Sunday, May 26, 2013

The Things No One Talks About

Sunday morning here.  Don't know why I'm up early.  I seldom get up early.  I should be sleeping but can't.  So I figured now's as good a time as any to begin this story.  I may have to do this in parts.  But I need to write these important things down before too much time passes and my memory allows me to erase the trials I've learned so much from.

I want to be real.  Can you handle real?  Raw emotion?

After having three babies at home, I've begun to realize just how much intervention goes into birthing in a hospital environment.  Don't get me wrong.  I think there are times when a professional medical staff is absolutely necessary for birthing women, and I'm super grateful the option is there should I need it down the road, whether for myself or for a friend or family member.  I am grateful to the staff that helped me with Orion's birth, for in no way do I feel they were ill-intended.  Their assistance to me and my baby was what I needed at that time.  And if I had a choice to do it over, I'm sure there are things I would like to have done differently, but in the end, I'm not sure I would change them.  The situation I experienced with him was the most difficult time in my life that I can recall to date.  And I've learned so much since.  And it's for that life-long lesson that I am grateful.  But today, I want to be real with you.  Let's talk about the things no one talks about.  The things I wish people would have shared with me so that I didn't feel so alone.  The things that happen behind closed doors.

The day Orion was born, he was beautiful.  I know many of you reading this already know about so many of the struggles I went through with him.  And if not, I plan on telling that story too.  I tell that story to almost everyone I meet.  I'm passionate about it I suppose.  Today, I will share the story that few people know about me.  Just close family really.  And even my own parents are somewhat in the dark about it.  

After giving birth to my first son, I myself suffered pretty terribly from post-partum depression.  Yup.  I said it.  It's not something many people openly discuss I guess.  I mean, seriously, why would anyone walk around claiming they were suffering from depression?  As a fitness and dance instructor in the past and one who is always somewhat health conscious and aware, I was afraid and yes, indeed ashamed to have that stigma as a label attached to my person.  Ligia?  Depression?  Disgusting.  Truly, I felt like a failure.  You feel like a loser not to be able to control your emotions and the dark cloud that fogs up your mind.  And you worry.  You worry about being pitied and having people come and try to help you because they pity you, rather than because they truly just want to be your friend.  This thought alone consumed me.  I'd spend many hours rocking myself on the bed and crying.  The anxiety attacks would often make me cry in despair as I spent many days alone while my husband was at work. I'd work myself into a such a frenzy that I'd cry myself to sleep and then wake up to a crying a baby and the anxiety would start all over again.  

My self-esteem was shattered.  My body is not perfect and seldom where I want it to be ideally.  But at that time, sadly, my focus when I looked into the mirror was every single flaw that I bore.  I hated myself.  I detested my human flaws and found no trace of anything good.

The stress of moving around, having little money and recovering post-partum, had sent me into a state of post-partum psychosis.  I often entertained the idea in my head about what suicide would be like.  Don't know if I actually would have been brave enough to follow through with it.  But the thoughts in my head were there.  Very real.  Very dark.  Scary.  And they were not productive by any means.  Thoughts of ending my life were there.  Thoughts of ending Orion's life were there too.  I'd make a mental list of people that might notice my death right away.  People that might be shocked.  People that might think about it for a few hours and then move on with their lives.  I'd wake up late.  I mean, I'd get up to take care of my baby and try to get a routine going, but in the end, would just fall asleep whenever he did and literally not even move.  A first new baby is a hard adjustment as it is already without having to cope with depression.

I often wondered what it would be like to feel connected to my baby.  My mom often described how much she wanted me when she had me.  She described the feeling of overwhelming love she had for me right away.  I can honestly say, that while I loved my sweet boy, I did not have that bond with him the way I thought it should be.  I didn't know why at the time.  But I have some theories about why, now.

I was ashamed of feeling that way too.  I felt like a thoughtless and terrible mother.  What mother wouldn't enjoy her new baby, right?  I mean, some women struggle to have babies.  And here I was, this ungrateful human being, holding a sweet and wonderful newborn baby and thinking about killing us both.  And who would want to be friends with this psychotic mother?  A mother that at one point had locked herself in the bathroom seriously contemplating whether to down a bottle of Aleve or not.  Who's husband called the police that night, desperate to get some help for this crazy woman. This woman who refused to get help from anyone, for fear that someone might see that she was human.  

