My postpartum depression came on suddenly. Most of the time I didn't feel sad, I just felt tired and empty, like a dark cloud was looming over my head. I couldn't sleep when I seriously needed to, and I had horrible headaches and body aches. Even though I didn't know I was depressed, my body tried to tell me I had postpartum depression.
Some of my symptoms seemed like "normal" postpartum experiences. Sure, I was tired all of the time, but what new mom isn't, right? When I tried to sleep I couldn't,though, and even when my baby was sleeping. Then again, all moms stare at their sleeping newborns, right? I hurt all over, but I had no idea that this wasn't just normal postpartum pain. I mean, I had just grown a human in my body. That's a pretty huge thing, so of course a little pain was normal. Wasn't it? I just couldn't bring myself to eat, and when I did I felt nauseated, but since I had been nauseated throughout my pregnancy I thought my body was taking a little bit longer to adjust to post-pregnancy life.
Then the headaches and the panic attacks started, which, for me, were periods when my heart would race and feel like my entire body was going to explode. It wasn't until I went to my 6-week postpartum visit that my midwife put all of these symptoms together and diagnosed me with postpartum depression. I wish I would have listened to what my body was telling me and called her sooner, because once I started treatment the cloud lifted and I started to feel like me again.
I Couldn't Sleep
I've had insomnia for much of my life, but nothing could prepare me for the insomnia I experienced after my babies were born. I had no idea the inability to sleep could be a sign of depression, but my midwife warned me that not getting enough sleep during the postpartum period can be dangerous and can be a cause of postpartum depression, too. She prescribed a sleep aid to help me get some much-needed rest so I could take care of myself.
I Was So Tired
During my baby's first few weeks of life I felt tired all the time, even when I did manage to get sleep. I felt lethargic, unable to motivate myself to get out of bed or off the couch, or to physically do anything even when I wanted to. It was terrible.
My Body Hurt
My body just hurt. At first they seemed like normal aches and pains associated with labor and delivery, but it got to the point where my neck and shoulders hurt every hour of every day.
I Was Anxious
Most days I felt like I should be doing something, anything, but I couldn't bring myself to get up off the couch. I was so anxious that I spent my days staring at my newborn and wondering what I had gotten myself into.
I Cried All Of The Time
While I was pregnant I did my fair share of crying, but nothing compares to the amount of crying I did after my baby was born. All day and night, until I had no tears left.
My Heart Raced
This was actually the first symptom I brought up with my midwife, because it seriously freaked me out. Because I had preeclampsia when I was pregnant, I was scared that I might die. Of course those thoughts were not helpful when I was going through a depression.
My Libido Took A Nose Dive
I had absolutely no interest in sex, and I mean none. I honesty didn't care if I ever had sex again, which for me was totally not normal. When I did have sex, it was terrible. I couldn't orgasm, and didn't want to try again for months.
I Felt Foggy & Unable To Concentrate
I Was Hungry But I Couldn't Eat
While I was hungry (breastfeeding made me ravenous), I just couldn't motivate myself to eat. Nothing sounded good and I couldn't get up off the couch. When I did eat I felt nauseated. It didn't help that as an eating disorder survivor, I had a pretty messed up relationship with food to begin with. I was actually happy when I started losing weight, not knowing that it was a sign of depression.
If you're struggling with depression and/or thoughts of suicide, you can reach the U.S. National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8255. International hotlines can be found here.