PPPSS News & Events

Kelley’s Story of Postpartum Depression

Tree of Love

By Kelley Allen

I have always struggled with depression. It runs in my family and, at 14 years old, I was diagnosed with it. I have managed it since with medication. Once my husband and I began talking about starting a family, we went into pregnancy knowing of my increased risk for postpartum depression. We met with a specialist before I got pregnant and made the decision that I would stay on a low dose of a well-researched, safe antidepressant throughout pregnancy. Once my daughter was born, I felt the hormonal fluctuations, stress, and exhaustion of motherhood, but was able to manage. After 3 months passed, I relaxed a bit about PPD. After 6 months passed, I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

My PPD didn’t hit me until my daughter was 9 months old, and seemed to coincide with weaning her from nursing. It felt like I changed overnight. And for me, the hard part wasn’t the depression, but the anxiety. I had never experienced it before. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t eat. I literally wanted to crawl out of my skin. I paced rooms. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t stop crying. My heart raced and I couldn’t sit still. I felt like I was in withdrawal. I couldn’t be in the same room with my daughter, not because I was afraid of hurting her, but because I couldn’t calm myself down and I didn’t want to her see me that way. I remember feeling so completely overwhelmed all of a sudden. I truly believed that I needed to go away, that my husband and daughter would be better off with someone who “knew” what she was doing. My lowest point came very early one morning, as I shot out of bed and felt like I could not breathe. I went out and paced the kitchen and my husband found me, curled up on the floor in front of the kitchen sink, sobbing. I told him I didn’t want to live. That day I went to an urgent care clinic and was prescribed a higher dose of antidepressant, along with a medication for my anxiety, and something to help me sleep. I was told to check back with my family doctor in a week, and I vividly remember thinking that I wouldn’t be around in a week to attend the appointment.

Thankfully, I was also connected with a program through the hospital that specialized in postpartum depression and anxiety. I saw a psychiatrist and began attending a weekly support group with other moms who were experiencing PPD/A. My husband took over most of the childcare, housework, and caring for me. He was incredible. My only request was that he look after our daughter and make sure she was okay. I was eventually going to figure myself out and needed him to keep her okay until then.

Every single day I tried. I tried so hard to get out of bed, take my medications, be present for my daughter, attend my support group, and be functional. I wanted things to get better as soon as possible, but I also knew that the only way it was going to end was to go through every single day. My mantra became “The only way out is through.” I expected to wake up one day and feel like my “old self.” I remember someone in my support group saying it didn’t work like that, and I left feeling so disappointed. Recovery, she said, was not a straight line, but one with ups and downs, generally heading in the right direction. It has been 18 months since I hit my lowest point, and I can now say that I agree. I don’t have a certain date or time that I can remember feeling better. I just know that there were good days and there were bad days. Eventually the good days started to outweigh the bad ones. There were times I felt like I had made such progress and had setbacks, which were frustrating and scary. But I was always heading in the right direction.

My daughter is now almost two and a half. She is absolutely the love of my life. There are still days I struggle with depression, and I think I always will. When those days come I have the tools that I picked up during my PPD/A recovery that I can put to use. There were weeks I lived only to attend my support group, in order to reach out and feel connected to other women who were experiencing the same thing. Nobody seemed to talk about PPD/A in my larger life, and I felt so awful and isolated for feeling the way I was feeling. The group provided structure and support. Support that, at the time, felt like it wasn’t doing much to make me feel better, but over time was one of the biggest pieces of my recovery. I still think about the stories, advice, and moments from those groups and the women I met, and I see the strength in all of them. Many of my supports and people in my life told me, during my worst days, that it would get better. I didn’t believe them at the time, but they were right. It did get better. And it will get better for you, too.

Kelley lives in Vancouver with her husband, daughter, and two dogs.

If you want to receive more information about the support groups offered at Pacific Post Partum Support Society please contact us by telephone at 1-855-255-7999 or via email at admin@postpartum.org.

Our Response to Robin Williams’ Death

We are so deeply saddened to hear the news about Robin Williams. Although most of us did not know him, he touched us all with his incredible talent and energy. Depression is a debilitating illness that can end so tragically….It does not discriminate. We must continue to help break isolation and raise awareness and work hard to reduce stigma so that all of those suffering can seek help and recovery. If you are suffering you do not have to suffer alone!

If you or anyone you know is feeling suicidal, please reach out to someone. There are resources and people that you can talk to about how you are feeling. It can feel like there is no way out of the sadness and hopelessness; many of us here at PPPSS have been in this exact place and we understand your pain. We also know that it gets better and that you can be free from the mental anguish you are experiencing now,  even if you don’t believe that yourself at the moment, which we also know well.

