When I knew that I needed help, I didn’t know who to go to. I knew words such as ‘psychiatrist’, ‘counselor’, ‘psychologist’ and ‘therapist’, but I didn’t know who to see and for what.
Having depression stripped me of any strength to do the necessary research.
I leaned on my husband to do the research, call therapists, discuss my situation and schedule appointments. We learned this:
Postpartum depression treatment is a multi-pronged approach.
Talk therapy is one of the prongs. To do this, you can see a therapist or counselor. This person won’t be able to prescribe medication if needed, but they will be able to help draw you out of your head. They are a resource to talk to about your frustrations, fears and anxiety. They can help guide you if it seems like medication is needed.
If medication is needed, a psychiatrist or a doctor can prescribe an antidepressant. Medication may be your second prong. I had garden variety postpartum depression without a history of depression. Upon recommendation of my therapist, I was able to go to my general practitioner and get on a low dose antidepressant. If you’ve had a history of depression and are currently or were taking medication, a psychiatrist is a specialist who can work with you on your history and prescribe a cocktail of drugs that’s tailored to you and your experience. A general practitioner may not have the specialized knowledge to help you. If the treatment plan that the doctor or psychiatrist is giving you doesn’t feel right, seek out a second opinion. You need to feel good about your treatment. Knowledge about postpartum depression varies widely across the professionals. The right antidepressant was one that made me feel like myself again – myself before the pregnancy, the birth and the postpartum.
If you’re seeking in-network care for therapy and/or psychiatry, don’t be afraid to try multiple people. In-network providers can be excellent or less so.
Additionally, there are support groups. Community is the third prong. Support groups are enormously helpful in that you are able to sit in a judgment-free room and hear from women who are having similar experiences. Just knowing that there are other women who felt what I was feeling helped me step out from the dark isolation and into the light. These groups are typically free. Meetings are gritty and real. You get to be honest about what your motherhood is. Even in the anonymous world of baby website communities, I found that there was still a line that couldn’t be crossed in what you could or couldn’t say about your feelings. Support meetings are a safe place to voice those thoughts and get out of your head. It’s a place to stop feeling guilty about your struggle to embrace motherhood in child-centric America. Go in with an open mind. Plus, you may make like-minded friends. My saving grace was finding a friend who was in the exact same situation as I was. We were each other’s counselors on the days that we didn’t make it to support group or therapy. She was my lifeline.
Don’t have the energy to attend in person? I’ve been there. There are online support groups as well. I’d recommend going to a group in person if possible, as anonymity can sometimes bring out the assholes.
Prong number four is physiological health. I’m not referring to rest and exercise here. That stuff is important, but pushing yourself to exercise might be too insurmountable. That’s OK – exercise can help but it’s not always realistic if you’re depressed. What I’m talking about here is tests. I’ve heard from women who had thyroid issues, vitamin B deficiencies, and so forth. You can talk to your doctor about getting some of these tests and ask them if they think it’s a viable strategy (possibly combined with any of the other prongs).
One last word on seeking a caregiver:
If you don’t have a rapport with who you are seeing – stop seeing them and go see someon else. If you can’t tell them that you don’t want to see them again because you’re scared of how they will react, walk out and then never call them again. Tell them that you have to check your calendar and then don’t follow up for a return appointment. You need to focus on YOUR needs and how to get what YOU need. Don’t worry about hurting anyone’s feelings…you won’t.
Disclaimer: I am not a mental health professional. I am simply relaying what I learned about mental health in layman terms as I understood it.