Tag Archives: PPD

How to Handle The Skeptic

066e5f6e00bfc228d04c5ec11c40db1bA few days ago I was chatting with a woman and her 4-week-old son. After offering an appropriate amount of cooing over her wee babe, I asked her, “How are YOU doing?” She replied that she was doing really well and was so happy. Then, unprompted and unknowing of my own personal history, she said this:

“I’m not one of those moms who ‘gets sad’. I don’t really think that stuff is real, you know? I mean, I don’t have anything to be sad about. Babies should make people happy.”

Well just slap me in the face and then punch me in the gut, why don’t ya?

Now, I’ve heard opinions like this before. And yet it still threw me off-guard and took all my strength to even answer coherently. I couldn’t just ignore her comments, so I smiled and said something along the lines of “I’m so glad you’re doing so well! It’s not like that for everyone. I struggled with depression after my son was born, and it’s definitely not fun. It’s wonderful you’re feeling so happy!” Or something like that.

She then proceeded to ask me accusatory questions such as “But you must have been sad about SOMETHING. Did something happen to you, like did someone die?” and “How could you just ‘not care’ about things?”

You guys, I’m open about my experiences. I write about it. One might say I’m a quiet type of advocate. But this one short conversation with a stranger floored me, even though I’m currently in what you might call a “good place” regarding my depression! It brought back feelings of guilt, shame, and self-doubt, because all the questions she asked me, I had once asked myself, over and over again.

I think most of us have met a person like this: The Skeptic. This is someone who truly does not believe that depression is a real thing. The Skeptic believes that a mother with post-partum depression is being lazy, selfish, or just looking for attention. The Skeptic believes that a person can just choose to be happy, therefore a person is choosing to be depressed. The Skeptic believes that someone battling depression has too much time on his hands, that if the depressed person would just work more or start doing something productive, his depression would go away. The Skeptic believes that antidepressant medication is a type of “get high” drug, and that taking such medication is unnecessary and is a form of cheating.

The Skeptic is the biggest danger to someone struggling with depression.

In those brief few minutes while I was talking to that Skeptic Mom, I was sharply reminded of why it took me so long to get help in the first place. There was a tangible fear that all of my family and friends would be Skeptics, a fear that if I confided in someone, they’d tell me I was being silly, selfish or a bad Christian. There was a palpable sense of shame because I knew there wasn’t any logical reason for me to feel the way I did. Due to my fear of Skeptics, I didn’t share my experiences, which led me to believe I was the only one struggling.

The Skeptic is not just someone who’s never struggled with depression. I’ve met many people who, praise God, have never experienced depression and therefore can’t fully understand it. But these people are still compassionate and sympathetic, and offer support, whereas the Skeptic offers only criticism and disbelief.

Thankfully, I believe the number of Skeptics out there is slowly decreasing due to a rise in mental-health awareness. We are gradually moving away from The Yellow Wallpaper type of response to female mental illness, but based on the number of women I’ve personally met who have told me “I suffered from depression but I was too scared to tell anyone,” I do believe we have a long way to go.

So what’s the best way to combat The Skeptic? Some of them are persuaded by science; articles that have fancy words like pathophysiology , corticotropin-releasing hormone, serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline might go a long way in helping the Skeptic be less skeptical. But I find that a personal testimony can be even better than science, especially if you’re in a place mentally to be able to share your experience objectively. (If I had come across the Skeptic Mom when I was in the midst of a low phase, I would not have engaged in the conversation, I would’ve just left the room and started crying on the way home.)

If you have Skeptics in your life who are trying to convince you that depression is not real, please, please know that they are wrong. And if you have no one else to talk to, seek a professional therapist, join an online support group or therapy session, or write to me! You have nothing to be ashamed of, you aren’t alone, and you can FIGHT this. Sending love your way. XO

Advertisements

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression

Picture of sunset, Cotswolds, England March 2005

“I wish that I had let myself be happier. “ I was reading this article that described the top 5 wishes/regrets of people on their deathbed, and this was #5. It reminded me of a question/accusation people with depression often hear: “Why can’t you just BE HAPPY?”

Here’s the thing. Someone struggling with depression literally cannot “just be happy.” Our brains are malfunctioning in such a way that prevents it. We wish with all our might to have the ability to choose happiness.

When we are crippled with depression, the only thing in our power is to choose to FIGHT. And making that choice is probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

Choosing to FIGHT depression often looks and sounds simple. Just talk to someone! Just go for a run! Just get better sleep! Just pray! But you guys, there is no “just” about any of that. Each tiny step is HUGE, because every part of you is weighed down with the suffocating blanket of depression.

I write this because I don’t want this post to sound trite. When I say this is my battle plan, I mean it quite literally. As in war, to plan a battle implies there will be fighting and pain. Battle plans are not made flippantly, and are not easily kept. Fear creeps in, opinions differ, doubt rises, and the feeling of self-inadequacy is at its peak.

And making the choice to follow through with ANY of it takes massive effort. If you’re struggling with depression, I hope that this list might be of help to you, even if just to know you’re not alone. If you haven’t yet made your own battle plan, I’m going to be so bold as to suggest you choose something (whatever sounds easiest) from this list to start your own. Baby steps. Because a baby step for other people is a huge, giant leap for us.

My (revised) Battle Plan: 6 Ways I’m Fighting Depression*

  • I talk about my depression. This is one of the biggest issues for me, and for many people. It’s SO HARD to talk about depression, especially during a low moment. The key for me is to be talking about it especially when I’m NOT struggling badly. This enables people (my husband and close friends specifically) to feel comfortable asking me how I’m doing. And this is a big deal. To know that I won’t be judged and that these people love me anyway is a huge relief and support, and it forces me to be open. But choosing to be (sometimes brutally) honest about how I’m feeling is still so hard to do, even though I’ve been talking about it for three years now! But it is by far the healthiest thing I can do for myself and my fight.
  • I get outside and get exercise. We moved to a new flat in September, which now means that Tori’s school is exactly a one-mile walk away. Which means I walk a minimum four miles each day, quite often up to six or seven total, rain or shine. Most days I easily meet my FitBit target of 15,000 steps. While it’s not always fun, it has definitely been providing the exercise I need to help fight my depression. I’m known among my friends for being a “fast-walker” and I do this deliberately to increase my heart rate and serotonin levels. I’ve also noticed that exercising outside has had more positive effects than doing it indoors… Perhaps this is because I’m exposed to natural light, or because I have to be thinking about more than just myself (ie kids, fellow pedestrians, avoiding dog poo, etc). While I liked going to the gym, it got monotonous and dull at times.
  • I take supplements and vitamins. When I remember. For some reason it’s so hard for me to remember to take them! I take a whole-food multi-vitamin, and have adjusted the following vitamin amounts according to what is and isn’t in the multi. All of these have been linked to fighting depression: Vitamin D (it’s physically impossible to get enough Vit D from the sun during the winter if you’re north of Virginia/Spain! I don’t take it during the summer as often), Vitamin B complexKrill Oil (for Omega 3 fatty-acids), and St. John’s Wort. I always look for whole-food, no additive supplements. **PLEASE consult your doctor before adding or adjusting any supplements to your diet. **
  • Light therapy – I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just an extra-bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood. And when it’s sunny, I try and sit in the sunlight in my living room, even if for 10 minutes while I fold laundry. It really is so therapeutic!!
  • I have memorized Bible verses and am very intentional with my prayers. Why? I know some of you don’t believe in God or prayers, but I do, and I hope you can read this knowing that I’m just sharing my own experience. :-) I can honestly say that I feel a sense of peace and hope when I read the Bible. Hope is something that depression steals from your mind, and focusing on the hope of Christ replenishes my spirit. The best way I can describe it is that it quenches my thirst for peace. Scripture and prayer help me feel more centered and stable, and I swear it makes my blood pressure drop :-) For a list of my favorite verses that help encourage and empower me, visit my resources page!
  • I pay extra attention to the calendar. In the past couple of months since I’ve stopped taking my anti-depressant, I’ve noticed I need to be desperately aware of my menstruation cycle. The days before my period is a very low point for me emotionally, so being objective about it and thinking, “just get through these few days!” instead of “my depression has returned” really helps. You guys, I’ve even set an event on my phone reminding me for several days; it literally says “YOU MIGHT BE HORMONAL RIGHT NOW. IT WILL GET BETTER.” Call me crazy, but whatever works!

So there you have it. I wish I could say that one or all of these are a magic, happily-ever-after antidote to depression, but I can’t. They are just little but difficult things I choose to do, in the hopes that the collective effort will be rewarding. After all, my greatest desire is for you and me to live our lives in full bloom!

