Guest blogger Lee shares her experiences with us… I have struggled with depression for most of my life and with postpartum depression since having my daughter. I never thought I would have to differentiate between the two because depression is depression, right?
“So very wrong. I would’ve sworn up and down that depression and PPD had to be the same before I gave birth, but they are most certainly different. “
I started Bella Inspired Grace in May 2018. I’m a 38 year old mom with a 19 month old. I work full time and try to fit in blogging between working, moving, being a wife, and being a mommy. My blog focuses on my struggle with depression and PPD, journaling to work through it, positivity, and planning/planners. Oh and my name is Lee Cowan.
Slap on top of that a pretty extreme perfectionist, a type A personality, and being extraordinarily hard on yourself and the result is a lot of self-induced anxiety combined with severe negative self-talk. Part of the “why” I am this way is part just my personality, part my upbringing, and part my DNA.
I don’t think the nature versus nurture battle will ever have a clear winner – you are a combination of your experience as well as your genes. On the gene side, bipolar and mania run in my family. Although I am not either, there’s definitely a history of depression lurking about. On the upbringing side, my mother is the most on top of things, put together woman I know. My best friend and I have joked for years that when we grow up we want to be as put together as my mom. The trouble is I am technically a grown up. I’ve been out of high school for 20 years, out of college for 16 years, am married, and have a child. I should be put together by now, but I am not. (Note the negative self talk already; yeah, it’s really hard for me to give myself any kind of kind word (just ask @joansenio1)).
“I finally figured out in college that medicine really does help. Sometimes, your brain just doesn’t work naturally on the happy wave length and you need some additional assistance. “
To be fair, I have fought against this belief and tried to do without meds on multiple occasions. The result was not pretty. My brain chemistry just needs something to work more normally. Obviously, you need to talk to a doctor to sort this out and it definitely takes trial and error to find the right medicine and/or combo of medicines.
My blog is an attempt to work through or around the perfectionist and type A tendencies. It is by no means perfect. That being said, I spent over 2 months trying different platforms, creating and recreating the blog 5 different times on 5 different platforms that all generally looked similar, all in the attempt to create what I envisioned as my perfect blog. I write about this in my Type A and Perfectionism post. My obsession with planners, planning, and bullet journaling is also symptomatic of this whole type A/perfect thing I have going on. The problem is I really want to be super creative, crafty, and artistic. The reality is I am not very good at drawing, painting, and most artistic endeavors. I do, however, keep trying. I’ve also found that I can do other things like lettering, tracing, and creating fun bullet journal spreads. I can also print other peoples’ printables!
Journaling has been another primary coping mechanism. The act of writing out whatever you are feeling, experiencing, going through really does seem to lose some of its hold over you when you put it down on paper and out into the universe. I’ve journaled since I learned how to write. The funniest thing is every time I move I find all of these journals that have been squirreled away. As I mentioned, we recently moved and so I found a bunch of them again. Rereading them is at times heart-breaking, at times hilarious, and at times makes me wonder what the hell was going on in my head at 14, 15, 16, 20. I’m feel certain I’ll feel the same way in another 20 years about my musings now.
Reading to escape into another world has also been a long-time coping mechanism. Being able to enter into someone else’s head, feel someone else’s feelings, and see things from a different perspective has always helped ease the pain of the current moment. Not to mention, I simply love to read. The same can be said for writing as well. I normally am listening to 1 book and reading 3 others.
All of these coping mechanisms, however, failed me when faced with postpartum depression.
“It was such a different beast from the my “normal” depression. It was crying at any time for no particular reason and for hours on end”
I once cried for 12 hours straight. I didn’t even know the human body was capable of creating that many tears. Can you imagine the horror my husband had to endure in watching me that day? It was layered with such an intense sense of guilt and shame.
“I felt guilt about not being a good mom, not being a good wife, not being perfect enough, not doing enough, not holding the baby enough. There were so many not enoughs spinning through my head I couldn’t keep up.”
I kept telling my General Practioner about it and she kept increasing the dosage of Effexor and added Wellbutrin. I was taking the highest doses possible and it was not helping.
At my brother’s 60th birthday, I spent most of the time rocking my child, crying in the bathroom instead of celebrating. I had also forgotten my meds…I didn’t know about the extreme withdrawl symptons from Effexor, but I started to see double and some what lose my balance as well. Very weird and I do not recommend.
At that point, I knew I had to really see someone like a shrink and a therapist. Going to those 2 women saved my life. I finally got my meds straightened out and switched to Wellbutrin and Zoloft. Apparently, Effexor is not very effective with PPD. I also was able to vent to my therapist and discover how much of a mask of perfection I am constantly trying to control and wear. I have such a need for control in my life that it pretty much takes over and goes into overdrive if I am feeling not in control. One cannot obviously control everything in one’s life so this is when all of the self-induced anxiety really went full throttle.
“If the house wasn’t tidy, I would spend hours walking around picking things up, trying to organize, and not really accomplishing much of anything which would then continue the cycle.”
I learned a lot about grounding, meditation, and self care as a way to work through the PPD. Grounding did not for work me (the practice of actually touching the ground and really feeling it). Meditation helped some but I always felt like I wasn’t doing it properly. Self-care (to be fair, I kind of hate this word and feel like it’s a weird term) was actually something I had been practicing without knowing it. All of those morning journaling 3 pages a day – this is self care. All of that reading – that is also self care. Taking a bath can also be self care. It’s basically anything, you do simply for yourself and only yourself.
“For anyone going through depression and/or PPD, the first thing I would recommend is talking to a therapist and/or a psychiatrist.”
I had a lot of bad experiences with them in my 20s, but if you find good ones, they can change your life. I would also recommend finding what you love to do and do it often. A busy mind is much harder to feel down that a bored or lazy mind. If you’ve checked out my blog, I would also work on positivity, affirmations, and vision boards. Write 5 affirmations 5 times a day every day. Here are some good ones:
- I am grateful for everything in my life.
- I now live in abundant love, light, and joy.
- I love myself
- I have the freedom and power to create the life I desire.
- Today, I am brimming with energy and overflowing with joy.
It feels hokey and at first, you probably won’t believe it, but doing it every day will have an affect on your attitude and what you are projecting out into the world. Try turning any negative thoughts into a positive spin. Again, sounds stupid, but it works. Then, create a vision board with everything you want in your life as you want it. Look at it daily. These constant reminders will adjust your perception and help to ease the depressive cycle – at least they have for me!
Thanks for reading and thanks to Elle for allowing me for the opportunity to share.
You can follow Lee’s blog Bella Inspired Grace to take a look at her bullet journals and posts all about her health coping mechanisms. Be sure to follow her on twitter to stay up to date with her recent posts.
A massive thank you to Lee for talking so openly about PDD it’s something that I knew very little about before reading this post. If you are struggling to cope I urge you to reach out for help there are plenty of organisations out there willing to help and support you.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about how to cope with difficult times and find happiness again
Make sure you check out the other posts in the series: