By Doula Jen
We know that the risk of developing perinatal mood disorders lessens with postpartum preparedness, quality support, education and self-care. However, sometimes the predisposition for depression is gripping, the birth traumatic, or unforeseen family crisis both untimely and severe. And it hits…no matter how many steps we’ve taken to minimize risks.
Try as we may, we cannot always keep the wolves at bay–and so, today I’d like to talk about struggle with and eventual recovery from postpartum depression. Just as you can take proactive measures to reduce the risk, you can avoid things that tend to increase the suffering.
Loneliness is a painful symptom of depression. Those who struggle with depression feel like a misfit out in the flagrantly bright and cheerful land of the living–and yet, it’s so hard to be alone. Though everything tells you to hide under the covers, turn the phone off, and avoid the neighbors, try to do the opposite in a way that feels right and safe and comfortable. Support group, breakfast with your sister, a walk to the library–at the very least you’ll make minimal eye contact with passers by. Take a chance–leave the island.
That desire to stay under the covers? That achy fatigue? That’s inertia, the symptom at the heart of depression. Apathy, listlessness, disconnect. Make your body move, even if it’s just a walk around the block or a phone alarm reminder to dance. Mobile energy combats stagnant depression; sinking deeper into the couch makes it worse.
3. Lack of Sleep
Your body needs movement–and also rest. Many fail to realize that racing thoughts, restlessness, sleep deprivation, and anxiety itself ARE symptoms of depression. Exhaustion intensifies perinatal mood disorders. Whatever you can do to get more rest–do it. This might mean turning off the TV an hour before bedtime, avoiding Internet research after dinner, and avoiding heavy discussion topics at night. Your doctor might consider a mild sleeping pill or you might consider a gentler approach such as melatonin, Valerian, chamomile tea, and/or a lavender bath.
4. Lack of Nutrition
A diet heavy in sugar or carbs (and not much else) causes blood sugar highs and lows that magnify the lows of depression. Caffeine and alcohol also bring about blood sugar and mood changes resulting in backlash. Loss of appetite and food aversion is common with depression, but good food is a big part of good mental health. Try vitamin and protein rich smoothies and soups that you can slowly sip on when you don’t feel hungry.
5. Lack of Support
Avoiding isolation is only part of the social picture. ALL new moms need help, especially those struggling with wellness. To properly avoid isolation, inertia, lack of nutrition, and lack of sleep…you need help. Have your partner take a three hour night shift. Call your mom. Say yes to that random acquaintance’s offer of lasagna. Hire a doula. Call your therapist. Call a wise and knowing friend. Asking for help is a sign of STRENGTH.