“Almost three years ago I found out I was pregnant with my second child. It was definitely a joyous occasion and a cause for celebration.
The pregnancy wasn’t tough, but it wasn’t a walk in the park either. I was working full-time, taking care of my then 4-year-old son and had a lot of things going on in between. During my third trimester, my husband even left for a two-month work trip.
I was feeling really overwhelmed to say the least, but shrugged it off thinking it was normal for a second pregnancy. My little girl was born on August 2016. Unlike with my son, this time round, I had breastfeeding issues and my baby also had a tongue tie. All kinds of obstacles popped up and I told myself I just had to power through.
However, by the time my maternity leave was coming to an end, I was feeling emotionally drained and numb. There were days when I couldn’t even get out of bed. My mood swings were also rather extreme ― when I was angry I was really angry and when I was sad I was really sad. I had all of these intense feelings I couldn’t control but at the same time, I wasn’t sure why I was feeling that way I did.
Finally, it was my husband who raised the red flag and told me I had to do something about my situation. He encouraged me to talk to my GP. When I went to see my doctor, I burst out crying when started telling her what I’ve been going through.
“It was a shocking realisation that something as normal as birth control could wreak havoc with my mental health. I felt like my body had failed me.”
After listening to me, she said it sounded like postpartum depression (PPD) and referred me to a therapist.
During my sessions, my therapist and traced back to when I started feeling the way I did. While working through it, we realised that it started around the time that my IUD was removed.
After the birth of my son, my husband and I decided to use an IUD as a form of birth control. It’s a popular brand, so I didn’t have any reservations about trying it. I used it for about three years, and during that time, I had no side effects.
When it was removed, I anticipated the usual side effects, like a heavier menstruation cycle. However, after talking about it with my therapist, I realised that the symptoms of depression started surfacing around that time as well.
I didn’t notice it because I got pregnant just two months after removing my IUD. So, all the hormones left in my body from the birth control might have clashed with my pregnancy hormones and made me feel the way I did.
Some research online confirmed my suspicion. There were other women out there who had also experienced depression as a side effect after going off their birth control. It wasn’t necessarily only the IUD, but also other forms, like the pill.
It was a shocking realisation that something as normal as birth control could wreak havoc with my mental health. I felt like my body had failed me.
Throughout my second pregnancy and right after, I felt like I was living under a fog. Everything was a blur and I was constantly, and considerably, more tired than with my first pregnancy. I also had trouble concentrating at work and was easily irritated.
I had all the typical symptoms of depression, but because it was masked with the pregnancy, I didn’t pay enough attention to it. Since it was left untreated, my perinatal depression persisted and evolved into PPD, which is what I’m dealing with today.
I’m aware that it’s going to be a long road to recovery ― I’m still in therapy ― but at least everything makes more sense now.
One of the biggest effects I can still feel from my depression is my big personality change. Things that I used to enjoy don’t make me as happy as before like travelling, and especially travelling alone.
I used to love to do that and I tried to do it once after having kids. Last year, I left my kids with my husband and took a solo trip to Greece. While I had a good time, I still wasn’t as happy and excited as I used to get about travelling.
Also, being a Type A personality, I used to love being around people and being the centre of attention. But after depression struck, I wasn’t able to be myself anymore. Even when I am with close friends and colleagues, I will feel uncomfortable and would want to crawl under the chair or hide inside a room.
“As someone who likes to be in control, I’m now learning how not to be hard on myself. I’m seeing my depression as a plot twist in the story of my life.”
I can also see how my depression has affected my husband. I know he’s worried about me. It’s no fun for him to get home and see me depressed and the house in a mess because I couldn’t get out of bed.
But he’s been amazing and a great support. If it wasn’t for him pushing me to go to the doctor, I don’t think I would have ever been diagnosed. I’m very lucky.
I know depression can hit anyone regardless of background, education and economic status, but it was still hard to accept my diagnosis, because I feel like I failed to see the warning signs, as obvious as they were. I feel like a failure in that sense.
For now, I’m living with depression day to day. The other mums whom I talk to, and are going through the same thing as me, say it never leaves them. I miss my old self and I’m working towards all that. I don’t know if I’m ever going to go back to being my old self, whether I’m going to be switching the depression off, or face a new reality.
One of the most important thing my therapist said to me is to be kind to yourself. A lot of my depression is hormonal and emotional, things that I can’t control. As someone who likes to be in control, I’m now learning how not to be hard on myself. I’m seeing my depression as a plot twist in the story of my life.
In my quest to reach out to other mums who have been there, I’m hoping that by sharing my story, I can also be there for other mums who are going through the same things as well.
If you’re experiencing anything that feels out of the ordinary or any of the symptoms I’ve talked about, just reach out. Reach out to doctors, to the community, to a therapist or to other mums.
Having support in your daily life is very important and can be the deciding factor on whether you suffer in silence or get on the road to recovery.”
Cinthya Sopa, a freelance project manager, is the mother of a daughter, 1½, and a son, 6.
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