“I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.” John 14:27 (NLV)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

*Disclaimer:

I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, therapy or medication of yourself or your children.

Off meds… How and Why

With my doctor’s guidance, I decided to stop taking my anti-depressant about 7 weeks ago.

IMG_0432This is a pretty big deal for me; I started taking them in July 2012, initially to combat severe post-partum/post-natal depression after the birth of my son (read about my experience here). The medicine helped me come out of the darkness of that experience, and I chose to remain on a low dose (50mg/day of sertraline, aka Zoloft) indefinitely. I had finally realized I’ve been struggling with bouts of chronic depression most of my life, and wanted to see what it was like to have that bit of extra help. I took sertraline for two and a half years.

Taking (and staying on) an antidepressant was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. It gave me the ability to see things more rationally, and enabled me to have an honest reflection of my past experiences. This objectiveness also helped me to develop a long-term “battle plan,” and has given me a bit more clarity in those much-less-frequent-but-still-sometimes-there darker moments.

In the past several months, however, I was beginning to wonder if perhaps the drug had side-effects I hadn’t been aware of, the biggest one being FATIGUE. Every day, by 12:30pm, I was exhausted. As in, if I sat down I could barely keep my eyes open, and often succumbed to a nap with my son, even if I’d had a decent sleep the night before. “What’s wrong with napping?” you ask. Nothing! I’m a huge advocate of napping – my very first blog post was about it. However, feeling that you literally don’t have the energy to make lunch or do the school run or play with your kids, even AFTER a nap, is not normal.

This issue with the whole “fatigue” thing is this: every single mother I’ve ever met is TIRED. My kids (ages 5 and 3) are done nursing, fully potty trained at night, generally healthy, and overall good sleepers. But, as every mom knows, somehow WE STILL HAVE TO WAKE UP SEVERAL TIMES A NIGHT. Man, it really sucks, especially if you have trouble falling back asleep quickly. Reasons we have to wake up in the wee hours may include any or all of the following cries from the small people: “I need more water! I need chapstick! My star-light needs new batteries! My sock fell off! I’m hot! I’m cold! I heard Anders cough! I heard Tori cough! I had a bad dream! I had a funny dream! Can I wake up now? I can’t find my teddy bear! I need a tissue! When will my cow-clock wake up? Can you snuggle?” And of course, multiply these requests by a dozen if they’re actually sick.

So it’s been easy for me to say “I’m tired,” but think, “that’s normal, I’m a mom.” And thus I’ve ignored it for quite a long time. But recently I was beginning to wonder if perhaps I was a bit extra-tired because of the sertraline. It is certainly a listed side-effect, so it’s been on my mind for a while.

Here are the side-effects usually listed with sertraline:

“Less serious side effects may include:

  • bluepills_o_default-700x434drowsiness, dizziness, tired feeling;
  • mild nausea, stomach pain, upset stomach, constipation;
  • dry mouth;
  • changes in appetite or weight;
  • sleep problems (insomnia); or.
  • decreased sex drive, impotence, or difficulty having an orgasm.”

 (http://www.emedicinehealth.com/drug-sertraline/article_em.htm)

Now, you may read this list and think, well, anyone could have any of those issues, even without taking meds. Which is true. But I feel I’ve had all or most of them, to a slight degree.

So one of my main reasons for stopping my anti-depressant is that I want to see if any of those side effects disappear!

The other (BIG) reason is this: I’ve been feeling quite stable these last 6 months, and I felt that if I was going to stop the medicine, now would be a good time to do it. And I’ve had lots of time to fully implement my battle plan and make it a regular part of my life, so I feel much more prepared to go without the anti-depressant. Even a year ago I wouldn’t have said this.

So. I weaned myself off, VERY slowly (DO NOT google “side effects of coming off sertraline,” you’ll be scared for your life!!). I did a 50mg/25mg/50/25/50 dose for the first week, then 25/25/25/25/25, then 25/12/25/12/25, then 12/12/12/12/12, then 12/0/12/0/12/0. So it took over me a full month to do this process, and it’s been a few weeks since I’ve been completely off. Thankfully I did not experience any of the crazy side-effects some people have reported when weaning off sertraline.

