Thursday, March 25, 2010

Managing Postpartum Mood Disorders - Not a One-Size-Fits-All Option

I have a cute and comfortable nightshirt that my mom sent me. It is bright and pink and the tag on the back reads "one-size-fits-all." And, it is about two sizes too large for me. I still wear I said, it's comfy, but despite the claims on its is not for everyone.

When it comes to treating Postpartum Mood Disorders (and other types of mood disorders not related to pregnancy for that matter), there is not a simple one-cure-for-all option.  Every person is different in both appearance and personality and everyone walks a different journey. What worked for me may not work for you. Or all of what worked for me, may work for you...or perhaps just some of it will work for you. Please keep this in mind when you read the list below of methods that helped me cope and heal from Postpartum Depression, Postpartum OCD, and Postpartum Anxiety Disorders.

Also note that I am a PPMD survivor, but I am not a medical professional or a clinical counselor. Please only take the following as an opinion.

  • Medication – At first I was resistant to the idea of taking medication. I nursed and was afraid it would hurt my baby; and the idea alone of medication made me feel like a weakling. But, the more I learned about the chemical causes and effects of PPMD, I realized that I needed the medication to help me during this period and I worked with. 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. The types of medication vary and I recommend that it is monitored by a psychiatrist. Last year with a doctor's supervision I weaned off my medication. All went well for quite some time, but I noticed that about a week before each of my menstrual cycles I felt as though I was having mini bouts of PPD. My anger and irritation was back at levels I only knew soon after my children were born. Under a doctor's counsel I opted to take an antidepressant just 15 days a month. It has helped tremendously.

  • Christian Counseling – If you read my earlier segments about PPMD, you know that medication alone did little to help me. I went that route with my first bout. Christian counseling had a tremendous impact on my life. Led by Biblical principles, my counselor never doubted my PPMD. In fact my first Christian counselor is the one who diagnosed me as suffering from a form of OCD brought on from pregnancy. 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 and my beloved fountain Pepsi, which I didn't even consume all that often. Two years later, I do have 1-2 cups of coffee a day....but even now there are some days when that is too much.

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 start 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.”

  • Listening to my Body -- My recovery pace quickened when I let go of misplaced feelings of guilt and shame and listened to what my body needed. In addition to suffering from PPMD, I have a condition known as Raynaud's Phenomenon. This condition made breast feeding my babies unbearably painful. I met with lactation specialists and even took prescription medicine, but the pain did not lessen. I decided to stop breastfeeding my son when he was six-months-old. And I struggled with that decision. I wanted to press onward and bare the pain so that he could consume the healthiest diet possible. But a mommy with PPMD and chronic pain is not a healthy mommy. And that is not the healthiest option for the baby. I know what I wrote is controversial, but it is a decision that I do not regret.

I also listened to other things my body was telling me. I rested when my children were resting, even if that meant leaving dirty dishes in my sink. During the worst of the OCD I could not do this, but as the medication kicked in I was able to force myself to rest. The benefits were staggering.

  • Support Plan – PPMD 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.

  • A Support System – I am so blessed to have had and still have wonderful people in my life who love me and helped me through this time. My family helped me tremendously when I went to stay with them, but since they live far from me, I also asked help from my friends. Asking for help was not and still is not easy for me, but help is something we all need from time to time. Whenever I asked for help, people came to my aid and often before I asked, they came to me. After my recovery, so many people actually thanked me for allowing the to assist my family during that time. Helping others is a blessing. 

Finding a local MOPs group or MOMS club is a wonderful way to gain a support system. I had just moved to a new city and state while suffering with PPMD....women from the local MOPS group who barely knew me pitched in to help me complete daily tasks such as preparing meals, grocery shopping, and light housework. After I recovered, I was able to bless other women in this way.

The combination of elements listed above were invaluable to me. Again, what worked for me, may not work for you. And fighting PPMD takes time. However, it is a battle that can be won. And one in which there is more than a solo solider.

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)


Barbie said...

This is a wonderful post. And although I am not suffering with PPMD, I am finding some things here that could benefit me as I enter my next stage in life....MENOPAUSE!!! Thank you for your transparency and your desire to be used of the Lord to assist other women in this area.

Andrea said...

Great post. I wish I had been given much of this information many years ago.
Blessings, andrea

Kelly Combs said...

Excellent, excellent, EXCELLENT post! What wonderful words Angela. I wish you could submit this to a MOMS magazine like Parenting or something else. This needs to get out to other moms in the same situation.

Be blessed!

michele said...

Great post. Your writing is wonderful.

Robert said...

Thank you so much for writing this. You have helped me recognize that I was suffering from PPOCD in addition to Postpartum Depression. I managed to keep the OCD part hidden because I thought I would be forced to stop breastfeeding take medication, and I was afraid they would take away my baby. The thoughts lasted a long time, and the guilt and shame were unbearable. I thought I was bad and crazy. I still suffer from mild depression, and the drugs don't work for me. Exercise and sleep and sunshine do work though. I got lots of help from the book: When Your Body Gets the Blues. You are very brave to share your story. You will never know how many people you have helped by sharing your story and letting them know they are not alone.

Irritable Mother said...

Hi Angela,
Wanted to stop in to say HI.
And now I need to add how wonderful I think it is that you are opening yourself up like this. What a great resource you blog is for women who are suffering. I'm glad you're here. Have referred mommies to your blog before, and I will again!

May the God of hope fill you with all peace and joy as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

Love to you,

Amber Koter-Puline said...

This is an awesome resource. Thanks for sharing it. As a fellow Survivor Mama I am so grateful to you for talking about PPD even AFTER you've recovered.

Amber @Beyond Postpartum

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