YAY! We finally got PPDKenya support group therapy underway!

This past weekend is probably the highlight of the year (so far) because it ushered in a new chapter for PPDKenya. See, I have, for the longest time, been so scared of stepping out and just starting! So guarded up, and so fearful of failure, that at one point I considered shutting down this website and deleting its social media pages. Frustration and fear will have you throwing in the towel reaaalll fast (not that this is something I have dealt with in entirety, I am still learning and unlearning). So, anyway, this past Saturday we had our very first support group therapy  meeting! I cannot put in words how exciting – and nervous- this was. It was a dream come true.

Read More: Why is a PPD support group important?

Of the seven who had confirmed, four showed up. The rest, for a number of reasons, could not make it. Which is okay really. For a start, this exceeded my expectations. PPD Kenya intends to create a safe space for moms and dads struggling with postpartum depression to express themselves and begin their recovery journey. By creating a small intimate circle, we are able to reach out to the moms and help them make a full recovery. By we, I mean PPDKenya and Royal Fountain Counselling Services (RFCS). RFCS is headed by a qualified psychologist who brings on the professional angle to the therapy groups, while as a survivor, I offer peer support for the moms and dads. Note: For a number of the participants, there is need to see a psychiatrist as there are some severe cases on board.

This was just a post to give a headsup and say thank you to each and everyone who came, and to RFCS for making this possible. I also created a Twitter thread for the same. Please check it out on our Twitter Page.

PS: We decided to hold the support group therapy meetings on alternate Saturdays as the moms felt every Saturday for the next 5 Saturdays would be too restrictive. So, our next meeting will be on Saturday 27th January 2018. Here is a rundown of the details in summary:

When: Saturday 27th January 2018
Time: 11AM to 1PM
Where: Princess Park Apartments, Kabarnet Road, off Ngong Rd
Cost: Kshs 2500 for ALL 5 sessions held on alternate Saturdays (Payable through MPESA to 0717 040090)
RSVP Required.

Email ppdisland@gmail.com or call 0733 424 361 for more details

 

 

17 things in 2017

So, *drum rolls*, 2017 is finally coming to an end, and what a year it has been. If I had to use three words to describe it:  a stretching season, heartbreaks and vulnerability. Looking back, I think this was one of those years where, had I known what curve balls life would throw, maybe I’d have skipped it altogether and re-joined  yall in 2018 (chuckles). That said, I thought to put up a post with highlights, lessons and memories from 2017 (in a nutshell), because it is always good to reflect and put some perspective to past experiences for posterity’s sake. Here are 17 things in 2017.

 

