Lifting the lid on postpartum depression

It is always an honor to be featured on someone else’s blog because it means one thing: more people are reading (and learning, hopefully) about Postpartum depression (PPD). I will never tire of talking about this form of depression, in part because i know how much mental health sucks. I am grateful for the different platforms I have been featured on (see this page). Today’s post was one featured by Kalekye Kasina, an award-winning journalist with a passion for health matters, which is how I got to share my story with her.

I met Kalekye at a volunteer meet-up organized by Carol Ng’anga, founder of the HELD organization  – an organization that offers help for those affected by cancer as well as creates awareness on the same. I am always amazed at the resilience and sheer determination to forge forward by Carol and her team. So, anyway, the volunteer meet-up yielded friendships, and this post is one of the fruits of the same. Thank you Kalekye for highlighting postpartum depression and the reason moms need to get help.

Read the featured post by clicking on this link.

Happy reading! And remember, you are not alone in this. Do get in touch using the contact page if you need any clarifications or would like to speak to a professional.

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Call Out.

Hi good people 🙂

Trust the new week and second half of 2017 is coming along well and that you are making progress, no matter how small the steps are – because sometimes you actually need to celebrate the small wins!

Dropping in real quick tonight. Lately, I have felt the need to add a series of guest posts from moms who have struggled with Postpartum Depression, and would love to share their story on the blog. Not only will this add diversity, it will also help speak up for moms who are struggling. It is okay for moms who do not want to reveal their identities as the posts will be uploaded anonymously. The idea is to speak out about #PPD in all its different struggles and to let moms know they are never alone.

Interested, or got questions? Please drop an email over at ppdisland@gmail.com

#postpartumdepression: The conversation on Victoria’s Lounge

“I believe we need to get to a place where maternal mental health will not be stigmatized, and struggling moms can know that they are not alone, that help is available for them”

In my darkest days when I struggled with postpartum depression, this is the one thing I really wanted to hear, the one thing I really needed to hear: that I was not alone, that I could get help, that I was not a bad mother for my inability to bond with my son. Sometimes I wonder, what if I had heard about #postpartumdepression before? What if, by chance I saw someone tweet about it, or vent about their struggles on Facebook? Would that have made me better placed to handle it? I will never know. What I do know is that I would never want any other mom to go through PPD, yet the sad glaring truth is that 1 in 9 moms will experience PPD [source]

This is the reason I am glad to have been part of a panel on Victoria’s Lounge hosted by the ever graceful Victoria Rubadiri. Alongside these phenomenal ladies, the conversation centered on PPD. What are the risk factors associated with this form of depression? What are the symptoms you need to look out for? What treatment options are available? What does it feel like to be depressed when you just had a new baby?

The show airs on Thursday (22nd June 2017) on NTV at 8:00pm. Tune in and tell a friend to tell a friend.

 

Update: The wonderful team at Victoria’s Lounge put up the link on YouTube, so you might want to check that here

 

I have to remind myself it is not a relapse.

The school holidays are almost here with us, and for most parents, this poses a challenge as far as parenting is concerned. As a Postpartum Depression (PPD) survivor and work-at-home mom, this presents a unique set of challenges. I have shared my story previously on how I struggled in the early days of motherhood here, how anger held me back from been able to bond with my son in this post as well as starting therapy and the lessons I have taken with me from that.

Recently, I had a moment that scared me and brought to surface fears I have harbored at the back of my mind for a long while. See, here is the thing with PPD (and I want to believe, depression in general): once you are on the road to recovery, there will always be those sneaky thoughts in your head, waiting on you… waiting on your progress.

And when you have a bad day (because the bad days will come), the thoughts become more intense, the voices louder. Asking you, “What makes you think you were out of the red zone?” Loud voices that seek to drown every form of reason, all the while asking “what made you think you made it?” Voices that scream, “it is a relapse! You are inching further away from your recovery, and into the black hole that postpartum depression is.”

