6 Ways to Survive Postpartum Depression (and Get Your Life Back)
After suffering from severe postpartum depression and anxiety I discovered that it was difficult to feel normal again. After I received treatment, got on medication, started seeing a therapist, took time for self care, and received a lot of help from friends and family, I could finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. I knew I was getting better slowly. But I wasn’t quite myself still. I didn’t feel normal yet. Sure I wasn’t panicking anymore, I was able to rest, my baby’s medical issues subsided and caring for her was easier than ever. So why did I have such a hard time facing each day? Everything seemed too overwhelming and I didn’t know where to start. I would end up being in my pajamas all day along with my daughter. Nothing around the house got done. I did nothing all day. It depressed me even more.
Then I discovered some tricks to help myself get started. I didn’t make a to-do list because I felt like an extreme failure if I didn’t finish all of my tasks. I tried to think of a small list in my head and asked myself the question, “What do I need to do today to feel normal?”
- Start With Simple Baby Steps
What I started doing at first was just saying to myself, “Ok, I am going to wake up, get myself dressed, get my daughter dressed, and feed her a bottle.” Then when I accomplished that small task I would come up with another idea. “Now I am going to make myself breakfast and eat it.” These things may seem extremely simple and a no brainer. But for someone struggling with deep depression it can be hard to find the motivation to take care of yourself. Doing some basic self-care helped me feel more normal and ready to face the day. If I was having an especially good day I would even put on some makeup and try to make my hair look cute (or decent for that matter.)
Then I would assign myself another task. Next was usually throwing some food in a crockpot for dinner later. I knew that making dinner for my family was important and especially important for my hungry hubby after a long day. When I made dinner, it helped me feel like a normal housewife again because I was doing the things I was supposed to be doing as a wife.
By this time of the day, my confidence was building. If I could accomplish those things, I could probably do more. If it was a really rough day and I couldn’t do anything else, at least I was dressed and dinner was made. It made me feel good.
2. Set a Timer
The next thing I did was set a 10-minute timer. I tried to accomplish some sort of cleaning activity in those 10 minutes. If I didn’t finish, I would stop and take a 10-minute break. Most of the time I would finish it, even if the timer went off, because I was usually close to finishing the task and I felt motivated to finish. But if it was a hard day, and 10 minutes was all I could muster, then that was ok too. I could always come back to it.
Some of my 10-minute tasks:
- Unloading and loading the dishwasher
- Moving/starting/or folding laundry
- Sweeping the kitchen
- Vacuuming the living room
- Dusting the entertainment center
- Cleaning the countertops
- Decluttering the kitchen table
I didn’t do all of these things in one day. I did as many as I had the mental and physical energy for. Some days I didn’t do any of them. Some days I did all of them. These chores may sound like a simple cleaning routine that anyone can do; but for someone with postpartum depression it can be really hard to feel like accomplishing all of those tasks in a day.
3. Natural Light
Another trick I learned was to open the blinds and windows. There’s something therapeutic about natural light and seeing what’s outside. For me, it was hard to go anywhere alone. I felt like leaving my house was too hard. So when I opened up the windows, I could see outside and I felt like I was connected with my surroundings a little more. It helped me feel not as isolated.
4. Get Out of the House
When I started feeling better I tried to go outside at least once a day. Even if I didn’t leave my property, at least I could say I got out of the house. When my daughter could crawl, I laid out a blanket on the grass and let her play while I read a book. When my daughter started walking I took her around my property and let her play outside. This was good for her and it helped me get some much needed exercise.
I learned that getting out of the house was a good thing. Even though it was so difficult to convince myself to go do something, I tried to come up with things I could do. Sometimes I went to the grocery store just for something to do. Sometimes I would drive through Starbucks and get myself a (decaf) treat. Doing little errands helped me feel normal again. I couldn’t find the strength to go out for a long time, but once I realized I could do it, it got easier and easier for me.
5. Get Moving!
Another fun trick I learned was to put on some music and dance! Even if it was to just one song. If I couldn’t find the strength to dance, I would try at least to listen to one song that I loved. The key is that it has to be a fun and uplifting song. Please don’t listen to a song that makes you feel more depressed! Enjoy the song and how it makes you feel. Even if you “can’t dance” just do it. No one can see you anyway and your baby will love it!
6. Make Your Space Feel Inviting
I also really enjoyed lighting candles or turning on my Scentsy burner and making the house smell good. There’s something about having a good smelling home that makes it warm, inviting, and lively. Changing up the smell of the house was a fun way to make it seems a little different each day, even if it was something as simple as making my living room smell like vanilla.
Getting over postpartum depression takes time. Getting out of a mental rut is extremely difficult. If you’re struggling with postpartum, reach out to friends, family, doctors, and therapists. Take care of yourself. Things will get better soon. In the meantime, try to figure out what you need to do in order to feel normal. Do you need to paint your nails? Do you need to grab a coffee with a friend? Or wander around the Dollar Store for something to do? I want to encourage you mama, you will get better and you will find a new normal. Take it one day at a time. Be strong mama!