Postpartum Depression: Break the Silence

Guest post by: Purna K.V., Blogger

(Original Post appeared on her blog here: http://koumudi.blogspot.co.za/2013/10/post-partum-depression-yes-i-faced-it.htm)

Post-Partum Depression. Yes , I faced it and No , there is nothing wrong in talking about it.

Those of you who see my pictures on facebook and think that mine was a happy pregnancy and a perfect delivery and everything was a perfect little dream-come-true…… are wrong. It was actually far from it. I had suffered from a severe prenatal depression in my last trimester and an equally severe postpartum depression after delivery.

It took me a long long time to come back to normal and start living life normally. It took me a long long time to actually come to a conclusion that I should write about it. Yes, there is no need to be ashamed of it. It can happen to any other woman on this planet and it comes without a due notice and we are far from being prepared to face it. Knowledge is wealth and I thought I should provide awareness about PPD ( Post Partum Depression ).

All was well until the starting on my last trimester ( 7th month ). I was working as well in Johannesburg , South Africa, and didn’t have any problems. I moved back to India during the same time to rest at home and deliver in Hyderabad. Ravi came just to drop me back home , had a brief holiday and went back to wind up things at Joburg.I thought this phase would be the most relaxing time of all and was really excited with it. But the travel from Johannesburg to Hyderabad left me with swollen feet and a tiredness which didn’t go away for as long as a month after that. Even my swollen feet took a lot of time to get back to normal. And it is when I was staying at my home in Hyderabad , that depression set in. It started with lack of sleep and a frustrated mind as to why I am not able to sleep. I was bored at home and didn’t have anything to do. I couldn’t travel outside , because I didn’t know driving and the weather change between Joburg and Hyd traffic left me nauseatic. It was better to sit at home rather than travel outside with all the pollution and traffic. And above all , you know what elders say , you are pregnant so don’t do anything without out help. My stamina kept decreasing and so did my appetite. But I thought it was all normal and definitely hormonal. Yes , it was hormonal , but it was not normal and I realised this only in my 8th month. It was the first case of PPD in my family and nobody knew about it.I started imagining all kinds of things and was not happy about it. I always felt that , whatever came into my mind didn’t at all leave me and it only started creating deep impacts and craters in my mind. The ability to control my thoughts was absolutely gone. I felt that my mind was not in my control anymore. I felt that I was some other person and this person is nowhere near to what I am. I felt that something was happening to me and I am not able to stop it. Lack of sleep , lack of appetite , restlessness , no peace of mind and always sad about something which I was not able to apprehend properly. I also had insecure feelings about staying away from my husband and when it was un-bearable , I contacted Dr Vijaya and told her briefly about my situation. It was not only psychological and emotional , it was physical too. I had nervous weakness in my hands and legs , and I was not able to stand and do things properly sometimes. I never felt like waking up from the bed and do something to kill the boredom.

In our society , giving birth to a child and all the pregnancy and delivery phases of life are supposed to be “happy” things. And if it is anything different from it , nobody would want to talk about it. It is all hushed up and the fear of the society seeing you as a “bechara” makes us hide things. But I did no such thing and walked straight into Dr Vijaya’s office and spoke to her. My scared mother accompanied me. I am thankful she did.

May be Dr Vijaya knew already and was suspecting the worst. But she was kind to me and comforted me with her words. She appreciated my outward thinking and the boldness I had to come and talk to her. Because , she said , most women wouldn’t do it. She told me that PPD is a spectrum kind of a thing and almost 80% of pregnant women experience it but at different levels. Some are tolerable and some are not. But mostly , women don’t express it to the gyneac or the midwife. So most of the society doesnt know what’s happening on the inside.

My mother was totally unprepared to face all this. And she never felt or knew that all this was due to hormonal changes or due to changes in pregnancy. She thought I was saying and thinking about issues wantedly .She was scared with the way I was thinking and manifesting things in my mind and her being scared , made me even more timid and frustrated as to why I was like that. After going to Dr Vijaya , we concluded that it might be the mood swings and depression kinds and was normal and a part of pregnancy sometimes. This comforted my parents and husband… but not me. Because it did nothing to my mind so that the pain and everything could go away. I wanted to be happy and welcome my little child. And the fact that some other things were taking precedence over it made me guilty and that guilt started killing me from inside. I couldn’t ignore it and as it was physical too , I was even more scared as to how I would be able to take care of my baby if I was not even able to walk properly and do things normally.It was pure hell. Ravi pre-poned his trip and returned early. But no matter who was beside me and what they had to say to me , the suffering didn’t go away. I had erratic fears over silly things coming into my mind and it scared the hell out of me.I had frequent fear and panic attacks. My brain would be blank and cold for a few minutes.  I knew that my family was putting a brave face outside but were equally concerned and scared from the inside.

