Preventing PPD 7: Staying afloat during really rough waters

This is Part 6 of my Preventing PPD series. Part 1 is here, Part 2 is here, Part 3 is here, Part 4 is here, Part 5 is here, and Part 6 is here.

What if things are really getting bad? What if it feels like the world is falling down around you? It's time to go into Lockdown Mode, and only do things that will directly help you stay afloat.

Figure out who's your true friend. You should start with your partner, if you have one. My hope is that your partner will be your best friend and helper through the postpartum period, and, frankly, for the rest of your life. S/he wants you to be as healthy and happy as possible, and if you tell him or her how much you're struggling, you can pull together as a team to help keep the entire family afloat. You and your partner should look at your support system and find another one or two people you can definitely count on to give you constant, non-judgmental support while you weather this rough time.

But it's not always the case that you can rely on your partner. If your partner is causing or adding to the difficulties you're experiencing now, you need to look at the rest of your friends and family to figure out who will be the two people you can rely on. Sometimes people surprise you with how great they can be in a crisis, so don't automatically write someone off just because you haven't seen them in crisis mode before.

Can't think of who to trust? Maybe one of these people:

  • Your mother
  • Your father
  • Your aunt or grandmother
  • A sister or brother or cousin
  • Your best friend
  • Your best friend from high school or college
  • A neighbor
  • A coworker or former coworker
  • Your mother-in-law or sister-in-law
  • One or more of your online friends
  • Your midwife or OB
  • A therapist
  • One of the moms with older babies from your breastfeeding support group

Water, Omega 3s, sunlight, exercise. Keep up with as many of the physical maintenance measures as you can, but if you can only focus on a few, drink plenty of water, keep taking Omega 3s, get a few minutes of sunshine every day, and get a little exercise every day (I'd privilege T-Tapp over other kinds, if you can do the 15-minute routine). Those should help keep you from slipping too far down from chemical or hormonal imbalances so that you can deal with whatever the problem is.

Drop anything you can't manage. Your priorities should be keeping your baby alive and keeping yourself alive and as mentally healthy as possible. If that means you have to let something go, like breastfeeding, or working on a sleep schedule, or cleaning your house, or anything else other people are telling you you "have to" do, then just let them go. Talk to your true friends about it, and they'll help you work out some way to get the essentials done. Let everything else go. You're doing the absolute best you can under the circumstances.

Figure out what the problem is. Talk to your friends (the ones you can really trust) and ask them to help you figure out exactly what the problem is. Are you not getting enough sleep to function at all? Did you have a delivery that's crushing you mentally? Is your baby not healthy? Are there huge problems between you and your partner? Are you feeling overwhelmed by losing your old life and having to be responsible for another person 24/7? Are you in physical danger for some reason?

If you can figure out exactly what the problem is, you can get safe. It is entirely possible that whatever's going on is making it impossible for you to figure it all out on your own. That's why you need to get your true friends in on the process, to help you figure out what's really wrong and what's merely annoying.

Come up with a plan to make things better, or to hold on until things get better. Once you know what's really wrong, you can make a plan to get through it. Is it something you can change? Then ask your true friends to help you figure out a plan to change things. It might be tough, and you might have to give up some of the preconceived notions you had about yourself, or being a mother, or the way your life is going to be for the next few months, but if it will put you in a better place, you have to make the change.

If there's nothing you can do about the situation, at least you know what the problem is and can prepare yourself to hang on until something can change. Knowing there's light at the end of the tunnel can get you through some bad situations. Your true friends can help you figure out how to make it bearable until something can change.

If you're barely holding on and feel like you're crumbling, please tell one of your true friends and ask them to help you get help. They can help you get safe, whether that means being physically safe, or going on antidepressants to regulate your mood (you can still breastfeed on several common antidepressants), or any other way that you're having problems. You aren't alone, and you're doing the best job you can under the circumstances. With a little help, things will get better very soon.