. The resource links on my side bar are a good place to start. You can even e-mail me personally and I will put you in touch with someone who helped me during my struggle.

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)


Anonymous said...

You have been so real, insightful and helpful in sharing your thoughts on PPD. If I ever have a friend going through this I will refer them to your site.
It's amazing to see how God brought you through the storm, and is using you now. :)
And yes opinions and advice are in abundance in motherhood. But a wise women like Mary of the bible, ponders these things in her heart, prays, and makes a decision, Based on God's guiding not everyone's opinions.
Thanks for sharing!
P.S. Ah...as for my opinion...I would have handled it just like you, seek out medical help, diet etc. I always say I am going to do everything I can do, and leave the rest up to God. But I must do my part. :) Ah..just my opinion. :)

SKY4KAT said...

Thank you for your honest sharing and for being real and vulnerable. Having never had a baby, I can't totally relate but i suffered from hormonal mood swings monthly. It would seem at times i only had 1 "sane" week a month.
You show much maturity and wisdom in your decision making.
God bless you.

Jenster said...

Thank you so much for sharing such a personal experience. I'm sure you'll never know just how much your openness has helped women.

I agree with you that medication is a gift from God for those who need it. Of course, prayer is the first necessity. But sometimes the answer to those prayers comes in the form of pharmaceuticals. God is really smart that way!

Anonymous said...

What an excellent, straightforward list. Even as I walk through this journey I am continually being refined and learning new things. Off to start a mood chart now, it seems a necessary step at this point.

Oh, and at my first psychiatrist appointment when he looked at me and said "Cut the caffeine in half" I looked at him like he was a crazy man! But I'm working on it. (Even when I have to special order my Organic Fair Trade decaf Espresso beans because you'd be amazed how hard those are to find.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your honesty and forthrightness about PPD. For those who are traveling this road, I know it is a God-send. It is never easy to throw yourself out there and bare the dark times of our lives, but I know God is using you far beyond what you could imagine. Looking back on the period of time after my youngest was born, I realize that I experienced a few of the things you have shared. Feelings of being inadequate and a failure as a mom were a part of this experience. Again, thank you for sharing your heart with us. I know God will continue to bless you richly. Blessings to you.

hannah m said...

I am so glad to know you had such amazing people helping you through this and that you've gotten the help your body needed. Thank you for bravely sharing this journey.

Anonymous said...

Angela -

I've often struggled with the medication vs. prayer. Our pastor often preaches about - and has told me in person - overcoming everything with prayer.

Like you, I feel like a failure as a Christian because I take antidepressents. However, if I don't take my meds, I fall into a deep pit. This pit takes me to one place: suicidal. So, if taking my meds makes me a failure as a Christian so be it. At least I'm here for my husband and children.


Gretchen said...

Angela, each time I read through your journey, my heart is full and my eyes start leaking.

I think this is such an encouragement to anyone with depression, whether PPD or for any other reason. It's an encouragement to those of us who just have a "funk" now and then. Not to minimize your symptoms, but to say that this information is all relatable and applicable.

Beautifully, authentically written and lived. I'm thrilled for Jesus in you and your victory over this disease. I get so tired/angry when people tell me to pray through something--as if that were the farthest thing from my mind. I liken my meds to any that a person might take for diabetes or any other chronic illness.

Great, great post.


Pam said...

I'm so glad you had the strength to get the help you needed. You didn't rely on meds- you used a balanced approach where you dealt with your PPD on many level. I'm so proud of you!

Anonymous said...

I would like to thank you for posting this series. I am bipolar, and I have to take 4 different meds every day to control it. This used to make me feel like a failure, but now I realize that God heals in many ways. One of those ways is through counseling and pharmaceuticals.

Thank you for sharing your journey. I think you are really giving hope to many women.

Anonymous said...

I believe you sharing your personal story is going to be a wonderful blessing and help to many, Angela.

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

No telling how many women are going to be helped through your struggle. I love your plan of action. Thank God you were willing to walk it through to the other side.

Again, thank you for your honesty and truth. May God use it to his glory as only he can.


Julie said...

I am so sorry you went through this as a young mother. I told you in an earlier post that I understand how hormones out of whack can make you feel. I am peri-menopausal. I had a hard time last year with my hormones and the way it made me feel. Thankfully I was able to find a gyn. who helped straighten them out. Hormones are powerful and they can alter your life in ways that are really difficult. I am glad you had some doctors who helped you find your way out of the fog. I am glad you were able to look at all aspects of what was going on in your life. Sometimes I didn't know if it was physical, spiritual, emotional, mental, circumstantial...etc. So I had to take them one at a time. Deal with the physical while going to God with the spiritual. He used it all.