Finally , when I delivered , I wasn’t scared of anything in my life , except the “thing” that I was going through. I gave birth normally  and very boldly. Because I wasn’t scared anymore. I had something else to be worried about. Physically , mine was the perfect delivery that anyone would want. Not a single medicine given to my body and not a single prick from the midwives. But psychologically , I was somewhere else. Nothing gave me happiness , expect for pure and intense sense of care towards my child. I took care of her to the core. May be the guilt that built up inside was coming out in this way. My physical  and psychological symptoms remained , even after delivery and then Dr Vijaya suggested me to a clinical psychologist. She spoke to another lady who gave birth in the same center and also a psychologist. Unfortunately , she was out of town , so she referred me to another elderly man in Sweekar-Upkaar , Jublee Bus Stand , Hyd.

I was breast feeding and my body was in the process of healing. But I had to go to consult him. He listened to me and referred me to take some tests. Not lab tests. Some written tests ( I thought they were like some tests to determine my concentration and mind body co-ordination ) which took a lot of time. I had to leave my baby in the car and go to take the tests , occasionally coming back to feed her. There is a phrase in telugu……….. “ Idemi kharmamooo” anipinchindi. I don’t know about the cure , but the visit to the doc itself can make you feel so low and less of confidence , as to something is seriously wrong with you and you need somebody’s help to fix it. It makes ourselves feel like yuk.  Finally , he told me that , I didn’t have any previous mental disorders and this was something that had popped up only in and around pregnancy and hence will be termed as “Post Partum Depression”. He gave me 2 sessions of relaxing my muscles as I was constantly complaining about the nervous weakness in my hands and legs. I almost begged him to give me a medicine to calm me down and make me peaceful. But he denied it as I was breast feeding. He said , treat it as a punishment from God and bear it for 6 months. My duty as a mother was more important than what I was going through and he asked me to come back after 6 months , if I felt it didn’t go away.

He told us a lot of things. He said that , in pregnancy , a woman’s body undergoes a lot of changes.Some are physical and some are psychological. Some are good and some are bad. Now , we the people , miss the bad part. We always think that having a baby only brings joy to us. Ofcourse it is a happy thing………. But it doesn’t always bring joy to us. It also makes us nervous and all the emotions around taking up that responsibility and doing our part correctly. So , “pregnancy and delivery is a happy thing” is highly overrated. It can be the opposite also and there is nothing wrong with it. Sometimes , the wiring in the brain changes permanently because of pregnancy , he said. And I am unfortunate that I have had the bad effects of pregnancy. Having a baby is a very big change in life and different people react in different ways to it, consciously sometimes and sub-consciously sometimes. Nothing is wrong or right in it. And if the pressure on the brain becomes un-bearable , then it translates into physical symptoms like the ones I had. In the spectrum of PPD , may be I fell into a “more and intense” scale. It happens to everybody and not everybody are vocal enough to go to a doc and express that something is wrong. Because we are bound by families and society. And this insecurity and the “unhappy” part are buried under the name of society and the family’s name in the society.

It took me an year and half after delivery to completely come back to normal. And I didn’t take any medicines. It was long , hard and a challenging journey and at the end of it , I guess I have turned out to be a lot more tougher than before. I was sceptical about writing this post from a long time. But finally could muster the courage to put it in words and provide awareness to others. PPD in a severe way happens only to a very very few people. But we must be prepared to face it J.

Advertisements

24 thoughts on “Postpartum Depression: Break the Silence

  1. An excellent post that tells it like it is. 18 years ago, my best friend had her first child and I remember her going through this. She was torn with shame and guilt. There was so little awareness back then. What she needed was support, understanding, help, and compassion. Instead, what she received was dismissal and judgment. It’s time we put an end to the shame and the guilt. Please share with anyone you know who might be going through postpartum depression. Knowledge can be so liberating.

    Like

    • I agree, and funnily enough I was talking with a cousin of mine in India last night where we were talking about how India and other very conservative cultures are not progressing in terms of being open and seeing other perspectives (as a general sense, does not apply to all) because it’s spread of knowledge is stunted. Except the metros, only like only certain career choices are accepted (doctor, engineer..etc), lacking demands in other areas like mental health (taboo?), journalism..etc that’s like needed because it’s the only way understand a person individually and their needs. I have heard before how in-laws/husband demands the wife to be up again and run a household right after bringing the newborn baby home, and do not understand how new mothers need to be well rested and cared for, especially after a C-section. But people in some cultures just do not see that and carry on that old world mentality, that just do not work in today’s world.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I agree and it is so difficult to change this mentality. What worries me even more is that probably some of the families at least try and give you physical rest. But the “mental well being” part of it is never even thought about. And this is exactly the phase of a women’s life where the in-laws try and claim back their rights on their sons because of the fact that the wife is at her vulnerable best. I know so many women who have disturbances within the family , especially during this phase of life ( the phase of life where in you need the utmost support from them. So ironic ) because women start to have/voice opinions of how to raise their children.