I don't mean for this post to be a doom and gloom about depression.  But I wanted to take a moment to say that depression is real.  It's consuming, and over-bearing.  It's the heaviest emotional weight I've ever carried in my life and what made it heavier is that I was trying so hard to do it on my own.  It was as though I was trying to prove to myself that I didn't need anyone to help me heal.  My pride definitely hindered my ability to overcome this mental illness.  But there was a light at the end of this dark and dreary tunnel.  The moment I decided to allow others in.  The moments I would see my baby smile were few, but just enough to keep me going.  The moment I allowed God to soften my heart and let go of my pride is when I began to manage the self-destructive thoughts so much better.

It's not something I talk about lightly now.  I simply want other moms, as well as those who experience depression outside of post-partum, to know, that they're not alone.  That they don't have to choose to go through these things without help.  And most of all, that they're not failures for feeling the way they do. To me, failure has become a good teacher.  We all experience failure in some way or form.  But if you listen carefully, failure can teach you so much.  About who you are and who you'd like to be.  If you allow it to, it can teach you about how strong you really are and just how much you can bear.

You see, before this experience, failure was not an option in my mind.  I didn't think anything good could come from it.  But I think it's all about what we choose to do after a great failure that defines our true character and shows us what our true potential in this life is.

It's okay to feel like a total loser from time to time.  As long as you don't allow the thought to consume your life, it can be overcome.  And no sedative or prescription pill will allow you to do that.  That decision needs to come from within.  It's not easy, by any means.  I know.  But I firmly believe that depression can be overcome by the lifestyle we choose.

Yes, I have four kids now.  So you're probably wondering, if one baby made her crazy, what did three others do?  Well, I'll be honest.  The hormone fluctuation that occurs inside my body after each baby is always a difficult thing to balance for me.  That's for sure.  May be due to weak genetics.  May be due to emotional scars.  May be due to daily food choices and habits.  But the small and simple steps I've taken to imrpove the quality of my life by allowing others to be a part of my healing process is what has actually made it easier to move past the burden with each successive pregnancy.  It hasn't become a non-existent thing, if you want the truth.  But I think after four kids, I've learned how to get a grip on it, so to speak.  I'm mentally prepared for the feelings and when they arise, I know I can choose to entertain them or, like I said, get a grip on it.  A good strong one too.  Metaphorically speaking.  So, having four babies has somewhat made me a pro at battling depression a lot easier with each one.  By the time I have our tenth child, I should be depression free.  Just kidding.  And no, having more kids is not the answer to battling depression.

So there you have it.  The things no one talks about.  The things probably very few of you knew about me.  Now, before I share with you some of the steps I took to overcome this illness, what I would love to know is, have you been through a similar experience?  And if you're comfortable sharing, what were some of the ways you chose to battle it?  This exchange of ideas might save the life of a new mom somewhere.  Or someone experiencing it because of a different trial in their life.  No matter the reason.  I know that hearing others' stories are what saved me.  So please comment below.  Short or long.  Have a happy Sunday!  


  1. I haven't had any children so I'm not sure if I will deal with postpartum depression or not BUT I was extremely depressed for a couple of years as a teenager. I often entertained suicidal thoughts. It took a couple years to get out of that fog. Interestingly, I've felt the feelings of depression come on since then and I recognize them early on and can swiftly quelch them now.

    But I had a friend that recently told me she was extremely depressed after having her first baby. She finally realized what made her slip into it was being left alone with no one to talk to. After that she invited her Mom to stay a month with her following her other childrens' births. She never experience postpartum depression again. We need each other. We need friends. "We must love one another or die." W.H. Auden.