Thanks for sharing your heart,

Karen Hossink said...

I love how you have shared your heart and your experience with PPD. Last week a woman who heard me speak at her MOPS group emailed me and told me about her experience with PPD. I gave her the links to this blog series and encouraged her to get in touch with you. I hope she will!
As for the medicine...I fully understand what you're saying. My son was just diagnosed with ADHD and though I was initially reluctant to give him medicine for it, my thoughts changed. I realized if he really couldn't control himself, me telling him, "Honey you just need to focus," wasn't going to help one bit. If the medicine would help him do what he can't do, so he could do what he can do I realized that was the best thing to do for him. And WOW! what a good thing it has been.
So glad I got over my "thing" so Matthew could get the help he needed.

Tonya said...

that caffeine elimination really stuck out to me. I think I need it but I think it affects me in a bad way. I'm going to start a mood chart. My midwife told me to take extra B vitamins to help even out my hormones. Once again thanks for being so real and vulnerable.

Lisa Spence said...

I just want to thank you once more for your honesty and your straight talk about the reality of PPD. I've been scarce in cyber land recently, catching up today on your last five posts or so. Thank you for being willing to show yourself weak in order to show our God as strong and All Sufficient. It is difficult to delight in what makes us weak, but what a testimony to the sufficiency of our Savior! He is All!

Blessings to you, friend. So glad our blog paths crossed.

Tracy said...

You will never know how much more of an understanding you've given me toward people who have struggled with PPD. You have been so open and honest, and while therapeutic, I'm sure it has been difficult to relive some of these moments. What a blessing that you've so openly shared such a wealth of information, and also encouragement to others who may be fighting PPD. This has (and will) undoubtedly help many.


Rachel said...

I just found out that my little sister has been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. (Her husband was injured in Iraq. He has recovered completely and currently has a date to return to Iraq in May.) I have referred her to you site and hope that maybe the similarities in the Disorders and your encouraging words can help her.
I am thankful for reading your posts and perhaps God was helping to prepare my heart to listen and not dismiss the diagnosis. She is many states away and there is little that I can do but pray. (I am not saying that prayer does not work. I am sure God will comfort her through our prayers.)
I would appreciate your prayers for her. She has two small boys and a very busy life as a military wife.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for what you're doing. As I continue in my 3rd year of "treatment resistant" PPD, I am encouraged to see that I am not alone in having these thoughts of guilt, fear of "messing up" my children, having trouble recognizing myself. I praise the Lord for your recovery, and I'll work on trusting that He just might have the same in store for me.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for what you're doing. As I continue in my 3rd year of "treatment resistant" PPD, I am encouraged to see that I am not alone in having these thoughts of guilt, fear of "messing up" my children, having trouble recognizing myself. I praise the Lord for your recovery, and I'll work on trusting that He just might have the same in store for me.

Unknown said...

What great advice and suggestions. Again, kudos for sharing and helping so many women. Smiles!

virginia said...

I am so glad you got through this.I too had a form ofPPD that I didn't realize was that at thge time.After the birth of my third child in less than three years I got panic disorder.I had to do all of those things you suggested and have got throughg the darkness by the grace of God.

Trish said...

This is a great wrap up with a lot of good suggestions. Thank you for sharing so openly and honestly about your experiences.

Darla said...

I hear ya, as a christian sometimes it can be very disheartening to hear "if you just had the joy of the Lord" you wouldn't be depressed! Slap me again why don'tchya?!

I found that with meds, christian counseling and ALSO cutting caffeine (how wild you had to do that too!) helped TREMENDOUSLY.

Just in the past 6 weeks I've been able to add a little caffeine in every 3-4 days (not much mind you, just 1/2 cup of weak coffee).

Thanks for sharing this, I know it will help MANY christians struggling with the medication issue.

Anonymous said...

I really appreciate how you've listed out your steps.. the charts and such.. gives me lots to chew on as whether i'm done with mine, or whether i've just got it "under control" kwim?

GrandCanyonMom said...

THANK YOU for all of your hard work in sharing this with us! I know I dealt with PPD but didn't get all the help I needed. I wish I would have known more going into each pregnancy. This series was very helpful! God is good!

Be Brave, Keep Going said...

I stand in awe of your candidness and thank you for speaking out about such a taboo subject (especially in Christian circle). I struggled with PPD and I wish I had read something like this back then....Praise God for you!

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