Please call your local 24 hour crisis line (Vancouver/Richmond 604-872-3311) and/or the 1-800-SUICIDE helpline for immediate help. There is also the distress number for B.C. at 310-6789.  

Pacific Post Partum Support Society offers services to all new parents, including dads. Counsellors are available on the phone from 10 to 3 p.m. Monday to Friday at 604-255-7999 or toll free 855-255-7999. (A reminder that we are not a crisis line and so unfortunately aren’t available 24 hours. Please leave a message as we may be on another line, and we will call you back.) Click here to see our online resources for men.

A Caring Counsellor: Interview with Hollie Hall

Photo of Hollie Hall - Counsellor at Pacific Post Partum

A Caring Counsellor: Interview with Hollie Hall

Eight years ago, Hollie joined the Pacific Post Partum Support Society team. Since then, she has been a valuable resource for thousands of women who find her caring ways and kind voice a source of comfort and support. In this spotlight on one of our own, we chat with Hollie about her job.

What is your role with Pacific Post Partum Support Society?

My role here at the society is telephone support counselor/ group facilitator. I also help with outreach: that is trainings, mom and baby talks and community events.

What do you most enjoy about your work?

I love my job in so many ways, but particularly I enjoy seeing the women who I work with get better. I find that really rewarding and feel really privileged and honored to hear these women’s stories. Also, to be able to share my experiences of having postpartum depression with them and to provide some hope. The other thing is the team here at the society; I work with the most supportive, and amazingly compassionate women.

What are some of the more challenging aspects of your job?

The thing I find most challenging is the gap in resources for many of the moms we support. We are very fortunate to have reproductive mental health here in the lower mainland; however, other places don’t seem to provide that level of support to new moms out there. Also, dads often are left out of the picture, which I feel is frustrating.

In your time at Pacific Post Partum Support Society, what have you found most surprising?

One of the most surprising things that I found when I joined the society was that a tremendous amount of new moms experience anxiety, as opposed to depression. That was the case for myself and was a sort of barrier for getting support sooner.

What inspires you?

I get my inspiration in my life from my husband and my girls. My daughters are part of the reason I do this job. I always talk to moms on the phone and in groups about self-care. I have to “walk the talk” myself in order to be there for them. In turn, my girls are seeing me take care of myself, which is good modeling for them. My mom is also a huge inspiration for me. She suffers from mental illness and she never received the support she needed and  deserved when my brother and I were young. I feel that maternal mental health is so incredibly important for the family unit as a whole.

I suffered from prenatal anxiety with my first daughter. Unfortunately, I was feeling quite ashamed and silly for some of my thoughts and worries at that time; I didn’t seek help until my little baby was 4 months old. The society was doing a mom and baby talk, which I attended and got the number for telephone support. I made one of the hardest calls of my life. I went into a group and got better. The second birth was better at first, but a series of events seemed to trigger a much worse episode of anxiety. I went back into another group, went on some medication and saw a psychiatrist at BC Women’s Hospital. That combo was extremely crucial in my recovery.

Having gone through those very dark times, I am who I am today. In my work and in life, I have a better understanding of mental illness and how to take care of myself. I’m better able to set boundaries as well.

 

Thanks Hollie!

Telephone Support for Postpartum Depression

Telephone Support from Postpartum.org

By Karen Bannister

I have a long history with the little devil I call postpartum mood disorders. And so when I moved to the province of BC, pregnant with my third child, I knew I needed support. I had come from an amazing care situation – I had ready access to a compassionate counsellor and someone with whom I had a rich history of trust and understanding. I was nervous about relinquishing my story, and support in my wellness, to someone new. But I was very aware that I needed a shoulder to lean on.

I had attended group support meetings in the past, and found them to be very helpful. But as I was just learning my way around a new neighbourhood, and with two young kids already at home, I felt I needed something that better fit into my hectic schedule. I made use of Pacific Post Partum Support Society’s telephone support service.

At first I just called. I wasn’t sure what my end objective was, or how they could help, I just knew that I needed to gather my resources in time for my son’s birth. I also suffered from prenatal anxiety, and so connecting early was a large part of my own stability. I immediately connected with Linda, not only was she warm, encouraging and very helpful but I don’t remember feeling even an ounce of awkwardness speaking with her. She gave me a lot of resources to read through, though I felt pretty seasoned after my two previous bouts with mental illness, and we continued to speak at my discretion.

