What happens when Postpartum Depression and Anxiety are taking over your life, but you aren’t comfortable taking medication while breastfeeding? This is a question I was forced to ask myself recently in the aftermath of a year of secluding myself, being afraid to leave the house, and having terrible mood swings, which usually left my fiance and I feeling broken and embittered toward one another after a big fight. Thankfully we have gotten to a much better place with time, hard work, and dedication to one another, but most of my other relationships with family and friends have not fared quite as well.
I did not know until starting therapy a few months ago, that I also have P.T.S.D. and Bipolar Disorder, which acted as a stimulant of sorts for my Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. I have had to find alternative ways to rewire my brain because I know I need to get better, but I don’t want my daughter getting medication through my breastmilk. There are antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications that are deemed safe while breastfeeding*, but it is a personal choice for me. Ultimately what I have found to work is doing yoga, going to therapy, writing, and painting. I think it is a great mixture because it covers all of the bases mentally, spiritually, and physically. Writing and painting happen to be something that fulfill me and make me happy; If you are seeking similar treatment but don’t enjoy either of these things, that is ok! Making time for anything that brings you joy will suffice. The point is to quiet your mind and feel like yourself again.
I started painting in high school, but stopped when I got pregnant because of the chemicals involved. Finally when I reached 12 months postpartum, I felt seriously inspired to start painting again and I decided to try watercolor instead of my usual acrylic oils, because it is less dangerous to use around my baby. I have been painting again for a few months and it has amazingly turned into a way for me to work from home, while also fulfilling my need to create.
Around the time I started painting again, I began going to therapy as well. It took 3 months to finally go to an appointment without my daughter, but I am slowly gaining more courage and realizing that the sessions are more productive when I’m not distracted by my active toddler. Finally being able to leave home for an hour without her is proof of the progress I have made and it has been a good reminder for me that she will be ok even if I am not around. She has a great time with her dad and usually doesn’t even notice that I am gone! Talk about a reality-check.
Yoga is my latest endeavour and I can say that it is the perfect treatment for anxiety and depression! The practice, with ancient roots in India, aims to quiet the mind, and build strength both mentally, physically, and spiritually. Finding balance and peace from within, breathing out toxins and stress, it relaxes and restores the mind, making healing possible. I have gone four times so far and already I feel stronger. Whenever I start feeling sad or angry, I know it’s time to grab my mat and hit the studio. The practice of yoga itself helps to calm my fears and feel strength from within, easing the anxiety of being away from my daughter.
When we exercise it releases feel good endorphins that help to correct the chemical imbalance that causes depression. Yoga is especially helpful for depression and anxiety because of the focus on deep breathing, clearing the mind, reaching within, and strengthening the body and mind. Yoga also builds important core strength and restores balance, which is especially important after having a baby because of the changes our bodies have gone through.
I am very fortunate that I have been able to see improvements with natural treatment, although I know it will be a long road. I still have setbacks and bad days, but knowing that what I am dealing with is a true mental illness makes it easier to understand and cope with. I am smiling more, loving harder, and feeling more hope than I have in a long time.
Whatever course of alternative treatment you choose, try to be aware of whether or not you see improvements after a couple of months. Remember that there is no one-size-fits-all for motherhood, and the same certainly applies to Postpartum Depression and Anxiety. For some people, alternative treatment will not be enough, but can aid greatly in healing when paired with medication. Know your limits, and know that you are not alone.
There is hope for us all and we will see the light again. Know your limits, reach within and begin to heal. You are not alone; we are in this together.
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*To inquire on whether a medication is safe while breastfeeding, please speak to your doctor, pharmacist, or read here for more information. If you are having thoughts of hurting yourself or your child, please seek help immediately as you may be suffering from a more serious form of PPD known as Postpartum Psychosis.
Latest posts by Lissa James (see all)
- Motherhood: When Breastfeeding Doesn’t Work Out - December 15, 2015
- A Letter to my Daughter: Mommy is Here - November 23, 2015
- Holistic Treatment for Postpartum Depression and Anxiety - October 20, 2015