What Does Postpartum Depression Look Like In Mums?
I’ve suffered from depression for most of my life. It began when I was 17 and my parents got divorced. The happy family home I’d wanted shattered and I went off the rails at school. I was put on my first lot of antidepressants and would be forever marked as a ‘depressive’ in the health care system.
Over the years it’s cropped up again and again. I’ve had antenatal depression 3 times. Clinical depression 4 times. Postpartum depression once. I’ve also been anorexic twice and struggle with body dysmorphic disorder. Oh, and I also really struggle with anxiety. It’s quite the cocktail of mental health problems but luckily it’s usually only one or two at a time and there are years in between episodes where I feel fine.
What Clinical Depression Looked Like For Me
I had over 10 years of suffering from clinical depression before I had children. For me it would be extreme tearfulness, lethargy, exhaustion and a complete lack of motivation. I’d struggle to do basic things or to engage with and enjoy life. I’d just feel really really sad.
It was the same with antenatal depression. In all three of my pregnancies this has been an issue for me and I’ve just felt this overarching sadness and misery about being pregnant. I’d feel hopeless about whether or not I was going to be able to cope with a baby or whether I’d love them. Again, it was lots of crying, a lack of motivation or energy and a general feeling of ‘I can’t do my life’.
So I thought I knew what depression looked like and how I’d feel if I became depressed after a baby. I figured I’d be able to spot the signs and make sure that I got help before things got too bad. As it turns out though, I wasn’t quite as prepared as I thought I was.
Postpartum Depression And Me
I was lucky and didn’t have any issues with postpartum depression after baby 1 and 2. When baby number 3 came along (complete with another round of antenatal depression) everything still seemed to be really good.
Then my granddad passed away and my world fell apart. I was so close with him. I saw him pretty much daily. He was like a father to me and we’d fallen into a little routine of me going round to make him breakfast, lunch and dinner whilst chatting with him, in between looking after kids and spending time with my mum. He loved seeing my baby son and the girls. So when he died it suddenly left a big void in our family and I’m not sure we’ll ever get over his loss.
I spent the first month after his death supporting my mum (who had lived next door to him for over 20 years) and helping arrange the funeral. Then I sorted and cleared his house before moving my mum in there. After which I moved all my family down into my mums house. At the same time I was trying to build a business and repair the cracks that were starting to show in my marriage.
Needless to say in all this time I didn’t really look after myself. Nor did I deal with the painful emotions that I was feeling. I became more and more irritable. More and more angry. I snapped at the kids. A lot. I couldn’t be around my husband. We were having problems and I felt really alone and unsupported. I couldn’t sleep at night because things were racing through my head. I remember wanting to hit something. A lot. I just wanted to shout and shout and shout.
It really felt to me like my emotions were real and justified. But overtime a little voice in the back of my head started to tell me that this wasn’t normal. That I should have moved past this now and that maybe, just maybe, depression had reared its ugly head again.
Because I wasn’t crying, wasn’t feeling sad and pathetic, I couldn’t see it for what it was. I was angry. I wanted to shout and scream. I think as well, because I now had 3 kids, the option of staying in bed or not doing anything wasn’t available. No matter how I felt I had to get up, feed them, get them to school, keep the house going and look after them until they were bathed and ready for bed.
It hid any demotivation as it looked like I was perfectly able to go about my day. But that was because I had no choice. Not because I felt like I wanted to do it.
So the list of symptoms that I normally had with depression weren’t there. And it took a while to recognise what was going on. Eventually though it became clear that I’d developed postpartum depression and needed to get some help.
One of the benefits of being a serial depressive is that over the years I’ve had a lot of experience in how to get myself well. So as soon as I realised what was going on I was able to kick all of my coping mechanisms into place. I started to get out of the house more. I made an effort to socialise and talk to people. I cleaned up my diet and cut back on alcohol. And I forced myself to start doing things for me and limit everything I was doing to look after others.
It’s not been an easy time and having three kids has definitely made recovery harder. Being recently bereaved has also added to my problems (or caused them depending how you look at it) and recovery has meant letting myself grieve fully for my loss.
But slowly but surely I’m getting back to my old self. I no longer want to punch my husband which I think is a good sign. And life is becoming more enjoyable every day.
Depression doesn’t always present itself in endless crying or being unable to function. There are other sides to it too so if you’re feeling the way I was and don’t know why then maybe depression is something to consider.
BIO : Kate is the founder of How To Feel Sexy in Big Knickers, a blog dedicated to helping mums learn to love their post-baby bodies. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram when she is not indulging in creme eggs or wine.