  2. A friend shared this with me and wasn't wanting to post this here but has allowed me permission to share here in response to this post. I found it touching:

    Ligia, thank you for sharing your story. I, too, have suffered from postpartum depression with all of my children. When my first was born, there was so much stress from the experience and so much change so fast, I think I just mostly figured what I was going through was not really out of the ordinary and I just needed time to adjust. Perhaps this was partly true, but it is also a trap of depression. There was a point where I realized things were bad, and had read that if you felt depressed for more than two weeks straight, you should seek medical help, so I decided to give it two weeks to see. However, I began timing my two weeks at the point I felt it was 'bad' or 'worse' and not at the point when it had actually begun at all. Before (shortly before) the two weeks had passed, I began feeling somewhat better, so I didn't seek help. Things were okay, but as I look back now, I realize that I probably could have avoided some of that suffering if I had been more forthcoming about what I was experiencing. And I started crying while reading your story, in part because I was empathizing with you and in part because I was trying to remember if you were still living in the Provo area after I had my baby in June 2007 and lamenting the fact that if you were, how we could have been there for each other. I had moved to Payson about two weeks prior to her birth (which I would now not recommend moving away from established connections at such a time if it can be avoided). But depression also traps us by making us not want to reach out, even to friends and family (especially if we don't know that they have had similar struggles). After my second child was born, I remember fixing dinner one night and having a strong urge to just lower my arm to the edge of the skillet and let it get burned. I recounted this to my mom a while later and she was saddened that I disliked so much or thought so little of myself that I would want to do that. That was not the case, though. Quite the opposite actually. I really think it was self-preservation, or at least mental preservation that made the burning seem so appealing at the time. I think it was the desire to be able to focus on a pain that would make sense instead of the confusing pain of my mind that was encompassing me. I was able to resist, and I quickly got on the treadmill and was able to get past the urge that I had felt, but once I got off of it, I could definitely feel the 'regular' depression was still very much there. My second child was born using different doctors, in a different state, than the first. They were much more proactive in encouraging me to and then insisting that I had help. I began taking medication and saw a therapist a few times. It turned out that I didn't really need the therapy; the medication was the main help.

  3. Continued..... Unlike Ligia, I cannot state that depression can be overcome by the lifestyles that we choose. Perhaps some people's can, or perhaps some people's can at some points in their life, but not in others. Or perhaps some people will always need direct intervention through medication or therapy or both. Depression is an illness, often a chronic illness, as real as cancer or any other illness. It has varying types and varying degrees and varying fluctuations. It is an imbalance of chemicals in the brain. Another of its traps is that it makes people think that because it is evaluated by more subjective means than most illnesses that somehow it is less real. The final trap I want to talk about is the thinking that if we are strong enough, we can get through it. This may be true. . . but at what cost? What and who else in your life suffers in some way along with you because you just want to endure and push through? Couldn't your quality of life be improved if you are willing to seek help in one form or another? Wouldn't you at least like to try and find out? Sometimes taking that initial step toward trying to get help, to help yourself, requires an even bigger surge of strength than continuing down your lone path of endurance. And, as Ligia mentioned, it also requires shoving aside some pride. I'll wrap up now by mentioning that even once you get help, and are largely better, there will still be those days, those times, when you feel it coming back on. During those times I try to cling, to hold fast to those things most important in my life: to the Lord and the Gospel, to my love for my family and others. That helps sustain me.

  4. Lamentations 3:49-51 – The tears stream from my eyes, an artesian well of tears, until You, God, look down from on high. You look and see my tears. You listened when I called out, ‘Don’t shut your ears! Get me out of here! Save me! You came close when I called out. You said, ‘It’s going to be all right.’ “You took my side, Master – You brought me back to life!

  5. Ligia,I really appreciate your honesty about your experience. After my second I had postpartum quite badly. I knew things weren't right, but it took my mom finally telling me that I needed to get help (she has suffered with depression as well) before I realized just how bad things had gotten. My baby was 4 months old at that time and looking back I really don't know how we all made it. I couldn't believe how angry and anxious I felt all the time. I had thoughts that terrify me and sadden me. I felt like at any moment I could snap and I was truly worried. That was the point that I finally called my mom and she had to tell me that I had postpartum. I wish the Drs involved in my care had been more forthcoming and informative. Anyway, I am so sorry you have had to go through this and I empathize.


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