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More than the baby blues?

I try hard to be what I call a Dalai Mama, appreciating my kids every day, showing patience when needed (always!), being present with them, you get the picture.  Of course this little trick is not foolproof, and sometimes I am less than patient, frustrated (imagine!), even annoyed, and maybe even want to run screaming down the driveway.  Last week I truly walked into the coat closet and shut the door.  And I tell myself that these feelings are pretty standard across parents, that I'm not alone in my frustrations and failings (uMs have confessed our failings before, too).  And I think  - as much as I can know - that I'm right.  But sometimes there's more to the frustration and desire to close that closet door than just the daily joys of parenting.  A friend recently wondered:

Something has not been right with me for months. I've been feeling mentally exhausted, I'm irritable and short tempered with my family, and have just become gradually more and more disinterested in my life.  I constantly have these fantasies about running away from it all.  And while I wouldn't (run away from it all), I am getting tired of having these negative feelings.  I'm not sure if I'm actually depressed or not, having not taken the step to speak with a professional, but I am curious about the experiences that others have had with anti-depressants.  Why did you start taking them and how have they worked? How long have you taken them and are you glad you did?  How did your feelings and emotions shift?  Where there any negative side effects?   

We've talked about post-partum depression before, but what about this post-post partum depression (not to be confused with clinical depression or serious mental illness).  In this case it seems like less than that, but perhaps more than the common frustrations of parenting small children.  Got any advice for this mama?


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I could have written this post as well. Irritability and getting fed up quickly with family members have been a real problem for me too.

With the guidance of a therapist and a psychiatric nurse, I tried a few anti-depressants, but felt the side effects (insomnia, interferred with sex life, feeling disconnected) were more costly than the original symptoms I was having. (But for many people though, SSRIs can be life-changing in a very positive way, so that may be a good area to explore!)

For the time being, I am continuing therapy, and trying a mix of diet changes, vitamins, exercise and taking more care of myself (more sleep, alone time, etc.

Also, have you had your thyroid checked recently and/or your hormone levels? That is an area you may want to explore. Talking to a therapist might be a really good place to start. Best to you...

I'm a mental health person, so I can approach this like a mama and from my professional world. Since having my babes, I feel like my emotions have been more intense than any other time in my life. It's amazing, and really tough sometimes. Like the first commenter mentions, anti-depressants aren't the only treatment intervention for depression, post-partum or otherwise. But, the physiological changes related to pregnancy, post-partum, breast feeding (if you are), etc. can have a huge impact on your overall chemistry. A course on them may very well be a good thing for you, and not at all something you have to do forever. Besides a physiological change in your body, parenting can also awaken (reawaken?) all kinds of past emotional issues which are in your face 24/7 now. The emotional roller coaster of parenting is absolutely normal, but there really are times when it goes beyond just the routine emotions of being a mama. If you think you've reached this point, then you probably do need to find some help, even if it's just to get a professional opinion of what's going on and to rule out any kind of physical contributions. Depression and post-partum mood problems are absolutely treatable and no one should have to live with them. Consider contacting the Baby Blues folks, your primary care doctor, or whoever you saw for prenatal care. They'll talk about options with you and point you in the direction that's right for you.

I'm been taking Zoloft since my daughter was... 2 months old? She's 10 months now.

It started working immediately, and I feel like it saved me - made me able to see the bright side again and gave me just enough positive energy to cope and see the good side of things. To enjoy my toddler again instead of just being annoyed with her. And I stopped having feelings of wanting to hurt my children when I was overwhelmed. However, I haven't been interested in sex since then. In my case, that has been a good thing, but obviously some husbands would not be thrilled about that!

Ditto on the Zoloft and I'm grateful. My son was six months old when I realized I was deeply depressed. Was walking the dog when I caught myself thinking idly about how I might go about committing suicide. It freaked me out! I tried desperately to find a therapist but when I couldn't, called my O.B. They whisked me in for an appointment, gave me scrip for Zoloft and I've been taking it ever since. I'm on a pretty low dose, but it makes all the difference for me and I don't find it messes with my sex drive nor do I notice any other side effects. I can completely understand why people would be hesitant to take SSRI's but for me they work.

i would recommend taking a look at this book called "the mood cure" by julia ross. she's a nutitional therapist down in sf and since i started taking amino acids it has really helped my mood. it has also helped a few other friends in the same situation.

