Gemma

7em7gftbn9m-aleksandra-mazurThe splash pad presented a nice, calm roar in the background. Our toddlers played near each other, but not with each other—in true toddler form.

Gemma and I have a developed friendship, and as such, we take an informal tone with each other, asking about one another’s days, husbands, recent dramatic instances, The Bachelor, and the mundane.

I have known about Gemma’s PPD since the time that we met only a couple months after both of us had the initial onset of our individual struggles with PPD/PPA.

Gemma knew that her PPD was there as soon as she gave birth because irrational thought patterns formed. Her days were shaped around paranoia. She described her day-to-day process as a downward spiral because as the day progressed she become more upset with herself, and as she was upset herself, she irrationally would become concerned for her daughter, and these thought processes worsened all the way until she was a complete mess by the end of the day. Gemma described her irrational thoughts to me.

“I was just constantly analyzing because it was just a new thing.”

At first, Gemma didn’t recognize her PPD for what it was. She didn’t know if she was being over-analytical or if her behavior was due to lack of sleep, but after eight weeks of struggling, Gemma went to her doctor, whose reply to all these emotions was less than ideal.

“Have you tried going on a walk?”

Obviously, Gemma felt like he couldn’t even begin to understand, and rightfully so, she began sobbing in his office. At that point, her doctor prescribed her a low dose of Zoloft, which Gemma stayed on for seven months until she was done breastfeeding, at which point she felt an improvement on all accounts.

Gemma describes her PPD as a trial that brought her and her husband closer. Her husband acted a fantastic model of positive support. Gemma described the system that developed between her and her spouse.

“I would wake him up in the middle of the night all of the time because nights were my worst. He would never give value to my concerns. Because he was so patient and understanding, he truly helped me feel like I wasn’t hopeless.”

There were points where Gemma felt like she needed extra help. She said in one instance, she packed her and her baby up and drove to her parents’ house at 10 PM because initially I felt I needed to go to the hospital.

She explains, “Between my husband and my parents, they took care of me and helped me talk through my emotions, instead of admitting me to the hospital.”

Gemma does express that there was some difficulty because her parents and husband couldn’t fully understand because they hadn’t been through PPD/PPA themselves. She expressed gratitude for the fact that no one treated her like a charity case, and rather, she described her familial response as “sweet concern.” She emphasized the importance of communicating about what was happening to her.

“Only when I didn’t tell people, was there damage. Looking back, I think had I told my in-laws, they would have befitted from knowing.”

Gemma desperately wanted to be better, and she took all precautions to get better.

“I was desperate for normalcy and peace. I’ll do anything. I’ll go on vacation. I’ll medicate. I’ll do a different diet. Everyone else was like ‘you’re fine; you’re okay.’ But looking back, I was definitely overanalyzing myself.”

Upon starting treatment, Gemma felt slightly numb.

“I didn’t feel as many highs or lows. It was more of an even wave. It was a good starting point. I saw a counselor, who is a family friend, and that was a good starting point. I saw her in-person, and then spoke via phone every week, the every other week, and then once a month until I was ready. She taught be how to work with my feelings and how to decide if they’re real or unreal, or true and untrue, because up to that point, I thought, if I feel it, it must be true. There is a difference in what you feel and what is truth, and they can be two separate things.”

Looking back, Gemma states her best advice.

“Even though you feel bad, it’s going to end. Focus on truths you know: God loves you, your family loves you, and you are a valued person. No matter how you feel, everything ebbs and flows, so it it’s going to get better, so have hope.”

Hope. Always hope.

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