  1. I am exactly where I am meant to be, in the grandness of life, and my journey is mine alone to make. It is often easy to forget (and hard to believe in all honesty), that we are right where we are meant to be, but over the years, I realized how profoundly true this is. Every experience – the good, the bad, the ugly- moulds me to be a better human, if I allow it. So even in the thick of things, I remind myself that it is part of the journey.
  2. Family matters, family is important. Always grateful my family supported me the best way they could when I was struggling with Postpartum Depression, and even now, they are an anchor and my support system.
  3. Life is about seasons, and reasons. People will walk into your life, some for a season, and some for a lifetime. I think one of the most important (and heartbreaking things) for me this year was the realization that for some friendships, the season had ended. What started out as a beautiful friendship, had run its course through life’s issues and my friends and I had drifted apart. The visits become fewer, the calls sparse and the texts spaced out. And it is okay to know when the seasons have changed – that’s just how life is.
  4. In the same breath, it is okay to walk away from toxic relationships, places and spaces. You owe it to yourself to have peace of mind, and if something or someone doesn’t grow you, then it is only wise to walk away. Here’s the thing I realized, it takes so much courage to walk away from toxicity and to own your space. Here’s to shedding dead weight in 2018.
  5. Grief is not linear. I realized this when guka passed on in August this year, and I blogged about it here. Grief is personal, so people who’ve experienced loss will express it differently. Some wail, some cry for days on end, some lock up their emotions for days and then break down after the funeral… however one does it is really up to them (provided it is addressed, otherwise it never really goes away).
  6. Sometimes you just need to plunge and do it anyway. It’s been one year since my son and I moved from home, and what an exhilarating ride it has been. Fell in love with my not-so-new town, and making beautiful memories.
  7. Health is wealth. So many times we take good health for granted, until hospital visits remind us to be grateful. This year I learnt, if I am healthy, then I am wealthy because it means I have the capacity to chase after my dreams and goals. And when the kids are not sick, there is so much to be grateful for.
  8. Change is good. Change is scary. Change is inevitable.
  9. Journaling is such a profound tool. This year, in the midst of my storms, I have learnt to put my thoughts down in their raw and unedited form. It’s therapy, putting words on paper. It is exhaling. It is venting. It is clarity. It is the purest form of expression in my opinion.
  10. Take time to be spontaneous and adventurous. (I am giving you the side eye Tina). Sometimes, in the humdrum of daily life, it is easy to lose glimpse of our sparkle, what makes us shine, what makes us, US. Sometimes, breaking away from this monotony with a random adventure is the way to go.
  11. Love is a beautiful thing, start with the person in the mirror.
  12. Cherish the moments with family, friends and loved ones. A day will come when those will be the last moments to hold on too.
  13. Be kind, but kind does not equate a doormat.
  14. The sum experiences that make our life are inextricably linked to why we are still alive. And this is one of the highlights of my year. PPDKenya is finally starting support group therapy sessions from January 2018. More details in this post.
  15. Dream big. Write the vision down, it will not tarry. I remember way back, watching Victoria’s Lounge and thinking how awesome it would be to be on her show. Well, that did happen, and the show aired mid this year, and we are grateful for the feedback and the many moms who reached out. In all honesty, this did give the impetus to start the support group therapy. If you missed it, catch the video here.
  16. Mental health matters. Mental health illness can affect anyone, regardless of their colour, social status, educational background or religion. Mental health matters.
  17. Thankful to God for yet another year. I cannot wait to see what 2018 holds in store.

Happy New Year everyone! And thank you for reading and sharing on the blog.

Featured Image shot at Olooseos Resort

Why join a PPD support group?

A support group is an organization that brings together people who share or have gone through common disorders or life experiences such as postpartum depression (PPD), child loss, grief, addiction and anxiety among others. These people meet together to share their experiences and provide emotional support even as they go through their different challenges. As such, a PPD support group seeks to provide psychosocial and emotional support for moms struggling with this form of depression.

These groups are typically led by a mother who has gone through PPD and has made a recovery in what is known as offering peer support for affected moms. Peer support is one of the most powerful ways to reach out to moms with PPD – there is the aspect of knowing and understanding that if one mom can make it, they too can pull through. It is a lovely reminder that one is not alone, that there are others struggling with the same. This helps to banish the isolation that many moms feel. It has a positive outcome, and while it is not meant to supplant medical intervention, it is a helpful coping tool that compliments medical treatment and therapy. In some settings, a professional such as a psychologist, therapist or trained counselor may be present to walk the journey with the moms.

Support groups will vary in how they are run (depending on the members’ needs) but the groups are usually small and intimate. The groups meet on a regular basis and are guided by a set of rules such as confidentiality, how long the group runs and topics to be discussed among others. The group leader may facilitate the meetings. The end goal of a support group meeting is to offer support, reduce the isolation and generally help moms recover. Remember that support groups do not replace personal therapy sessions or medication.

NB: Watch this space for some good news… soon 🙂

 

Update: We are launching support group therapy in Nairobi. More details on this post.

 

 

Today – Taking a minute can change a life

Today, my heart is heavy. Today my heart goes out to everyone struggling with a mental health condition and suicide (thoughts/ ideation/attempts).