I could have submitted this question. I've been going through the exact same thing recently. I went to my physician, who had a long talk with me about my options - meds, blood tests, talk therapy. For now I'm starting a nutrition regimen and trying to get some SUN - vitamin D deficiency is super common here (and sunscreen blocks the vit D rays!!). I have taken effexor in the past, which messed with sex life and had horrible withdrawal effects (in my case, terribly vertigo). If I go the meds route, I'll try something new, under very close supervision from my doc. I've had an awful reaction to the Prozac family (Lexapro included) - if you do choose meds, be sure you have the close support and observation of family and a doctor, just in case. BUT don't let this discourage you! They can work wonders. As my doc described it - it's like the insurmountable obstacles become small walls that you suddenly see a path around.

Motherhood is so hard. So is a long stretch of Portland winter. Be good to yourself!

I can't speak for the meds. I wouldn't say I've been depressed but I was very overwhelmed and not coping well last year. I had great luck once I started taking Cod Liver Oil and a couple other supplements. I saw a naturopath, nutritionist (free at New Seasons!), had acupunture, massage and started doing regular yoga again. I had no choice. I work outside the home so I'm very short on time. We do not have any extra money and most of the things that helped me the most cost money. That said, something HAD to change so I just started taking time to do things for myself. I think my husband had finally realized that the saying is true "if mama isn't happy ..." so he tried to be supportive. After seeing how much better I am, he's now much more supportive of helping me squeeze some time away to do what I need to do. Now when I start to feel overwhelmed again I'm more careful to take time for ME before it gets bad again. It might be exercise, a nap, a haircut, a class, a book. I kept up with the yoga and do a massage every few months when we can kinda' afford it. It's in my nature to put everyone else first but I was seriously worried that I was going to end up in some sort of hospital if I didn't change. If I don't care of myself I am unable to take care of my family! I also see that it's good for my children to see me having outside interests. I hope it's this simple for you or that you find an equally effective solution. Best wishes to you.

I had some serious ppd after both of my children. I was already seeing a therapist, but together we decided my depression and the feeling of being totally overwhelmed was worth the med route. Before the Lexapro I would find myself on the floor crying because a glass had broken and I just couldn't handle it, I had a hard time finding the energy to go out and do anything more than grocery shop, my marriage was flailing and I was lost. Truly, my real personality was lost somewhere inside me. I started the meds and within a week I woke up one morning and I was back. Literally, I felt like me again. I had energy, I could enjoy my kids and my marriage started getting better because I was getting back to myself. I do think my sex drive was affected, but is it the meds or the 2 young kids running my life? Who's to say. And now, almost a year later on the meds the sex is back and more importantly, my marriage is thriving.

Bottom line: get some help. When I was in the depth of my blues, there was no way I could have even considered researching diet, exercise or supplements. I was too withdrawn and didn't have an ounce of energy to spare. On the meds I found myself wanting to exercise, wanting to eat healthier, etc. It all got easier.

Make a call to Baby Blues, your OB or midwife and get yourself back!! Good luck!

i have so, so been there, mama. while it wasn't necessarily a surprise to me - -i was almost expecting it, having had mood disorder issues in the past before pregnancy -- i have definitely struggled with this, well past the standard "postpartum" timeframe. it's a tricky knot to untangle, trying to figure out how much of it is biochemical and how much is the sheer stress and burnout of parenting small children. there seems to be a fair to decent amount of community resources and support for early postpartum issues, but not so much for the toddler age. i found there was a definite hormonal shift once i stopped nursing/period returned -- lots of anger and irritability.

at any rate, i heartily recommend all the suggestions the other mamas here have mentioned. SSRIs can be a godsend, as well as alternative approaches -- higher protein diet, amino acids, supplementation with B vitamins and D (i had levels tested and was told i was critically low in those). i want to add too that it doesn't have to be an either/or approach -- under physician/psychologist supervision i am utilizing all of the above together for maximum benefit.

hope this helps, and hang in there! i would love to see some sort of "mood disorder mama" support group coalesce -- these issues are really tough to struggle with while parenting!

I've been taking St. John's Wort since my depression got really bad about six months after my daughter was born. The thing I found in research is that you have to take it regularly, in a high enough dose, and that it takes a couple of weeks to take effect. It's impossible to say for certain that it has helped, but I do have the ability to be happy again and take joy in spending time with my family. I haven't noticed any side effects and it's relatively inexpensive, so it might be worth getting started until you can figure out a more comprehensive approach.

Talk therapy has proven to be the most helpful, but I would assume it's a time and money issue for most mothers as it is for me. If you are interested in a referral, I couldn't more highly recommend Wendy Newhouse Davis, PhD 503-246-0941. Along with being very kind and supportive, she also emphasized making progress which can sometimes be lacking in therapy.