After the birth of my son, and in the crucial time period of 3-6 months postpartum when my other two experiences with postpartum depression had surfaced, I was in weekly or bi-weekly contact with Linda. She would call to see “how I was doing” and we would chat for about 20 minutes about my feelings, thoughts and what was happening in my life. Though I remained quite well, given the severity of my previous battles with PPD, having Linda to talk to each week made a world of difference. It felt like a piece of security knowing that no matter what happened, I could talk about it with Linda when she called. If I needed to, I could call earlier and talk to her or another support worker.

Talking to someone about PPD is validating. It made me feel as though what was happening to me wasn’t my fault and that there were ways of coping with it so it didn’t overwhelm me. It gave me perspective, when sometimes I was too lost inside of myself. Linda was really helpful at building strategies with me. When a problem presented myself, she calmly said, let’s look at how to solve this.

While medication and constant monitoring by a psychiatrist was also part of my care plan, I found my connection with Linda to be the piece that has had the most lasting impact on me. And when my other support systems fell away at 1 year postpartum, because they do unfortunately, I still had Linda and the rest of the team at Pacific Post Partum Support Society. I think what they offer is incredibly valuable.

Karen is a writer and marketing strategist who lives on the West Coast with her husband and three children. She is the editor of this blog.

 

Support Groups for Postpartum Depression

Support Groups at Pacific Post Partum

By Linda King, Staff

In addition to the telephone support line, we offer Mother’s Support Groups. Our support groups are a safe place for women to talk openly about their experiences. A number of counseling/facilitating staff members have used a support group themselves in their healing journey. All of our counselling and facilitating staff are mothers who have experienced and resolved perinatal distress.

The groups are weekly two-hour sessions, each with up to eight members. We currently have groups in Richmond, North Vancouver, Port Coquitlam, Cloverdale and two in Vancouver, with two additional groups opening this Fall (one in Burnaby and an additional group in Vancouver).

When a mom joins the group for the first time, she can expect to be welcomed warmly. Our groups are “open ended,” meaning that when a mom joins, she will likely meet moms who have been there for varying lengths of time and in various stages of recovery. This can be very helpful to both the new mom and the present members. It provides hope to the new mom that her well-being will return, as she can meet others who are learning positively. Moms join and exit the group depending on their needs. The groups are not drop-in, as it is very important that there is a sense of consistency.

On the first night, we go through the guidelines including confidentiality and its limits. During an opening round, the facilitator and present group members introduce themselves to the new mom telling a bit about their experience, what brought them to the group and perhaps what it was like for them to come on their first night. This can help the new group member to feel more at ease. The new mom is invited to introduce herself and she can say as much or as little as she is comfortable with. I will often hear the new mom say that she can hear parts of her story in all the other mom’s stories. She is often quite relieved that she can talk about what is going on and know she’ll be supported and not judged. She knows she is not alone.

The following is what happens in the postpartum groups at the Pacific Post Partum Support Society:

  • Women come and begin right where they are;
  • A set agenda for the woman is not imposed. Women work at their own pace, in their own way, with guidance and support from the facilitator and the other group members;
  • It is acknowledged that the woman has expertise about herself;
  • Women begin to tell their stories;
  • Initially, women are amazed at how similar the themes of their stories are to that of other women;
  • Women talk openly and honestly about the realities of their lives. As they release the difficult feelings and thoughts, space is made for the feelings of joy;
  • The woman and her process is honored and trusted;
  • The group works together to begin to externalize the myths of motherhood;
  • Women begin to see that perinatal depression/anxiety/adjustment is not about personal inadequacy, but is tied in with myths which place high expectations on mothers, by others, the woman herself and society;
  • The woman will begin to have the mothering role fit the self, rather than the self fit the mothering role;
  • Women acknowledge their self worth;
  • She begins to learn, as a Mom and as a woman, self-care strategies for getting in touch with her own unique needs and wants;
  • Women begin to write and rewrite their own descriptions of motherhood. (This writing and rewriting will continue all through motherhood);
  • She will gain more insight into how to keep more central her needs, wants, capacities, limitations, experiences and hopes.

Goals of the Support Group

  • Provide safety (guidelines);
  • Offer hope;
  • Lessen isolation;
  • Women support each other;
  • Women share experiences;
  • Recognize and build on strengths;
  • Validate women and Mother work;
  • Encourage self-care;
  • Explore and normalize feelings;
  • Increase sense of identity;
  • Increase self-esteem;
  • Increase knowledge and skills;
  • Encourage personal growth;

If you are interested in attending a support group, call our telephone support line to speak with a counsellor: 604.255.7999