Today my heart aches because a number of my friends are struggling now, struggling with their minds telling them they are not worth anything. Struggling to understand why life throws such curve balls, struggling with anxiety.

Today, I feel the pain and the struggles, because I have been there. I know what it is like to feel hopeless and worthless, to be in a dark foggy phase that never seems to lift, and to flirt with the idea of ending it all.

Today, I am reminded I could have been just another statistic in the number of people who die by suicide, but I am here because someone cared to listen, someone cared enough to make a call and to make daily follow-up.

Today I am reminded of how much power there is in a listening ear, how much power there is in just being present (even with no idea how to do it). Today I am reminded that we need to go beyond ‘I am fine’ and really find out how the people in our circles are doing – particularly those who have had a history of mental illnesses.

***

September is World Suicide Prevention Month. September 10th was World Suicide Prevention Day, and this month’s theme iss ‘Taking a minute can change a life’. This post comes a tad bit late, but I thought to put it up even as September comes to an end. We may not realize it, but behind the emojis and memes online, many people are struggling with depression and a host of other mental health conditions. In many cases, these conditions if unaddressed, lead to suicide. And that is why it is important that we talk about suicide.

I have had personal struggles with suicide ideation when I suffered postpartum depression, and on several days, I wanted out, I wanted to do away with the pain of not loving my child and hating myself for it. In the midst of all these chaos, my friend, the dreadloc’d one in this post, constantly checked in to find out how I was holding up. It was a mix of chats, texts, and calls, sometimes late into the night when I found solace on a wet pillow with a nursing child on a tired boob. This year’s theme on ‘Taking a minute can change a life’ plays out in my life. All I needed to know at the time was, it mattered that despite what I felt, someone cared to listen, cared to talk to me and cared to check on me.

Statistics show that more than 2 million Kenyans are depressed [Link], that’s 2,000,000. Approximately 5% of the country’s population is struggling with depression. 7000 Kenyans will die by suicide each year [Link]. Isn’t it time we talked about mental health and suicide? Time we let others know there is no shame in struggling? Please reach out (on any of the social media platforms, or use the contact page to get in touch), do not suffer in silence. It is not weakness to ask for help, it is immense strength to realize that one cannot make it alone.

 

NOTE: I posted my struggle with suicide ideation in this post.

Secondly, inspired by Sitawa’s post and with her permission, I reposted ‘Crisis helplines in Kenya and Africa if you are feeling suicidal

 

 

 

 

 

 

Taking care of my mental health during the school holiday

School holidays are usually a mixture of emotions for me: enthusiastic because there is more time to spend with the champ, and sometimes a little anxious because the very same holidays can be a crazy catalyst for a proper breakdown. The champ has been home for just about a week, and I have made conscious effort to take care of my mental health to avoid a breakdown/ anxiety attack like the one I had over the weekend – felt utterly overwhelmed by parenting duties and just the dynamics of a relationship. Doing so much better now – thanks to the lovelies who kept checking on me; Nzanga, Pat, Nyaguthii, Glenda, Begire and the seester 🙂

If there is one thing my Postpartum depression recovery journey has taught me, it is the need to be on guard as far as my mental health is concerned. It is so easy to think, ‘ain nothing can get me down’. I am talking about those incredibly high highs that have you feeling like you can take on the world, only to come crushing so bad after a proper breakdown (anyone else experienced this? Like sometimes so  so much happiness is almost always followed by life’s rough patches?)

Read More: I struggled during the last school holidays in April

So, for that reason I set out to place measures to guard my mental health wellbeing. Here’s how I am taking care of myself this holiday season.

  • Planning

I am been intentional in scheduling my work these school holidays. See, I work online, from home. My experience means I know how crazy it gets to work when staying with a rambunctious five year old with a yuuuuuge appetite. (Sidenote: I used to think my folks had a pet peeve back in the day because they kept saying how much the food budget goes up during school holidays… Now I know how real it is! LOL, this energetic boy has like 10 meals a day, eh).

That is why planning is important. I take a few minutes each evening to plan for the next day. I noticed it is best for me to work early mornings (5.30am thereabout) in order to make some progress before the champ awakes. So far, so good – I will also mention at this point that afternoon naps are gold.

  • Taking time for ME

This is sometimes difficult seeing as the dynamics of working at home and school holidays intersect at ‘minimal time to spend alone’. But seeing how important this is for my sanity, I try to make time for ME – no internet, no Whatsapp, no kid, no TV. I spend this time either journaling or meditating. Sometimes it is not possible to do this because the child can decide sleeptime will be at 10.30pm, in which case we get to colour together.

 

  • Spending time in the outdoors

There is something about spending time in the outdoors, that is as rejuvenating as it is exciting – away from the routines, away from the four walls. There’s something about natural light in the outdoors that works for mental well-being. I learnt this when I had postpartum depression, and I’d stay indoors for days, struggling to get outside. Only getting out of bed because I had a baby to take care of/ feed/ change/ bath… otherwise I’d want to remain in bed all day. Getting outdoors awakens the senses, allows you to see the living (even when you feel dead on the inside) and is a welcome change from the dreary enclosure of four walls. Sometimes the champ and I will go for a walk, some days we will spend time watching the sunset on the balcony and yet other days we will go visit his grandparents and enjoy the calm at cucu’s place.

Read More: My selfcare routine

  • Spending time together

My son loves all things art and craft, so I try as much as possible to be engaged when he is home for the holidays. We have made threaded bottles before in this post. Yesterday we began on a paper mache product. Remember that from primary school? Yes, he was excited, especially when I mixed the flour with water to prepare the ‘glue’. I am actually enjoying it. It is messy, and it is fun, and it allows me to listen to his heart in the middle of the mache process.

Yes, that’s an inflated balloon for the paper mache process. Got the link on Pinterest 🙂

And tea. It goes without saying, tea is part of my selfcare routine 🙂

How do you take care of your mental health during the school holidays with kids ?

Guest Post – Why I Think I Died In 2016

In this post, I made a call out for guest posts by moms who wanted to share their stories on Postpartum Depression (PPD). Today’s post is by Vicki K, a phenomenal lady who I met during the Mommy Conversations, a forum held by Amira Africa (and wrote about it here). Vicki is a mom to a handsome champ, and has struggled with PPD. She is on the road to recovery, and in this candid post, she shares her journey and the isolation that comes with been depressed as a new mom.

*****

In recent times, I have come to appreciate how amazing life is. Why, you ask?  Because as I look back at my past years I know, my lowest moment in life was in 2016. If there is a year I would have fit perfectly well as an actress on the series walking dead. 2016 is the year I ask myself severally:

“Why was I so uptight for most of the year? Why couldn’t I relate with anyone during this period? Why couldn’t anyone understand me? Why did I feel so utterly alone despite been surrounded by so much love?”

All this was because I had Postpartum depression (PPD). I knew all along I was suffering from PPD, and even did a Twitter thread on the same at some point. Knowing I was depressed, however, did not solve the problem. It could not. I shut it down most of the time all by myself, waiting for it to pass.

I was waiting, waiting for anyone to notice, waiting for a sign that my life is worth it.

I was waiting to be told I matter. I thought all this would solve my PPD.

 

Unfortunately, it is not as easy as these. I guess I was looking at it the wrong way for a whole year. I need not explain what PPD is as there is a lot of information on this website (Read a basic intro in plain and simple English here, the symptoms, stages and treatment options available for moms with PPD).Depression is depressing. Your mind is at play here and whatever you do, it’s is still right there with you. It keeps lying to you, “You do not matter, and you are not worth it. You are the only mom suffering. You are a bad mom, and your child does not deserve you.” And it goes on and on, the unrelenting negative thoughts.

My walking dead experience was filled with tormenting words my brain lied to me on a daily basis. Sometimes, I would just stare at nothingness, waiting for the days to pass. When I smiled, it was rarely genuine. I don’t remember being truly happy, unless I was far from my son which was not often. I always felt like I was on lock down. It was as if society had told me “No, you are not supposed to follow your dreams, you have to take care of your child or no one else well.” It started to become a reality. My mind was playing tricks on me all the time and winning.

Read More: My Postpartum Depression Made Me Wear a Mask

The worst part of all this, was that my son always faced the wrath that came with my PPD. He did not deserve it. All he was being was an infant – messy, loud, and demanding like all other infants are. He just wanted my attention. When my triggers surfaced, he never had it easy. Shouting and abandonment were part of it. In many situations where he needed love most, I just was never there enough. Do not get me wrong, I had a supportive family and close friends and I’m eternally grateful for their presence. Whatever I wanted I could have. I did not even have to stress on food, baby clothes, feeding utensils, and even diapers. I even had a 24-hour support system. (This is for the people who tell depressed individuals, ‘ooh, you should be grateful you have a child, so many couples want a child but cannot have them’. ‘You have everything, stop being ungrateful.’, ‘You are very selfish.’-the list goes on and on. This is a reminder, it isn’t that we are not grateful, or do not know all things. We do, we are struggling).

So, why then was I depressed most of the time? I always felt like I did not deserve it all, as if it was not fair for women to bear the entire burden all by themselves. (This, in itself declared that I’m a feminist) It didn’t’ make any sense to me, why couldn’t babies just take care of themselves and be quiet? Does my life even matter? On my hardest days with PPD, I would sleep hoping to die, hoping not to wake up. I did have suicidal thoughts, but I did not have the guts. I did not care whether I was going to heaven, hell or transition into something else in my next life, even a stone. Then morning would come repeatedly.

What was my turning point in all this?

I had many turning points that have made me who I am now. At one point, I had a huge fight with my cousin all because of cockroaches. Yes, cockroaches. The memory is still vivid. This was my first ever word fight and hopefully my last. I realized later maybe I was placing too much pressure on her and I’m the one on the wrong or maybe she is just having a hard time too. Secondly, after an event I had attended in September 2016, I decided to reach out on a blog where the writer was among the panelists, when my PPD got out of control. Getting help and having someone who related to what I was going through was amazing. I followed a platform on PPD and realizing I was not alone, again, gave me comfort.

Read More: I kept my Postpartum Depression a secret

At one point, I decided to reread the Harry Potter book Series. For two months, this was my go to book. I would itch to finish one book at a time. Fascinatingly, this time round, I read it with a different viewpoint to the extent I always noticed when the characters were depressed – how ironical. When you are going through something, you tend to notice others experiencing the same situation. This is for my friends who came before 2016 and wondered why I became excessively quiet in that year.  No, I am not yet fully recovered after PPD yet but life is a journey. So, as I continue to put my trust in the One who is not done with me yet, I begin to understand, I begin to find peace even when my now son who is approaching terrific two wants to ‘eat me alive’. I now speak more positivity into my life than I did in 2016. I believe now that nothing lasts forever and God’s timing is ideal.

*****

Thank you Vicki for sharing your story. It does take courage to open about one’s struggle, but I am realizing just how much one mom’s story is a voice for the many moms who may not be able to speak out. Vicki is passionate about wildlife conservation, and you can catch up with her on her blog here

Changes

The only permanent thing in life is, change.

The first time I read this statement, I found it ironical, because changes are transient, yet the element of things changing is one of life’s permanent fixtures. The thing about change is that it upsets our norm, it gets us out of our comfort zones and projects us into the unknown. This is scary, but my friend Carol always tells me scary is good.

We are creatures of habit, who fall in love with routine and familiar places, familiar people and familiar territory. Anything that threatens to upset this balance is frowned upon, and certainly rubs us the wrong way. But, as I am realizing, there in the scare of change lies the opportunity to grow afresh. It is a chance to grow as an individual as well.