Best of luck!

dear mama friends,

always good to reach out and find (even though your logical brain has already told you) we ARE NOT alone! man it's hard this mama gig! and it's such a complex soup of hard, isnt it? it's the lack of sleep (due to whatever - are they sleeping? are they awake? coughing? why did i say that? why was s/he crying about that? what does that mean? my back/neck/arm/etc hurts! i have to remember this this this this and this tomorrow... and more!), it's the constantly being on and aware and responsible, it's the hormone changes, the diet changes (for those fussy nursing babies who cant have _____), and so much more, eh?! who wouldnt be depressed?!

so mamas, i am the one who posted a while back about the ppd and i can tell you that things ARE better after getting help. here is what i did:

* contacted the wendy who is mentioned above and yes, she IS wonderful and understanding and supportive of all mamas. she just wants us healthy and whole and listens and suggests. wonderful.

* did a very thorough urine sample test (it was collected over 24 hours!) as directed by my naturopath. after the results came back, we discovered my body was not processing things properly. nor was i holding on to different minerals/acids my body needs. this seemed obvious but let me tell you, it was such a relief to discover that my attitude wasnt behavioral; it was chemical.

* that means lots of supplements. i am doing what is called "amino acid therapy" which for me is GABA and SAM-e. i am also taking folic acid, a vitamin b complex, a daily vitamin, magnesium, taurine, digestive enzymes, and fish oil (i also chose cod liver) the sun also helps (gotta have that vitamin d) but 20 minutes max is all i do and then i get back to the shade. if i HAVE to be in the sun, then i use sunblock to keep from burning. but the d is essential. and i have also cut back on some things (after running out i have experimented) and have found i dont need certain pills anymore. but definitely the mood stabilizers. i will keep those for a while for sure.

* made a deal with my support to have some serious alone time. 2 hours each day minimum. this is what i need to feel normal and let all those thoughts sink in... so i can process and deal with things. it is in this time that i do whatever i need to do for me - exercise (long walks, gardening), errands, reading, whatever. but it is mainly ALONE. and if the children are present, it is known that i am NOT responsible. this makes a huge difference. everybody needs a break. oh, and earplugs work wonders!

* more sleep. in the seriously trying times, napping is key. if it's possible, do it. we all know this but it is hard sometimes. especially when there's more than one child. but i beseech you: sleep!

these are some of the things that have worked for me. i hope you can get some help, mama(s). i still have rough days but it is simply hard. wish i had a coat closet!

and thank you for posting this so that you can get some help. this will help so many many other people so thank you for that too.

blessings on you ~

I am so there with you... or was rather.. get your progesterone levels checked. My hormones were out of whack and my progesterone was low. Now I take prometrium, a natural hormone. Many natropaths test for this... It really stabilized my moods, helped with the short temper, helped get my sex drive back, lost a bit of weight. Just really settled me down..

I've definitely been there before and go back there often. I contemplated the anti depresants and all other forms of betterment. I did go to a therapist for a while, and then I asked my OB for some ideas...something to try before resorting to major depression medication. Having have two babies 17 month apart, I figured it had to be hormone related. From her (my OB's) advice I have been taking fish oil, vitamin B - complex I think, and primrose oil (all in capsuls) and although there are days when I feel like I'm taking way way too many vitamins all at once, I do know that they help, for sure. On the occasional day that I miss my vitamins or take them only once instead of the reuglar twice a day, I find myself back in fuzzy brained mean mom mode. I highlyrecomend these vitamins, or asking you OB, natrapath, Dr for some kind of natural suppliment that might help with hormons/ moods/ depression. It's well worth it to figure it out and if it means taking the heavy duty stuff, I think you would be happy with the results...I am!
Speaking out about it and hearing from a community or talking to a mental health professional helps too.
Good Luck!

Have a complete thyroid panel done ASAP, not just a TSH, but the full panel, before starting any mind-altering drugs. Low thyroid is often labeled as PPD, and is a heck of a lot easier and cheaper to treat!
Take it from me, my thyroid crashed hard with my first daughter and I really thought I was clinically depressed. And good luck.

I'm on Zoloft but only have been on it for about a month. It works. It took about 4 days for it to start kicking in. It was such a RELIEF! I feel normal again. I don't have ANY negative side effects.
Remember, if you try it and don't like it - you can always quit.

If you are in a really bad place, take the easiest route to get you out of it. Whether it be exercise, meds, vitamins, whatever - please do what is easiest for you that will bring relief. You can always wean yourself off meds if you find your thyroid is out of whack, your body isn't processing minerals correctly, or you want to try an alternative approach.

I agree with Rhonda about the full thyroid panel. I'd had my thyroid checked during my pregnancy and after, and neither practitioner found anything wrong. Then a different practitioner did the full panel and that's when I learned that I have a thyroid disease in addition to my mood disorder.

