a silver lining peeking through a storm cloud

Navigating PPD With the Help of Medicine and Therapy

We decided to embrace the chaos as a family and our second child was born. He had some breathing problems and had to be admitted to the NICU. Not leaving the hospital with my child is, to this day, the saddest day of my life.

He was there for only 10 days, but the stress, angst, and sadness, added up quickly. Since I hadn't done anything about my postpartum depression symptoms with my first son, not realizing exactly what I was feeling, this time I had to try something different to cope. After having postpartum preeclampsia with my first baby, I was being closely followed by my OB. Instead of going in at 6 weeks postpartum I went at 1 week to get my blood pressure checked.

Making a postpartum treatment plan with my doctor

I am thankful for my relationship with my OB because I felt comfortable talking about how I was feeling. We talked through my symptoms and came up with a treatment plan.

I was really afraid of taking medication because I didn't want to become a zombie with zero emotions – pure ignorance on my part but maybe a little pride, too. The plan was for me to begin taking medication for about 3 months and also schedule virtual therapy with a mental health counselor and then follow up with my OB or be referred out.

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I began to take the medicine, 50mg of sertraline (generic Zoloft) once a day. I didn't schedule therapy with a counselor because how could I make the time to also go to therapy with 2 kids?

Starting on medication for postpartum depression

The first couple of weeks, I didn't notice much of a difference. It was probably around the third week that I finally began to feel more like myself. The medicine didn't make me a zombie, but rather, it created a windshield to the outside world. The everyday mental load didn’t go away, there was just a protective shield where things would bounce off and then I could better handle what came my way.

I was excited and relieved that there was something that worked for me. All I had to do was take a pill a day and I would feel like I could handle the world. Not take it over, but at least handle it. I know this isn't always the case, and sometimes people have to work with their doctor to try different medications and dosages to find what works for them. I experienced a few side effects, including sleepiness during the day and insomnia at night as well as decreased libido.

Weaning off of my medication

After about 2 months of taking Sertraline, I decided it was time to stop. I had managed to get through this far with 2 kids, I was getting ready to go back to work, and I wanted to not be taking medication.

I gradually decreased my dose, with the help of my OB, and thought everything would return to normal. I didn't have a ton of side effects from getting off the medication except sporadic headaches.

Mixed feelings about meds

Being a mom doesn't exactly allow you to put yourself first. At the time, I didn’t think it was important for me to go to therapy or seek additional help in coping mechanisms on how to survive, yes survive, motherhood.

It quickly became evident that the medication was helping me, I shouldn’t have gone off it, and I needed more help. At that point, however, there was no way I was going to go back to my doctor and ask to be put back on medication. Looking back, I am not sure if it was shame of being wrong, or vulnerability in accepting that I needed to take something to feel better. Probably both.

My postpartum depression returned more intensely

My PPD took over my life. I lost my joy. I became annoyed with everyone around me. I was even tired of being with myself. It felt like there was no light at the end of the tunnel.

I questioned every decision I had made. Getting married to my husband, and having our first son, then our second. How could I be so stupid to think having another child was a good idea? Even writing this now, I feel a lot of shame and guilt for thinking that way. Even now, I am still working on giving myself some grace.

This or That

When something is bothering you, what do you tend to do?

Feeling like a failure

The next few months took a huge toll on my marriage and my relationships with my close friends and family. I had to quit my job after being there for only 3 months. It was devastating.

I was a failure on all accounts. How could I, the daughter of a badass, the "strong friend," the one that "has it all figured out" now be in this situation? I was at my breaking point.

The combination of therapy and medication

I sought out professional help and I went back on medication. The combination of both has been life changing. I have my windshield to help me manage my day to day. I have my co-pilot (my therapist) who helps me navigate life and identify mechanisms for success.

I have no plans on stopping my medication any time soon. I do one day hope to at least have the option and I will be ready when it comes.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Postpartum.Mental-Health-Community.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.