Welcome back! Last week, we saw the last installment on a series of health and wellness by Dr. Ross. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, I’m going to take you on a personal journey. My journey. A journey that many of you will be acutely familiar with and it’s called Postpartum Depression.
I was 22 when I had my first child, and 24 when the next one came into this world. While they are both loved and I wouldn’t trade them for the world, I cannot say they were both “planned” by me. The “mini pill” was the fad back in the late 80’s. A new and improved pill with less estrogen. “Better for you”, they said. I didn’t realize I was a guinea pig until the last baby was conceived and the doctor said, “this isn’t working out”. No, indeed it wasn’t. They took it off the market. I think it’s since been reissued, but of this I’m not sure. I can only speak to what happened to me.
My ex husband had no interest in children, and promptly left us. I was working full time, being mom and dad, and suddenly realized I was feeling less than myself. I was sad. All the time. Nothing made me happy, not even the sound of a baby cooing in my arms. I realized this wasn’t normal, and made an appointment with my doctor, an Osteopathic Doctor in a small rural town outside of Portland, Oregon.
He gave me an exam to rule out medical, and then he said something that really stung. “I think this is more than just the baby blues…I think you are very depressed”. Being a DO, he took the time to talk to me about why this may be happening…hormones (two babies back to back with no recovery time), stress (how am I going to pay the bills?), grief (at the loss of my marriage), situation (two children in diapers), and heredity (my dad suffered from seasonal affective disorder).
All things considered, yep…I was depressed. The only thing I felt I had the energy for was working, taking care of babies, and sleeping. Everything else felt like it was optional. Shower? Nah…it can go another day. Eat? I’m not that hungry…I need to feed the kids first. Sleep? YES, THANK YOU. Lots of it. Lots and lots. Activity? I’m sorry, what? No. Hard no.
The food that I did make for myself ended up coming out of a box or a jar. It was interesting, because I would buy all fresh food for my children when they started eating “real” food, and carefully wash it, peal out the bad parts, grind it in a grinder, and spoon feed every drop, but when it came time to feed myself, Top Ramen it was. On a good day I would add a hot dog for protein.
My Osteopathic Doctor was my lifeline. He said something to me one day that really hit home, and I’ve actually never, ever forgotten it. I use it to this day when I get overwhelmed. He said, “Linda, I know you are hurting. It’s clear. But I’m going to ask you to do something that moves your body…maybe plant some flowers…” I said, “I just can’t. I don’t have the energy” and he said, “Take your body. Your mind will follow”. He assured me that my brain would catch up to my body and all would be well. If I didn’t trust him completely, I would have never believed him, much less actually tried it.
The very next weekend it was sunny; late spring. The birds were singing, the sky was blue, and boy oh boy, so was I. I was laying on the couch, crying, and wishing I was somebody else. Anybody else. And then I heard his words again in my minds eye, “take your body…your mind will follow”. I forced myself to get dressed, get the kids together, and go to my parents house. I dropped the kids off for a visit, drove to the local gardening store, bought some pansies, and drove home in silence.
Well, it was silent in the car. In my head there was a full on attack of my plans going on. “This is so stupid”, “You hate gardening, why are you even considering this”, “Just go home and take a nap…that’s what you REALLY need”. Forward I marched. I didn’t even go back inside my house for fear I would give in.
I plopped myself in front of my house, supplies in hand, and started to dig. As the dirt enveloped my fingers, I started to feel a calmness come over me like I hadn’t felt in a long time. I kicked off my sandals and ran my toes through the grass (there was lots of grass to feel as I hadn’t mowed yet either).
As plant after plant went into the ground, a sense of satisfaction started to come over me. “I’m a giver of life” I thought to myself. How amazing is that. “I created two human beings, and now I’m planting pansies…go me”. I know it sounds silly, but those were the first words of encouragement I had given myself in months. It helped. It helped a lot.
After the pansies were safe in the ground, I spread some barkdust over them, pulled some weeds, and watered my creations. I then mowed the lawn. By now, I had a smile on my face a mile wide. I was back in my element. Breathing fresh air, getting dirty from working outside, getting sun on my skin, yes, it all mattered. It all helped to heal me.
Suddenly my energy level soared. I went back inside my house, opened all the curtains and windows, and started spring cleaning. Long overdue. “What was I thinking…what a pigsty…stop. Stop it. Stop talking to yourself like that. You would NEVER say that to a friend. Just stop it.”
My inner self needed to change. I focused on being more kind to myself. “You’re doing the best you can, Linda”, “You don’t have to be perfect, just try”. My words mattered. They mattered when they were spoken to others, and they mattered just as much when I turned them inward. Wow.
The next time I saw my DO, his face lit up. He could see by my smile that I was back. We were all three clean, not just my babies. I told him about my pansies, and my yard, and my house, and he listened. He cared. He truly cared. “There are some things you can’t write a prescription for”, he said.
If you, or someone you know suffers from depression, get help. Don’t wait. Please remember that just because someone is smiling and saying all the right things, doesn’t mean that behind closed doors those tears aren’t flowing, and the harshest words they will hear are coming from within. Be kind. Be gentle, and never forget to be kind to yourself…you matter. You matter just as much as anyone else on this planet. Be good to you.
This video addresses the body’s ability to speak through movement. It’s only a little over four minutes long, and worth your time. Enjoy…
This is so inspiring!
This is an important message…affecting so many in our population. I read the whole blog to my lifestyle medicine class yesterday and this lead to impactful discussion. Thank you for sharing.
This is a wonderful post. Thank you for sharing these words (take your body, your mind will follow) and sharing your experience.