So far, I’ve been a bit more weepy than normal (like, getting teary-eyed while watching a cat-food commercial…!?) but otherwise I feel pretty good, overall no big changes yet.

Before I made this big change, I knew I needed to adjust my battle plan a bit… after all, the number one thing on the list was “I’m on an anti-depressant”! I’ll be sharing this new plan with you in my next post, because STAYING off my medicine is just as important as how and why I went off it. In the meanwhile, your prayers are greatly appreciated as I continue on this journey. XOXO

The worst day of the year: surviving the days with no sunlight

An [American] friend asked me recently, “So are you guys still enjoying your stay over there?” To answer in a word, YES! These last couple of months have flown by so quickly that it’s hard to believe that in a few weeks we will have been in the UK for six months. SIX MONTHS, PEOPLE. That’s a long time. And a short time. You know what I mean.

And, as is the usual, I managed to take a break from writing for, um, a “few” weeks.

To me, these last couple of months have been critical in several ways, but mainly: I’VE SURVIVED THE DARKEST MONTHS OF THE YEAR WITHOUT REGRESSING INTO MY DEPRESSION!!!! Big deal. Huge. You guys, on what I often call “the worst day of the year,” aka December 21, aka the Winter Solstice, the sun rose at 8:00am and set at 3:50pm here in London. Less than 8 hrs of sunlight. And high noon looked like 4pm because the sun is so low here.

Those of you familiar with depression know that the depths of winter can be a trying time. Lack of sunlight = lack of vitamin D and also a lack of visual brightness, both of which are clinically proven to help reduce the effects of depression. Not to mention the potential of added stress of holidays and family and after-Christmas-blues.

I’ll be brutally honest: of all the unknowns and fears and general disruption of moving our family to London, my biggest inner fear was that, even while still taking my anti-depressant, I would not be able to handle the darkness of winter again and my mind would slip back into a state of depression. I was coming from a place where there is sunshine literally 360 days a year, and all I could remember about winters in Boston was being filled with dread, discontent and a general grumpiness.

BUT. So far so good! And here are a few things I believe have contributed to my “staying afloat” these last couple of months.

  • We walk EVERYWHERE.

    We walk EVERYWHERE.

    I’ve been outside a lot. We don’t own a car here (!) so I literally walk EVERYWHERE. I make the point to walk even when I could/should take a bus or cab. And while I wish I could say it was great exercise, it’s moderate at best. BUT being outdoors during the day makes such a big difference than when I was either in school or at work all day, and it was dark when I left home and dark when I returned. My little buddy Anders and I are out and about during the day, which means that when the sun is actually shining, we’re in it.

  • I own a “light therapy” light box, an amazing gift from my mother-in-law. This one, to be exact. It is not UV rays. It’s basically just a bright lamp that you sit in front of to give your eyes the illusion of being in daylight. I use it a couple of times a week, and while it’s not an immediate mood-booster, I’m positive it has benefitted my overall mood.
  • Sunrise Alarm Clock

    Sunrise Alarm Clock

    I also use a “sunrise alarm clock.” It slowly brightens as the hour gets closer to my “awake” time, so that when I need to get out of bed, it’s not pitch black in my room. I also use one in the kids’ room! It’s been most useful, actually, for my son when I need to wake him from his naptime and it’s pretty much dark in his north-facing bedroom.

  • I’ve been pretty regular at taking my vitamin D supplements, along with fish oil (omega 3s) and my multi-vitamin.
  • I’ve been praying against my depression, and I know my close friends and family are, too. (For which I’m so very grateful!!) When I start feeling anxious or stressed, I claim these promises. We’ve also found a church we can truly worship in, yay!
  • I’m still taking 50mg of sertraline. As I’ve written before, this is not a “happy pill”. But for me it’s made a major difference in my life and has enabled me to “wake up” and literally smell the hundreds of roses that are in this lovely city of London :-)

Don’t get me wrong. There are certainly times I can feel hints of my past depression and short-temperedness, usually when I’m tired and trying to haul my stroller/”buggy” and a “soccer/football” and a few bags of groceries and two whining kids up the stairs to my flat and my darling son chooses that moment to lie on the third step throwing a tantrum because he wiped his nose with his hand and now his hand is wet… (Our poor, sweet neighbors have never once complained about our kids…!!)

But for now, for this moment, I’m doing ok. (So thanks for asking!!)

