- Wedding: September 2008 - A tiny town just outside of Glacier National Park
I have a history of major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. With some trepidation, I weaned off Lexapro about 6 months before we started TTC. So far, pregnancy has treated me very well, and I have had no depression and little anxiety. I still worry about PPD a lot.
My two biggest suggestions for you are:
1) Don’t be ashamed if you DO end up having to take medication. It was always the hardest for me to convince myself to start or restart antidepressants, but once I was on them, I was exceedingly grateful for their effects. Most are safe through pregnancy, though some impede breastfeeding– but think of how much better a mom you’ll be able to be otherwise if you feel good, have good energy, and are emotionally available for your little one!
2) The single biggest thing that helped me, even more than medication and talk therapy (both of which I HIGHLY recommend, especially seeing a therapist weekly!), was learning new ways to think and to process emotion. I did this by establishing a daily mindfulness-awareness meditation practice. In essence, this practice teaches you the following things, all of which are useful in combatting depression and anxiety:
– To be very familiar with your current emotional and mental landscape (this part can be a bit difficult if it’s not a happy place)
– To recognize habitual thinking patterns and your emotional response to them
– To begin to recognize that your thought are not rational, are constantly changing, and don’t need to have total power over you
– To start to change your emotional response to habitual thought patterns (i.e. seeing the thought “you’re such a failure, you can never do this,” as it arises, but not creating a story about it, feeling sad, and angry, and following it down the road into a depressive spiral)
– To eventually see that you can choose how to respond to stimuli and whether or not it actually IS a big deal, or just feels like one because of the story you tell yourself. It’s akin to being a mountain where your thoughts and emotions are weather patterns that you learn to let simply cast a small shadow on you.
– (A BIG ONE) To practice kindness, gentleness, and compassion toward yourself. It’s amazing how easily we give credence to self-depricating thoughts and throw away self-loving thoughts as if they are so much garbage. This practice helps you learn to love yourself, warts and all.
– (And eventually) To feel kindness, gentleness, and compassion toward others, who are all experiencing the same crazy neurosis and suffering as a result of their habits and fears as well
To begin a meditation practice, you’ll need a space in your home where you can sit quietly for 10 minutes, or a local mindfulness-awareness group with which to practice. I’d try googling “mindfulness-awareness meditation (your area).” Try books by Pema Chodron or John Kabat-Zinn, or most books on beginning meditation. I love “Turning the Mind into an Ally” by Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche. The practice is based on Buddhist philosophy, but is agnostic and has nothing to do with religion, so anyone of any inclination can do it.
You might also try the book “Mindful Childbirth,” which teaches both the basic practice as well as applications for times of intense pain, stress, and discomfort during the prenatal, labor, and postpartum periods.
PM me if you have any questions. Good luck! I feel for you and you will be in my thoughts as I meditate this morning.