The past few weeks have been an incredible number of days, for many reasons, which I will not divulge on here, at least not now. It is a phase of transition that will upset our normal routine, for the better, thankfully. I am scared, I am uncertain, I am unsure – but what I know is that this is an answered prayer.

Read More: I remember

Looking back and realizing, depression, Postpartum depression included, takes away the ability to see life in all its fullness. It makes us doubt who we really are, how dare you dream that big? How dare you believe you deserve *that*? Who are you to ask as much of life? So what do we do, we stay masked, hidden behind a façade of IG posts and flowery FB updates while struggling to come to terms. It is dawning on me that, actually, who am I not to ask so much of life? Who am I not to dream big? Who am I not to be all that?

And so, in this, I am swimming with the waves of change, not against them, taking every ebb and flow in stride, because change is scary, but change is also good. I am incredibly grateful for the support system I have had in the past couple of days, the amazing friends who kept in touch and checked up on how we are holding up after that depressive episode, and to W for been an amazing pillar in our lives lately.

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My self-care toolbox

These past few weeks have been, hard. Not as hard as the days when I had postpartum depression, but they were a challenge, which I blogged about here and here. I have been processing the events of those days, admitting I am struggling with parenting, and just slowly getting out of that fog. This week, we have been good, and we have been coping. We have been squeezing in the laughter and letting go of the doubts (as to whether I am doing parenting right). We have danced, and we have delighted in these moments. We have colored and we have cooked.

And all these made me take a step back to process everything and actually define the tools in my self-care toolbox. Practical pointers, a toolbox contains different tools that will help keep your house stable. And so it is with a self-care toolbox – its essence is to keep you together, keep you grounded when everything feels like a whirlwind and ultimately to help focus on the issues at hand. I realized that these tools helped prevent me from  very ‘high highs’ and from ‘soul-crushing, mind-numbing lows’.

  1. Physical tools

Physical tools, just like the name suggests, are tools that involve some physical activity of sorts. In my toolbox, morning runs rank first. There is something about a 5:45am run that does good for my soul, long before the whole world is awake, blaring horns, loud noises and all, there is a tranquillity that envelopes a runner’s mind, and that absolutely helps me put things in perspective.

If, for whatever reason I cannot hack a morning run, evening walks are my next favorite tool. Sometimes, sitting and watching the sun set does morethan make for a scenic view from my balcony. In addition to all these ‘natural’ elements, I also love to journal. Journaling means pouring out all my thoughts on paper, whether they are coherent or not – especially those that are not coherent. It is a wonderful way to decompress and for posterity’s sake, an amazing way to look back.

Read More: This is what Postpartum Depression Feels Like

  1. Relational tools

When the mental fog strikes, one of the things that I have found to be really helpful is getting on phone and sharing with a close friend on the issues at hand and my zigzagged thoughts. Granted, they may not help me in that particular situation, but listening does more than enough to make lighter my soul’s burdens. Sometimes, calls just don’t cut it because it is a tear-fest, and texts become my go-to tool. Other times, when parenting is not at the crux of my struggles, I love to bond with my son, watch his favourite animation movies together, make some art or just sit and listen to his boundless imagination in his stories.

  1. Foodie tools

This is a little tricky to include here, because food can be a destructive coping mechanism (read unhealthy eating habits, adding weight and of course the health conditions that come as a result thereof). But I realized, what works for me in my toolbox is whipping up a meal that will actually take some effort (like that pineapple marinated Teriyaki chicken from Kaluhi’s Kitchen) and  time. There is something about putting ingredients together to make a not-so everyday meal that helps re-channel my thoughts to a better place.

Read More: We are now 5!!

