(WellnessNova.com) - I had just given birth to my third child, a beautiful little boy. We had recently moved into a new house. My husband started a doctoral program to be a nurse practitioner. Everything was perfect.
Except, that it wasn’t.
I could barely get out of bed in the morning. At night, I was plagued with recurring thoughts of someone breaking in through the window and harming me or my children.
I remember managing to get everyone up and ready to go to the park. It should have been a triumph, but instead, I felt empty, exhausted, and anxious. I sat on the side of the park and cried while my children played.
I had postpartum anxiety and depression and I knew, for the sake of my family, I had to do something about it.
To Medicate or Not
Because my husband is a psych nurse, I also knew that if it was possible, I wanted to avoid traditional medications and all of their accompanying side effects. The most common medications given for depression have a slew of ailments that accompany their use, everything from decreased sex drive to increased anxiety. But, if I couldn’t get better without the medication, I knew I would have to swallow the pill, literally, for the sake of my family.
So, I Came Up With a Plan
I gave myself one month. If I couldn’t get better in one month of holistic treatments, I would turn to traditional ones.
Luckily, I didn’t have to turn to traditional treatments. With the help of my husband’s counsel and experience working with depressed patients, I was able to beat my depression and anxiety in about three weeks time. Now, the only thing keeping me up at night is the baby.
Together, with my husband, I made a self-treatment plan that can be broken down into four categories: getting enough sleep, social interaction, physical fitness, and nutrition.
Getting Enough Sleep
As a new mom with anxiety keeping me awake, and a new baby who hated sleeping at night, I wasn’t doing very well in this department, but because I seemed better able to sleep during the day, I decided to make daytime naps a priority.
When the baby was sleeping, I let the older kids watch a movie while I napped on the couch. It was the kind of thing I would never have imagined myself doing, but in the end, a little screen time was better than being the mom who doesn’t smile at her kids.
The next on the list was social. This is where family helped a lot. Instead of isolating myself in the house with my kids, we visited family often.
The whole time, my husband was giving me the patience and support I needed. The number one thing I would tell someone going through depression is to find someone you can trust to talk to. I know that when you’re depressed you often feel like you don’t have anyone, but there are people who love you and want to help.
The next step was both the hardest and most effective of my self-treatment plan.
My husband mentioned to me that aerobic exercise releases endorphins and has been shown to be just as effective in battling depression as medication. The trick is that just walking or other light forms of exercise aren’t enough. It needs to be an exercise that gets your heart rate up for a sustained period of time.
I chose to run. My husband and I would go to the park and then take turns, I would watch the kids while he ran for thirty minutes, and then we’d switch and it was my turn to run.
We were outside, we were moving, and we were consistent. There were times when I really, really didn’t want to run, but I went to the park anyway, plugged in my music, started my tracking app, and pounded that pavement.
When we first started, I wasn’t able to run the entire time, so I used an interval running app on my phone that would tell me when to run and when to walk. It was hard work, but when I was done my whole body felt better. I could think clearly. I could smile. Even, if it was only for an hour after my run, I knew it was helping.
Restructuring My Diet
Finally, for nutrition, there were things I did do as well as things I didn’t that made a difference. Here’s what I didn’t do. I didn’t put myself on a restrictive diet that only allowed me to eat certain items or cut out entire food groups.
I did, on the other hand, make a conscious effort to eat lots of fruits and vegetables, limit my sugar, and stick to whole grains. It was an eating plan that was doable, and it allowed me to eat enough calories to maintain my milk supply.
Feeling Happy Again
Coming out of the depression wasn’t an overnight thing, but when I was out, oh mama, could I tell. First, sleeping got easier, then, my ability to laugh came back.
I drove everyone crazy looking up as many funny memes and blog posts as I could. I found light and humor in everyday life again. I could play with my kids at the park, instead of sitting on the sidelines, feeling empty and hollow.
I Have Energy Again
One night, before I tucked my kids into bed, we played tickle monster. You don’t realize the worth of such a simple act until it’s taken away.
Squeals and giggles filled my home as I chased my sweet children around the living room. I gently tackled them, kissed their cheeks, and pretended to eat their chubby little arms.
That’s why I gave myself a month.
That’s why I wanted to come back.
I couldn’t do that when I was depressed. I needed to fix myself not just for me, but for my family. In the end, I’m stronger because of my depression. I’m more compassionate. I’m more grateful, and I’m one heck of a tickle monster.