Thursday, 27 November 2008

Blues

Recently I had a first hand encounter with depression and postnatal blues. Originally I wanted to blog about it from my (an outsider’s) point of view but I felt I needed to get permission from the person suffering from it first.

So I approached my sister after she was feeling better and asked if it will be alright with her for me to blog about her experience to the world. Being a sport that she is, she actually suggested that perhaps she should guest write instead.

So here it is:

I am one who is seldom at a loss of words. This is one of the rare occasions. I was asked by my brother to share something very personal with all of you and that is my experience with postnatal depression (PND). It wasn’t hard for me to agree to it because I hope by sharing, my experience will help some of you who are either having PND or someone whom you know has it.

It all started for me when I was extremely adamant about breastfeeding. In this day, breastfeeding is often deemed as the right, best and the only thing to do for your kid. And hence, to me, breastfeeding equates to what a good mother’s duty is.

Being so adamant about breastfeeding, I was latching on once every 3 hours and I soon had insomnia. This was because after each feed, there was always the issue of the next feed at the back of my mind – will I wake up in time, is my milk supply enough, how do I build up my supply, will eating such and such food affect the taste of my milk and hence rejection from my baby. My insomnia soon turned chronic. It was so bad that I slept a total of less than 7 hours in 3 days. By then, I was a lost cause – I had a glazed over look in my eyes, my body was shutting down, my milk supply plummeted due to the lack of rest and I barely had the strength to carry my daughter. When I visited my gynae, he suggested giving me a sedative to take so that I can sleep through one to two nights and basically reboot my system. Well, perhaps it was Murphy’s law but what happened was after taking that sedative, I actually sleepwalked. My husband told me that I woke up in the morning and walked him to the door, kissed him goodbye and spoke with him yet I recalled none of it. The scariest part was when I realized upon being “awake” that my hair was nicely plaited (my hair is always left undone when I sleep) and the T-shirt I wore to sleep was different from the one I had on in the morning. It was then that I freaked out because I had no recollection at all of what I did, where I went and whom I spoke to. I admitted myself to the hospital right away.

I stayed for a total of 4 days in the hospital for respite care and it was quite possibly one of the lowest points in my life because I actually lost total confidence in being able to fall asleep naturally. Insomnia is a horrible horrible condition – the rest of the world is sleeping and you are awake pacing around at home, dead tired to the bones but still unable to shut down mentally and rest, while watching the clock the entire time and wondering what on earth is wrong with you.

After I was discharged, I also had very bad hot flushes (which further hindered my sleep) and hyperacidity where I needed to eat once every 2 – 3 hours and I was gorging myself silly with food. I had 2 bowls of rice at every mealtime and a “snack” would be 4 slices of bread, a banana, an apple and a milo and I still did not feel full.

In depression terms, it was comfort eating but for my case, it was also because the stress level I had cause the hyperacidity and hence, I had to eat. For someone who only gained 7kg during my pregnancy and has never weighed past 50kg, it was a sudden shock to see the scale go up.

To top it off, my baby is very alert and active since birth and does not sleep much unlike most newborns. Hence, fatigue and stress and insecurity set in. I became obsessed with my ‘failure’ as a mother and my weight gain. Being depressed also caused lethargy which made it even worse for me because I have always been a very active person and was exercising right through my pregnancy. It was hard for me to wake up and feel spaced out and groggy and barely having enough energy to accompany my dad walk my brother’s dog in the morning.

On a good day, I was able to converse normally, laugh and joke but on a bad day, I would feel like such a complete failure and was simply detached from the world with no interest in getting out of bed, talking to anyone and having any interest in anything. I just wanted to be left alone and ‘rot’ in one corner. The scariest moment was that at my down-est time, I actually had a thought pop into my mind and that was “how I wish I could chuck my baby down the chute”. My “rationale” was that if that happens, then I would have no one to worry about, to care for and no one to depend on me. That was when I realized that I had depression.