How I knew it was more than “just hormones” – PART TWO

In my previous post, I talked about the reason why it is so dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

I want to preface this post by saying this: HINDSIGHT IS 20/20. And that really sucks, huh?!? No fair! If only we had clarity and common sense and objectiveness DURING our trials instead of AFTER! But alas, it is what it is, and I’m grateful that now I’m looking at things in hindsight and not in the depths of it.

imageWhen I was 7 months pregnant with my second baby (my adorably charming son, Anders, now 21 months old), my husband and I went on a much-needed date. While we were waiting for our food to arrive, my husband looked me in the eye, and said, “How ARE you?” And to thank him for such a kind question, I started sobbing. You guys, I don’t mean like, oh, sniff, a tear! But, GUSH, swollen nose, red eyes, snot and drool. NOT pretty. Poor AJ. He was flabbergasted.

I told him, “I’m just so hormonal…” And then the moment came. I knew I needed to TALK to him, to tell him that, maybe, just maybe? it was MORE than “just hormones” and that, maybe? I was actually depressed. I told him we’d talk when we got home, that P.F. Chang’s other customers didn’t deserve to see or hear what I had to say. :-) And when we got home, I talked. And cried.

This was a pivotal moment for me; it was the first time I’d said the word “depressed” to my husband. I told him how I’d been feeling that everything was pointless and that I just couldn’t get excited about things anymore. I told him I felt like I was walking around outside of myself, watching me interact but not truly being present. I knew he didn’t fully understand; how could he? But he listened and was supportive. And life continued.

I gave birth to Anders on April 5, 2012. He was 8lb 10oz (2 oz shy of his big sister!) and we were so excited. My healthy, strong baby boy was delivered after 3 pushes and being in the hospital for 2 hours. Talk about easy!

But then I tried to breastfeed. And all of my horrible memories of trying to feed my daughter came flooding back. Even our lactation consultant was the same one we had with her!! And Anders had the same exact issue as his sister: he literally could not open his mouth wide enough to feed properly. So we went home.

To read a little more on my struggle with breastfeeding, I wrote a brief post on it during Breastfeeding Awareness Week.

Anders was a perfect little champ (except in the feeding area) for the next 4 weeks. He was a very typical baby, waking every 3 hrs or so, and otherwise just sleeping all day. To be honest, I don’t really remember too much of those first 5 weeks. This is, in hindsight, the first big symptom of my post-partum depression: I was not fully present in my surroundings. It was a complete fog. I was going through the motions.

imageBut I do remember when we first started noticing his acid reflux (how can one forget your child SHRIEKING in pain?!?) and the many, many doctor visits and the trial and error tests of formulas and prescription medicines and refusal to eat and his loss of weight and general discomfort ALL DAY AND NIGHT LONG. His doctor asked me, “How are you doing?” and I said, “It’s been a long month” and I distinctly remember thinking, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, you’re just tired. It’s just the hormones.” He was about 6 weeks old at this point.

I had my 6 week check-up with my OB. I was still sore (I had 3rd degree perineal tearing) but was healing fine. She said, “Any symptoms of depression?” and I said, “Oh, you know, the usual hormonal stuff…”

What I didn’t tell these doctors (kind, caring, professional women who have known me for years, by the way) was that every time I tried to get Anders to fall asleep and he didn’t (which was quite often) I would be so overcome with ANGER and RAGE that I would literally leave him, crying, in his swing, while I fell to the floor shaking and sobbing.

What I didn’t tell them was that when I attended any sort of social function, I felt that my speech was stuttered. That I literally couldn’t form a complete sentence and say it properly.

What I didn’t tell them was that during the night, during those precious few hours when my son was actually asleep, I was wide awake, my mind restless and unrelenting.

I didn’t tell them that in general, I just didn’t care. Don’t get me wrong; I loved my children desperately, and, thank the Lord, I never once felt that I was going to harm anyone, even myself. But, when I wasn’t overcome with anger, I had an extreme apathy for everything. My daughter’s laugh on the swing didn’t make me smile. Her interactions with her baby brother made me feel, if anything, a desperate hopelessness that I would never be the mother they really needed.

I didn’t tell anyone that all day, every day, I felt like a failure.

