I posted this as a Facebook status this morning, inspired by this article (which is a bit of a rebuttal to this article). I decided to turn it into a blog post here, because not only has my PPD been a major topic of the podcast, but I wanted to be even more public about my experience, in hopes that others might be helped. Please feel free to share this post on your social media pages. The less of a stigma there is around mental health issues, the more vital, relationship-saving (and sometimes life-saving) help people will get.
After years of (mostly unwittingly) struggling with Post Partum Depression (PPD), it finally completely took over my psyche last summer.
“Depression” can be such a misnomer. I didn’t feel sad. I felt ANGRY. I felt irrationally irritated by everything, all the time.
I was drowning in a sea of resentment and overwhelm. And when it began directing itself at my children in rage-filled screaming, I knew it was time for meds.
I had been doing everything else to keep the tide of emotion at bay – diet, exercise, herbs, supplements, acupuncture, etc. – and those things certainly helped, but not enough. I probably waited way too long to finally try an SSRI.
In my head, taking medication was like the point of no return – once I started, I’d always have to rely on them to be “normal.” But that isn’t true. They can be an incredibly helpful temporary tool to get you through a hard stretch.
I started a low dose of Sertraline (25mg) and within 3 days I was starting to feel stabilized. Within a month, I felt like I had been pushed by the waves back to shore. I got my feet under me again and it felt like a miracle.
Sertraline is supposed to be safe for nursing babies, but it changed my toddler’s mood and sleep patterns. I tested this theory three times (going off the meds and watching him start sleeping better and returning to his cheerful little self).
Last fall, I decided to end my nursing relationship with my 17 month old so I could stay on the medication that was saving my relationship with my whole family.
While I was weaning, I went up to 37.5mg of Sertraline, to help me through the massive hormone fluxes. The higher dose definitely squelched my emotions. There was a tinge of mania to my “up” emotional energy that felt very artificial – and had a sense of foreboding like, “This feeling cannot last, and how badly will I crash when it ends?” I went back to 25mg as soon as I could.
Since then, I’ve gone all the way down to just 12.5mg (half a pill) each morning, and am aiming to be done with it by summer.
If it works so well, why would I stop?
Because my kind of depression is temporary and I needed this extra tool to help me get through the worst of it, but not – I don’t think – for the long haul.
Also, the I’ve experienced weight gain really, REALLY sucks.
It has been very humbling to be “doing everything right” (eating great, exercising, etc.) and to still just pack on the pounds. It’s a bizarre experience to be the most self assured and settled in my identity that I’ve ever been, and also the most uncomfortable in my physical body I’ve ever been.
Right now, I weigh as much as I did two years ago, when I was 8 months pregnant with Ethan! I’ve had to face a lot of body image issues thanks to Sertraline, and that in itself has been a gift (albeit one that I have not always graciously received!).
My hope is that now that the most intense season of early child parenthood is over, I will be able to maintain my mental health with the non-Rx methods I prefer.
But if I ever feel myself slipping again, I will not hesitate to start taking Sertraline again. It truly has been a lifesaver.