Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Postpartum Depression Isn't Just a Woman's Problem

Sometimes I feel sorry for my husband. You see, when our son was born we both knew things would be different for a while. Well, we knew they'd be different for the rest of our lives but what I mean is that we realized the first few months would be especially difficult. We expected a lack of sleep, knew we'd have to adjust to a new routine (and going from two to three), we knew certain activities would be put on hold for a little while. What we didn't realize was that we would have a high needs baby or that I would have postpartum depression and that the coming year, which we had expected to be the happiest in our lives, would be one of the most challenging and difficult years we would face together so far.

My husband is an active person. He takes pride in being a homeowner and doing things to make our home safe, comfortable, and in good shape. He has been a volunteer fire fighter and EMT for over ten years. He enjoys cycling and participates the the American Diabetes Association's Tour de Cure every year. He enjoys train watching and amateur radio. He has a wonderful group of friends who he enjoys spending time with. But during the past year he has hasn't had much time for these things and that makes me sad. Between learning how to be a parent, having a 'difficult' baby, and a wife with a mental illness, he had to let some of these things slide. What bothers me the most is that while it's not his fault, I know people don't understand this. Despite the fact that I eventually went public with my illness my husband really hasn't. Perhaps it's because he doesn't want to overstep his bounds and potentially upset me or maybe it's because I jumped down his throat once when he asked a friend some questions about an anti-depressant my doctor prescribed early on in my battle. Whatever the reasons (yes, perhaps I should ask and discuss with him) he's the one stuck with the looks and comments from his fellow fire company members who don't understand why he no longer shows up for as many calls. He's the one who put his hobbies and activities on the back burner so he can do more to help at home. He's the one who stopped seeing friends as frequently because we needed him here. He's the one that while wanting so much to help me get better, really didn't know how. He had to put up with my intense mood swings, nit-picking, and general unhappiness. He's the one who seemed most affected when I didn't feel well enough to make a trip to Boston for our nephew's first birthday. He was the one stuck making the excuses. While I know it's not my fault, and I understand postpartum depression is an illness and that I didn't do anything to make it happen, I still feel guilty. You see, postpartum depression affects husbands, too.

This past year I've worked very hard to get well. I took anti-depressants for four months beginning when our son was about 9 weeks old. When I started to feel the back slide a few months later, I attempted therapy. Although the therapy was immensely helpful, and I think crucial, to my recovery it wasn't enough. I've recently begun a new anti-depressant and, although I'm fearful about how long I'll have to take it, I'm thrilled to finally (FINALLY) start feeling a little more like me again. Maybe even (dare I say it) a lot more like me again. It really has taken a lot of hard work, though, and not just from me. I couldn't have done it without my husband by my side and feel fortunate that, as difficult as it has been for him, he stood by me.

I'm still battling this illness but I hope, as I continue to get well, that my husband can begin to return to doing the things that make him happy. I hope, too, that I can begin to find a voice in this world to help educate people on postpartum depression: that it is an actual illness; that it's not a woman's fault; that you can recover; that it's ok to ask for help; and that it affects more than just women. I also hope that I can convince my husband to do the same. I want him to tell people I've battled this illness and I want him to be a voice, too. After all, he is as much a survivor as I am.