Saturday, September 6, 2014

How Does a Yoga Teacher get Postpartum Depression?

I'm the only yoga teacher I know, who's depressed.

Tears came when, during my 6-week postpartum checkup, that little postpartum depression survey concludes that I am one of the 20% of mothers suffering from it. My midwife prescribes Zoloft against my will; assures me that it's worked miracles for moms, and that I'd likely only have to use it short-term.

Dude. I don't even take Tylenol. I had an unmedicated birth for a reason.

Hesitation and fear are written all over my face.

"You don't have to suffer," she almost pleads with me. "You don't have to do this alone."

Postpartum Depression affects 20% of mothers.
Photo ©Yoga Parties by Amanda, LLC
Two weeks ago, I was fine. Overwhelmed, but fine. But when William's four-week birthday came along, I found myself dreading, fearing, anticipating, well, EVERYTHING. It was fine when Chris was home, but when he went to work, I'd sit frozen in fear of putting Will in his carseat to go to the store. 

What if he's uncomfortable? What if he cries in the car? What if he doesn't like his carseat? are all thoughts I'd have. I think you can guess if I ever ended up going to the store.

Then it got even worse. Once I made it into the shower, I never wanted to get out. One day, I woke up and laid there like a corpse, and had the (now terrifying) thought that, I wish I was one. I noticed how often I was crying. I'd dream of drinking all day or anything else that would numb my emotions. I didn't know how to accept my now 100-percent-different life. I didn't think I could balance caring for both of us. I just had this overwhelming sense that everything would go wrong; that every day, I'd be this shower-less, starving wreck of a woman, bouncing a crying baby on my hip, sitting in the filth of a tornado-wrecked house.

Wait, what am I talking about "had?" I STILL FEEL THIS WAY!

I know these thoughts are irrational. And I do a decent job of putting on a brave face, being nice to my husband, making googly eyes at the baby, interacting with friends when they come over, dragging myself out of the house to grab something from the store. But it's hard. Not just to have PPD, but that I was so sure I'd never get it. I mean, I eat all organic. I do yoga. I freakin' meditate, for crying out loud! Depressed people don't do any of that!

I know I need help, but I cannot bring myself to take the anti-depressants.

What I'm about to say only pertains to postpartum depression, not depression. Plus, I am not a doctor, so don't take what I say as medical advice. AND I'm not judging anyone for taking medication or telling them it's wrong - in fact, many people say it is what cured them. But let me proceed with my opinion.

Some doctors tell you postpartum depression is caused by an imbalance in your "brain chemistry" or "serotonin levels." That is a theory, and, according to a new study, may not have anything to do with serotonin at all. Other doctors tell you that PPD is caused by environmental/social/emotional factors such as unrealistic expectations, lack of support, and more. Well, if anti-depressants are only addressing the brain chemistry theory (by increasing your serotonin levels), what if my PPD is caused by the other factors? I'd be messing with something that ain't broke! Plus, the sertraline in most anti-depressants carry a risk of serotonin syndrome, and have not been around long enough to know what long-term risks may exist.

So, meds are out for me. I'd love love LOVE to start feeling better, like my midwife and several friends have told me I will if I take the meds, but I just can't. It's been one week since my diagnosis, and this is what, I'm learning, helps me.

1. The knowledge that PPD is, by all accounts, temporary
2. Therapy. I'm going to my first support group next week, and continue one-on-ones with the amazing Kim Smart.
3. Kava Kava, Passion Flower, and Valerian root (all natural "calming" herbs - you can buy at Whole Foods) - The Kava and Valerian have a more tangible effect, I've noticed. Here's a list of other natural supplements that could help. Some people even swear by small amounts of marijuana (too much can make PPD worse).
4. Yoga. Even though it gives me anxiety to set the baby up in his swing (thinking he might cry and interrupt my yoga at any moment), I fight through it and feel massive relief once I start moving. If you don't know yoga, you can find a ton of free videos on YouTube and free subscription sites like Yoga has been scholastically proven to help treat depression.
5. Hot showers with drops of essential oils on the shower floor. The warmth relaxes muscles, and oils provide aromatherapy. Some of my favorite scents are (uplifting) lemon, orange and grapefruit, and (calming) lavendar and clary sage. Since this is a must-do-daily sort of thing, the other day, I took a shower with the baby in his bouncy seat right outside the curtain. You do what you've gotta do.
6. Walks/Being Outdoors. Getting outside and knowing there is a world outside my dark little head. The sun feels so good, too! Doctors often recommend light therapy for depression.
7. Friends! I feel so withdrawn that it takes everything in my being to accept a visit, but once I do, I am so happy I did! Friends commiserate, allow you to vent without judgement, get you to LAUGH! Laughter SAVES me.
8. On that note, have a BUDDY. A buddy to call you and nudge you to go on a walk, to the store, even to get out of bed. My buddy is my husband, but I have to be really careful about using him as a crutch, and even a punching bag. But his encouraging words in the morning really help to get me putting my pants on one leg at a time.
9. Eat fresh foods, and drink tons of water and tea. I've noticed heavy foods don't do anything for me, same with caffeine (the come-down is more noticeable with PPD, I think). When you eat foods that are "alive," I think that transfers a little extra good energy into that bod.
10. Cuddle and laugh with that baby! Your baby doesn't have depression, so be inspired by their radiant light! I will read to him, or try to make him giggle. And, of course, kiss, kiss, kiss those chubby cheeks! Even writing about it cheers me up!

Postpartum depression is real, and it sucks (man, women really get the shit end of the stick with all this motherhood stuff). But this hopeless feeling is temporary, and there is relief. We can do this. We're women, after all. ;)

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