Postpartum depression is real and so many mamas struggle with it. In this latest guest post, Melissa candidly shares her story of working through that depression and how therapy, medication, and running helped her out. Melissa is mental health road warrior I’ve had the privilege of meeting several times and I’m completely honored she trusted us with her story. Thank you for helping defeat the stigma, Melissa!
I initially struggled with anxiety and depression in college and I started on an antidepressant after my freshman year. Years later, when I was married, had a good job, and life was stable, I went off my antidepressant. For a while, I mentally felt pretty good. Then I got pregnant.
Even though my pregnancy was planned and welcome, it changed everything for my mental health. My anxiety was higher than ever and I had my first panic attack, which landed me in the ER. After my son was born, things didn’t get better for me. Between hormone changes, the life-altering changes that having a baby brings, and dealing with some unexpected health challenges with my newborn, I found myself struggling again and suffering from uncontrollable scary thoughts. The worst part of the whole thing was that I had no idea I was dealing with perinatal and then postpartum depression and anxiety. I was completely undiagnosed. That panic attack I had while pregnant? Didn’t know it was a panic attack until years later. Four and a half years later, I had my second baby, a daughter, and everything changed. Again. Babies will do that to you. Throughout my pregnancy that time around, I once again struggled with depression and anxiety, but still remained undiagnosed.
After my daughter was born, things got so bad that I could finally see something was seriously wrong. To make matters worse, my daughter was colicky and didn’t sleep. Finally, I was driven to seek help when my marriage became very negatively affected. I first started at the local postpartum support group, where I heard terms like “intrusive thoughts”. Immediately, I realized this was me. I was depressed and I had postpartum depression. For some reason, it was a hard realization, but I decided I was NOT going to suffer alone and in silence this time around. When I found the courage to ask the counselor at the support group for the name of a therapist, I felt like I was acting under some strength outside of myself. The phone call I made, requesting a first-time appointment with a therapist, was one of the hardest and scariest phone calls I’ve ever made. But it was one of the best things I’ve ever done. My therapist eventually talked me into attending the Mother-Baby Program at Pine Rest, a partial-inpatient program for moms struggling with postpartum depression/anxiety. I spent seven days there. The program was excellent and was a catalyst in my recovery. I eventually started on an antidepressant as well.
My Running Journey
My running journey started when I was 12 years old. From middle school through college, I ran only occasionally. It wasn’t until about 10 years ago, I became more “serious” about running, and since then I’ve raced every distance from 5K to 25K. The last two years have been mentally brutal, marked by severe depression, anxiety, and drastic mood changes.
Once I recovered from having my daughter, I started using running as a way to help not only my
physical health but my mental health as well. Running helps stabilize my moods, improves my self-esteem, and is a healthy stress reliever for me. I’m still seeing my therapist, over a year later, and I’ve added a psychiatrist to my mental health team to facilitate medication adjustment. Running is just one more tool I use to treat my mental illness.
Since my depression has been severe and complex, I use as many tools as I can. Running is as important for me as keeping my therapy appointments and taking my medications. I am so thankful for the team of professionals at Pine Rest who have been instrumental in my continued recovery, and for the support and camaraderie I found in the Still I Run community.
Why I share my story
I share my story in the hopes that fewer people suffer undiagnosed as long as I did.
I share so the next person who makes that first-time appointment with a therapist isn’t as terrified as I was.
I share because I am proof that there is hope of recovery with the right treatment and support.
I share because more people need to be aware of the dangers of mental illness and of the treatment resources available.
I share because I want to help pull people out of the darkness of depression.
I share because sharing takes away the power of depression.
The last time I saw my psychiatrist, he asked me if I was exercising, and I said, “Yep. I’m still running.”