Next to my husband, my brother is my other best friend and we have always been very honest and close. It was him who called me up one evening and spoke to me very openly about his observations on my mood swings and condition. I broke down and cried and admitted that I needed help. My sis-in-law and him, God bless their souls, had already started asking around about depression since weeks ago when they first noticed that I was a bit off. I was able to get an appointment with a psychiatrist the following day and started treatment immediately.

I am now seeing the psychiatrist on a fortnightly basis and am on a mild anti-depressant dosage. The fact that I am not in denial about my condition, she says, make me very treatable. Additionally, I also sought help early as I truly want to get better soonest possible.

Based on my visit with the psychiatrist, PND usually happens to perfectionists and yours truly, am definitely one. It is because perfectionists having type A personality have a fixed set of ideas and mindset about how things should be and we are usually the ones who keep anticipating what can go wrong to prevent things from going ‘wrong’. But of course, as we all know, babies do not have a “fixed” set of rules and habits and hence, it is this same trait that caused my chronic insomnia.

I now force myself to head out of the house everyday with my domestic helper and do simple things like heading out for lunch, grocery shopping to start injecting some normalcy back into my life. When I am out, most often than not, strangers would come up to me and touch / play with my baby and comment on how lovely she is. These comments help me drastically as they make me realize how lucky I am to have such a healthy and beautiful baby when there are many who are not able to conceive.

I am also extremely blessed because I have very strong family support – my mother-in-law has been staying with me for the past 3 odd weeks to help me with the night feeds despite having a full time day job; my sister-in-law though pregnant has been there to comfort and console me and drove me to my psychiatrist visit; my husband who despite his very punishing work hours, stayed with me in the hospital even when he ended work only at 11+ and had to leave for work again at 7+am the following day and my parents who constantly called and brewed tonics for me.
I would like to end off by saying that having PND does not make us a lesser parent or person and it is not a disease nor is it something to be ashamed of. It is simply a condition that we have that is treatable so if you are suffering from PND or know someone who seems to have the same symptoms that I had, please seek professional help and you WILL get better.

31 comments:

Alicia said...

Indeed PND is a scary thing. Like your sis, I was very sure I wanted to breastfeed but was so upset when my boy couldn't latch on at first. I cried a lot during my confinement month and each feeding session was a nightmare. Thank God, I managed to seek the help of lactation consultants and things worked out.

Thanks for sharing and I hope ur sis is much better now. :-)

E said...

Hi sister of A Husband, as one who knows depression only too well, and not just post-natal depression, thanks for sharing your story. :)

Being a parent has made me a more practical person -- I'm an idealist at heart, and also a perfectionist, but I'm learning every day to let go, and that the only person I can control and change is me.

Evelyn
bottomsup.wordpress.com

monozygotic said...

Hi Dylan

Thanks for getting your sister to share. I'm sure a lot of pople wil benefit from it. My very own sister is also recovering from PND since her 1st child bearing in July'08. She's also very vocal, so when she told us she's reached the point where shes afraid to be awake every morning and felt death was her only way out, we send her to the doctor right away. She is still under medication and seeking pychiatric treatment. Like your sister, mine is also a perfectionist. :)

I hope those who are TTC and reading this blog will share PND with their family & spouse, so their loved ones will be more sensitive to the new mother post delivery.

Cheers
Faith

Nicole said...

Even though all of us have heard of PND, none around me actually encountered it personally. So it's really a first time I heard someone(your sister) talked about it openly.

Again, it reinforces me that having a child is really not easy.

Hope that your sister will get well soon.

Send my regards to your sister as well as your mrs. Ask your mrs to have more rest.

OH ya, belated happy 11th month old to fat boy!:)

JS said...

Hi Dylan,

Your sister certainly deserves a pat on her back, for sharing with us her ordeal.

Am sure as ur Sis draws near to the LORD, she'd receive the deliverance from her situation, & I've great confidence that she'd be well in no time!

The love & care you showered upon ur sister reminds me very much of my bro. Good to know 'good brothers' around ;).

Take Care,
JS.

Aces Family said...

hi Dylan,

Wishing your sister a speedy recovery and may she overcomes PND with all the great families support.

regards,
astee

lionel/rachel said...

hi dylan's sister, tks for sharing.

i too hv a story to share. wouldnt call it depression but i tink close to that.

it was after my 1st born during the 2nd month ML. i was left all alone to care for my son. i wasnt BF as my milk flow was inadequate so i was contented by just feeding FM.

the "horrible" thing was that my son couldnt stop crying. no matter hw u rock him, pat him, cuddle him, he just keeps crying. until to the verge of me just letting him cry on & on. i was so fed up; i felt i was useless; why other babies seems so easy to look after; why am i having a difficult one then? i broke down. i couldnt take it.

it just didnt cross my mind to bring my son down to my in laws' shop, maybe let them help look after for a few hrs while i get some rest. NO! stupid me thought that i can do it.

and my son couldnt differentiate daytime & nighttime, so he was unwilling to sleep in the night, much to my horror. he expects us ( the parents) to play with him. imagine my hb has to baby gaga with him in the wee hrs ( 3am - 5/6am). needless to say, i wasnt able to sleep too.

my hb suggested that we take my son over to my aunt to babysit immediately, for he sense that i am breaking down. our initial agreement was that my son would only nid to go over when i resume work after my 3 months ML.

i did not visit any phycatrists or see any doc. my so call depression heal by itself once my son went over to my aunt's place. he would stay there during the weekdays & will be at the shop durings the weekends.

sorry for such a long story. my fingers wouldnt stop typing :)

anyway, to dylans's sister, take care. to the mrs, rest well & hv a happy delivery, to dylan, u are such a steady father/hubby & to issac, stay cool.

alliet said...

Alicia:

I am glad that you managed to sort out the breastfeeding issues with the help of lactation consultants. I actually visited Sister Kang of Mt A (I delivered there) and as irony would have it, my milk supply went up to 120ml per pump once I had respite care.

However, I know that having such a type A personality, I would not be able to let go and sleep after each feed so I finally decided to make the decision to stop breastfeeding.

I do miss latching her on very much (she has a very good latch). One of the main reasons I wanted to BF was to bond with my baby, however, I decided to stop because ironically, it was distressing me too much. So much so that it was at the expense of being able to play and carry her because I was simply too tired to do so.

I am feeling better now and I will be back to my normal self. Thanks for the well wishes. :o) BTW, I have the same name as you!

alliet said...

Hi Evelyn,

You are welcome. And like you, I am also learning to let go everyday. When I visited my psychiatrist, one of the posters caught my attention. Being a worry wart at heart, it spoke volumes to me. It was something like "Worry does not pay the bill nor does it dry your tears, Worry does not help with the problem but may instead become the problem. So why worry?"

I know it is easier said than done but truly, by always anticipating what can go wrong BEFORE anything actually goes wrong, it made me a fairly negative person because I was always expecting something to go wrong!

Also, I am not sure if you are a person of faith but if you are, committing to God does help because everything that we are and everything that happens are all part of God's plan. Peace be with you. :o)

alliet said...

Hi Faith,


Please share my story with your sister and let her know she is not alone. When I was at the psychiatrist office, almost half of her Thank You cards are from post natal mothers. It is a lot more common than we think.

It was very quick of you guys to spot that something was wrong and send her to seek treatment. I truly hope she gets well soon.

Do keep me updated on her progress via this blog or you can always email me at moonbeam_sg3@yahoo.com.sg If your sister would like to have someone to share her experience with too, do share my email address with her.


God bless

alliet said...

Nicole:

Thanks for your well wishes and do keep me in your prayers. :o)

Cate said...

Astee:

Thanks so much for the well wishes too. I will get better because one great motivation is that I do not wish to miss out my daughter's growth.

alliet said...

lionel/rachel:

I totally know how you felt - I too broke down many times.

You mentioned that happened to you for your first born so I presume you were fine for your 2nd pregnancy?

'Cos one of the things my psychiatrist shared was that having PND for one of your kids does not mean that it will recur for kid #2.

Am glad things are better for you

Nicole:

Apologies, I signed off with my daughter's email addy earlier.

alliet said...

JS:

Yes, I am committing everything to the Lord. "Be still and know I am the Lord". I always repeat this to myself when things seem helpless.

Please keep me in your prayers and yes, we are both blessed with good brothers.

God Bless

no man's land said...

hi dylan's sister, congratulations on the arrival of your little beanie. =) it's also good to know that you have winning the battle against PND. Be strong and keep believing. And enjoy your little princess and your yoga. Hope to see you update your blog with pictures of the little princess soon.

inahairi said...

Hi Dylan,

I'm sure all new mothers suffer from some level of PND. I myself encountered it as my baby was very colicky in her early mths & would cry every night non-stop for 4-5hrs! And she breastfeed every 2hrs. I suffered from extreme exhaustion & I was practically a walking zombie. And yes there were ridiculous thoughts running thru' my head on how I should make my baby stop crying. Being the perfectionist that I am, I refused any help even from my hubby from day 1. The only difference I did was that I searched the internet almost everyday to find remedies on how to help my baby & thank God it got better thru' trials & error. Now my baby sleep so well I almost forgot what it felt like only few mths back. Having gone thru' the experience does have a blessing, now I feel there isn't any problem that is too hard for me too handle coz raising a baby is by far the toughest challenge any1 can go thru'. Having said this I never like those mothers who boost how 'easy' their baby is.

Ina
inahairi.blogspot.com

HappyHour said...

Hi Dylan's sis...
you are a strong lady to share your story with us...(i freaked out on the part where you sleep walked with ur hair nicely done... hair stand man when i read that)

But you know what... i think you are very lucky to have supportive hb and family members who care so much about you... it is always important that family are there for you in down time like this.

don't let your tots run too wild ok... rest well and "see open" a bit... the world will be an easier place to live.

Take care

Anonymous said...

Hey, sorry to hear about this, sounds err bad..

pardon my naivety but couldn't a crate of like you know mars or snickers do the trick? hehe

All i know about this post natal thingy, is from dramas i watch on tv.. so it's really insightful to hear it from someone suffering from it..

Glad you'r feeling better and take care! maybe u should load up the endorphins, eat more chocolate!!!

Mrs Chew

Ed and family said...

Hi Dylan's little sis...

We are sorry to hear that you are having PND。 It must be tough for you and your family. Glad to hear that you have overcome it.

Meanwhile, do enjoy your long maternity leave your baby and family. Take gd care. Relax and stay calm! Talk to your family member if you need help. :)

***Dylan: Take gd care of yourself, in order for you to take care of your Mrs, Little Isaac, your sister and your whole family. :)

Cheers,
Ed and Family

The Bimbo said...

Thanks Dylan for getting your sister to share. It's certainly brave of her too but she's so right. Sharing that certainly helps and makes fellow sufferers know that they are not alone and there is a way to recover.

I just wish more people know about it. most of the time, mommies would prolly feel so bad and so embarrassed that they wun step out to say that they have a problem. That would be the most dangerous part isn't it?

Last but not least... Thank goodness she had all of you. :)

Bobo

alliet said...

no man's land,

Thanks for the well wishes and yes, I will continue to be strong. One of the things I have on my list is definitely my Yoga practice. Am targeting to start some time this or next week as I am feeling a bit less groggy than before.

I believe that once I start to have some elements of my "normal" routine, things will get even better faster. You on facebook? If so, you can look for the pics of my beanie there. :o)

alliet said...

Inahari:

I totally know what you mean by zombie especially when my mind could not shut off and sleep!

Am glad that things work out so well for you in the end.

alliet said...

HappyHour,

Yah, can u imagine how freaked out I was when I realised my hair was so nice plaited? Anyhow, I now learn from my doc that what I have is called automatism or something like that. Apparently 5 - 10% of people have this side effects from sedatives where they would go on doing "normal" things and not remember anything about it. She shared she even had a client who did laundry, wrote rubbish on a cheque and when she woke up the next day, totally freaked when she saw her laundry hung up nicely. Scary right?

Ya, will see open more and a lot of it is also to do with hormones. My hormones were so raging after the delivery and this certainly did not make things easier too. And yes, my family has been fantastic. Having said that, I must also give credit to my domestic helper Thias because she also helps with the night feeds and looks after my daughter during the day when I am simply too drained. Am truly blessed to have her.

alliet said...

Ed and Family:

Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it was really rough initially and as luck would also have it, my aircon gave me problems and I had to leave with hot air every night for 2 weeks which further added fuel to the fire! Anyhow, the AC has been fixed (changed the whole lot stock and barrel).

I am already going out with my baby and helper to Holland, to town, etc to pass a few hours of time everyday. We enjoyed ourselves last week. My 'mission' this week would be to head to Vivo city and Raffles City. At the rate I am going, I think I will be done with all the shopping malls in no time! Ke ke ke ke

alliet said...

The Bimbo:

Your nick really had me stumped for a while 'cos it is errmm... quite a unique choice. :p

Ya, as you are read from the other comments above, seems like a lot of other people have experienced some sort of blues / depression. As much as I know, Diana Ser was one of them. I think Quan Yi Feng also but I could be wrong.

I just wanted to share my story so that everyone is more aware of this condition - for the person going thru it, to know that there is help and for the family and friends, to let them know how things are so that they can give the appropriate support.

I hope this sharing achieved all these things.

alliet said...

Mrs Chew,

ha ha ha... you a chocolate lover? unfortunately, I am not one of them' cos too much of chocolate in fact gives me migraine! LOL

As you can read from other comments above, PND seems to be more prevalent than we realise. Hormones play a big part too 'cos when we are preggie, the hormone levels rise drastically to support the growth of the baby. Once after delivery, the placenta and baby are both out but the hormones are still raging. Additionally, my delivery was quite dramatic - 22 hours (induction but drug free for 15 hours but still not dilating, then epi but after a few more hours still not dilating and in the end, emergency C-section.) Hence, this contributed to the PND.

My endorphins release would come from exercise so that would be Hot and Power Yoga for me. Looking forward to it already!

Susan said...

I agree with you that "In this day, breastfeeding is often deemed as the right, best and the only thing to do for your kid." Yet it would be ridiculous if it gets to the point of obsession. The most important would be finding the right balance. Does breastfeeding makes you a 'better' mother? Or not breastfeeding makes you a 'bad' mother?

Irene said...

hope a speedy recovery for your sister & thanks a lot for sharing.

take care

Jayne said...

Thanks for sharing... and I applaud the close relationship you 2 share as brother-sister. take care and enjoy parenthood! :-)

alliet said...

Susan,

I am glad someone feels the same way as I do! You would not believe how many people asked me why I stopped breastfeeding at 2 weeks. Initially, I felt guilty. But after a while, I learn to ignore those comments because as you can see from my experience, sleeping for a total of only 7 hours (and disrupted too!) for 3 days is just plain ridiculous.

I know that I have made the right decision because I am now able to carry and play and bond with my daughter which I was not able to previously as I was simply too exhausted to do so.

All of us know that breastfeeding is of course good for the baby but there are some exceptions to this and I do hope that people are more sensitive to these exceptions.

alliet said...

Irene & Jayne,

Thanks for the encouraging words. I am much better already and am enjoying my daughter a lot more than before. When she smiles, my heart just melts and though it sounds like a cliche, it seems to make all the difficult moments that I experienced fade away. :o)