I don’t want to write this post. I’ve been putting it off and even this morning I’ve been distracting myself with reading past blog posts of my own and checking emails to procrastinate writing. But I know I need to. I need to because I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I feel rescued from something that could have been terribly worse, but there may be others out there who also don’t know what they don’t know and their stories could be scarier then mine — so I write.
Disclaimer: this is not a cry for help. I have an incredible team of people around me — midwives (and OB), Doula, marriage counselor, church community, small group, husband, and inner circle who are in the trenches with me on this. Not saying I couldn’t use encouragement — I can ALWAYS use encouragement — however, I want those who love me not to worry and instead look around at those closest to them to see if anyone in their vicinity needs a little extra love or especially if they know a pregnant woman who needs a meal brought to her home!
ALSO, if you resonate with any of what I’m about to say TALK TO SOMEONE. Not tomorrow, not 2 hours from now, close your computer or swipe to the contacts in your phone and CALL SOMEONE. If you don’t have a someone in your life to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255. This is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, however, it’s not just for suicide but for emotional support as well, read more about it here. It’s 100% free and 100% confidential. You are not crazy and you damn sure are not alone!
Remember when I wrote about starting 21 days of Prayer for my Business? Well, that’s turned out to be quite a bit more of a journey then I anticipated (I’m on day 37 and still have 5 more videos in the series to finish — more on that in the future).
Day 6 into the journey, I heard from a new and dear friend about her battle with severe depression. She had just recently gone to a counselor and was updating us on the counselors recommendations. One of which was… do SOMETHING in a day…even if that is just sit up in bed…and if that’s too hard, it’s okay to lay back down and try again a few hours later.
Something in me clicked and the wheels started churning.
SITTING UP IN BED IS HARDDDDDDD… but that’s for someone struggling with depression… hmmmm.
The next morning I woke after a tumultuous night of wake-ups and hard dreams and couldn’t get out of bed. I texted Lukas “I need you”. He came and laid with me for a few moments, I think he said a prayer, and then we talked about how I could do what our friend was doing — just sit up in bed.
I did, and that led to me even getting out of bed, and eating breakfast at the kitchen table.
That same night, I unpacked some of my feelings with one of my inner circle women and told her I think I may be dealing with something I’m not aware of. I’d started thinking maybe migraines and nausea and pregnancy in general had been a good scapegoat for potentially something I should be eyes wide open to and careful about.
That week, Lukas and I talked more and at our marriage counselor appointment that Thursday night, I brought it up.
“Have you ever heard of perinatal depression?” she said.
Lukas and I both shook our heads and listened intently as she started giving us facts and statistics.
Post-partum depression is something I am hyper aware of. I’ve had a family member suffer extremely, a very close friend battle it scarily and overall have done a lot of research and have planned to stay VERY aware of it after Baby Girl is born.
But perinatal depression — what the heck is that?
Perinatal depression is a phrase which encompasses both postpartum depression and prenatal depression. Basically depression occurring in a woman during pregnancy and after birth.
As she talked to us that night, she confirmed she felt as if this was something I was battling and we talked through coping mechanisms and more specifics.
The first question when depression is brought to the table is typically (it was the first one my midwife asked during our discussion recently about this topic) — have you had suicidal thoughts? Because of our marriage and individual evaluation we had conducted with our counselor, she already knew my answer — I had in fact had a suicidal thought during my pregnancy, something I’d been blessed to never experience before in my 30 years.
I know almost the exact timeframe the thought occurred because not a day or two before, I watched a video from a friend on Facebook (I’m not sure if the video is public or private but there is the link to watch it) about her experiences with suicidal thoughts. It was a God ordained video watching because it gave me new knowledge that equipped me when the thought popped into my head in the middle of the night.
“Life would be better for everyone if I wasn’t here.”
I recognized it for what it was and woke Lukas immediately. We prayed, we cuddled, he told me it was a lie and total bullshit to which I calmed and went back to sleep.
Sometimes “labels” feel so suffocating and the opposite of freedom but in my experience, ESPECIALLY with anything related to mental health, labels are the epitome of FREEDOM. Once we had something to call “it”, I started studying, and looking back on the past few months of pregnancy.
Copied verbatim from this article: “Normal pregnancy shares some symptoms and signs of depression. For instance, with either, you’re likely to be tired, have some insomnia, experience emotional changes, and gain weight. That means your pregnancy can mask any symptoms of depression.
To help you recognize depression during pregnancy, it’s worth talking with your doctor about any of these symptoms:
- frequent crying or weepiness
- trouble sleeping not because of frequent urination
- fatigue or low energy
- changes in appetite
- loss of enjoyment in once pleasurable activities
- increased anxiety
- trouble feeling connected to your developing baby (called poor fetal attachment)”
What I realized is that “I don’t feel good” had become a crutch for staying in bed longer, and longer and longer. I realized that between migraine and pregnancy symptoms, the symptoms of depression had been masked.
Even when the migraine pain was gone or the nausea was at bay, I realized I had still been in my pajamas. Still with the blinds closed. Still in bed.
When I look back, by mid-July, when I was at home, everything was HARD. Doing the dishes was climbing Mount Everest. Heaven forbid I actually put a load of laundry in the washing machine. Grocery store shopping was heavy. Getting out of the house in general caused anxiety — how was I going to feel? What was going to happen?