Read More: Why I believe four years is the best age thus far

It is often a confusing phase because one minute it is a good day, and you keep reminding yourself, complete with the flexing  emoji: “I got this, I have made steps forward, nothing’s going to pull me down.” Then seemingly out of nowhere, BAM! something happens and it brings you crushing down, all the way to “I can’t do this again. I am a total failure and a wreck to think I got this covered”. These were the very thoughts I had when, in a moment of uncontrolled anger last week, I lashed out at my son. It is hard admitting this, because to a great extent, it is shining a spotlight on one’s failures.

Right after lashing out at him, he ran downstairs, curled into fetal position and slept amid heavy sobs. I was crushed on the inside, because deep down, it brought all those ugly memories from his first years when all I did was run on fumes. I felt like I had let myself, and him down. We were making such good progress, but here we are, again. Then the voices started screaming, “It is a damn relapse!!” I started to wonder whether I had really made it through, whether I had really been ‘cured’, because that’s what those condescending voices wanted me to think.

On such days, I collapse into a heap of hot tears, messy hair and toxic self-talk. Days when I think I cannot deal with motherhood any longer, 5 years on. I have moments when the horror film of depression is on replay…

Read More: Perfect Imperfection

But here’s what I am learning: The postpartum journey is incredibly different for moms across the world. Some moms, after receiving help, are able to work out and resolve their issues quickly. For some however, it takes time to work through the intertwined aspects of their postpartum journey, and that is okay. The most important thing to note is that even after therapy and recovery, the possibility of a relapse is real. Specific triggers make it easy to slide back to the throes of depression, and as such, it is important to know what these triggers are. In many cases, new stressors (new pregnancy, moving homes, changing jobs, a divorce, a terminal illness among others) trigger depressive episodes.

Even in this phase, it is okay to be, and to ask for help.

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This is why I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

“Awwww, he is so chubby and adorable, look at him…”

I often got this when my son was still an infant, never mind that he is now a grown champ who prefers bouncing off walls and seats to, well, sitting still for 5 microseconds, (comes with the age I guess. We are at five now). These words, while very well-meaning, were like an empty reverberating echo in my mind.

‘Couldn’t they see I was struggling with motherhood? Couldn’t they see the hollow posts I put in my coded Facebook updates? Perhaps if they looked closely, they could see the hollowness in my sleep-deprived eyes…’

Maybe they couldn’t see it. Even if they did, maybe they couldn’t understand what I was going through. That was it!

They may never understand why bonding was so incredibly hard, why the proverbial blissful motherhood feelings seemed to elude me, why many of my nights were spent muffling my tears in the already soaked pillow.

Read More: Getting Help

They may never understand what it is like to suffer in such silence, struggling with every passing moment. What words would explain that though I struggled to bond with my son, I cringed at the thought of been his mommy because I felt he deserved better? Because I felt I was a bad mom who would never redeem the lost moments?

These thoughts are the reason I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret.

Because they wouldn’t understand…

Because motherhood comes naturally for moms…

Because ‘you should be grateful you have a healthy baby’…

Because, why can’t you snap out of it…

Simply put, because of the stigma that comes when moms admit they are struggling with depression after a safe delivery. PPD Island was birthed out of the need to stamp out this stigma and create awareness on PPD, one post at a time. So that moms are not ashamed to admit they are struggling with motherhood. So that moms can ask for help without going on a guilt trip. So that our society is aware that Postpartum Depression is real.

Featured Image: Patricia Esteve

5 Years On

My son turned five in January this year. 5 good years. 5 solid years.

To say I am excited about it is an understatement. I remember how, in 2011, when I realized I was pregnant, I could not envision how I would bring this child up. I struggled with seeing beyond a year a month, especially in the days that followed after a threatened miscarriage. When it dawned on me that I would be a single parent, I slowly reeled into what I now realize was antenatal depression.

Antenatal depression, while perhaps not as widely known as Postpartum depression (PPD), is a form of depression that occurs during pregnancy. It is characterized by symptoms such as persistent worry about the pregnancy and safety of the baby, sudden mood shifts, and withdrawal from previously enjoyed activities as well as extreme difficulty in concentrating. For some moms, this form of depression is also accompanied by engaging in risky behavior as well as intrusive thoughts of selfharm. Left unchecked, antenatal depression is often a precursor for postpartum depression [source].

And that is exactly what happened in my case, only I was not aware. Struggling with impending single motherhood, losing my job in my last trimester and everything in between left me gasping for breath. I recall vividly, walking in town one evening, so overwhelmed by the thoughts of pregnancy and the new role I was about to take on. I was saving every cent I could get to take care of this baby. Before I lost my job, it entailed frequent travelling, and to some extent, that was weighing down on me owing to the additional costs of the same.

Read More: Night Terrors: The Reason my son kept waking up screaming!

Too overwhelmed, I started crying smirk in the middle of the city. It was not the pretty classy crying; no, I am talking about the ugly mucus-all-over-the-place type of crying. I crossed the roads in a haze, not sure I wanted to be pregnant anymore. I should have known there was something wrong… but even then, I felt resigned to whatever curveballs came my way. And come they did when PPD hit.

After he was born, I struggled with intrusive thoughts. I struggled with bonding with him. It is said that moments with a newborn are blissful, magical even. I did not see it. Sleep-deprived, utterly exhausted and wondering just why I couldn’t bring myself to enjoying motherhood, these experiences threw me deep into Postpartum Depression.

Read More: A Letter To My Son: Chronicles of a PPD survivor

As he grew up, and the milestones came and went, I struggled with the thoughts that my PPD would scar him for life. I feared he may never be able to love me as mom. Thoughts of been unable to bond with him continually haunted me. I never thought we’d make it to 5, but here we are. I recovered from PPD, I am able to bond with my son now, perhaps the best we have all his life. I am at a place where I appreciate been a mom. I am grateful for 5. Here is to 5 more, 15 more, 25 more…!

Why do I write this? To share with a mom struggling with PPD that there is hope. It may not get better in a day (Took me a couple of years to get to this place), but someday it will. I got help, I went for therapy, and I am here to tell you that you can pull through. That there’s hope, there’s help and it matters that you are holding on.

PS: Do take a minute to check out the Facebook page and Follow on Twitter 🙂

 

 

This is why I am vocal about Postpartum Depression in Kenya

Hi.

My name is Samoina, and I am a Postpartum Depression survivor.

Have you heard about postpartum depression before? Postpartum Depression (abbreviated PPD) is one of several perinatal mood disorders that affects moms up to one year after birth. The precise cause of PPD remains unknown, but it is thought to be as a result of the sharp drop in hormonal levels. Ideally, during pregnancy, progesterone levels are at an all-time high. After birth, their levels plummet suddenly, leading to significant changes in the body.

This is not to be confused with baby blues, a mild and short-lived condition that affects a new mom’s moods and usually disappears on its own after about 2 weeks. Baby blues are characterized by exhaustion, moodiness, and worry, which to some extent, are normal as they develop during the transition from pregnancy to motherhood. If, however, these symptoms do not disappear, and instead get more intense as the days go by, there is cause for concern as this could point to PPD.

Some of the symptoms associated with PPD include intense anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, confusion and the inability to bond with one’s child. Many moms also experience such deep despair and hopelessness that makes one feel like their existence as a mom is meaningless. The endless crying is also an indicator that all is not well. Other symptoms of PPD include feeling worthless, overwhelmed, and most of all scared to reach out. Most affected moms are scared to reach out because there is still so much stigma that surrounds Postpartum Depression and mental health in general.

But,

Aren’t moms supposed to enjoy this blissful period?

Doesn’t motherhood come naturally?

Which mother hates their child after carrying them for 9 months?

There must be a spiritual reason why you are suffering after getting your baby!

Do you know someone somewhere has it worse than you do? Can you just snap out of it!

….

 

Does this sound familiar? If it does, perhaps it is safe for me to say that these nuances are part of the reason many moms suffer in silence. I am vocal about it (I run a FB page here, do check it out, and Like, Like, Like) because I know just how much PPD takes away from a mom and from their child.

I am vocal about it because I look forward to a Kenya where maternal mental health will be a priority.

I am vocal because I thought I would get this information from hospital after delivery, but I did not (still so much to be done on this front).

I am vocal because right now, a mom somewhere is battling with postpartum depression. Statistics show that 1 in 7 moms is at risk of PPD. To bring this closer home, think of 7 of your friends who are moms, 1 is at risk. Isn’t this sobering enough?

I am vocal because I do not want these moms to go through the harrowing experience that PPD is, and I want them to get help as soon as possible

I am vocal because PPD took away the memories of my son’s first year, and all I am left with is a hazy collection of scattered snippets of motherhood, and I miss it, and I can never recover that..

I am vocal about PPD because there is still so much awareness to create, both online and offline, to get the conversations about mental health going.

Won’t you share this article and help get started on creating awareness of Postpartum Depression in Kenya?

 

(Remember to subscribe to PPDIsland by clicking on the subscribe button to the right of this post 🙂

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This is what it feels like to have Postpartum Depression

Postpartum Depression (PPD), like other mental conditions, is difficult to capture in words. Depression has been likened to a cloud hovering above one’s head 24/7, never lifting. It has been compared to a monster that is not afraid to grip the very life out of its victims until they are gasping for breath, then letting go albeit briefly (only to return a short while after). Depression of any kind, including PPD, feels like drowning, flapping hands in the air and screaming for help, but the sounds are muffled before been sucked up in a black hole.

I have shared my journey on PPD before  (and I want to appreciate every mama who reaches out for help, courageously so. It is nothing to be ashamed of) but today, I just wanted to pen down what PPD looks like, in plain simple mama English.

It’s knowing you are supposed to love and care for your child, but you just cannot seem to get around to doing it. That’s what PPD looks like.

It is having almost no recollection of those newborn moments, because motherhood in all its glory was nothing but a hazy experience. That’s what PPD looks like.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Story

It’s struggling to catch sleep, sitting upright, right before the invasion of crazy intrusive thoughts of self-harm. That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s crying into a pillow at 3AM, wondering what the future holds for you and your baby, and then reeling into utter despair because hopelessness is such a close companion. That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s the incredible mental exhaustion of trying to stay afloat, only to plunge deeper, high on sleep-deprivation, confusion, and often self-hatred, because that’s what bad moms are like(?) Nop, because That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s looking at your baby, day after day, and wondering whether that magical bond was nothing more than a myth. It’s looking at your baby and feeling… nothing. Like life would be better without been a mom, day after day. That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s sitting there, and feeling like the worst human. Missing the old life with such zeal, unable to embrace the new life, because all the brain sees is the horrible. That’s what PPD looks like.

Read More: Good Enough Mom, Or Not.

It’s wondering to yourself, “ What is wrong with me? I always thought I would love this experience? Didn’t everyone allude to the fact that it would be bliss? Where’s the bliss when all I see are bibs and round-the-clock diapers?” That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s thinking about sharing the struggles of motherhood, but holding back because ‘they will think I am a selfish, ungrateful monster of a mom’. It’s feeling alone in the struggles. That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s waking up in the morning and wishing the sleep would be forever. It is fumbling through the day in a haze, only for night to fall and it is impossible to sleep. And when sleep finally comes, around 3am, it feels like a drunk lover just walked into bed – erratic, rude and unwelcome – Only for the cycle to repeat the next morning. That’s what PPD looks like.

It’s wondering whether this haze is actually a thing. It’s wondering whether to come forth and admit that help is much-needed. It’s the limbo between ‘I got this, I can do it’ and ‘I just want out, I am failing.’ That’s what PPD looks like.