One of my darkest moments came when Anders was about 8 weeks old. As usual, I was trying to get him to sleep ANYWHERE BUT IN MY ARMS and was failing. My entire being filled with an inexplicable anger. I put him in the swing and sank to the floor, sobbing tears that were desperately uncontrollable. My mind was completely blank yet so out of control that literally the only thing I could think of to pray was the name of Jesus. I said it out loud: “Jesus”, over and over and over again until I finally calmed down. And then I prayed, “Please, please, please, don’t let my children be affected by this. Protect them from this, from me.”

It was that prayer that made me realize that maybe I needed help. The fact that that one day, my children might say, “yeah, my mom was depressed a lot” scared the daylights out of me. I needed to get help, even if just to protect my children from the effects of living with someone with unmanaged depression.

imageMy best friend visited from New Hampshire the next week. She is like a sister to me, and I’ve always been able to be completely honest with her. Talking about how I was feeling was such a relief. I told her what I was experiencing, and she saw it firsthand. She did not judge me, nor did she say, “oh, it’s probably just the hormones.” She was able to look at my situation objectively and simply said, “You need to get help. You need to call your doctor.” What a wise, beautiful woman she is.

I finally saw my doctor about 4 weeks later. 4 WEEKS!! It truly is amazing that, in the midst of feeling so out of control, the last thing I wanted to do was to talk to my doctor about it. As I’ve mentioned before, admitting you struggle with depression is the hardest step.

In my next post, I’m going to talk more about how I decided to fight my depression. I’ll go into detail about what I call my “battle plan” and the steps I’ve taken.

Please, if you have been wondering, “Is it more than ‘just’ hormones?” either about yourself or about a loved one, TALK about it. Share my story. Share my symptoms. Visit the links on my resource page. Use me as an excuse to bring the subject up. That’s why I’m writing this; I truly, firmly believe that all of us need the chance to live our lives in full bloom. :-)

How I Knew It Was More Than “Just Hormones”: The difference between hormones and PPD, PART ONE

image

From the time I was in 7th grade, I have heard people blaming behavior on hormones. I distinctly recall being in shop class and hearing a boy say to a girl, “What? Are you PMSing or something?”, probably because she had told him to stop doing some 12-year-old act like kicking her under the table.

I’m sure I’m not the only one whose siblings joked about PMS, or who heard boys and girls alike blame their own or others’ attitude on the menstrual cycle. It’s something, as a woman, I have heard almost my ENTIRE LIFE.  And, as a woman, I learned how to use it as an excuse. If I’m in a bad mood, I can say, “Oh, sorry, I’m just PMSing.” If I want to binge on chocolate chips, I can say “well, I’m PMSing, don’t judge me.” (Ahem, I’ll be honest, I said that just the other night…) :-)

Now, don’t get me wrong: I completely agree with science: hormones can and do have an effect on one’s attitude and behavior. It’s been proven many times over that a change in hormone levels can have a drastic impact on one’s outlook on life. Men and women may joke about PMS, but to most of us, it’s a very real thing and can be quite annoying.

imageSo. We’ve heard about hormones since we were kids. Now, as adults, enter: PREGNANCY. Holy Hormones, Batman! If there is ever a time to blame crazy emotional roller coasters on hormones, pregnancy is it. And quite legitimately. The hormone changes that occur in order to create a baby are intense. And after nine months of adjusting to those changes, you then have the baby, and your body changes AGAIN to produce milk and to adjust to not having a wee baby in your belly.

If you have ever been pregnant, had a baby, or lived with someone who falls into those categories, you know that often it is truly appropriate to say that hormone changes can make a person seem CRAZY! (I’ll be honest, when I was pregnant I cried like a baby to the opening scene of Star Trek. Not something I’d usually do, haha.)

When you [finally] give birth, you go through an emotional roller coaster of love, fear, exhaustion and excitement. Add crazy hormone changes to the mix and it’s quite a volatile time of life.

This is why it’s so very, very dangerously easy for women suffering from post-partum (or prenatal) depression to think, “Oh, it’s just the hormones.” Because, after all, we’ve been saying and hearing that our entire lives.

So. How did I know it was more than just hormones affecting me? To be honest, I didn’t. Not for a very long time. In hindsight, I now know I was suffering from post-partum depression after my FIRST child, and it never fully went away. It drastically increased during my second pregnancy (but, you know, “I’m just so hormonal…”) and came to a terrible climax when my son was about 8 weeks old. I didn’t seek medical help until a full month later.

