3 Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

Suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death in postpartum women.  That statistic makes me shudder.  People always talk about how having a baby is the most special time in a woman’s life. For some woman, that is not the case, it is a time of immense sadness, anxiety, guilt, and pain.  Postpartum depression affects 7-13% of all new mothers.  It happened to me, it has happened to friends, it could happen to anyone. My sister was diagnosed with postpartum depression before her suicide.  This is not the “baby blues” that I’m talking about, which usually happens a couple days after giving birth and subsides in a couple of weeks.  This depression stays, sometimes becomes debilitating, and could have life threatening effects, if not treated.  BUT before giving birth, even before you get pregnant, there are postpartum depressions risk factors that you should discuss with your OB/GYN.

Postpartum Depression Risk Factors
Speak to your OB/GYN if you have any of these factors.

3 Postpartum Depression Risk Factors

If you have any or all of these risk factors, you should speak openly and honestly with you OB/GYN about them.  This is the point where your ego, and possibly shame, should be put aside for your sake and the sake of your unborn child.

  1. History of Mood Disorder-this includes depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, schizophrenia, etc.  This should be one of the first things you discuss with your doctor if you are planning on getting pregnant or find out you are pregnant.  This is especially important, if you are on medication for any of the above. Certain medications are not deemed safe to be taken during pregnancy.  This will also assist your doctor in giving you a more thorough screening in the months following the birth of your child.  New recommendations are even calling for OB/GYNs to screen for depression in pregnant woman who have no prior history of a mental illness, stating that postpartum depression could actually begin while pregnant.
  2. Severe PMS symptoms also called Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD)- which causes emotional and physical symptoms like PMS, only these symptoms are debilitating. The symptoms including severe mood swings, feelings of hopelessness, intense anger, tension, severe cramps, sleep problems, feeling out of control, headaches, and severe breast tenderness.  Not much is known about the correlation between PMDD and postpartum depression but some studies have found a direct correlation, making it a major talking point with your OB/GYN.  If for some reason you are sent to a specialist of some kind, definitely speak to them if you have been diagnosed or think you may have PMDD.
  3. Social Stressors (such as poor family support or financial difficulties)-I know….. this is not something you want to discuss with your doctor but it is a good idea to mention how much stress you are under during your pregnancy.  Being honest with your doctor will allow them to monitor you more closely the months following the birth of your child.  If you’re stressed about not having help with the baby and not being able to afford the basic necessities for your child during your pregnancy, these stressors can increase tremendously after having the baby.
Postpartum Depression
If you need help, please talk to your dr.

Universal Screening For Postpartum Depression

There is no US federal policy making it mandatory to screen new mothers for postpartum depression.  12 states (including my great state of NJ) have adopted either state legislation, awareness campaigns, or convened task forces to address the issue of postpartum depression.  Recently, the United States Preventive Services Task Force, made a new recommendation.  They recommended that all women be screened during their pregnancy, stating new evidence shows postpartum depression starts during pregnancy.

An Experts Opinion

Cheryl Beck, an international expert on postpartum depression, thinks universal screening will help to remove some of the stigma of mental illness, since all woman will be screened.  She also feels the timing of the screening is important.  Miss Beck feels screening in the first 2 weeks could cause a false positive because of “baby blues.”  She feels postpartum depression could become an issue at any time during the first 12 months.  So, even if a woman screens negative at her 6 weeks check up, she could still develop the illness after that check up, and should continue to be screened.

A Non-Expert Opinion

Postpartum depression lead to my sister’s suicide.  I feel like she was given inadequate services. Jessie could have been monitored more closely.  She had no insurance, not that insurance makes it any better, but sometimes you are given more choices on how to handle the situation.  She was given one choice, go to this clinic, and get a prescription.  NO follow up, no nothing, they never even noticed she never showed up again to get a refill on her prescription. I’m not blaming the doctor, or the clinic, she went.  I’m not blaming anyone.  I just want woman to be aware of the risk factors. So they can be more informed of the possibility of it happening to them.  Jessie made her decision.  She chose to go off her meds, chose not to go back and get the help she needed.  She chose to leave, but I wholeheartedly believe that her illness changed her brain enough to make her think this was the only way to feel better.

If anyone you know shows signs of depression during or after their pregnancy, please encourage them to speak to a professional about it.  Being anxious and sleep deprived after having a baby is normal but when it starts to adversely affect your life, that is not normal.  I, myself, was petrified to leave the house with my oldest daughter, because I thought random strangers would hurt her.  That is not normal.  Normal response would be to not want strangers or family members touch your new baby so he/or she doesn’t get sick.  Thinking people are going to kill your child is not normal.  I’m glad I got up the nerve to speak to my OB/GYN about it because I didn’t want to, but I knew something wasn’t right.  Again, if you know someone who is pregnant or recently had a baby that is acting strangely or not like themselves, please ask them to seek help.  They can get in touch with multiple organizations like http://www.postpartumprogress.com/postpartum-depression-support-organizations-in-the-us-canada-uk-south-africa-australia-new-zealand  (an international site, which also gives all sites for different countries, including the US and England)

http://www.postpartum.net/ (United States)

 

 

 

The 5 Stages of Grief for Suicide Survivors

Although some are the same, most of the 5 stages of grief go out the window when someone you love commits suicide.  Let me first say that since their inception, the stages of grief have been fiercely debated.  It’s been said, to put a person’s feelings into a set of stages after an unexpected loss is not realistic BUT humor me.  Let’s explore the 5 stages of grief for suicide survivors.

Denial

This one is definitely correct.  To say I didn’t believe my sister killed herself is an understatement.  I’m still in denial a year and a half later.  I still sit around some days, waiting for her to show up, even though her ashes are 4 feet away from me.  Denial has no set time frame which is good because you’re basically going to be in denial for the rest of your life.

Anger

My anger ran deep, I’m sorry to say.  At first, it was anger over leaving my nephews and brother in law.  Then it was anger over leaving my girls, my mom, my aunts and uncles, cousins, and her friends (who were like family.)  BUT my real anger was a selfish anger, an unrelenting seething anger at her, for leaving me.  How could she leave me?  I just couldn’t comprehend what happened and why she didn’t come to me. Then we move on to the worst stage.

Guilt

Guilt is defined as a feeling of responsibility or remorse for some offense, crime, wrong, etc., whether real or imagined.  This is the one that eats me alive all day, every day.  If I had called her back right away.  If I was more supportive.  If I was down there with her.  The “ifs” will make you sick everyday.  There was nothing anyone could have done, but that doesn’t stop the feeling of guilt to creep in every day.

Questioning

The “are you sures” and the “maybe it was an accident” and the biggest question, “WHY?”  Whether there was a note left or not, you’ll still ask “why” every day.  I can’t imagine how it feels to never receive a note, even though my sister’s wasn’t very specific, at least we knew for a fact.  All the questions in your head are enough to make you lose your mind.  This is the stage that I will stay in, I don’t have an answer for how long.

Depression

What a lot of people think is depression, in the beginning, is really just shock or a plethora of other emotions you feel when your world is shaken to its core.  This is not to be confused with clinical depression, which can be chronic.  They say you only have “episodes” of depression after the unexpected passing of a loved one.  It’s also common for the depression to last a long time (you don’t say!!)  The signs of depression from grief usually start when you give your grief some type of finality.

Finality is NOT Acceptance

In the original stages of grief, acceptance is always last.  You will never find acceptance on my stages because I will never accept this life as my own, Before Jessie was my life.  What I do accept is that I have a “new” life now, After Jessie.  I will live this life to the fullest.  I will try to make someone’s (anyone’s) life better by telling my story.  I will do every thing in my power, to never let my nephew or my daughters forget Jessie, or her love for them.  And I will tell myself every day, that my sister did not leave me, she left her pain.

 

How I Went From Devastated to Driven Since My Sister’s Death (Part 1)

 

I’ve thought a lot about this blog and what my “niche” would be, it’s hard to only write about one thing.  There’s so much stuff going on, kids driving me nuts and making me smile, saving money and spending money, being really funny lol (if you don’t understand sarcasm, you’re in for a treat) but most of all I want to write about my sister and how she has changed my life by ending her own life.

I Have No Passion…No Drive

I’ve never been passionate about anything, never had a dream or an aspiration except to survive before I had kids.  Obviously, after I had them, my job was to take of them and make sure they turned into good small humans, which they are now, thank you.  It took the most traumatic event in my life (that I remember, more on that later) to make me realize that you have to have big dreams, be driven, want something so bad that you can see it happening in your head.

