What Help is Right for Me
My public health nurse and my counsellor at the Pacific Post Partum Support Society explained there are many ways to help women who have postpartum depression. Self-help and support from friends and family is enough for some women. Others need treatment. Treatment can include guided self-management, counselling, talk therapy (psychotherapy) and medications.
I was told about two books that would help me learn more about depression as well as self-help and treatment options:
- Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: A Self-Help Guide for Mothers.
Publications & Resources
- Coping with depression during pregnancy and following the birth:
A cognitive behaviour therapy-based self-management guide for women
I went back to see the doctor the following week. After reviewing the treatment options, my doctor suggested I think about taking some medicine for a short time for my low mood. He also suggested I see a therapist that specializes in mental health issues (mental health therapist). I was also to continue seeking support through the Pacific Post Partum Support Society telephone line. He told me that more than one type of treatment is often more effective than one type alone. Depending on how the treatment works for me, my doctor thought I might find it helpful to see a doctor (psychiatrist) that specializes in reproductive mental health issues at a later date.
“She encouraged me to find my own solutions, which was frustrating but also enlightening and empowering.”
I agreed to see a mental health therapist but I told my doctor I didn’t want to take medication. I wanted to see if the therapy and continued support from the Pacific Post Partum Support Society telephone line would work without taking any pills. I agreed to come back to see him after I’d seen the therapist or if my symptoms got worse. As I left, he gave me the phone numbers of urgent mental health crisis lines. He told me these crisis phone lines had helped other women at times when they felt desperate and needed to talk. Many of these lines are open all hours, every day of the week.
About a week later, I had an appointment with a mental health therapist in our local area. She suggested I take part in a therapy group. The group included other people who were depressed, some were new mothers and some not. Quite honestly, I was nervous about going to a group. I don’t like talking in groups, let alone talking about my feelings to people I’ve never met. But after talking about my fears with my therapist, I reluctantly agreed to try one out.
I spent most of the first session crying. But I continued to go and, with the help of the counsellor and the group, my thoughts and feelings started to make more sense to me. I realized I wasn’t alone. I listened to stories from other women about their journeys and how they made decisions about treatment options including whether or not to take medications. I learned new ways of managing my depression and made some new friends.
Everyday life started to seem a little better, but I knew I had a long way to go. I still cried and worried a lot. Some days were worse than others. My panic attacks, while less frequent, continued to interfere with my day-to-day functioning. I also found that I would get very angry at times. These thoughts made me feel badly about myself and would spiral me down into depression once again.
I went back to see my doctor and told him that I felt a little better after doing the group and had learned some new ways to manage my depression. I worried though because I still had bad days. I had a lot of anxiety about whether this would ever change or, even worse, that I would go back to where I was at the beginning. I couldn’t imagine living the rest of my life this way. It was too stressful for me and my family.
“Having depression is like being at the bottom of a well in the middle of nowhere and I’m trying to grab at anything to get up and out of the well, but I keep slipping down and falling. I try and try until I’m too tired to try anymore. Medication lifted me up so that I could reach out and get out of the well. I’m lifted so I’m able to work on doing all of the things that I need to do (eat properly, sleep, exercise, socialize, etc.) to get out of depression and stay out of depression.”
My doctor asked if I’d thought further about taking anti-depressant medication. He explained that there are many types of anti-depressant medication. Each one works in a different way. For many women, the medication is only needed for a short period of time. The medication helps by providing women with enough lift from their symptoms to begin to do the things needed to get well. Once they feel better able to cope, the amount of medication can often be lowered and later stopped altogether.
I had heard many scary things about antidepressants but my doctor reassured me with some facts about using antidepressants during pregnancy and postpartum. He told me that many of the medications were safe to use while breastfeeding. I agreed to do a trial course to see if it would work for me. I thought it was important to do this for my baby and my partner, as well as myself.
It took several visits to my doctor during the next few months to find the right medication and the right amount (dose) for me. My doctor assured me that for many women the first medication they try is effective, but for others it takes longer to find the right medication and the right dose. He explained that it is important that women stay in close contact with their doctor when they first start on medication or their medication is being changed. For me during this time, it helped me to continue to call the Post Partum Support Society phone support line as I often felt frustrated.
About 4 weeks after starting the correct medication, I began to feel better. For the first time in a long time I could focus on what I needed to do. One of the things I focused on was to begin the process of building a support network.
The Director of Pacific Post Partum Support Society, Sheila Duffy, talks about how self-care is often vital to recovery from PPD/A and looks different for each person. To view video with written transcript, click here.
NEXT Building a Circle of Support