BUT…

You are not alone. You are not a bad mom. PPD is a mental health condition that affects moms; it does not respect race, social status or age. It can affect any mom. The good news is that there’s help available for you. Do not suffer in silence. I share my experience over and over again to encourage moms, that yes, Postpartum Depression reared its ugly head, but yes, they can overcome.

(PS: If you need help, please email me on ppdisland@gmail.com or use the contact form available.)

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Postpartum Depression: My Story

Growing up as a little girl, I envisioned the Cinderella wedding, complete with bows, pink and Prince Charming. Then the babies would follow, and it would be blissful, and we would grow old and live happily thereafter. Only, that this is not what unraveled. I remember vividly the moment I found out I was expecting. A flurry of emotions that are hard to capture in words flooded every fiber of my being. I was ecstatic at the thought of bringing a little human into this world. I was scared too of what seemed like (and actually turned out to be) such a gargantuan task. Many days I was anxious of the journey ahead, and for a good reason.

Before conception, I had just started working at my new job and was so excited for the potential it showed. I had a great social life, loved traveling, hanging out with my friends, and was the typical party animal. Life at 22 was great…until I saw the two lines that changed my life forever. “No, I am not ready for this.” “How would the sudden shift change my life’s trajectory?” These thoughts plagued my mind with such relentless zeal. The struggle of whether to walk this journey or change it kept me at the same spot for days on end.

Read More: Night Terrors: Why my son kept waking up at night

I recall, with such clarity, the scary nightmares I’d get around this time. Grotesque bloody mess on my hand, unending baby cries all night and a terrifying aura that enveloped me during these moments in my sleep. I’d wake up in a huff, panting, sweaty and disoriented. Eventually, I opted to keep the baby. A threatened abortion threw me off balance in the 5th month, and in retrospect, was one of the subtle reasons I slowly gravitated towards depression (as I would later come to realize).

Save for that, my pregnancy was fluid for the most part. Towards the end of the third trimester, I lost my job, and with that, went reeling faster into a depressive state. Single parenthood beckoned, jobless and utterly clueless on how to bring a child into this world. Little did I know that financial constraints are one of the risk factors associated with Postpartum Depression (PPD). Early January of 2012, I got a healthy bouncing baby boy through normal delivery. Here’s the thing: I was certain there was going to be pain, just how much I did not know.

The trauma of labor and child delivery would leave in my mind harrowing memories which made it even harder to cope with my new status. The first two weeks were a haze of sleep deprivation, colic, yellow-mustard like diapers and a whole lot of exhaustion. This is not what I had signed up for. Where were all the perfect happiness moms were supposed to experience in the wake of their baby’s arrival? When would I experience the magic charm of motherhood? I despaired. Not only couldn’t I bond with my son, I slowly started growing resentful. I resented my son and motherhood and all of society’s norms and nuances for the same. I didn’t realize it then but I was slowly teetering on the edge of losing myself in motherhood – and along with it, my sanity.

Read More: Every June

The resentment increased three-fold before morphing into anger. This was quite unlike the ‘normal’ anger – it was fiery, it was intense and it was irrational. Anything and everything was cause for such ire. There’s a pile of laundry to be done, food to be cooked, diapers to be changed and satellite TV having issues. All these left me so angry, it scared me. My turning point came one day in my son’s 5th month. Having had an unsettled night, and struggling in the haze of another hopeless morning, I was at my most vulnerable.

The incessant crying did not help much, and the next thing I knew, I had slapped his fragile body. For a few seconds, time stood still as my mind raced to grasp the reality of what I had just done. I was undone, broken, disappointed and angry at myself for not been able to be a good mom. After this particular incident, I started toying with the idea of suicide. In my head, I kept wondering what the point of life was if I could not take care of my son and meet his emotional needs. The worst thing about these intrusive thoughts was, I wanted out, but just did not seem to muster enough strength to do it.