In my next post, I’m going to share with you some things I’ve not shared with most people. I’m laying it all out in hopes that I might help even ONE person identify that it might be “more than just hormones.” It’s too long of a story to put in one post, so stay tuned for more very soon. Love you guys, and thanks for reading.

Leave a comment!

To say or not to say… 7 ways to talk to someone struggling with depression

Offering advice is not the best thing to say to someone with depression!

Offering advice may not be the best thing to say to someone with depression! :)

I started this blog about two months ago. In that time, more than half a dozen women have approached me and told me that they, too, have struggled or are struggling with some form of true depression. I am so grateful that these women have felt comfortable enough with me to share this! It means a lot to me, and it is a big step for them.

I love hearing from people about the topics I write about!

What I find fascinating, though, are the silent ones. The people who I know are reading my blogs, and I know had no clue about my struggle with depression, and yet when I see them, make no mention of it.

I’m not offended by this; it’s just interesting. Why are people afraid to talk about depression, even when I have made it clear that I’m okay talking about it?

Perhaps they, like many people, don’t “believe” true depression exists. Or perhaps it’s just easier for them to ignore it.

OR, perhaps it’s because people feel unprepared or ill-equipped, fearing that they might say the wrong thing?

So I come to you today to equip you, to give you a few insights (based on my own personal experience) on how to talk to someone who has admitted they are struggling with depression! So read on, and fear not!

1. You cannot make someone’s depression worse or better. It’s not about you.

Find relief in this! It is not in your control. Depression is rooted solely in a person’s mind, either chemically or psychosomatically, or both. So, unless you’re telepathic, psychic, or a psychiatrist, you’re in the clear. :)

Therefore,

2. Do not say, “What can I do to make you feel better?” because, see #1.

DO say, “Want to talk about it?” And if they say no, say, “OK, please know I’m here to listen, and I promise to give no judgements or advice.”

3. Do not say, “Maybe you need to pray more.” Even the most devout person who truly believes in the healing power of Christ can suffer from depression. [More on this soon to come.]

4. Do not say, “Oh man, I know exactly how you feel.” Cause, well, you don’t. Even if you’ve struggled with depression before, you don’t know exactly how I feel!  (Even I have made the mistake of saying this before!)

DO say, “I’m so sorry you’re struggling with this. If you ever need to talk, I’m here for you.”

Do say, "I'm here if you need to talk."

Do say, “I’m here if you need to talk.”

5. Do not say, “I can’t believe I didn’t know about this; I’m such a bad friend/parent/sibling.” Because, again, it’s not about you! (No offense) :) I’m realizing that many, many people suffer from some form of depression and NEVER TELL ANYONE. If I haven’t even told my husband, why would I tell you? (Again, no offense!) :)

DO say, “I’m sorry you’ve been struggling with this for so long. I’ll be praying for you as you begin to work through it.”

6.  Do not say, “Think about all the wonderful things in your life!” One of the biggest feelings in depression is guilt. We know we have wonderful things in our lives. We KNOW it. And that makes us feel even worse because we can’t understand why we are depressed. It makes no sense.

Do say, “It is so great that you are finally talking about this! Hang in there, and fight the good fight.”

7.  Don’t say, “Let me know if you ever want to hang out.”  Because, honestly, we won’t ever let you know when we want to hang out. Because a huge symptom of depression is wanting to be alone.

Do say, “Let’s get together this week. I’m free Tuesday at 9:30, does that work for you?” Sometimes we NEED someone to take the reins and kick us out of our house. :) So making definitive plans can help!

Are you getting the gist? Basically, someone who is struggling with depression needs encouragement. Pure and simple. Encouragement to seek professional help, to talk about it, to continue in taking control of the situation.

And once they’ve started on that journey, they need more encouragement to keep it up, and congratulations for getting as far as they have!

I hope this helps even one of my readers to understand a little more about how to talk to a loved one suffering depression. It’s so complicated. Even my husband, to whom I confide everything, can’t fully understand what I’ve gone through. But he’s a huge support; he gives encouragement and congratulations, and that’s all that matters. :)

For some great links on dealing with depression in your life or a loved one’s life, see my resources page!

Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional, nor do I play one on TV. The comments and opinions expressed in these articles are merely comments and opinions. Please seek professional medical advice before making any changes to the diet, exercise, or medication of yourself or your children.