Lately, I have been working on reducing my daily carbohydrate intake, spurred by the realization that I have carbohydrates at just about every meal of the day – think, sandwiches for breakfast, rice for lunch, chapatti for dinner, not forgetting those mandazis at tea time and biscuits bought just before heading home from errands… you get the picture. Then add the fact that these carbs are mostly refined carbs and it is easy to see why there’s need to eat consciously. I am going with oats *milk *cinnamon * peanut butter for a protein fix at breakfast to see how that goes. Thinking I will work through this bit by bit. I have a feeling if I just say no more refined carbs all at once, it will only intensify the mad cravings for the same. Let’s see how this goes.

That’s what is in my self-care toolbox. What’s in yours?

 

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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.

Image Credits

Antenatal depression and what you need to know

I was talking to a friend recently, and they mentioned something that gave me the idea to pen this post. She asked, paraphrased,

“Looking back, were you able to tell anything was amiss [when you were pregnant]?”

My thoughts ran back to 2011. All of 2011, for the most part, was a blur – Pregnant, single and very confused. Looking back, now I see the red flags I missed. The constant tearing  (I remember walking downtown and just crying, not the pretty crying – I am talking bloodshot eyes, mucus and lots of tissue-), the sleepless nights I would lay awake wondering what this baby was going to eat (this baby who is now all of 5 years going 15), the drastic mood shifts and everything in between.

Little did I know that these were the early warning signs I was at risk of depression. Then I lost my job in the third trimester and everything just seemingly reeled out of control in my world. The thoughts of been unable to cater for baby’s needs were the catalyst for the Postpartum depression I suffered after his birth. In retrospect, there were all the signs that not everything was fine, but I remember thinking, ‘ah, it shall pass. Maybe it’s the hormones…’

Read More: 8 things to know when you visit a new mom

Today, I would love to share on antenatal depression. Why? Because it is often the precursor to Postpartum depression (PPD). Antenatal depression, just as the name suggests, is depression that occurs during pregnancy. While this is not perhaps as well known as PPD, it still is prevalent. According to PANDAS UK, around 1 in 10 moms will be depressed during their pregnancy. This is a sobering fact because 1 in 7 moms are at risk of PPD.

The causes of antenatal depression are broadly categorized into three: social, emotional and physical causes. Socially, some of the causes include lack of a support framework during pregnancy, an absent partner and generally, the stigma associated with depression. Given that the older generation typically may not have been aware of the different mental illnesses, it is easy to see why all these factors predispose a mom to antenatal depression.

Emotionally, the thought of bringing new life is often overwhelming, whether it is the first child or the fourth one. Add to this the fact that moms who voice their concerns are often told that the drastic mood swings are as a result of hormonal changes (what I thought at the time), and there’s not much that can be done about it.

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The physical changes that come with pregnancy may predispose some moms to antenatal depression. The drastic changes include engorged breasts, extreme fatigue especially in the last trimester, swollen legs, bladder distress and heartburn among others, place a lot of stress on the body. Getting through the day sometimes get so so exhausting. It is little surprise therefore, that some women fall into antenatal depression.

With these in mind, it is important to look out for the symptoms of antenatal depression. These symptoms are eerily similar to those of PPD. The only difference is the onset that marks each of the perinatal mood disorders.

Symptoms of antenatal depression

  • Guilty feelings
  • Endless bouts of crying (as was my case)
  • Withdrawing from social circles, that is a mom-to-be is no longer interested in been around the people who mean the world to her. This is often accompanied by loss of interest in activities/hobbies they previously enjoyed.
  • A crippling fear of what the future holds, whether one will be able to care for the baby well.
  • Low energy levels
  • Appetite changes (one is either eating too much or too little)
  • Thoughts of self-harm
  • Fearing to speak out and ask for help
  • Recurrent sleepless nights for some moms

Left unchecked, antenatal depression affects the mom after birth and they go on to suffer from PPD. Therapy is a common method of treatment for moms with antenatal depression. If you have any concerns as a mom-to-be, remember there is no shame in reaching out for help. You are better off wrong (meaning you do not have antenatal depression) than fail to ask for help and suffer under the haze of this form of depression.