Last week, a young woman I grew up with in church youth group committed suicide.
Allison was 32 years old, beautiful and well-loved, with a husband and a -month-old daughter. So why? Postpartum depression.
That is haunting to me, knowing so many women battle this same issue. Myself included.
My journey with depression started at age 20, not long after my husband and I got engaged and I was facing a lot of new changes and decisions. My mother, familiar with the song and dance, sent me to a psychologist, where I talked for two sessions and got a very good prescription that helped me greatly — until I was considering trying to conceive and needed to go off it.
I managed OK through the months of trying to conceive and my pregnancy with my first child. But I was so frightened that I would have postpartum depression, given my history with depression triggered by life change, that I all but begged my OB to put me on medicine before she was even born.
Everything was fine when she was born. And then we moved to Chattanooga from Nashville. We couldn’t sell our condo. We didn’t know anyone. I quit work and became a stay-at-home mom. And one month after we moved, I got pregnant again, when my daughter was 17 months old.
I was so sick at the beginning that I couldn’t take my antidepressants or any medicine, but once that settled down, I went back on a smaller dose. I was on it all the way through my labor and delivery. But here’s the thing:
I barely remember the first year of my second child’s life.
Even on medicine, I was incredibly depressed, we were going through foreclosure, we didn’t have any close friends, and I felt isolated at home and lived a 14-hour drive from my parents. There was a time when I was crying uncontrollably and was honestly scared for my kids, and I called a church member who had been kind to me and asked her to take my kids away.
Not everyone who encounters postpartum depression has the experience with depression that I do. After nearly a decade and a half of recognizing my triggers and when, even on medicine, things aren’t right, I have a game plan of self-care. I know that with the right medicine, exercise, sunshine, time alone, and time with friends, I can usually come back to my normal self. My husband, while not dealing with depression himself, knows me well enough to ask at some points if I am taking my medicine, if I need any kind of help, etc.