How I Got Here

Let’s start at the beginning, not my life, just the story of how I got here. My sister, Jessica, was way into holistic health, when I was diagnosed with degenerative disc disease and fibromyalgia in 2012, she was soooo excited lol.  She wanted to teach me yoga for my pain and essential oils to help with stress but I always told her to stay away from me with her snake juices. I was on heavy duty meds and they were working just fine.  Jessie was my best friend on the planet, we’re only 11 months apart, basically twins.  My sister was always a very moody person, for as long as I can remember, one minute she would be ecstatic, the next she would be raging.  Everyone close to her was just used to it.  Basically we knew when to keep our distance and when she was in a good mood.

My sister got pregnant, and had my nephew, Jackson, in 2014.  She seemed so happy, we all thought that this would hold her down.  Jackson would be the reason she settles down and starts really growing up (she was 34 at the time, but I don’t judge, sometimes it takes a little longer for some people to grow up.)  Jessie had a couple bumps in the road but she appeared to be the happiest I ever saw her, she loved Jackson, her fiancé, and her fiancé’s son from a previous marriage.  In July of 2015, they had a big 1st birthday for my nephew, and every thing was great, Jessie seemed a little frazzled but nothing too extreme.  And then my world shattered….

This is my sister and I at my daughter’s kindergarten graduation. That’s me on the left and my beautiful sister Jessica on the right.

My Life Actually Has a Before and After Now

10 days later my aunt called me and said my sister had killed herself.  Jessie had called me earlier that day, leaving a message to see if I could watch the baby over the weekend.  I figured that I would call her back later. I got the call an hour later. My girls were in the car so I couldn’t even react.  I just kept saying ok over and over again.  I called my best friend and asked her to take my girls and I didn’t know for how long (I thank God for all the help that I received during this time-I have the absolute best friends.)  The next couple of weeks were a blur and I couldn’t tell you what happened or who I talked to.  My sister’s suicide ripped me in two, there’s a before Jessie and an after Jessie now.

What Now?

How could I live my life again? I was lost, questioning my own sanity, the guilt was eating me alive.  I didn’t have my anchor anymore, the person who tethered me to this earth for 36 years.  Needing something, anything, to take my mind off the pain (physically and mentally), I ordered a starter set of essential oils.  I fell in love, using them for everything, cooking, cleaning, beauty products, and especially for my pain.  Wanting to know more, I took a free class (more on that in my next post) and then I took 2 more classes at the same online aromatherapy school.  Then I found other aromatherapy schools online and took all the free intro courses they offered too.

I had found my passion, my dream, I was driven.  I read every book I could get my hands on, even chemistry books YUCK. My family and friends were ecstatic because using my new knowledge, I was making them therapeutic blends and they were actually working for everything from eczema to bladder infections to migraines.

I wanted to take the next step and get my certification in aromatherapy but the course was just not in my price range.  I was pretty devastated and I started getting depressed again.  Feeling like I had learned all I could on my own, I started going on Pinterest.  I got a lot of great ideas and started reading blog after blog about essential oils and peoples’ opinions on them.  And then I had an epiphany, why not start a blog about essential oils and how my sister’s suicide led me to “my dream”, “my passion.”

How Do You Start a Blog?

Being an enormous learning lover, I starting reading everything I could about starting a blog.  I took every free email course I could about it.   Most of them were wonderful, Lena Gott from whatmommydoes.com was such a big help.  When I told her my story she said she got goosebumps, that’s when I knew I was ready.  Sarah Mueller from earlybirdmom.com was a great help too.  Both have been so encouraging, so here goes nothing.  Lena taught me to pick a domain name that meant something to me, wasn’t too long, and that people would remember. I thought of a ton of names but decided on Essentially Broken.

We May All Be Broken, But All Things are Fixable

My sister was always essentially broken, deep down, maybe we’re all essentially broken in some way.  Some people are just too broken; there’s not enough glue or love or people or hope to put them back together.  I have way more to say about all this but I’m going to leave it at that for today.  Check back soon for the rest of my story and how all this pain lead me to my passion.  Thanks for listening.