        Like

    • Yes , Mental well being is so overlooked in India. But there are many organisations that are coming up these days to provide awareness. More and more people have reached out to me to tell me how thankful they are that I wrote about it and yes , they are facing the same thing. But there are even more people who still do not talk about it. There are people who still , do not want to take help even when provided. Somehow , the fact that they will be judged against it is so high that they deny themselves help and their own family doesn’t get to know about it. So unfortunate.

      Another point that I would like to bring out is that treating mental illness is so very costly. After I went back to Johannesburg with my baby , I did consider taking help but didn’t have the money for it. Each session is so costly that if you have to go for a session weekly ( which is pretty much the case ) , some people just cant afford it. This still worries me even to this date.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Absolutely ! If you have a cold , you just walk into a GP’s office and take an appointment. You never even think of the fees and whether you can afford it. Taking the first step in scheduling a counselling session is so different and difficult. It sadly has become a “rich” man’s disease.

          Liked by 1 person

      • You make an excellent point about the costs. Counseling is very expensive in the US as well. My friend went through counseling for alcoholism and his sessions were $250 an hour. Given that the sessions worked well enough that he’s been sober for 2+ years now, it’s still prohibitively expensive. How are people supposed to be able to afford this?

        Like

  2. I read the post. Heartfelt thanks to the author, for bringing up such a taboo topic and sharing her personal experience with her.
    However, I felt uncomfortable about reading the doctor’s words – ‘He said , treat it as a punishment from God and bear it for 6 months.’ . To me this sounds pretty rough to someone down with depression.

    Like

  3. The one thing I find a bit disturbing is that the psychologist sent her back home with a diagnosis and called it a “punishment” from God. That could’ve ended badly both for the mother and the child. It is not a punishment. It is an illness and must be treated accordingly, with medicines, possibly. Even these so-called progressive doctors basically asked the mom to suck it up and that’s pretty irresponsible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I always thought that the medicines prescribed for treating mental illnesses tend to make you sleep a lot and I wanted to be available for my baby and not hand over her to my mom or hubby and just sleep it away. Only after I came back to Johannesburg and was talking to one of my freind’s did I get to know that there is safe medication which can be used during breast feeding and pregnancy as well.

      Like

      • It was the doctor’s job to recommend whatever was breastfeeding compatible. It’s very unfortunate that even mental health professionals in India expect mothers to be martyrs. I’m not sure what exactly it’ll take for them to actually treat them like human beings with a serious illness 😦

        For what it’s worth, you seem to have emerged ok out of this ordeal. Congrats on that!

        Like

  4. I had PPD too, for almost a year, year and half after my son was born. This feeling of “not having control over your thoughts/feelings” is SO bang on. That is what was the most frustrating part for me. Plus the feeling of always being on the verge of tears. What worked for me to get cured of it was talking to my friend’s sister who also went through some of the similar experiences as I did during pregnancy and childbirth. The validation of all the feelings was what I needed the most, in hindsight.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for reading :). Talking to someone who goes through the same can be so liberating and good to know that you had someone like that. God Bless ! During my pregnancy , two of my other cousins also gave birth the same year and their experiences were very normal and happy. So , I never came to terms with the fact of why was it happening only to me and that can really start killing you on the insides :). And that’s also one of the reasons why my mom/family was so taken by surprise.

      Like

  5. I’ve never been pregnant, but I have been suffering from depression for over a year now. There’s a widespread stigma in our society against depression, and it’s compounded in the case of post-partum/pre-natal depression. Kudos to you for finding the strength to get through this, while caring for your child. Your struggles will likely be brushed aside or smothered with “oh its all a part of motherhood” type of responses. Please do continue raising awareness about this through writing/social media and best wishes to you.

    Like

    • Thank you so much for reading :). I agree , most of them don’t even understand what the fuss is all about…. and pass comments like “Haven’t we had kids” or “Haven’t we gone through worse than this without complaining” etc.

      Please take care of yourself. I hope you are able to find suitable help , depression is so widespread and it can happen at any stage of life. And please remember to discuss your situation with a clinical psychologist in future when you plan to have kids so that they can monitor your pregnancy closely.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s