#DayofLight- my postpartum depression story
Yesterday I found out that February 5th was #DayofLight – a day created to shine a light on depression and bring attention to resources for those struggling with it. As someone who has lived with both depression and anxiety, this issue is near to my heart. I wish I had known about it in time to participate.
Better late than never I say.
If you’ve read the bio on my website, you know that the reason I am so passionate about Bach flowers is because they helped lift me out of a very dark place when I was in the throughs of postpartum depression and anxiety. They changed my entire world – and continue to do so – and I want to share them with every mama who is struggling with the sacred, yet oftentimes rocky, journey of motherhood.
So, in belated honor of #DayofLight, I’d like to share with you today my experience with postpartum depression and anxiety, and how Bach flowers helped me regain balance in my life.
I remember my first month of motherhood fairly well. There was lots of nursing, cuddling, diaper changing and oohing and ahhing. Certainly being a new mama was anything but easy, but my husband and I were managing. It struck me as somewhat odd that I had suddenly developed a fear of nighttime that would render me panic stricken for a few moments each day after sunset. But I waved that off as just an odd thing and left it at that.
Then a case of mastitis turned into an abscess that required emergency surgery to drain. Waking up in the recovery room after the operation I felt vastly different then I did when I went in. I couldn’t put my finger on why, but I knew something was off.
I was not the same.
Upon returning home everything changed. Suddenly I found myself in a state of constant panic and vigilance. I was convinced I was dying. I was convinced my baby was going to die. I was sure that something horrible was happening almost every minute of the day.
Things that I’d previously never given a second thought to, were now cause for countless hours spent searching mothering.com and more time spent crying alone in a closet that I’d like to admit.
Was she gaining enough weight?
Was she hitting all her milestones?
Was she sleeping enough?
On and on it went.
At 4 months old my daughter started grunting a lot and passing blood in her stool. It took no time for worry to escalate to hysteria and before I knew it I was convinced she had some rare intestinal disease that would kill her.
After a trip to the pediatrician provided no satisfactory answers, I started my own intrepid quest to find some. I ran with the idea that she might have a food intolerance and went on every elimination diet the internet could offer, meticulously noting each morsel I ate and how my daughter reacted in the hours and days that followed.
This quickly lead to me frantically taking pictures of poop and cataloging them in an Excel spreadsheet that also included the foods I’d eaten. Match a bad poop up with the food I’d ingested beforehand and I’d find the culprit!
Yep. Let that sink in for a moment.
This went on for months.
At the time I didn’t really think there was anything strange about my behavior. I was capable, functioning, and not exhibiting classic “I want to harm myself or my baby” PPD symptoms, so it didn’t dawn on me that what I was doing was out of the ordinary. Just normal Type A mama worries, right?
Looking back I don’t know how I missed it.
Well, that’s not entirely true. I didn’t miss it. I denied it.
When I allowed myself to consider the fact that perhaps the manic updating of Excel poop charts was not run of the mill new mother behavior, and that maybe it was something deeper, like PPD, a voice in my head would immediately pipe up saying things like, “PPD means you’re crazy”, and “people will think you’re a bad mother”.
These thoughts terrified me, so I buried the idea and pressed on.
Finally, one day, as I was once again dealing with poop photography, my loving husband, extremely worried by now, said a few words that changed everything.
“She’s only going to be this age today. Tomorrow she will be one day older. Do you really want to spend these days staring at pictures of poop?”
In that moment something clicked inside of me. I realized it was time to own up to what was happening and get help. My behavior was not healthy and something had to change.
In the months that followed I saw a variety of practitioners and tried a bevy of treatments to assist me in regaining some balance. Some worked for a little while, most didn’t work at all. By the time my daughter’s first birthday rolled around I was awash in anxiety, depression and despair.
Then one day my husband happened upon Bach flower essences at Whole Foods. I don’t remember which flowers he brought me, but what I do remember is the miraculous seeming shift that I felt almost instantly.
Suddenly, for the first time in over a year, I saw a light – albeit small – peeking out from the end of a long dark tunnel. Something deep inside of me knew that I had found a way out.
I’d be lying if I said that once I started taking flowers life instantly became sunshine and roses. It took almost a year to feel a true, consistent shift from dark to light. But in that time I felt measurable progress almost daily. Little by little the dark days became shorter and the light days stuck around longer. There were still ups and down to be sure, but over time I began to feel more capable, more calm and more present.
Today I still battle days of depression and anxiety that mostly stem from PTSD I was recently diagnosed with, that exists as a result of traumas from earlier in my life. But thanks to Bach flowers, nourishing foods, yoga, meditation, prayer and an amazing support system (which includes a phenomenal therapist), more times than not I am able to make it though the day in one piece and go to sleep with love and gratitude in my heart.
A far cry from where I was four years ago.
So mamas, please take heart and hear my words – if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or are just feeling challenged by motherhood – please know that you are not alone. You are not crazy. You are not incompetent. You are not ruining your child/ren. You did nothing wrong. You are human. And you are beautiful.
There is a way out of the darkness. I’m living proof. If flowers don’t resonate for you, there are so many other resources in both the traditional and alternative medicine worlds.
Please reach out.
There is help and there is hope.
So which flowers did the trick?
It’s important to note that the right combination of flowers will vary from person to person, but I use the ones below often in my practice and achieve positive outcomes similar to mine. These are the core group of flowers I used, in varying combinations, (usually no more than 3 or 4 at a time) to help relieve acute symptoms of PPD, as well as help to heal more deeply rooted issues.
Mustard for when the depressive gloom would overcome me for no reason.
Aspen for when I was anxious for no reason.
Rock Rose for when I was feeling terrified.
Red Chestnut for when I was terrified that something horrible would happen to my husband or daughter.
Sweet Chestnut for times I felt utter despair at having to deal with having PPD at all.
Gorse for when I felt truly hopeless.
Olive for the mental, physical and emotional exhaustion I was experiencing.
Scleranthus to help keep my moods from swinging so wildly.
Star of Bethlehem to help heal trauma from my younger years and from the mastitis experience that, together, I believe trigged my PPD in the first place.