The Solitary Reaper or How it Feels When you Have Postnatal Depression

Alone she cuts and binds the grain,
And sings a melancholy strain; …
Will no one tell me what she sings?—
Perhaps the plaintive numbers flow
For old, unhappy, far-off things,
And battles long ago:
Or is it some more humble lay,
Familiar matter of to-day?
Some natural sorrow, loss, or pain,
That has been, and may be again?
                                                   — William Wordsworth

 

If you are following this blog, you would have read my previous post on My journey with Postnatal depression. In this post, I am going to talk about how I felt while I was suffering from Postnatal depression and anxiety. Yes, I was suffering…

I would cry almost all the time…

I had such uncontrollable crying spells. If the baby was crying, I would start crying too, while rocking her back to sleep. When my husband came back home in the evening, I would choke and the only voice that escaped me were sobs. And when anyone asked me what was wrong, I would always say, ‘I don’t know’ sobbing. And it was the truth. I just didn’t have any reason and yet I felt sad to the depths of my soul.

I had lost all my confidence…

It was like, there was nothing I could do, with surety. I had lost all my confidence and worried that I wasn’t doing things right, including changing diapers. I read so many books on baby care and googled almost everything under the sun. As if that was not enough, I called up every other mom I knew and crossed checked everything I read. It was, as if, my mind was not able to….

My judgment became cloudy but my mind was racing ALL the time. I was doing so much thinking that my head used to feel heavy and achy so often.

I became compulsive…

I just COULD NOT sit idle. Not just my mind, but my body went overactive too. At the time when I should have focused on resting and recuperation, I was busy cleaning drawers, arranging baby’s clothes, ordering groceries for home, doing up the house, looking after the guests and so on. And even when I was on my bed I was either reading something, checking on baby, ordering stuff on Amazon, making a to-do list or asking people for advice on baby care in online forums and whatsapp groups.

I had panic attacks…

I used to feel hot and sweaty several times a day. I would have palpitations and felt like panting. It was difficult to stay still at such times and pacing down the room or stepping outside for a quick stroll helped. Meditating or repeating a mantra again and again helped. And definitely, deep breathing. Perhaps that last bit helped the most. Because its totally possible to forget to breathe in the middle of a panic attack.

I felt like my life had changed forever…

There were days when I felt better but again there were days when things got back even worse. One day I felt fine, the next day I felt happy that yesterday was good but the very next day would turn out to be a bad day. I just didn’t think I could recover. I thought THIS is my new reality.

To be continued…

This is second of the many posts I am planning to write about my postnatal depression/anxiety and recovery from it. Apart from being cathartic, I hope it is of some help to any Indian mother having postnatal depression.

The Papaya-pineapple conspiracy

Once you have declared your pregnancy, it is impossible to run away from dietary advice. It follows you like the sins of all lives past! Don’t drink coffee, don’t eat processed food, don’t eat raw vegetables, don’t eat spicy food, don’t … don’t … don’t … the list is longer than the ten commandments and its much more severe!

I was told by almost all the ladies of the house that I should not eat pineapple and papaya because they are so lethal to pregnant women that they can even lead to a miscarriage! I asked my doctor and she said it was all old wives tales and there is no scientific evidence to suggest that pineapple could be the pregnant woman’s kryptonite. She added that I should still stay away from the fruits, just to avoid any kind of psychosomatic stress. This struggle between real and imagined fears is one of the worst hurdles of pregnancy. Toss in the pregnancy hormones into the confusion and you have a maudlin mad house inside your brain!

What’s even more difficult is to wade through the deluge of advice which threatens to drown you through every conversation that you have with anyone who has even remotely experienced pregnancy, either directly or indirectly! This is not a post about what is a good diet to have and what not. What I really want to talk about is the need to handle the multiple advice attacks, when they come from the elders in the family and especially when it clashes with what you are able to/want to eat.

I lost about 6 kgs in the first trimester and that was more than just about the extreme food aversion I had developed. I was not able to handle the food being cooked at home and whatever I craved for turned out to be ‘not good’ for ‘my condition’. Living in a joint family, it was not possible to always eat what I wanted, when I wanted and that lead to extreme weakness and discomfort. I learnt the hard way how to be assertive about my food choices.

It is usually a tough juggle between being respectful about the feelings and sentiments of the elder family members and eating (literally, just eating!). It is very very important to make sure that you politely tell your elders to trust your intelligence and have faith in your ability to decide what you can/want to eat. Do make sure that you consult your doctor and try to include all things healthy in your diet. Your little one (and you) are going to be thankful for it in  the long run!

Don’t give in to dietary pressures just to be politically correct or because you trust someone else’s judgement more than yours. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a woman in possession of a fetus (in her womb) is going to experience it differently (from all other women who have been through the experience before). So, when someone tells you to eat something because they wanted to eat it when they were pregnant, politely tell them what you actually feel. Since no one can understand or guess what you are going through, you have to make your and your baby’s health a priority and assert your choices. There is literally no one more important than the two of you at this time and your baby depends on you to be able to eat well and stay happy about your food and other choices 🙂

 

 

My journey with Postpartum Depression Part 1: The Elephant in The Room

Looking back, I can say, yes it was THAT. Most definitely, I had postpartum depression. Even though it was not easy at the moment, admitting that what I felt was beyond the usual baby blues new moms face, was a vital part in my recovery.

A lot of people don’t want to admit, even to themselves. After all, the birth of the baby is the moment you have been planning for, for so long. Everyone around you is in celebration mode but you don’t feel up for it. You say, its fatigue. After all, your body has gone through a lot. And, in around 8 out of 10 cases, you just might be right. Many people experience baby blues because of fatigue and the mammoth hormonal shift that a new mother goes through.

However, if you don’t feel too good after 1-2 weeks post-delivery, it might be time to discuss this with your gynecologist. Don’t wait for your 6 weeks appointment. If, however, stepping out of home seems like a big deal, give your doctor a call and tell her how you feel. She might be able to make a quick assessment of your situation and ask you to come in or give it some time.

As a society, we have a lot of stigma attached t mental disorders and we are asked to keep it under wraps by well-meaning family and friends. But the result of this is that, we often don’t get timely help and the path to recovery is slow, painful and miserably alone.

If I were to share only one advice with any other mother suffering from postpartum depression, it is this. If you don’t want to share it to the word, fine, but do not hide your condition from your family, friends and neighbours. These were the three pillars of strength in my case. Now I think breaking down in front of my neighbour wasn’t bad after all. It ensured that I had pleasant surprises (read: piping hot food) and good company in those long afternoons when I was alone at home with a newborn. Family, well, that’s a different level of support altogether. My parents, siblings, in-laws don’t stay in the same city as us, but man, they made themselves available at all hours of the day and night and were willing to hear me ramble about the same non-existent problems day after day. That was more helpful than any counselling sessions that I took. Not that counselling didn’t help. But more about it in another post.

This is first of the many posts I am planning to write about my postnatal depression/anxiety and recovery from it. Apart from being cathartic, I hope it is of some help to any Indian mother having postnatal depression.

Mommies on a mission…

 

Well, here I am, with a brand new blog, where I am going to weave some magic… Naah! Let’s have another go at it.

Here I am, with this new blog, all doubtful and hopeful, trying to make sense of my world, which has changed quite a bit, ever since I had a baby.

The idea for this blog came up over one of the many calls that I have with friends and family; talks that help me retain my sanity, on the way back from work and sometimes at 2 AM in the morning. Because often, all we mommies need is a cup of *hot* coffee and some heart-talk to cheer us up.

To cut a long story short, this is me—mother of a little 7 month old baby, survivor of post-natal anxiety and a full-time working professional—I have the right to be less than perfect.

What’s your story mommy? Share in comments below.