being a mom

Baby Blues: I’m Never Going To Seek Treatment For My PPD

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postpartum depressionBaby 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.

I have to be honest. I’m probably never going to seek treatment for my depression. It’s not just because health insurance would cost more than our rent, or because I have no idea when I would squeeze therapy into my already jam-packed schedule. In truth, it’s because I don’t think I fit the bill for a severely depressed person anymore. Sure, my passive aggressive, semi-suicidal teen self was in serious need of therapy and meds. But my adult self? I don’t know.

I have the symptoms: mysterious body aches, alternating insomnia and fatigue, out-of-nowhere uncontrollable crying. I have the feeling, even as I look at my goofy, giggly toddler, that the world is coming to an end. I quit smoking again two weeks ago, hoping some of my symptoms would disappear, but they actually seem to have worsened. So there’s no denying my condition. Some might say I shouldn’t wait another minute to get help.

But I won’t. I might just be stubborn. I’ve learned through experience that psychiatrists and prescription drugs can only help so much. Resolving mental health issues, like recovering from alcoholism, starts on the inside. You have to want to change — nobody can make you get better. So I’ve started my “one day at a time” self-treatment by making little alterations in my life. The little things really do seem to have a ripple effect on everything else. That’s why I got a part-time job, to combat my SAHM loneliness and boredom (whether it’s really helping yet is debatable).

But there are other things, like making healthier meals, getting outside, limiting TV time, and impromptu family dance parties that combat depression. These things are much less expensive and much more accessible than medical help. And though it’s really tough to begin one of these activities when I’m down, it’s way more empowering than popping a pill. Forcing myself out of a slump, even if it doesn’t fix the slump, gives me a small sense of accomplishment and seems to grow my struggling soul garden, if even just a little bit.

I have sought help before and been gravely disappointed. In my youth I had one good psychologist, a soft-spoken older man who went to my childhood church. He let me talk, but also offered very sound and non-judgmental advice. His office was a mecca of inspiring things, too…books, old architecture, knickknacks. It felt like a safe haven.

Unfortunately, my other experiences were ineffective at best, damaging at worst. I mentioned in another article how a psychiatrist actually berated me for having scars on my wrists, yelling at me that I would never get a decent job or a boyfriend with that kind of baggage. She was the worst by far, but there were other psychiatrists who were terrible empathizers and actually made me feel crazier by their lack of understanding.

And then there’s the million dollar question — were my antidepressants actually helpful, or did they just have a placebo effect? I recognize that some people truly do need medication to stay stable, but looking back, none of the three different brands of antidepressants did anything notable for me. I feel horrible that my parents paid for those drugs under the assumption that they were helping. I’m sure if it was my money, I would’ve determined I didn’t need them. In fact, my weaning off Lexapro occurred right around the same time I started paying rent myself. Probably not a coincidence.

So my decision not to seek help comes from the feeling that maybe I’m not doing so bad, really, but also from the belief that I’m more equipped to cope with this as a grown woman. I’m not embarrassed that I have depression (I mean, my byline is right up there for the world to see), and I hope embarrassment doesn’t keep any other moms out there from seeking help. I certainly don’t mean to say that everybody with PPD should go it alone or avoid professional help. I’m just realizing that maybe that’s not the path for me.

(Photo: c.byatt-norman/Shutterstock)