The thing with depression is that it isn’t rational. It isn’t logical. And it is often difficult to explain. I struggled with postpartum depression after having my my second son. I remember having this beautiful, perfect newborn but yet feeling so overwhelmed. So tired. So sad. I can see a funeral home from my bedroom window. I remember standing there looking out at it and imagining my own funeral. I wondered what people would say. I wondered if they would judge me for ending it. I thought about how easy it would be to take a few steps forward and allow my body to crash through the full length second story window bringing my misery to an end. I thought maybe that way it would look like an accident. Maybe they would never have to know how truly sad I was.
I was asked why I think my postpartum journey has been more positive this time around. The difference is that I’ve been more proactive this time. After my last baby the postpartum depression came out of nowhere. It caught me off guard. I wasn’t prepared for it and felt like I spent months drowning in it. I have battled to get from where I was 5 years ago to where I am today and I have learnt through that journey that you cannot enter battle unprepared. The difference with this postpartum journey is that I came in fighting. A struggle is worthless if we cannot learn from it.
10 Tips to Fighting Postpartum Depression
(1) Leave the house
Cabin fever is a real thing and there’s nothing like being stuck at home all day and all night with a baby that can make the walls feel like they are closing in on you. Leave the house, even if it’s only for a couple of hours, every day.
I stayed in lots after my second son was born because I’m not that naturally social, and I used having two children that were two years old and under to limit the activities I did. This time around I teach 10 fitness sessions a week which forces me to leave the house daily (other than dropping my older two at school) and I participate in group workouts. I’m forced to be social and the more time I’m out and about the less time I have to be alone with my thoughts. And when I am alone with my thoughts they are more positive.
(2) Meet-up with other moms
It’s easy to feel alone. It’s easy to feel like you’re the only one struggling. It’s easy to look at social media and see how others mum’s appear to have it all together and feel as though you are failing. Talk to other moms. Talk to other new moms. You’ll soon discover that you are not alone. And what’s more, different people have different strategies for coping, some that may very well help you!
Because I am more social I have more opportunities to share my struggles and through that have found a community of support. For example, with my second child
breastfeeding was difficult and painful and I struggled and cried through it. My third son is tongue tied so I’ve had similar struggles but this time I mentioned to a mom at my postnatal fitness class that I had sore boobs. She suggested a cream I hadn’t heard about that ended up healing my boobs in 2 days and taking away the discomfort. Sharing experiences also means you share solutions.
Your body is not what it was and that can be startling. It doesn’t look the way it used to. It doesn’t feel the way it used to, and it doesn’t work the way it used to. It can be overwhelming. There’s nothing that will make your spiral out of control faster than a feeling of helplessness. Exercise. Your body is not what it was but it can become so much more. Exercise gives you back a sense of control in a random and confusing world. It brings strength back to your body. It brings a focus back to yourself in a world that is now all about your baby. It replaces your worries with rounds and your fears with reps. It is a distraction that brings healing to both your body and your mind.
The law of thermodynamics states that energy is not created or lost, it is transferred. When I’m angry or frustrated I have some of my best workouts because I’ve learnt that I can transfer that negative energy into a positive activity. I can release the negative energy and make room for a more positive space. Exercise is medically proven to reduce the effects of depression and to help in preventing it from returning once the effects have subsided.
Exercise has helped me realize that I can overcome even that which challenges me. We talk a lot about the “snap back” and “bouncing back” but fitness isn’t about going backwards it’s about moving forward. It’s about moving on from where you where. It’s about progress. Winston Churchill famously said “if you’re going through hell, keep going”. Don’t stay in your place of unhappiness. Keep trekking forward…. But movement requires strength and endurance, so take yourself to the gym to prepare for battle because depression is a fight worth fighting.
I’m a very introverted person. I think a lot. I overthink a lot. My mind is filled with so many thoughts that at times I feel clogged and foggy. So I write. Writing helps me empty out all the jumble. It helps me lighten the load, and it helps me make sense of myself. Writing brings me clarity. Write down your thoughts. Get them out of our head and release them.
(5) Find a hobby
Remember before you had kids and you used to enjoy doing things? It’s important to make time for things you like to do. Or discover new things to do. Plant a garden. Knit a blanket. Sew a skirt. Do something you like just because you like doing it.
I planted a garden the other day. I spent 4 hours outside with my kids digging in dirt, getting bitten by bugs, listening to music and not having a care in the world. And now every time I walk out of my house and I see our garden it makes me smile.
(6) Go for a walk.
Get outside. You need fresh air and sunshine.
When I feel restless I go for a walk. Walking also keeps the baby calm and there’s something about fresh air and flowers that makes you more appreciative of the world than recycled air and beige walls.
(7) Drink plenty of water.
The human body is 65% water. You need water to function, and the fact is most of us are chronically dehydrated.
(8) Eat healthy food.
Depression is chemical and your nutrition affects the chemical balance of your body. It matters what you eat. Be mindful of your choices. Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat more lean protein. Eat healthy fats. Reduce your intake of processed foods and refined sugar.
My husband once asked why people pray about small things. Does God really care that you might run out of gas? Or that you want the store to stay open? Prayer is release. I pray about everything because if it weighs heavy on my heart it matters. I pray because it helps me release the load. I pray because it helps me acknowledge that there is power greater than myself. I pray because it reminds me that I am not alone.
(10) Treat yourself.
Take yourself out to lunch. Paint your toenails. Book a massage. Watch your favourite show. Don’t wait for others to bestow the love unto you that you deserve. Take time out to make sure you are looked after too. You’re worth it.
Note: Tips 1, 2 and 3 can be done just by joining a group postnatal fitness class like Just Fitness’ Mommy and Me class.
Photo by Trudy Hause Photography