Also, based on my personal experience, keep in mind that if Zoloft (if that is what you are taking) works RIGHT away, then there may be something else going on. Generally, these meds take a week or two to do their job. I learned over a year later that I have an uncommon and mild form of bipolar called Cyclothymia, which is commonly misdiagnosed as recurring depressive disorder. So now I take a low dose of Abilify and a low dose of Zoloft, in addition to my thyroid hormone. I feel like a normal grounded person for the first time in my life. I'm a better mother, a warmer wife, and I finally have confidence that I can fulfill my goals.

Thank you to URBANMAMAS b/c usually this topic is on the list of things that people just don't usually talk about--the reasons are many and I'm sure we could all list them, but it's not right and we should talk about it--and thanks to you for bringing it up!
I wrote about 2 months ago about this and got the extra strength to consider an antidepressant. I was already seeing a therapist who thought I was depressed but I was just going to push through and 'why couldn't I just handle this?' Well, I couldn't and now that I know that IT'S OK to admit it, I am doing about 70% better (about 1 1/2 months on Zoloft). I felt a little odd--spacey--for about 2 weeks, but I was already "mommy-brain" spacey! Other than that, at this point I feel like my fuse is much longer, I can handle the numerous tasks at hand and I actually got interested in being intimate again!
I got started by calling my OB (b/c my therapist said it was connected to ppd) and she called and talked to me for 30 minutes--pros/cons, etc. I had just completely weaned, so I think that piece made it easier for me, though Zoloft is supposed to be best for breast feeding moms.
Reality: we can do lots as moms, but last I checked I still don't have a superhero's outfit in my closest. If you think it will help and your healthcare providers think you're a candidate, then try it. You can always stop!
Exercise, time alone, accomplishing things outside of your "mom" "work" and "wife" roles (I slowly made a quilt in the evenings and that accomplishment was very beneficial), yoga, diet--it will all help, but if you're feeling at all the way I was it wasn't enough, and I'm not even a pill taker.
Reality is reality and your mental health is very important! As a fellow mom you have my support to make whatever decision you make...there are dozens of us, no matter what you chose to do, that chose that path, too!
One day at a time! Good luck! You are stronger than you think and you will find "normal" again!

Hi all,
I was reading everyone's comments on this topic and I think you do whatever it is you think is necessary to get yourself better (healthy). Your child/children need you and your support and if you can't give them all of you you're not being the best parent that you can be (in my opinion). After I had my first baby (and only one to date) I came down with baby blues big time. It happened after the first week of being home with my new baby. I cried alot.....I felt overwhelemed and thought , how could I have gotten myself into this, why did I think starting a family would complete me. I wanted to go back in time and change it all. But then when I looked down at my precious boy who needed me I felt like a terrible mother. My emotions were always up and down.....just when I thought I was getting better I would break down again. I felt as though I would never aver be the same (mentally) and it scared me. I felt alone, even though I had people in my life who wanted to help. I have always been a really structured person. Having a newborn made me feel out of control because there was no structure or routine so to speak. I think my personality couldn't handle it. I would get so anxious at times and have such horrible panic attacks I felt like dying. I couldn't sleep and I couldn't eat, all this and trying to take care of a baby was next to impossible. I decided one morning that I couldn't go on feeling this way anymore, something needed to be done asap. I called my OB and my Primary Care....they suggested hormone level testing and a thyroid test. I was praying that one of things were my problem because then all this would make sense. But unfortunately it was neither. I felt alone again and thought that no one would be able to help me. Where I come from there aren't alot of resources for people with PPD or Baby Blues so I didn't have support groups to go to. I thought that a support group would really be my answer....all I ever wanted was someone to talk to about what was goign on. I started to see a psychotherapist which helped me dramatically. I would go to her office and just cry, talk about everything and anything I was feeling. I saw her once a week. Talk threapy really does help. I decided against meds although I struggled with the idea of that for the first month. I knew deep down inside that I could get through this wihtout meds but that doesn't mean for one second that I don't believe in them.
It took me 3 months to finally snap out of it. It wasn't easy and it's been a long road. I went back to work which also has helped me tremendously. I think being back in a working environment and getting some alone time without the baby has really helped. Also, when my little boy started sleeping through the night that was a godsend. Finally the routine I strive for is back.
I wish you all luck and hope everyday gets better. Your little ones need you and they won't be little for long, time goes by so fast!

I'm not the first person to write this, but anyone feeling down after the birth of a baby should call Baby Blues Connection: it's totally free, it's confidential, and it's an amazing resource. You can talk to other moms who experienced what you're going through and came out on the other side, happy and healthy. You can get support over the phone or go to one of the mom-to-mom support groups. Call 503-797-2843, leave a message, and your call will be returned.

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