I’m not saying every minute of every day of May, June and July had been awful. There had been some really great times, but over the course of those few months, I was dipping lower and lower into the only way I can describe it — a pit. I learned about the pit from Beth Moore back I’m 2013 while reading her book, Breaking Free. Pits are tricky. They aren’t obvious. They are sneaky and dangerous and the more you slip into them the deeper they become and the harder it is to get out of one. All of this you are completely unaware of until things get scary. Sometimes you don’t become aware you’re even deep in a pit until you make it to “rock bottom” — get it, hitting the bottom of the pit.
When I say I feel rescued, I mean, looking back pre-label of perinatal depression, I see I was sliding into a pit of depression and THANKFULLY was pulled out of it, or at least far closer to the top of it, by a series of events I can’t explain other than by the glory and mercy of God Almighty.
Getting the perinatal depression label hasn’t meant total magical recovery and freedom and ra-ra rainbows and butterflies. But it does mean that I’ve had to get really real with myself and those closest to me and put some guardrails of protection around my heart and mind to keep myself from backsliding into that pit.
Some of the things I do now are:
- Every morning I get out of bed, open the blinds and make the bed. This forces me to GET UP and typically, once I’m up, I can will myself to do more than just go crash on the couch.
- When I have a migraine (for example, yesterday) I don’t get a free pass to do nothing for an extended period of time. Once the pain has subsided, I go through my above routine. Yesterday, at 5pm I was walking around my neighborhood (in pajama pants, baby steps!) and by the time Lukas got home, I was weak but still moving around the house.
- I don’t use any screens until 9am every morning. This has been a GAME CHANGER for getting me out of bed. I used to stay on my phone for 30-60+ (yes, you’re reading that right) every morning or watch a Netflix episode, or two or three, before willing myself to start the day. I’ve been implementing this strategy for about a week and freaking love it. It’s 10:49am now and beyond writing this blog post for you guys, I’ve done nothing screen related. No social media scrolling, no random app perusing, no responding to texts yet, na da. It’s kept my head more clear and helped me start the day well.
These aren’t huge things. These aren’t life changing tweaks I made. But they have in fact been mighty, mighty weapons in this war against perinatal depression. I am eyes wide open to what my symptoms could be and I am on constant alert for them.
There have been mornings of pure bliss and then all of a sudden a wave of ick washes over me and I fight it for awhile myself before acknowledging I need a second voice of truth to fight with me — so I call Lukas.
Monday night I had another suicidal thought and even though Lukas and I were in the middle of a “heated dialogue”/separate rooms to cool down state, I went straight to him and called it out immediately. These thoughts will NOT grow roots. I will not slip farther into that pit.
I’ve seen different statistics about perinatal depression but the most consistent one is it occurs in about 15% or 1 out of 7 pregnant/post-partum women. That means when Lukas and I went to the Mother of All Baby Showers on Friday night… (here are the only pics I took)
…every 7th woman I belly bumped into was potentially experiencing the same feelings I’ve had. I wondered — do they know it? Do they know they aren’t crazy or lazy or worthless? Do they know they could be slip sliding into a darker place that could get scarier if left unchecked or untreated?
Thank the Lord, perinatal depression is a temporary depression. It’s not diagnosed the same way as formal depression in non-pregnant folks and should go away once my body settles out of this hormonal tirade. It has however, given me an empathetic glimpse into the world of so many humans who suffer from depression on a daily basis.
Did you know the World Health Organization estimates as many as 300 million people suffer from depression worldwide?? In the US alone, 6.7% of the population above the age of 18 suffer from major depressive disorder, per the Anxiety and Depression Association of America.
1 in every 15 people I run into every single day could be battling something super dark. Walking around with heavy, heavy minds not just because they aren’t “focusing on the positive” or “keeping happy thoughts”. And those are just the ones who have willed themselves to get out of bed.
Our minds can be SCARY places. If you are pregnant and have any of the feelings I’ve talked about above or if you’re just a human feeling any of the stuff I mention in the list at the very bottom of this post, hear me so freaking loud it’s ridiculous…
YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
YOU ARE NOT CRAZY.
YOU ARE NOT LAZY.
YOU ARE NOT WORTHLESS.
YOU ARE NOT A LOSER.
YOU ARE NOT BROKEN.
You also…ARE NOT OKAY.
Reaching out for help is NOT WEAKNESS. It’s actually the strongest and bravest thing you will ever, ever, ever, ever do.
Prayer helps and it MATTERS, hear me say that also loud and clear. However, God gives us resources to leverage and He does not like us to be alone.
Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him. Genesis 2:18
Most importantly, talk to your doctor. This was a scary thing for me. I hated telling my midwife about these feelings because I didn’t want to make it a big deal. I didn’t want her to send me to the looney bin. But she needed to know. I faced my fears and told her at my most recent appointment. She met me where I was with empathy and grace and we agreed this is something we will be on mega alert for over the coming months, especially when Baby Girl makes her grand appearance.
DEPRESSION SYMPTOMS Pulled verbatim from this article: “According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), depression is diagnosed when you have 5 or more of the following symptoms in a 2-week period:
- Depressed mood most of the day
- Loss of interest in almost all activities
- Significant weight loss or decrease in appetite
- Insomnia or hypersomnia (excessive sleepiness)
- Feelings of restlessness
- Fatigue or loss of energy
- Feeling worthless or guilty (sometimes for no reason)
- Trouble thinking or concentrating
- Recurring thoughts of death or of committing suicide (without a specific plan)”
PERINATAL DEPRESSION RESOURCES If you’d like to read more on perinatal depression, here are three links that could prove useful: