20 months and counting: when does postpartum depression end?

I’ve heard the question over and over again, and every time it strikes a nerve: “Well, T isn’t a newborn anymore so is it really postpartum depression?”


The answer is still “Yes.” Why? Because it’s not really any of your business. Okay, defensiveness aside, because that’s what the medical professionals told me. Postpartum depression can crop up within two years after having a child, and even when it lasts it is still a depressive episode triggered by the changes women go through in pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum. Voilà, postpartum depression.

If you’ve read some of my other posts about postpartum depression and anxiety, you will have read that I didn’t get help right away. I suffered in silence for over a year. I didn’t want to be that person, that mother, who couldn’t handle motherhood and would forever be labeled as “depressed.” Of course, that was just the depression talking. Now I can see life so much more clearly, and realistically. Depression doesn’t define me as a mother or a person, it just is something I have, like having a freckle or a funny looking toe. It definitely isn’t a favorite attribute, but it is so important to know that it isn’t who I am, and it is something that gets better.*

I’ve been going to therapy and been on medication, and it makes a world of a difference. You know when Dorothy steps out of the fallen house into a world of Technicolor? Yeah, it’s kind of like that.


This isn’t to say that I can’t backslide. Depression and anxiety is something that is like your shadow; always present and pretty hard to be rid of. The good thing is the more light you shine in your life and on yourself, the less formidable the shadow becomes. Being proactive and pushing my comfort zone has been an integral part of my improvement. Social activities, organizing the house, painting, writing, and scheduling personal alone time are all key elements in keeping me [mentally] healthy.

So, no, I’m not really sure when postpartum depression ends and just plain ‘ole depression starts. It really doesn’t matter. What matters is that I keep moving, ever forward, in my journey and that I don’t want to ever become “that mom” again. It’s not about what people think or the labels they might stick to you, it’s about being the best mom to your child possible.



*If you are struggling with depression and/or anxiety and need help, contact your primary physician, ob/gyn or check out: https://ppdsilencesucks.com/

The dirty postpartum words no one talks about…

My struggle with postpartum depression and anxiety

I sit, peering at my nails with scrutiny. There’s something so gratifying about peeling nail polish off. The blank Word document sits open at my computer. I avoid looking at the screen. I realize I’m just stalling. I check the clock. 9:06 pm. I should really go to bed. Just another stalling tactic. What if they think I’m complaining? It doesn’t matter what they think. What if they judge me? Who is “they” anyway? Your potential readers. What if they don’t care about what you’re writing? Well that’s true, they might not.

I peel off a few more shells of nail polish, little by little removing the last evidence of my only “me” time I’ve had in months. I just can’t justify a manicure anymore when I left my job to be stay at home mom. Every dollar counts these days.

That’s not what I’m really trying to write about though. I’m trying to write about a topic that I can barely face as my own reality that I’ve been living the past year.

7-27-17 Living with Postpartum depression and anxiety cover

I wouldn’t say that I was truly clinically “depressed” after I had my son. I was never diagnosed with postpartum depression, although those silly surveys you take at the pediatrician’s office probably wouldn’t have caught it if that’s what I was. I wouldn’t have let them catch me either. Who would actually circle answers that had scary words in them like crying, hopeless, harming my baby? I wouldn’t be that mom. Not that mom who couldn’t handle motherhood. I trudged on for months, sleepless night after sleepless night.

So maybe I was. Depression is a nearly impenetrable cloud, and in those days of darkness, I was left in its shadow. It was like the sunlight was trying to cut its way past the murky water to the sea floor; I was always left with dim light, trying to find my way through each day. Each monotonous day with a baby. Over. And Over. Again.

It didn’t feel like I expected. I couldn’t seem to pull myself to the surface for fresh air. I felt like I stagnated at about 50-60% of myself. I never could grasp the last missing pieces to feel like myself again. I was anxious. I had bouts of anxiety for no reason, and when I did have a reason, the anxiety was like a vice around my chest, restricting my oxygen.

I’m not depressed. Not me. I’m doing okay. And the truth was, and is, that I am doing okay. It’s hard to believe that though when I was running on no sleep, no caffeine, and no pharmaceuticals, all because of breastfeeding. All because I love my baby more than anything in the world, and I’d do anything to make sure that he is okay. I fell into the trap of “breast is best,” and I wouldn’t hear of doing anything otherwise, to the possible detriment of my sleep cycles and mental state. Okay, to the definite detriment of my state. I wouldn’t even let my mom feed the baby a bottle so I could sleep more than 2-3 hours in a row.

I never had any serious thoughts of harming my baby. Or myself.  I didn’t cry day after day. I didn’t feel like my days were insurmountable. I always could make it through. This, I believe, is the trap that many new moms fall into. We don’t fit the “mold” of postpartum depression, and no one talks about postpartum anxiety, so we think that this is normal, or worse, that we are the problem, or that this too will pass.

Things are getting better for me now. I haven’t gotten help yet, but I plan to go in soon for a mental tune up (I really need to make that appointment). Maybe it’s the full nights of sleep (except when the anxiety keeps me awake), or maybe it’s the hormones settling back down, but I’m feeling a lot better. I do wish that I had gotten help earlier. I wish that I hadn’t been my own martyr, with an “ever forward” mantra, pushing myself past the healthy limits of physical and mental exhaustion. Getting help, whether it be professional or friendship, doesn’t mean I’m not a good mom. It doesn’t mean I can’t do it. It means I’m smart enough to know that the phrase “It takes a village” is entirely too accurate.

I wish I knew this at the time. I suffered in silence for many months. Now that I’m coming out of that dark tunnel, I’m hoping that I can tell you, new mom, that you aren’t alone. There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way. I blame it entirely on the sleep deprivation and wacky hormones. So don’t worry, you’re doing great. But I also want to encourage you to get help if you need it. Don’t wage your internal war alone. You can be so much happier so much faster when you reach out.

You’ve got this, mama.