Baby Blues: I’m Trying Hippie Dippie Mood Therapy Instead Of Medication

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mood therapyBaby Blues is a column about raising my daughter in the windstorm of postpartum depression. Though discussing the dark spots of postpartum depression, I also share my successes.

If my home birth or eating my placenta didn’t give it away, I’ll say it now. I’m a bit of a hippie mom. The “Shit Crunchy Moms Say” Internet video could more or less be a transcript of my life. So when I was struck with postpartum depression a few months ago, the last thing on my mind was medication.

My midwife initially recommended vitamins, prayer and St. John’s Wort. I tried the vitamins and herbs and said thanks but no thanks to the prayer. After I’d depleted the bottle, I didn’t bother buying more — the effect was minimal. I didn’t actively seek out any other kind of help until recently. My husband made some poor decisions that negatively impacted our family and had an epiphany that he too has a lot of muck in his brain.

We can’t exactly play therapist to each other because we’re both broken. But something needed to change, otherwise our marriage was going to be in serious danger. So Shaun sought out a set of books to read — the “Feeling Good” series by Dr. David D. Burns. The premise, as I understand it, is that by learning to control our perceptions and our thoughts, we can control our moods. Real hippie dippie, right? Even I’m a little skeptical. But I’m way, way more skeptical of drugs.

I wasn’t always this way. At 19, freshly diagnosed and taking Prozac on the regular, I really paid attention when a therapist who I admired likened depression to a broken leg. She said you wouldn’t just expect a broken leg to heal correctly on its own, you would need a cast. Depression medication is like a cast. “You wouldn’t heal a broken bone with therapy,” made all the sense in the world to me. This is how I explained it to my skeptical dad, who, ironically was the VP of Sales for a major pharmaceutical company.

But now I don’t think it’s so black and white. I don’t think you can compare mental illness with something like a broken leg.

Mental illness is a mess of intangibles. A depressed person’s illness is a product of every friendship, childhood experience, pregnancy, book, fad diet, sexual advance, drug and breakfast pastry with which that person has ever been involved. I am obviously not a doctor, but here are three things I know for certain:

1.) Depression medication did little to nothing to help me in the past,

2.) I have coped with depression without drugs before (I’m doing it right now! Coffee and work, bitches!), and

3.) Now that I’m an adult who takes responsibility for her life, I think I can treat my own depression with the right combination of literature and life choices.

So I’m going to give this book series a go. I’m very hopeful that my husband and I both can combat our demons with these books.

This not medical advice, or a solution for all depressed people everywhere. This decision is rooted in my deep belief that I know my body and mind better than any doctor or therapist ever will. But knowing my body also means knowing where to draw the line.

Aside from the PPD, my life is quite stable right now. But if something traumatic were to happen, if I lost a loved one or was raped or our apartment burned down, I wouldn’t just “deal with it” on my own. And if any of you readers are really feeling overwhelmed, I hope you’ll reach out to someone.

But if you’re like me, burdened with the kind of depression that’s more of an inconvenience than an incapacitation, I hope you can find the thing that empowers you.

(photo: Mike Flippo / Shutterstock)