Over the next few days, I sought online to find out why I possibly hated my son and couldn’t bond with him. A whole new world opened up to me, providing relief and more trepidation in equal measure. There was such a thing as Postpartum Depression. Statistics show 1 in 7 moms are at risk of Postpartum depression. Was I the 1 in 7? I ingested this information with gusto, because it empowered me to know I could be better. Some of the symptoms of Postpartum Depression include anger, irritability, intrusive thoughts, appetite changes and insomnia. Reading through this was encouraging, in part because I somewhat had an idea of what I was going through.

At the time, I could not get medical help, largely because I was still jobless. And so I found myself a virtual circle of warrior moms on Postpartum Progress – moms who had been through PPD and conquered it. I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. A couple of friends stood with me during this time, offering a shoulder to lean on those difficult days. I would not be here had my family not supported me. These are the pillars that held me together.

Watch: Interview with Family Media on Postpartum Depression

In July 2015, I took to writing this blog and go public about my struggles with Postpartum Depression as an outlet. This, alongside journaling, proved very therapeutic. One year later, I finally did manage to get therapy that was immensely helpful. Looking back at my journey, and how difficult it was for both of us, I made up my mind to create awareness of Postpartum Depression. Most moms are suffering like I did, in silence, not sure whether their struggles are ‘valid’.

Through my online awareness campaign, I would love to have everyone know that PPD is a mental health disorder like any other, and for which there is help available. That they are not alone in the quest for normalcy as they adjust to the changes, and above all, that they matter. One of the most fulfilling things is having moms reach out for help without feeling stigmatized, and been able to direct them to professionals for medical assistance. I am hopeful for a country where there is less stigma surrounding mental health disorders. We can change this narrative, one post, one tweet, one conversation at a time.

This post first appeared on Standard’s uReport platform here.

Onwards

Just one year ago I started this blog as a space to express myself, to share my experience and ultimately to help a mom who may be suffering from Postpartum Depression (PPD). In just one year, it has grown to be a great space, both for me and for the moms I get to interact with on here as well as on my social pages. I see growth on here, I see strides made forward, and while there is still so much groundwork to cover in terms of awareness, I am hopeful that we can change this narrative, one story, one tweet, one post at a time.

Looking back and seeing how far we have come, and are still going had me in introspection mode. Then, chatting a friend recently, he asked me whether I was scared of getting PPD second time around. I paused, I sipped my tea and let that thought sink in. Scary? Yes of course, for the simple reason that if one has had PPD, they are at risk of getting it after subsequent births. At risk – that is the key word. This is not a guarantee that one will sink into depression, but certainly warrants a thought.

Read More: To Those I Hurt

Barring the circumstances that surrounded the birth of my son, I am hopeful actually, that I shall not battle the demons of PPD with baby #2. Let me make it clear, however, that a lot of work goes into this progress. Knowing some of the risk factors associated with PPD, and working to eliminate them is a good place to start. Putting deliberate effort in the following goes a long way in reducing the risk of PPD –  a planned pregnancy, getting a baby whilst financially stable as well as surrounding myself with positive support systems are some of the things I would do differently.

Secondly, I am hopeful and excited l that the coping skills I learnt during my therapy sessions will come in handy. This is a constant work in progress. There are some tough days when I question whether I am slowly sliding to those dark days, then I remind myself that the aim of therapy was not to make me a perfect mom, but to help me be the best version of myself.

Read  More: Takeaway lessons from therapy session II

I would also like to add that the growth in my spiritual walk has made a huge difference. Knowing that, even while I couldn’t see it, God was working behind the scenes so I could be in a position to help moms struggling to cope with motherhood and PPD. Meditation, prayer and Bible Study are some of the things in my coping toolbox. Ultimately, PPD has stretched me a whole lot. I like to think I am a better person and mom than I was before therapy kicked off.

PS:  Do click on the ‘Follow’ button to the right of this post 🙂  Do not be afraid to drop by in the comment section below as well and let me know your thoughts. If you need help, or someone to talk to, drop me a line at ppdisland@gmail.com