Guest Blog: PPD may have delayed onset…

…and recovery is always possible

My first year with the baby was dreamy, so when I started to decline, I didn’t think it was Postpartum depression (PPD). The docs had said PPD could occur anytime in the first year. They didn’t say what it was when depression occurred after that. Since my self-esteem was plummeting, which is one of the hallmarks of PPD, I concluded that my downward spiral was my own fault, due to poor management of my time and energy. It got ugly as the chemistry in my brain lost more and more balance.

sun-in-fog

What it felt like is that the sun that energizes the earth and had brightened my day was no longer available. I couldn’t feel its warmth. People often use the sun metaphor when talking about depression. When the depression lifts, they say, it is like the sun comes out again. This is very much what it was like for me. When the sun was absent, it was so frustrating because I knew what was missing – a connection to the universe – but I could not get it back. Movement, light, forward momentum – they were gone.

For me, PPD was closely related to the amount of sleep I got. It resolved almost immediately when I got five consecutive good nights of sleep at my mom’s house. She cooked for me and did laundry while my sister looked after the baby. I wrote this poem about it:

Usually, when you walk, you go forward.
In the dark season, your footsteps dissolve in the mighty, silent ink.

Lost, you have no choice but to sink into what you cannot see.

You reach out but your hands slide down the slick walks of despair,

grasping nothing.

This relentless, downward pitch can only be a vein of hell.

And then,

the baby sleeps through the night, you get a day off, you lie down and rest.

Stop

Stop

Stop,

beats your heart. Your mind says nothing.

You feel heat again in your spine. You see orange at the corners of your eyes.

This quiet place at the bottom where the flame always burns,

must be a chamber of heaven

that it took the darkness for you to see.

I wish that I had known sooner that what I was experiencing was a delayed onset of PPD. I would have sleep-trained the baby earlier, and arranged for more visits like the one I just had at my mom’s. A late-onset PPD diagnosis also might have prevented a lot of anger directed at myself for being such a failure at managing my life. So I say, if you have a child under two and you meet the criteria for PPD, it probably is PPD and deserves to be treated as such. At the risk of stating a cliche, you deserve the support you need to feel better.

smileandlean

Sheira Kahn is a recovered bulimic and Marriage and Family Therapist who practices in the East Bay and Marin County. She teaches self-esteem workshops and classes on reducing emotional eating and is co-author of The Erasing ED Treatment Manual, available on Amazon.

At the age of 50, she gave birth to Alexandria in April of 2014. Her blog can be found on www.sheirakahn.com.

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