Family Struggles: Postpartum Depression

I just wanted to give a little update to those who have been following the blog. My husband and I finally got a place! All of the stress that came with looking for a place has finally come to an end, and we are excited to establish a more permanent residency here in Nashville. That being said however, we are in massive save money mode so my adventures out and about in Nashville have been slim to none over the past couple of weeks.

I think this little break from going out every weekend will allow me to focus on more universal topics that do not only apply to my wanderings about Nashville, but life in general. I have hesitated to discuss in an open forum the topic I am about to speak about, mostly because I don’t want my sister to somehow misinterpret the next 600 words I write. After much contemplation though, I feel this is an important topic to discuss and I think writing about it will help me gain more clarity myself.

For as long as I can remember my sister has suffered with mental illness. My sister is not bipolar or schizophrenic, but she suffers from severe depression and OCD. Over the years, I had largely forgotten about these issues that seemed to plague her childhood. This is largely due to her being appropriately medicated. After the birth of my second nephew I noticed things had taken a very drastic turn back to a place that I had long forgotten.

The birth of my nephew resulted in an onset of postpartum for my sister. Some statistics place postpartum sufferers at around 10-15% of new mothers. There are many symptoms of postpartum such as anxiety, worry, sleeplessness, etc. My sister is currently suffering from all of those, but has also started hearing voices and seeing things.

I do not have children, and did not know much about postpartum when she confused these things to me about a month and a half ago. Naturally, I panicked. “You’re hearing voices!? What are you hearing? What are they saying? Are they asking you to harm yourself or the boys? Did you tell mom? Have you spoken to a doctor?” and the questions continued on like this for about a half an hour. The subsequent conversation led to my sister saying that the medicine she is on makes her feel this way and that she is going to stop taking them cold turkey. I am not a medical professional, but based on my quick research skills, I convinced her that making that decision without a professional was unwise.

The past month and a half has been hell for my family. Not as much myself and my younger sister, but pure and utter hell for my mother, who has become almost a primary caretaker to my two nephews. She has taken off numerous hours from her high stress job and has remained a constant sounding board for my sister as she tries to work through these issues as best as she possibly can.

It’s difficult living 12+ hours away and not being able to provide the support I know my sister and my mother need at this time, but I have found peace in the fact that my sister is very aware that something is not right and has sought professional help as she continues to navigate this very scary time in her life. The biggest thing I have learned through her experience is 1) Your body changes during pregnancy, 2) You need to ask for help when you don’t feel right, and 3) Dealing with depression and anxiety does not happen overnight. #3 is something I have tried to remind myself of constantly because I would be lying if I said there were not times when I wanted to come through the phone and shake her to just figure this out!

My sister has dealt with depression for over 20 years now. For more than 19 of those years it was extremely well-managed, but the hormonal changes associated with her recent pregnancy, have thrown her out of whack. This experience has taught me that dealing with mental illness is not easy, in fact, it can be one of the most stressful things someone has to take on, but it must be addressed with compassion and understanding. As my sister continues on this journey back to wellness, the support of family and trained professionals is of utmost importance.

For all those dealing with someone who may have depression or anxiety, I would strongly encourage you to support them by recommending they seek professional help. Everyone should be able to feel “normal” and not be afraid of being stigmatized for their condition.

 

Resources

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-NAMI (1-800-950-6264),https://www.nami.org

Anxiety and Depression Association of America: 1-240-485-1001,http://www.adaa.org

National Institute of Mental Health: 1-866-615-6464, http://www.nimh.nih.gov

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Division of Mental Health, 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636),http://www.cdc.gov/mentalhealth

American Psychological Association: 1-800-374-2721, http://www.apa.org

American Psychiatric Association: 1-703-907-7300, http://www.psychiatry.org

 

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