I said there’d be more to come on my returning BFF postpartum depression/anxiety (PPD) and then I went dark on writing. It’s pretty standard behavior for me. About the time I hit “Publish” on a vulnerable post, I start to sweat and sometimes the room spins and I feel ill. This feeling typically continues for a few days. I also go through this routine any time I publicly advocate for anything too so I hope you understand it takes me a while to build up the moxie to do it again!
To be honest, I feel like a bit of an impostor claiming it because on the scale of PPD, it could be a lot worse. I felt (feel?) off. Disconnected. Disengaged. Foggy. “Meh” and a bit emotionless. I started sleeping less. If I suffered through Postpartum Anxiety with Emma, this felt (feels?) like Postpartum Depression. So I read over the pamphlet I got from the hospital and started taking some vitamins. I’m eating better. I called my therapist.
I love being able to say that, by the way: “I called my therapist.” I have a group of girlfriends who all go to a therapist and talking about mental health is as normal as talking about our weekend plans or eating lunch. “What do you mean you didn’t call your therapist?” It’s so good.
The thing about PPD is there’s a dumb little points test called the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS) you can take to score yourself but it’s not like you go get a blood test and the results come back positive. You can pretty clearly be diagnosed if you’re having thoughts of harm or bawling uncontrollably all of the time but the rest are subjective questions that you can fudge a bit, whether consciously or unconsciously.
Did you know they’re finding that men suffer similar symptoms of PPD? It’s true. I read it on the Internet. Actually, it was in my hospital pamphlet and I’m over here thinking “Yes! The conversation is continuing to change and grow and I am here for it!” (And if I’m being honest, I’m also feeling a little bit of “Thank God! Women’s health issues are so often minimized; this could bring changes in standard care!”)
What I’m really coming to believe is that everything is relative and when it comes to mental health and self-care, it doesn’t really matter if you have a clinical diagnoses or not. It doesn’t matter if your bad isn’t as bad as someone else’s. Do you feel off? If you feel off, you already know something isn’t right. You don’t have to have permission to work on righting it. You don’t have to go through it on your own because you don’t feel like it’s bad enough. You don’t have to accept some stunted notion that you’re supposed to feel a little off right now. FORGET THAT NOISE. It’s not for me.
There’s a line at the end of the EPDS test that says “If your total is 12 or higher two weeks in a row, or for any continued emotional concerns regardless of the score, call your health care provider.” [Emphasis theirs]
When you’re hovering around but mostly under 12 or increasing every few weeks but you’re not at 12 or if you know you’re off but you’re not scoring, you read the bold text and you think “Oh, so not me?” You’ll completely read over that second part of the sentence which says, “For any continued emotional concerns regardless of the score, call your health care provider.”
Friends, I’m telling you, make the call. Take the vitamins. Tell your people. Join the group. Whatever it is, speed up the process of healing. Don’t buy into this idea that it’s normal to feel (subjectively) a little crappy in the first year. What does that even mean?