May 28, 2007

Does PPD end?

I was just reading some blogs written by women who are suffering from PPD and one of them asked if PPD ever goes away. Just that one statement brought a rush of memories. I remember that feeling so well -- like you're in this tunnel that keeps getting smaller and darker, with no light in sight. When I was in the throes of PPD, I couldn't even remember what it was like to feel good. I couldn't remember what "normal" was. And I couldn't imagine being that way ever again.

But PPD does end. You do reach light and leave the tunnel. Some women crawl out of the tunnel on their own. Others are lifted up and carried out by their family or friends. But it does end.

In my situation, it was a little of both. I crawled and at the same time leaned on those around me who offered their unconditional love and support. The thing that began to shatter the darkness was knowledge. I was so horribly ill and yet had no idea what was wrong with me. Beginning on the day I came home from the hospital with my beautiful baby daughter, my world started disintegrating. I was hit with intense nausea, worse than any morning sickness ever was. I experienced seemingly endless vomiting and diarrhea and quickly lost my "baby" fat and any reserves I had. I was dizzy the second I tried to lift my head off my pillow. When I did make it out of bed, I often fainted. I gave up breastfeeding my daughter after a week because every time I brought her to my breast, I had to run for the toilet. By the second week I was in complete dispair. Not only did I have my newborn daughter to care for, I also had a 13-month-old son! I was an instant and utter failure, not being able to even get out of bed.

My obstetrician was on maternity leave, so the doctor filling in for her sent me to a gastroenterologist since my symptoms were mainly G.I.-related. This particular doctor was supposedly the best G.I. specialist in Dallas. He checked me over thoroughly (colonoscopy, endoscopy, etc., etc.) for cancer ---- countless tests and two 3-day hospitalizations later, he was done with me. He could find nothing wrong with me and literally threw his hands up and shrugged at me.

By this time, my daughter was 3 months old. I was unable to be a mom, a wife, much less a healthy person. I couldn't drive anywhere. I couldn't keep food down. I couldn't do anything but lay in bed. I wanted to die.

During my last hospital stay, a nurse quietly suggested that I read a book called "Postpartum Survival Guide" by Anne Dunnewold. I didn't know much at all about PPD and was stunned to think that I might have it. I didn't realize I was depressed.

My parents had responded to my situation by cutting me off -- they chose a "tough love" stance because they thought being sick was all my choice.... that I was lazy or simply unwilling to function as a mom. Even though they told relatives not to help me, an aunt wasn't willing to let me suffer without help. I told her about the book recommended by the nurse and she agreed that PPD could be a possibility. I read every page of the book and saw my story in its pages. I couldn't believe it. My aunt encouraged me to get into therapy and offered to help me with child care so that I could get out of the house. I called the book's author, Anne Dunnewold, a psychologist who happened to have an office in Dallas. Although she was completely booked six months out, when she heard my story she agreed to see me within the week. That meeting changed my life. Anne not only suggested medication to help me get out of the tunnel, she also suggested yoga. I started taking Prozac, signed up for a weekly yoga class, and remained in therapy for a year, although my PPD symptoms magically disappeared within a couple of weeks of seeing Anne that first time.

It was the knowledge of PPD that empowered me. I finally had a name for what was wrong with me. At that point I knew my life wasn't over. It was the support of my aunt that helped me get to therapy. It was the combination of therapy, medication and yoga that saved my life.

For anyone who is suffering from PPD, I promise you that you can get better. Don't lose hope. You will get your life back. I did, and not only that, I had a subsequent pregnancy and never experienced PPD again. Knowledge is everything ---- PPD is absolutely preventable.


Laura Gable said...

Gotta love the "tough love" stance...always a winner, in my opinion. :-) Congratulations on surviving such a tough ride. You showed great resourcefulness and courage. I like your blog.

Kristin said...

Thanks for visiting my blog, Laura! I appreciate your comment so much.

Cindy Fey said...

You write: “It was the knowledge of PPD that empowered me. I finally had a name for what was wrong with me.” My wise friend Virginia calls this kind of inspiration “Rumplestiltskin”. Remember the fairy tale of the little man who will take away the princess’s baby unless she can figure out his name? There is great power in simply naming the problem!